Category Archives: Life in Fairfield Iowa

“Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore: Reconciling the Past

A few years ago, a friend read me a passage from Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul, A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life.

Thomas Moore

Thomas Moore

To care for the soul of the family, it is necessary to shift from casual thinking to an appreciation of story and character, to allow grandparents and uncles to be transformed into characters of myth…
Thomas Moore

I was so moved, I immediately went to our local used bookstore and restaurant, Revelations, to find a copy. A second home to many residents of Fairfield, Iowa, Revelations has become a community icon, offering both new and used books in all genres, and an especially diverse, eclectic selection of spiritual and self-help books. The bounty of fascinating books isn’t surprising considering Fairfield, a small town in the middle of cornfields, is abundant in spiritual seekers and avid readers. In fact, in 2012, Opera Winfrey flew into town on her private jet to meditate with other TM mediators on the MUM (Maharishi University of Management) campus.

The Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore

The Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore

So I was delighted, but not surprised, to see several used copies of Care of the Soul on the shelves. I keep a copy of this book close at hand and refer to it often. A contemporary philosopher, activist, and intellectual, Thomas Moore lived as a monk in a Catholic religious order for twelve years, has degrees in theology , musicology , and philosophy, and has authored many extraordinary books.

“Disappointments in love, even betrayals and losses, serve the soul at the very moment they seem in life to be tragedies. The soul is partly in time and partly in eternity. We might remember the part that resides in eternity when we feel despair over the part that is in life.”
― Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

At the time, I was scheduled to fly to Washington state to visit my brother and his wife – my brother and I were in the process of mending many years of estrangement. Our relationship had been heavy baggage and I was releasing years of anger, resentment, and fear. I had even considered canceling my trip because I was concerned we would resume old patterns of behavior and our egos would become locked in battle. However, I was highly motivated to heal myself and to offer my brother the opportunity to heal as well. We’d had many phone calls and our talks held the promise we were on the brink of a breakthrough. I was feeling the need to come to terms with unresolved issues and find peace with the brother I’d demonized. I’d been preparing myself to experience forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation. And, after years of meditation and talking the talk of love, it was time to transcend my attachment to my judgement and pain.

As I sat on the airplane, I pulled out my copy of Care of the Soul and opened a page to these words:

“At a certain level, it doesn’t matter whether one’s family has been largely happy, comforting, and supportive, or if there has been abuse and neglect. I’m not saying that these failures are not significant and painful or that they do not leave horrifying scars…In my practice I’ve worked with many men and women whose families were intolerably violent and abusive, and yet all of that pain has been redeemable, able to become the source of much wisdom and transformation. When we encounter the family from the point of view of the soul, accepting its shadows and its failure to meet our idealistic expectations, we are faced with the mysteries that resist our moralism and sentimentality. We are taken down to the earth, where principal gives way to life in all its beauty and horror.”

In that moment, I experienced synchronicity – the certainty these words were a gift from the universe. I was being presented with the insight I needed to propel me forward on my “hero’s” journey. The journey wasn’t about finding a false experience of perfection. It wasn’t about righting past wrongs. It was about being open-hearted, trusting that an intelligent universe was guiding my soul, about my willingness to see myself and the characters in my life as evolving beings full of complexity. I understood, we’re not entitled to perfect sentimentalized versions of idyllic family life. It’s more common for families to express both a “facade of happiness and normality, and the behind the scenes reality of craziness and abuse.”

I was clear this was a path toward greater awareness and consciousness. I understood we’re all pilgrims on this earth playing many roles – we’ve all been perpetrators and victims, and none of us are without stain. We’re complicated composites of many archetypes – some roles we judge to be praiseworthy and others cause us shame. Our families are made up of flawed people born of other wounded people who also struggled with their demons and pass their pain on to us. We’re part of it all – the mess, the chaos, the guilt and also the opportunities for reconciliation, forgiveness, and love. My job was to be present, not a slave to history – to see we are all in this together.

