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Finding Peace

April 10, 2020


Caroline Morrow stood for a moment, watching the ebb and flow of the crowd. She couldn’t help being a tad skeptical of such universal good nature. Everyone was smiling and chattering, obviously pleased to be celebrating their heritage. And why not? Pennsylvania has a proud history and Bucks County is perhaps its proudest sector. The cosmos itself seemed to approve, having created a perfect day for the celebration. The concrete walls of the towering castle-like museum glowed in the sun. Bubbles in the old glass of mullioned windows captured light and became iridescent jewels. A cheerful melody in harmony with the bucolic scene floated through the air. A dog barking in the background was the only dissonant note. Except for the dog, everything was going according to plan. But what is it they say about plans? Especially best-laid plans? That dog changed everything.

Caroline tried to ignore the animal. She was usually quick to go to the aid of any creature in distress, but today she was taking a break from the things she usually did. She was tired. Bone tired. Worn out from what she’d begun to fear was a futile quest. She had marched in demonstrations, rung doorbells, made phone calls, signed petitions, camped on her congressperson’s office steps – in short, had devoted her life to the basic tenets of her Quaker faith. Did any of it make a difference? Most of the time she could convince herself that it did. But, last night, watching the news, something inside of her had snapped. From around the globe came story after story of horrors too brutal to comprehend. Life on the streets of her own city–the City of Brotherly Love, no less–was no better: children wielding deadly weapons, grown men shooting each other over a parking place, a wheelchair stolen off a front porch, a teenager delivering a pizza knifed for less than twenty dollars. The list went on. Unable to bear it, she switched off the TV and went to bed, telling herself the world would look brighter in the light of day.

It didn’t.

She ate her usual hearty breakfast, but it did nothing to satisfy the hunger in her soul. She looked ahead to her day and dreaded the bickering she knew would be a part of the Peace Initiative meeting – yes, even there, dissent prevailed. Sometime between washing the breakfast dishes and brushing her teeth, she made a decision. Today there would be no dealing with bureaucrats, no fighting for lost causes, no tiptoeing around oversized egos. Today, the only peace she planned to worry about was her own. She made a phone call, gave no reason, just said, “I’m sorry. I can’t make it today.” That’s how she came to be in a picture-perfect small town, listening to a sweet-faced young woman play country airs on a dulcimer while trying to ignore a barking dog. Not an easy thing, especially when the girl’s finger slipped and the melody went off key.

The dog paused, as though to get his breath, then resumed.

Murmurs rose from the crowd, merging with the bleating of sheep in the shearing area, the laughter of children at the puppet theater, the steady hum of the glassblower’s oven. The juggler dropped a club. The stilt-walker stumbled. But no one moved to help the animal.

An annoyed voice separated itself from the general restiveness. “Someone should do something.”

“Yes, they should,” Caroline said to no one in particular. “That poor animal needs help.” Unable to leave a task to a vague someone, she headed for the source of the distraction, the shed behind the museum.

The lean-to structure was filled with wagons and carriages from an earlier time. Caroline peered inside. After the brilliance of the summer day, objects in the shaded interior were a blur of indistinct shapes. She squinted and pressed against the rope that protected the antiques from too-curious visitors.

The dog stopped barking and looked at her.

The quiet that ensued seemed to Caroline almost palpable. The dog remained silent, staring at her, and, after a moment, comments from passersby reached her: “Thank goodness.” “It’s about time.” She ignored the voices and focused on the dog, almost lost in the shadows of the shed’s darkest corner.

The dog tilted its head, studying the strange woman.

She leaned over the rope.

The animal yipped a couple of times and put his nose in a basket that sat nearby.

There was a gurgling sound, soft as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings.

Dear God!

Caroline ducked under the rope and scrambled over the bed of a hay wagon to reach the corner where the dog stood guard. She scraped her elbow against the rough timber of the shed wall in her haste to reach the basket.

The dog stood, legs braced, ears at attention, watching.

