Overcoming Fears

Last week I boarded a flight to Austin, TX. I was looking forward to attending my nephew’s wedding, yet dreaded the anticipated trip to the airport and journey through the skies. How had I become such a wimp? I’ve flown many times in the past, without any angst. But not this time.

I honestly didn’t think I could do it. Spinal surgery two years ago left me with weak legs and a back prone to spasms. I’ve learned to handle day to day activities, even the long walk from the parking lot to the hot water pool at the Y. There was no legitimate reason for my fears. Just that I was out of practice.

I planned every step of the way, including early arrival at the airport and wheelchair assist. The latter was a blessing, for sure. As I waited at the gate, I worried that my nervousness would trigger being carted away as a potential terrorist. When I listened to the safety instructions by the flight attendants, I worried that I’d never be able to jump onto the emergency slide if we had a crash landing.

IMG_0294All of my anxieties were for naught. The wedding was beautiful, and I had a delightful time in Texas. Best of all, I’m home safely, with the knowledge that I overcame my greatest fear. At least for now.

The beautiful sunset as we landed in Philadelphia will be a memory I won’t soon forget. And the cloud formation above the plane’s wing makes me think that the angels were watching over me.

As a writer, I have other fears that must be tackled. They’re totally different, perhaps because they’re not life-threatening. The anxiety is related more to my pride, my inner being. I stand in the shadows of great authors who have honed the skill of story telling, with followers who yearn for their next book. Who am I to think I can join their ranks, let alone find readers for my stories?

We all have our inner fears. And the only way to conquer them is by taming them–doing what we think is impossible, over and over, until that very thing becomes routine. Or, at least, becomes manageable. For my writing, all I have to lose is my pride. And that might not be such a bad thing. Humility is good for the soul, so they say.

 

Phoenix Rising

The Phoenix

When I was doing research for A Specter of Truth set in 1818, I learned that the neighboring town of Phoenixville was named Manavon back then. In 1790, a small nail producing mill was located along the French Creek, near the Schuylkill River. In 1813, a new investor in the business called it the Phoenix Nail Works because the red hot iron in the furnace reminded him of the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes. The small nail factory grew into the Phoenix Iron Works in the mid-19th century, and then became the Phoenix Steel Corporation in the 20th century. When the borough was incorporated in 1849, the town was named Phoenixville.

Phoenixville had seen great prosperity during the heyday of the iron industry, and even when the railroads switched from iron to steel. After WW2, however, Phoenixville’s industry was severely impacted by steel and aluminum competitors. The economy went bust. Phoenixville died.

In the last 10 years, there has been a great growth in Phoenixville. To honor tradition and to portray the phoenix’s rebirth, Phoenixville now has a symbolic Phoenix Rising from the Ashes each December. Pictured above is the gigantic bird, with its sapphire-like eyes, that was built to serve as an effigy for the 2017 festival.

Phoenix rising from the ashesOn Saturday night, December 9, the huge wooden phoenix was set aflame. Even the day’s snowfall didn’t curtail the celebration. It was an awesome sight, at times looking like a roaring dragon portending change, until it collapsed in a heap of ashes.

I daresay there’s not one of us who has escaped some type of trauma in our lifetime. We’ve fallen to our knees, decimated, wondering how we can ever rebuild our hopes and dreams.

The rising phoenix can be our inspiration. We will rise from the ashes, as did the mythological bird. We will be born again. And we will have learned a powerful lesson from the experience.

(By the way, speaking about fires, if you’re looking for an independent insurance agent who will work with you to find affordable, quality insurance for your home, business, or vehicles, check out the Thomas McKee Insurance Agency. Tell him his sister sent you.)

 

Aerie

Aerie

Aerie can be defined as an eagle’s nest or a dwelling high on a hill. For me, it meant home. When dad retired from the Air Force, he and mom built their dream home at the top of a steep incline, overlooking beautiful rural farmland. It was the inspiration for the Mitchell farm in A Specter of Truth. Here you see the entrance sign from the long drive. It reads “Aerie.”

In my younger years, Aerie was my place of solitude in winter where I would sojourn when my folks were basking in the Florida sun. Being “stuck on the hill,” during a snowstorm made it all the more enticing. I’d hunker down with a roaring fire in the hearth and a glass of wine, watching movies on the older model TV and VCR.

In the summer, I have memories of barbecues and family reunions, sitting in the swing on the porch to enjoy the sunset, watching a rousing game of football led by my siblings in the field. The grandkids could run and play in the woods, watch the deer, or pick apples.

Once mom and dad were no longer with us, I couldn’t bear to leave the Aerie sign. It was weathered and beaten, barely legible any longer. It needed a home, not a dingy corner in my garage.

I was ecstatic when my sister decided to name her new covered horse arena “Aerie,” and dedicate it in my dad’s memory. Patty and her husband founded¬†Healing with Horses ranch in Manor, Texas–a therapeutic riding center for people with disabilities. It’s an amazing place of healing, with a trained equine therapy staff and a wonderful group of volunteers.

Aerie at HHR 2x3

Patty cleaned up the Aerie sign, and gave it a place of honor. It is now displayed proudly at the ranch to remind us that we can soar on eagles’ wings when we reach beyond what we ever thought was possible. Envision the dream. Rise above the ordinary.

 

Kimber Hall

Emmor Kimber house

The inspiration for A Specter of Truth came from my parking spot at the Kimberton post office. Right in front of me was this very old building, now called Kimber Hall. I learned that Emmor Kimber, bought 200 acres of land in 1817, which included this stone house and three other buildings on the crossroads of Hares Hill Road and Kimberton Road. This became the Kimbers’ home and the French Creek Boarding School for Girls. I pictured young girls playing on the hill and in the woods, having lessons in a makeshift classroom, and sleeping dormitory style on the second floor.

Formal education was not typical for girls in 1818, when Emmor and his wife began the school. The Quakers were ahead of their time, and believed in equality for all. I imagined an adolescent farm girl, Lizzie Mitchell, who had a dream of attending the school and becoming a teacher. And I arduously researched what it would take for her to achieve her aspiration.

Kmbrhall

I found this old lithograph of Kimber Hall on the internet without any credits. It seems strange not to see any parking lot or cars rounding the bend. No restaurant on the side in the addition that Kimber built to expand his school. No condos where the dorms were once located.

Two hundred years have passed. Imagine the generations of people who have lived here, been educated here, laughed and cried here. In fact, Kimber Hall served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Picture the secret comings and goings in the dark of night. The fear of being caught. The agony of leaving loved ones in order to have freedom.

Oh, yes. This old stone building has lots of stories to tell. I’ll bet we could even imagine some of them.

 

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This picture captures some of the emotions I’m feeling. The churning waters are deep, hiding the vast life forms below the surface. As I begin my journey as a fiction author, I wonder if I can reach into the depths of my being to find the creativity, imagination, and style that will make me a good writer.

Darkness overwhelms. I’m not good enough. I have so much to learn. My stories aren’t page-turners. The list can go on and on. And yet, as in the photo, it is the rising sun that becomes the focal point. A new day reinforces the opportunity to begin again.¬† To shine anew.

All of us have the capacity to become bogged down by our challenges, just as we have the ability to reach upward and outward. Together, we see the light from above.  We see the sparkle within. Let us be a dazzling ray of hope for those who may be stuck in the shadows.