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Fairfield Iowa’s Mosaic Murals by Karla Christensen

A Winter Garden
A Winter Garden Mosaic Mural Installation (6 x 10 ft.) by Karla Christensen

We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.
Jimmy Carter

Artist Surplus in Fairfield Iowa

We are artist rich in our little town. We are big on talent and abundant in creativity. It takes lots of courage to go public with one’s creations or to start a new medium or a project born of pure inspiration. I just love people who go for it and start from scratch – the untrained, the outsiders of the art world. I was so happy when my friend Karla became inspired to create art using mosaic tiles. Her creations were inspired by a mix of traditional themes and symbols and her own whimsey. She didn’t have training, but she just started anyway and, step-by-step, began to learn the ropes. The ropes of her new found artistic focus included lots of tile, lots of grout, lots of tools, special paints, and even a kiln. Installing murals downtown required lots of hauling and lifting and standing on ladders and drinking lots of water in the summer heat.

She began in an apartment, in her living room where she set up a large table and made messes everyday. The joy increased and the products produced delight. She eventually rented her downtown studio space overlooking the downtown Fairfield square across from Cafe Paradiso (a convenient walk to get a latte).

Then she was invited to install murals in several downtown locations: The Winter Garden is on the side of Revelations, Fairfield’s iconic restaurant and bookstore, on the alley and around the corner from the front door. The Winter Garden gives us flowers year round. It gives us the image of a girl riding a flying bird in the sky. It helps our imaginations soar. It reminds us of Spring. It transports us to a magical realm.

Sipping Tea and Scenery

A TEA AND SCENERY
Tea and Scenery Mosaic Mural Installation (6 x 10 ft.) by Karla Christensen

Tea and Scenery captures Karla’s two favorite pastimes – the delight of sipping a cup of tea and looking at the Iowa landscape. And, she includes an image of Fairfield’s wonderful bike and walking trail, a project that involved a team of dedicated people to fund and bring to completion.

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A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be.

Abraham Maslow, American psychologist known for “a hierarchy of human needs.”

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Café Paradiso: Fairfield Iowa Offers World Class Coffee

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Photo by Guy Harvey

A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked.
Anais Nin

I’m a coffee drinker, one of the multitudes who must have their daily java in order to join the world. I’m a member of that group who is addicted to the caffeine buzz. I especially love lattes and the hot milky comforting feeling I get when I take my first sip. That first sip anchors me to the world and defines my space within it—especially if I’m drinking my favorite brands from my favorite coffee hangout.

Organic, Fair Trade, and Roasted Daily

I orchestrate my mornings to the tune of coffee. ~Harry Mahtar

Steve Giacomini, owner of our award winning coffee shop, Café Paradiso, once gave me a little talk on coffee and told me why his brand is superior to most brands, especially Starbucks, which he considers a bastardization of coffee (they burn the coffee beans, he says). Steve created his own blend of organic, shade-grown, fair trade beans, which he roasts daily on-site. His beans make a mean cappuccino, latte, mocha, or espresso. And, I like my coffee to be politically correct and eco- friendly. I’m grateful Steve taught me some things about coffee and how the love you put into making it can create miracles.

So, our little town of Fairfield, Iowa has become recognized by world travelers and local residents alike as a place where we can get world class coffee. And, in the tradition of great locally owned coffee houses worldwide, it has become one of our town’s havens for artists and musicians where local and international talent makes its way onto its stage to perform for its loyal patrons.

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Fairfield Iowa: Alley at Dusk

“‎The simple truth is that you can understand a town. You can know and love and hate it. You can blame it, resent it, and nothing changes. In the end, you’re just another part of it.”
― Brenna Yovanoff

Small Town living

Photographers capture moments and freeze them in time. They catch configurations of light and dark, objects and space, people and things, that tell stories and reflect back to us where we have been and who we are in the world.

I love Guy Harvey’s photography, and of course, his photos of Iowa and particularly of Fairfield, are part of my story. How many times have I walked this Alley with its bricked paved road and the storefronts of local small business owners? There is Dotty’s Sewing Nook, owned by Dotty, of course – she’s been there since before I arrived in town in the early 80’s. Then there is this view of the Fairfield Courthouse with the steeple and clock. The Fairfield Weekly Reader, the small local paper where we find out what’s playing at the Coffee House or what apartments are for sale, or who has just started up a new business, has moved to another location, still in town. Paving the alley was part of a beautification project headed by locals who procured the resources – this project represents hours of care and attention, hard work, commitment, and love.

We live moment to moment and the artist captures fleeting time and anchors our life experiences to give us roots and a sense of belonging.