She inched forward and held her hands near the animal’s muzzle.

He sniffed and moved aside.

Caroline took another step, bent over, and looked down into a small perfect face, wide trusting eyes, as blue as a summer day. A fuzz of rust-colored hair peeked from beneath a lace-trimmed cap. She held her breath and lifted the baby. The cap fell away, exposing tiny flat ringlets. Caroline placed the baby on her shoulder and felt the beating of its heart. She moved her head and savored the tickle of downy hair on the soft flesh under her chin.

A crowd gathered in front of the shed. Whispers became murmurs, then swelled into an excited babble. Someone yelled out: “Call the police.”

Caroline, oblivious, completely mesmerized by the child, lost all sense of time. She was surprised, almost outraged, when a thickset man in uniform appeared and put his hands out to take the baby from her. She half-turned, rotating away from him.

He sidestepped, making the circuit with her. “This your child, Ma’am?”

The dog moved, rigid as a clinched fist, between Caroline and the man.
The man glanced down at the dog, but did not retreat. “We need to check the baby, Ma’am. Make sure everything’s all right.”

The next hours went by in a blur. Caroline, usually the most precise of women, certainly not sentimental, was vague about most of the details. A few remained vivid, carved into her heart as though onto a stone tablet. She never forgot the ride to the hospital in the police car; sitting behind the officer with the baby in her arms; the basket on the seat beside her; and, most of all, the ache she’d felt when she relinquished the child to the doctor.

She recalled examining the contents of the basket while she waited. The small cap was white, made of fine linen. A band around the front was edged in lace and embroidered with daisies. She let her fingers caress the fabric and could tell that it was old. There was a pillow, embroidered with the same pattern as the cap and the words Peace be with you. A silver cup lay on its side near the pillow. It looked recently polished, its surface mirror-bright except for a small smudge. Caroline picked it up and rubbed the spot with her shirttail.

“Hey!” The policeman shouted and lurched toward her. “Don’t do that! There might be fingerprints. You’ll destroy them.”
She managed to wipe the cup clean before he grabbed it from her.

He was indignant. “Don’t you want to know who this baby belongs to?”

The doctor came back with the child before she could answer. “It’s a little girl,” he said. “I’d say she’s about a week old. And perfect.”

Perfect. Something Caroline Morrow already knew. Maybe she couldn’t save the world, but she could rescue this child. She understood all too well the red tape that would be involved: an investigation, forms to fill out, bureaucratic hoops to jump through, a waiting period, but ultimately, she vowed, the child would be hers. She looked down into the basket, at the pillow with its fine embroidery work and knew her daughter’s name: Peace Daisy Morrow. Her Peace.

NOTE: If you’re interested in learning what became of the baby in the basket, her story is continued in LOVE AND NOT DESTROY http://amzn.to/2GrB8yX  It’s on sale for .99 for a limited time.

Happy Independence Day

July 3, 2019


tags: Declaration of ndependenceFounding FathersFourth of July,George WashingtonLiberty BellThomas Jefferson

by Sandra Carey Cody

July 4After basics like food and shelter, I can’t think of anything more precious or more essential to the human spirit than independence. And there’s probably nothing more taken for granted by those who posses it. That’s too bad, a grievous sin. It’s also probably true that we here in the United States are more guilty of this sin than most. However, once a year we at least try to redeem ourselves; we set aside a day to remember our heritage and to celebrate it. Tomorrow is that day: the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document that condenses into six paragraphs the ideals on which our nation was founded.

Many of us memorized the Declaration of Independence sometime during our school years and promptly forgot most of it. But some phrases are so powerful and so evocative of what we as a nation hope to be, that they remain locked in the recesses of our brains–phrases like: “decent respect to the opinions of mankind,” “self-evident that all men are created equal” and, of course: “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

I don’t think there’s ever been a time when it’s been more necessary to remember those words. At the moment, our country is so divided that the crack in our Liberty Bell seems ominously appropriate. I believe that differences in opinion are good and even necessary to create a society that embodies the ideals of that brilliant Declaration. If only we could remember the phrase “decent respect to the opinions of mankind” and listen to all opinions, even those with which we disagree. Not just listen, but actually consider that there might be some truth in a viewpoint different from our own. If all men are created equal, shouldn’t all men (and women and children) be allowed to express their opinion? But perhaps not quite so vociferously. A little civility goes a long way.

