The Place Of Knowing

Overview

Knowing is a process, not an arrival. The Place of Knowing: A Spiritual Autobiography celebrates the spiritual-both seen and unseen-through the life of acclaimed writer and devout Mormon Emma Lou Warner Thayne.

In this insightful, eloquently written memoir, Emma Lou-author of thirteen books of poetry, essays, and fiction-shares poignant personal anecdotes that begin with a terrifying near-death experience when, without warning, a six-pound iron rod smashed through a car ...

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The Place of Knowing

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Overview

Knowing is a process, not an arrival. The Place of Knowing: A Spiritual Autobiography celebrates the spiritual-both seen and unseen-through the life of acclaimed writer and devout Mormon Emma Lou Warner Thayne.

In this insightful, eloquently written memoir, Emma Lou-author of thirteen books of poetry, essays, and fiction-shares poignant personal anecdotes that begin with a terrifying near-death experience when, without warning, a six-pound iron rod smashed through a car windshield into her face. As she narrates her journey through her recovery process, she reflects on previous life experiences-from the daily to the sublime. Through both example and insight, she shares adventures while offering a calming presence for those who may fear death, yearn to know how to celebrate life, and crave direction on how to access the wonders of the divine.

For anyone who has wondered about life after death or who desires a better understanding of his or her divine self, The Place of Knowing will inspire spiritual seekers everywhere to reach out in friendship to others and to embrace new experiences-ultimately discovering themselves in the process.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781450285278
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/21/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,466,863
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword....................ix
Preface....................xi
Chapter 1 | Journey to the Place of Knowing....................xiii
Chapter 2 | Pillars and Stars—to Know and Tell....................1
Chapter 3 | Reverence for Life—From Birth to Death and Beyond....................31
Chapter 4 | Living with the Ineffable—in Sleep, Solitude, and Serenity....................89
Chapter 5 | Language of the Heart....................109
Chapter 6 | Where Can I Turn for Peace?....................149
Chapter 7 | The Stations of the Cross....................189
Chapter 8 | Healers....................205
Chapter 9 | The Ineffable Shared....................223
Chapter 10 | On Paying Attention....................2235
Epilogue....................251
Glossary....................253
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First Chapter

THE PLACE OF KNOWING

A SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY
By Emma Lou Warner Thayne

iUniverse

Copyright © 2011 Emma Lou Warner Thayne
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4502-8527-8


Chapter One

JOURNEY TO THE PLACE OF KNOWING

An exaltation of joy ... even more beautiful than anything in a dream. —Madeleine L'Engle * * * Things happen. Early in the world you travel into them. One day you rise without prayer in a far camp and silently hurry away. Having slept under stars and still breathing the greyed fire, who would take time to suppose this the middle of a lifetime?

The day I died, my son-in-law Jim and I had to leave camp early that Saturday morning, June 28, 1986. He needed to be at the hospital where he was chief resident in plastic surgery, and I wanted to be back to help a good friend with the announcement party at noon for her daughter's wedding. Leaving our loved ones asleep, we drove my husband Mel's new Taurus. With Jim at the wheel, we laughed as I read from the car's manual about what knob or button would activate what magic—such as how many miles we were getting or how far before we ran out of gas. Luckily, I was looking down while I read.

Without warning came the crash. A six-pound rod, like a tire iron with an elbow in it, somehow airborne, smashed through the windshield into my face. It missed my right eye by a hair and lodged in the rear window of the car.

Jim didn't see the iron bar until it struck me—when he saw my head fly back and then forward. Without a seat belt, he said later, my body would have recoiled back through the fractured windshield. "What hit me?" I asked him, my hand at my temple full of blood, glass in my eye. That blood! Jim looked at me, then toward the back of the car. "You'll never believe what hit you, Grey," I heard him say. "It's huge! A piece of iron as long as my arm, and it's stuck in the back window." I guess I asked him to give me his T-shirt for the blood. He pulled onto the shoulder of the highway, stopped, stripped off his shirt, and pressed it against my temple and eye.

