Stopping by Authors & Readers Book Corner today is Margaret Dulaney a playwright and essayist, and founder of the spoken word website Listenwell.org Culled from a lifetime’s study of the ancients and mystics of all traditions, Margaret’s writings employ the ideas of Emerson, Lao Tzu, Hafiz, George MacDonald, Richard Rohr, Emanuel Swedenborg, Lorna Byrne, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, Rudolph Steiner and many others.
In 2010 Margaret founded the open faith, spoken word website ListenWell.Org. Each month Listen Well posts one ten-minute, professionally recorded essay designed to puzzle out a spiritual theme through story and metaphor. Listeners vary from practicing Buddhists to open-minded Christians, from those struggling to find a working tradition to those who are happy with their practice. Margaret records her writings at Maggie’s Farm recording studios in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Let’s get to know Margaret Dulaney:
Q: Your book, The Parables of Sunlight, is a memoir that revolves around a farm, and an injured horse. Why did you choose to write about this?
MARGARET DULANEY: I chose this story because I wanted to explore the theme of the battle between hope and despair. The story is from a period in my middle years when my husband and I took ownership of a neglected farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The central figure in the book is an abandoned and injured horse whose life hangs in the balance for many months. At the time this mirrored other battles of a similar intensity in other facets of my life, my mother for instance, who was in a battle with late stage Alzheimer’s disease. I hope the book touches on a universal theme, one to which many can relate.
Q: Have you drawn any conclusions from your exploration of this subject?
DULANEY: I think we go wrong when we say of any situation, “This shouldn’t be happening.” It is happening, and we must find our way through. I suspect that our greatest work is in our willingness to walk alongside one another through difficult passages. The metaphor of my walking alongside my horse through months and months of rehabilitation had a formative and lasting effect on me.
Q: What would you say it was that you learned?
DULANEY: I think it was a lesson in the great arts of hope and perseverance. I am in the business of hope. This is what I try and offer my listeners who visit Listen Well every month. Hope isn’t a luxury; it is a necessity. Like water, we cannot live without hope. Perseverance, however, is something that we can take up or toss away at any time. The choice is ours. The issue is, so little is accomplished without some sort of stick-to-it-ness. Most good things, most goals, most efforts to change require a measure of perseverance. Before this period in my life I didn’t see the true value of this quality, I was too willing to give up.
Q: But how can you tell if you are persevering in the right direction? Might you be fighting for something that is not worth your fighting for?
DULANEY: I understand this dilemma. Maybe the best way to distinguish whether a choice is right for you or not is if it brings you life. We’re given choices every day to either embrace life or turn from life. Some choices bring us more passion for our lives and others block our life force. Do not confuse this with right and wrong, yes or no. Sometimes a “no” can be life-affirming, a “yes” can be life-denying. No, I don’t want that third Scotch, yes, I do need to leave this corrosive relationship. Sometimes the choices take a good deal of study before they can be decided upon, but most of us have an intuitive understanding of what will bring us life and what will not.
Q: You use the metaphor of a good teacher to illustrate this guidance. Why did you choose this?
DULANEY: I hoped to focus and solidify the idea of divine aid. Everyone will experience this a little differently. The ways in which others experience the divine are intriguing to me. I love people’s stories of transcendence and guidance.
Q: Your book is filled with stories involving animals. What is your connection to animals?
DULANEY: I have always felt that the animal kingdom has much to teach us. A flock of birds for instance, with its ability to fly in unison, as if they shared one mind, is a beautiful metaphor, never satisfactorily explained by science. If we have guidance from above, which I heartily believe we do, then an animal is a perfect tool of manipulation. My dogs have introduced me to some of my closest friends. My horse has the ability to deliver a sense of peace to me unlike any other. There is much that is mystical about our connection to the animals.
Q: Is there anything that you learned by your exploration of the battle between hope and despair that surprised you.
DULANEY: I suspect that most of us, if we could see our past as the heavenly beings do, would be astonished at the measure of hope we carry through life. We would be amazed at our courage, the perseverance we have shown. I know that before I wrote this book, I believed that I was far too ready to throw in the towel and give up, but looking at my history I can see the thread of hope woven through my story. I encourage everyone to try and look for this thread. It is always there.
About The Book
Purchase at Amazon.com
The Parables of Sunlight follows author Margaret Dulaney as she adjusts to her new life of farm ownership, and the questionable gift of an abandoned racehorse, whose life hangs in the balance for half a year. At the time, this struggle mirrored others of a similar intensity in Dulaney’s life, such as her mother’s battle with late stage Alzheimer’s disease. The story illustrates the powerful resilience of hope and offers an antidote for cynicism, countering the temptation to give up. Readers will find resonance with their own battles, and the need for perseverance in the face of despair.
The Parables of Sunlight beautifully weaves in Dulaney’s metaphor of the good, unseen teacher – or the concept of divine guidance – employing the image of a figure who acts with an intimate interest in all our choices, a source of wisdom which is available to everyone, encouraging us to persevere, choose more life, more hope and more courage.
The Parables of Sunlight will appeal to anyone who has ever loved an animal, a patch of land, or a community of loving souls. Imagine if Anne Lamott wrote Charlotte’s Web. Graced with the gorgeous interior illustrations by nationally recognized illustrator, Glenn Harrington, the book is a feast for the eyes as well as the soul.
Learn more about Margaret Dulaney at www.listenwell.org and connect with her on Facebook