The times may seem bleak, but history reminds me that this is not new. There has always been conflict among men, especially during periods of change. I understand that even the men we so lovingly call our Founding Fathers lost their tempers and shouted at each other from time to time. The story goes that George Washington wondered if he was witnessing a rising or a setting sun. So, maybe things are not as bad as they seem.

Go forth and celebrate your Life and Liberty. Pursue Happiness.

An Uncertain Path – an excerpt

May 7, 2019

A short excerpt to the second Peace Morrow novel, AN UNCERTAIN PATH:

“Peace had known since she was a toddler that she was adopted and couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been curious about her biological roots. She’d grown up part of the Quaker community in Philadelphia, attending the Green Street Meeting on Sundays and, from kindergarten through eighth grade, had gone to their school. She and her classmates were a racially mixed group, her education one that stressed respect for all people and conflict mediation rather than the more aggressive behavior she’d come to know existed in the rest of the world. It was a good life, idyllic in many ways. Peace knew this and was grateful, but it didn’t stop her from wanting a family−a big family with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins−the whole nine yards, as they say. Now, her wish granted, she had a family−and was about to meet them. “Be careful what you wish for.” How often her mother had said that to her and how foolish she’d thought it at the time.

“She remembered Holly’s words: “You’ll like them once you get to know them.”

“But will they like me? She thought of all those smiling faces in the photo album, the elaborate birthday cakes topped with candles, the picnics, the hammock filled with laughing children, and, most of all, the posed shots of multiple generations in front of a Christmas tree. Christmas. Two more weeks. This one promised to be different from others she’d known. Last year, she and Caroline had donated money to purchase a door and a window for a local Habitat for Humanity project. The year before, they’d funded a flock of chickens for Heifer International. This year, at Caroline’s suggestion, they’d be joining Peace’s new-found family in their traditional gift-giving and attending Christmas Eve service at the church that Holly attended. Would Peace fit into this different tradition? Did she want to?”

Maybe you’ve read LOVE AND NOT DESTROY, the book that introduced Peace Morrow. If so, you know how she longed to know more about her roots and how conflicted she was when she discovered the first hints of her biological family. If you want to know what happened when she finally met the family and to travel with her the uncertain path that opened before them, you’ll want to check out AN UNCERTAIN PATH. http://a.co/d/5Vneh02

Let There Be Light

December 10, 2018

Chinese Candle in a temple

This time of year, though the hours of daylight are so few, the world seems filled with extra light. The shops are full of decorations in every shape, color, and configuration imaginable and most of the decorations feature light in some form – and it’s not just the shops. I’m doing my bit with candles in my windows. My neighbor’s window is graced with a menorah–more candles. 

The candles displayed by my neighbor and me are just two examples of the traditions honored at this time of  year as many of us prepare for the celebration of a special day – Christmas–or Hanukkah–or–Kwanzaa–or–Ramadan–or some holiday unknown to me, but precious to someone.  Mid-winter is a time of holidays, each with a distinct set of customs and a unique manner of observance. Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are celebrated with special meals and the giving of gifts. The food served and the gifts given vary according to the tradition being honored, but in each, they are chosen to remind celebrants of a their heritage. 

Ramadan follows the opposite path by observing the special time with fasting instead of feasting. And yet, even in this completely different tradition, there runs a common thread. All of the holidays involve at least some level of introspection. Underlying all the festivities, all the customs, both merry and solemn, there is a call to examine our innermost selves, to find out and declare what it is that makes our tradition unique. Paradoxically, in doing this, we come  face to face with other traditions and the realization that they are important to those who celebrate them and, with that, comes an awareness of the need for understanding.