What must it have felt like to him, specializing in plastic surgery, knowing what he did about facial and head injuries? How frightened was he? He'd been my pal, my partner on the tennis court. He loved our daughter and their children. We'd planned to write a mystery novel about a burn patient uncompromisingly wanting his fingerprints changed. Hoping for a patrolman, Jim turned on the flashers and drove ninety miles an hour to his hospital.

Somewhere, I had lost track of myself. If there was anything happening, it was someone else's story. I lost all feeling. There was no present, no past, no future—only a grey miasma of nothing crucial, nothing needing my attention. Disbelief filled me. What had smashed the windshield and my face? Did it matter? Numb, without pain or caring, I felt Jim speeding through traffic to the hospital. How long it took was of no concern. Strangely, I think I felt invulnerable, as if what had happened were not part of my life.

Outside of the emergency room, I was vaguely aware as attendants pushed on me here, there—testing reflexes, asking questions of Jim, of me. They put a collar on my neck, laid me on a stretcher, and rushed me to x-ray. I felt nothing as doctors tried to clean glass out of my eye. Windshield splinters covered me. Splinters from my smashed sunglasses were in my eye as well. I was blank, a nonentity—I felt only distance and almost indifference.

The x-rays would show eight fractures, a broken jaw, and six teeth killed. My eyeball would have to be moved to allow for repair of the socket. Concussion—what else to my brain? No one should have survived, the police officers, doctors, staff, and reporters said then.

But I thought I hadn't even lost consciousness.

Uncharacteristically, my family were all unavailable, either back at camp or otherwise out of town. Shelley, Paul, and their three children had just moved to Alameda, California. Dinny and Mike were running a summer tennis camp in Ojai, California, for which Megan had left only the week before to be an assistant instructor in tennis and swimming. Jim was meeting with his chief of surgery, Dr. Louis Morales, to discuss what needed to happen for me. I lay alone in some white room, waiting—but not waiting.

Out of the dim, our daughter Becky mysteriously appeared, almost vaporous. Jim had found her family where I had told him they were weekending, at Snowbird resort twenty miles away. As any one of my five daughters would have done, she took my hand. I thought she was crying. Her love palpable, she was reality—but not reality. It would be weeks before I could reenter myself, let alone my world. Where I was, there was no such thing as emotion. Seven months later, I would write:

To you nothing here is immediate, crucial, in the least attractive. No expecting beyond hours of x-rays, stitches, shots, ice. All that time returning, you vague about familiar hands, tangled in your head, the blow to trace, surely someone else's story.

Because of the swelling, Dr. Morales could not operate that day. All he could do was stitch me up and wait until ice and rest could reduce the purple protrusion by my eye and over my temple. I agreed with Jim, almost without thought, not to let our family who were still camping know about the accident. What good? They'd be back in the afternoon, driving without having to worry about me. Despite my serious condition, Jim, my closest advisor, knew I would want to be home to wait out my time before surgery. He knew how critical the familiar would be to my recovery from trauma. He took me home via my own eye doctor who, with the caring expertise I was used to, gently removed the final shards of glass from my eye. I never cried. I was not afraid. I felt nothing, not even great pain. Someone else occupied my skin.

Five hours later, Mel came into our bedroom not knowing what had happened, only that there had been an accident. I lay on a treasured pillow in some dim region, wanting nothing. His hand went to his mouth and he sobbed. Until then, I had no idea of how I looked. Jim had told Rinda at the door. She came to the bed and, like Becky, took my hand and said, "You'll be OK, Mother." Then she and Becky called my brothers and friends to say that I'd had a small accident. One by one they came to me, bringing their individual looks of veiled dismay. Jim took a picture of me lying there with the rusted iron rod beside me, as long as from my head to my hips. He also took a picture of the smashed slit in the windshield, crackles around it, looking like a great glass eye peering into and out of the passenger seat of the car.