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Celebrating the Holiday Season in Fairfield Iowa’s Town Square

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Photograph by Guy Harvey Photography

One of the best things about living in a small Midwestern town is being able to enjoy the charm of a town square. Town squares make me think of a time before people shopped at malls and when the town was the center of commerce and community celebrations. They remind me of a time when small businesses thrived and people could make a good living working for themselves and providing services and goods locally. You knew the owner of the hardware store, you took your television into the local repair shop when it went on the blink, and you relied on a corner store for a place to get a quart of milk.

I think my community of Fairfield, Iowa, is lucky to have a town green that has become the perfect venue for our numerous gatherings. It helps give us a sense of belonging to see our friends showing up at musical concerts, art walks, and cultural events. Psychologists recognize the innate need of human beings to belong and see faces they recognize everyday.

Our town square has a central Gazebo in the middle of a park and is surrounded by streets and shops on four sides. And each year, after Thanksgiving, for as long as I’ve lived here (since 1983), the town has put up the same winter holiday lights and decorations that have been part of its tradition since the fifties. We are joined and connected with proceeding generations by our enjoyment of the lights, the Santa House, the reindeer, and all of the other symbols of the season that have delighted children and adults for decades.

Happy Holidays to Everyone in the World from Fairfield, Iowa.

See more of Guy Harvey’s photos.

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Saturdays At the Flying Leap Art Studio in Fairfield Iowa

My Collage

There is no must in art because art is free.
Wassily Kandinsky

A healing Saturday ritual

Every Saturday morning, I grab my caramel latte at Fairfield’s Cafe Paradiso (where Oprah had coffee during her tour of our little town), where the coffee beans are freshly roasted and the caramel flavor is organic and locally made, and I walk across the street and enter a building where I climb the stairs to a space of several rooms dedicated to art. In the studio, I meet with my group led by a wonderful  artist, Donna Colby, and  sit at one end of a large folding table – my reserved spot because art is my religion and I never miss church on Saturday. I will stay there from 10:30 to between 3 and 5.

I grab my favorite magazines, gather my paper, glue stick, scissors, and  I unpack my little bag of things I bring from home – lately it’s my art stamps and ink. I say hi to the group, to members of my tribe in my community.

I feel the coffee taking effect and my brain starts to shift – maybe it’s the alpha waves that are supposedly stimulated by the brain when we are being creative. The tension in my mind from the work week shuts up for while. The dictates of time begins to disappear. I start to feel myself again and may even turn of my cell phone.

Permission to take a flying leap

Donna is my mentor who gives me permission to express my vision. My group is most often all women, but when a guy comes, he is usually great and probably in his creative feminine, so he’s one of us. In making art together we are comrades and kindred spirits, wrestling with our blocked creative selves to become free. Some of us are painting, some drawing – we are doing our own thing. We remind ourselves we are our harshest critics, we are sometimes our worst enemies, but sometimes it just takes the gentleness of a supportive and loving group of pilgrims to ease our way toward becoming our best selves and unleashing the muse within.

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Taking Highway 1 to Iowa City

When the moon peeps over the mountain, Little girl I’ll be on my way. I’m gonna roll the highway until the break of day.

BB King

I’ve taken Highway 1 north to Iowa City hundreds of times over the years. It’s a wonderful sixty minute trip from my home in Fairfield, Iowa.  I lived there for thirteen years, where I graduated from the University of Iowa after becoming a pot smoking hippie in the late sixties, where my brother attended and taught at the famous Writer’s Workshop – my big brother brought me there in the first place.

Iowa City is in many ways “my” place. It was where I first started to feel free after leaving the east coast after graduating from high school. Iowa City has historically been a mecca for writers and artists, and was once the home of Kurt Vonnegut and many other famous authors. It was where I learned to meditate, met my closest friends, and finally felt at home. It is where I finally found what had been missing.

And this drive is reminiscent of older days, before interstates and the madness of freeways, the days of Highway 66, the days of Jack Kerouac, a time when families took off in cars for road trips across the country before you had to wear seat belts or thought about the cost of gasoline.

Going north on Highway 1, I travel through small towns that are throwbacks to the fifties – Brighton, Washington, and Kalona. I see the land on either side of me, the acres of fields that now grow genetically modified crops of soy and corn, but are still beautiful in waves of colors of wheat and green. I see cows and sheep and horses. I see the horses and buggies of the Amish in Kalona, and know I have only 20 minutes to go before I’m in Iowa City. I am always impressed by the big sky and the big open spaces, and I cannot imagine living anywhere where the sky is small or the traffic is congested, or where I cannot see the land for miles and miles.

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