Many celebrations throughout the year involve light (colored lights, candles, crackling logs, fireworks), but this is especially true of those that come in midwinter when night falls so quickly. Could this be because these holidays are so close to the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, we feel a need to light the darkness? Are our candles really symbols of the light we find when we seek within and our need to proclaim it to the world? I feel sure that they are and it occurs to me that this need to proclaim is akin to the force that compels writers to write, painters to paint, and composers to compose. It’s the artist’s need to illuminate, to direct a beacon that shines so brightly we cannot fail to see it. But I believe it’s more than that. I believe it’s the need of every human being to have his/her special light recognized and acknowledged, a proclamation  of a common humanity that far outweighs superficial differences. 

So, I salute and thank all of you who light candles–whatever type of candle you choose and for whatever reason. Let there be candles – millions of candles of diverse size and shape and color–to celebrate our commonality. Let us put our candles together and keep the darkness at bay.

What I’m Reading Now

December 1, 2018

Actually, I just finished two books (which I read simultaneously, not my usual habit):

THE PEOPLE by Bernard Malamud – This book had been sitting on my TBR shelf for a number years. I put off reading it because I knew there was no ending. It’s the book Malamud was working on when he died of a heart attack in 1986. I found the book at a library book sale and, being a great admirer of his work, I grabbed it. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized it was an unfinished novel. Would I have bought it if I had known that? Probably. As I said, I’m a great admirer of his writing. He tackles important issues of what it means to be human. As such, he’s often dealing with tragedy, but somehow manages to infuse his writing with humor and, for me at least, to show his fellow humans as flawed, but not beyond hope. This novel is set in the nineteenth century and The People referred to in the title are Native Americans. The hero (he did seem a hero to me) is a Jewish peddler who is adopted as their leader and, as such, takes on the suffering of the tribe and has to deal with the brutalities and lies of the government. A number of short stories round out the volume. I haven’t read all of them yet, but the ones I have read confirm my belief in the genius and humanity of Bernard Malamud.

THE FIFTH SEASON (Part 1 of The Broken Earth trilogy) by N. K. Jemisin – This was a completely serendipitous find for me – a gift from an old friend. It’s science fiction/fantasy/dystopian, not my usual genre. My friend recommended it as well-written and thought-provoking (which it is) and challenged me to step outside my comfort zone (which I did). I’m glad I did. By the way, I had to look up DystopianI had only a vague idea of the meaning of the term. A simple definition is opposite of Utopianan apt description of this book. Maybe that’s why I don’t usually choose this genre. However, as I said, I am glad my friend nudged me into reading THE FIFTH SEASON. I tend to be an optimist (despite the current state of our planet) and seeing just how wrong things can go makes me uncomfortable – not a bad thing for a book to do. I found the landscape described in the story disturbing, but not beyond the stretch of my imagination. I always read a book hoping that, no matter bad things are, they will work out in the end. Since I’ve read only the first of the trilogy, I don’t know the ultimate fate of the characters or the world they inhabit but, frankly, it does not look good at this point. I’m putting off reading the other two volumes until after Christmas.

So much for the books I just finished. What am I reading now? I stepped back into my comfort zone with THE BRUTAL TELLING by Louise Penny. It’s part of a series that I love and I don’t understand why I hadn’t already read this book. As always, I’m enjoying time spent in Three Pines – a place where, despite the incidence of murders that take place there, restores my faith in humanity’s innate goodness.

How about you? Anyone care to share what you’re reading? Any recommendations?

Coming Soon – Author Expo

October 24, 2018

Heads-up of a coming event. This is the second Author Expo the Bucks County Library System has sponsored. I participated last year and had  a fun-filled afternoon. I met some new-to-me authors and connected with some dear friends I hadn’t seen for a while. The library was packed with writers eager to talk about stories – those already written and those still emerging – not just their own, but also those of their fellow writers. The range of conversations in which I participated and overheard was astounding – and inspiring.