Two days later, I scrawled in the journal I could not read, "All I've been saying since 7:30 Sat. morning is 'thank you. Thank you. Another chance, Lulie, take it & run!'"

Surgery came four days after the accident, scheduled in a rush before the Fourth of July weekend when Dr. Morales would be out of town. He asked for a picture of the right side of my face before the injury. He would restore me, but to what? Would that it could be Ingrid Bergman! But then again, how I might look seemed almost incidental to how much I wanted my eye back for seeing, or my brain for thinking. My brother Homer, who was a doctor, had long ago explained to me that in a concussion the brain is like an egg in a teacup. With a blow the cup can appear intact even though the egg has been shattered. I wanted my shattered head back in one piece.

I had always looked for divine help through my faith in healing; I'd looked for divine help in anything actually—whether taking an exam or talking to someone in trouble. But this situation seemed different. Words and ideas were lost in a fog of no feeling. Prayer had always been as natural as breathing, but I felt separated even from that. Mother and Father led us in blessings on our food and entreaties for help, even to play our best in a game or tournament. As adults, when we were flying as my three brothers and I often were, Mother was "working on the weather," and we all had stories of miraculous breaking up of storms.

In 1924, when I was a month old, my father had stood in a circle of priesthood bearers in front of the congregation I was born into to give me a name and a blessing. That event is recorded in the cornerstone of the then-new Highland Park Ward, where I was the first baby to be christened. I can remember still, when I was four and had both measles and whooping cough long before medicines to cure either, there were signs in our front window alerting others to the highly contagious diseases in our home. I must have been dangerously ill. It was time for a blessing.

I can still feel the kitchen stool I sat on in front of the radiator in the living room to stay warm. My father and an adored uncle put their big hands on my head. They felt like a heavy capful of magic. My scalp still rises thinking about it. I heard my father's voice being very serious, and he was crying—most of the time he laughed with us so I felt his seriousness down my neck and into my shoulders. I remember being carried by my father back upstairs to the bed I shared with my grandmother, expecting for sure to be back in first grade the next day where the school nurse would take my temperature and let me stay. Only the blessing part is still clear, but I know I didn't miss enough school not to be promoted.

Blessings had helped, I was sure. The year before I was married I asked for a blessing before having my broken back set. I had gone over a cliff on the ski hill and landed in a pine tree. Later, blessings had been imperative before the birth of my five babies. Mel and I even stopped on the way to the hospital with our fourth daughter to have a special laying on of hands for me by my apostle uncle, accustomed to assurance that the power of his office would make the blessing even more effective.

Seventeen years and many blessings after my accident on the ski hill, when I was playing tennis doubles, I'd been hit in the "karate spot" at the back of my neck with a hard serve. I dropped like a rock in a puddle. Men had picked me up and spread me on a narrow bench to carry me up to the clubhouse for help. I felt myself slipping off the bench, but I could not move, speak, or see. We made it to the top just before I would have fallen off. Homer came, took me home to bed, and called a neurologist. My speech and movement came back but not my sight. Tests the next day in the hospital and a devastating headache suggested a blood clot on my brain. Surgery was scheduled.

That night my brothers and Mel gave me a blessing. I was a forty-one-year-old woman with five children at home. During the blessing, I joined in, asking urgently for healing. My headache disappeared. I begged for postponement of the surgery, for a new assessment. Tests the next day showed a clearing of my head. The only residual of the blow was double vision. For two months, I wore a black patch over my right eye to let me see normally.

Not all well-intended blessings were as immediately effective. In the three-and-a-half-year struggle of our daughter Becky's severe bout with manic depression and bulimia, blessings and prayers joined with professional treatment and medication. But in 1970, the stigma of mental illness went hand-in-hand with ancient interpretation. One well-meaning comforter wanted to bless Becky to be rid of the demons that afflicted her. We refused. Never was there a more bleak time for the whole family. Becky did get well, as much because of love as of treatment and faith.