I’ve always loved libraries. I’ve watched them change and adapt as the times changed. I’m impressed with how modern libraries bustle with activity and creative energy – very different from the libraries of my childhood. Those were quiet, almost reverent, places. I savored their hushed atmosphere. To me, it was as sacred as any church. Do I regret the changes? No. The really important things haven’t changed. The library is still the place to go if you want to immerse yourself in the thoughts and ideas of the greatest minds, the wildest imaginations, the wackiest senses of humor, past and present, that our planet has produced.

So … I hope those of you who are in the Bucks County, PA area will drop by on November 3. Everyone else, I hope you can find time to visit your local library, wherever it may be. There’s sure to be something interesting going on.

A SOLDIER’S HONOR

September 23, 2018

After a summer when writing-related activities had to be put aside in deference to some difficult situations that intrude in all our lives from to time,  I’m thrilled to return to Birth of a Novel by welcoming my friend, Fran McNabb, and hearing about her new book, A SOLDIER’S HONOR. 

Fran …

I started this book years ago. If someone were to ask me where I got the idea for this story, I’d have to be honest and say I really don’t remember.  Sometimes I know exactly where a storyline originated. I can pinpoint the exact moment, event, or setting that sparked one of my past stories, but this book’s origin is a mystery to me. I’m sure something in my past made me want to delve into a hero’s plight as he struggles to regain the honor that was unjustly stripped from him. I wish I could remember what it was.

The story begins as my hero Daniel is entering a work-release program to finish the remainder of a prison sentence, a sentence he was serving for defending the woman he thought he loved. His goal is to clear his name and to regain the honor that was stripped away from him. He is hired by a nursing facility through a state program and must work under Lisa Marie Hudson, a nurse supervisor who is shocked to find he is an ex-convict and one with no nursing experience.

Lisa struggles with her own problems. A widow who lost her husband in a pharmacy robbery is involved in a similar incident at the nursing facility, plunging her back into emotional tailspin. Together Daniel and Lisa learn to work together and to find the courage to live and love again. I love writing stories about characters who have lost hope but find a way to regain their spark for living again.

A few years ago my mother had to be put in a nursing facility and as I watched the staff care for her, I realized in my earlier version of the story I had no idea how a nursing home was run. I learned quite a lot during my time spent there with my mother and I gained a great respect for what the nurses and the staff members did for those in residence.

As Lisa and Daniel get to know each other, she calls them “two broken people searching for a little sunshine in their lives.” In the beginning that is true but I loved showing how they helped each other find the will to live and love again.

If you get a chance to read A SOLDIER’S HONOR, I hope you find it is an uplifting and enjoyable romance.  A SOLDIER’S HONOR can be found at Amazon.  http://a.co/d/irxEedb 

Sandy, thank you so much for having me on BIRTH OF A NOVEL.  I’m excited to talk about my newest book, A SOLDIER’S HONOR. 

Fran, the honor is mine. A SOLDIER’S HONOR is a wonderful story, with complex, very human characters – perfect for those cool fall days and nights that are coming. Thanks for taking time to share a bit about what went into its creation.

Readers, because I’m sure you’re curious, here ‘s a little something about Fran McNabb. She grew up along the beaches, bayous and islands of the Gulf Coast and uses this setting in most of her novels. She received both her BS and ME degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi. She taught high school English and journalism until she took an early retirement and now enjoys presenting writing workshops. She lives on a quiet bayou harbor with her husband. Together they enjoy boating, fishing, and visiting nearby islands. When she’s not writing or reading, she loves to paint. You can visit Fran online at www.FranMcNabb.com. She loves to hear from readers and invites comments about her books at mcnabbf@bellsouth.net or on Facebook @Fran McNabb, Author

Fran and I have been friends since we both wrote for Avalon Books. I think she’ll agree when I say there’s a special sisterhood among old Avaloners. We may be traveling separate paths in our writing lives, but we continue the friendships that were forged in those early days.