Why wasn't a blessing the first thing I thought of at home in bed after the accident? It never occurred to me to want to bring even that into the vacancy that filled me. Everything in me was on hold.

Only six weeks before, Mel and we who loved him had found comfort in love and the laying on of hands by his bishop and brothersin-law. Triple bypass surgery was still a major operation, and we were counting on help from the divine. But we had learned since childhood that along with prayers for healing came "Thy will be done" and a hope for peace in the outcome.

Now, the night before the surgery on my face and head, I did ask two brothers, together with Mel, to give me a priesthood blessing. When they put their hands on my head after anointing my forehead with consecrated oil, I remembered how their hands had always before, so many times in my life, been lovingly efficacious. Now those hands felt like a ton of weight on my scalp—as if my neck could not support them—but also as if they were handling the pain. I thought that if they could draw it up in their hands they could pull it off my shoulders, off my whole head, and I would simply float off to where I needed to be, no struggle, no effort at all, just a void of absolute quiet. During the blessing, I silently pled for an escape. I had yet to learn where the accident had taken me.

At 6:20 a.m. the next morning, waiting for surgery, I felt only anticipatory anxiety. I wished desperately for a forbidden drink of water to wash away the taste of blood that continued to coagulate as it ran down my throat from damaged sinuses. "And it will get worse," Dr. Morales said. "You'll bleed through your nose too. Both eyes will be swollen and black."

Lifelong writer that I am, I had taken my journal to the hospital with me. In the bleakness, I spoke to God, barely legibly in my journal, as I often did to my father and mother, by then gone thirty and fourteen years respectively:

The touch of you has never been absent, only sometimes my frail ability to make space for you to come to me. Today you are here, gentle fingers on the throbbing in my cheek and head, telling me that, just as the iron bar of Saturday morning was deflected even as it split the windshield, so the scalpels and whatever else is needed will be guided to give me a new life. I know. And I will honor that life—as I do you this beautiful blue-sky morning. And one more adventure I never could have dreamed of myself.

In my banged-up head, I thought, "On with it now, Lulie. What face you'll come home with, who knows? Who cares really? Everything worth worrying about is totally intact." I had never looked in a mirror.

Dr. Morales did restore me physically. With scrupulous care and skill, and Jim as his assistant, most of the surgery was performed up through my mouth and down through my eye to avoid scarring. The eight fractures in my cheek were anchored by screws to titanium plates around my eye, next to my nose and ear, and under my temple. Only one long cut to close the wound ran from the top of my eyebrow around my eye—barely beyond the socket—into the wrinkles under my eye. A fine reason for wrinkles! In four days, I was home with a message taped to my face: Do not move—an edict that might have been laughable in any other phase of my life. Now, with the hospital a memory as dim as time under the anesthetic, pain was my only reminder of anything.

The entry in my journal for Monday, July 7, was a scribble that I could not read back for another seven months:

Awake early with pain, fetid, sore mouth, lips raw, teeth hurting, ears ringing, throat full of blood, wishing I could just start the whole scene over again. All such unreality. Did it really happen? It has to be someone else's experience. It can't keep hurting like this. No plans, no projects, not even any movement. I feel almost intimidated by what has never intimidated me before: sounds, eventualities. I feel weakened and extraneous, like some frail little bird perched in a quivering corner waiting to be carried off on a strong finger to where the sun is shining and songs are being sung. I need to get on my own and be. To quit feeling like a specimen and get on with being a person—whoever that person might be back there in that murky nether realm. Go back to sleep, Lulie, and find yourself before you wake again. Come on. Sweet sleep—remember? Your friend. Waiting to hold and then spring you like Grandma's arms when you were a little girl.

But it didn't happen.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from THE PLACE OF KNOWING by Emma Lou Warner Thayne Copyright © 2011 by Emma Lou Warner Thayne. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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