Guest Post: Laura K. Cowan “On Fear and Spirit”

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Music of Sacred Lakes Blog Tour

Laura K. Cowan, The Dreaming Novelist

On Fear and Spirit

Dara’s Ramblings…
I’d like to welcome my friend Laura K Cowan to the BookDoctor blog, as our guest poster for the day.  Laura and I met on Facebook in a group for writers.  She, being the writer, and I, being the editor.  We collaborated on the Shades of Fear anthology (which I’m sure you’ve heard me type about once or twice here).  Her story, A Testament of Finer Things has such vivid imagery, you feel like you are right there with the family as the hurricaine bears down on them, and his desire to throw himself into the sea to pay for his forefathers’ sins. But, enough about that… More about Laura.  She is an amazing writer of magical realism, speculative fiction, and about the connection between the natural and the spirit worlds. I am honored to call her my friend, and am excited for you all to read her newest, Music of Sacred Lakes.

Without further ado… Laura K Cowan, on Fear & Spirit…

Fear and spirit. At first they seem to be connected in only the usual ways: courage, the human spirit. Sure, we all understand that. But if you really unpack this subject, it’s deep. Down the rabbit hole deep. As I have been writing a story on facing fear for the Shades of Fear anthology, edited by the wonderful Dara Rochlin, and Music of Sacred Lakes [ ] , my new novel about a young man helped back to a discovery of his place of belonging in the world through the spirit of a girl he killed, I’ve run into this intersection of fear and spirit repeatedly. And it’s knocked me over the head a bit. Even changed my worldview and the way I approach faith and science. Yeah. That kind of deep. Want to jump down the rabbit hole with me?

Shades of Fear is a collection of stories of all genres about people facing their fears, from memoirs to my magical realism-flavored story about a boy facing down a hurricane threatening to swallow his already flooded post-apocalyptic New York City. He is fighting the urge to throw himself into the sea, which he imagines as thrashing mermaids and grasping octopi, to pay for the sins of his forefathers, who were responsible for the earth changes that have wrought this havoc on his city. He is afraid: the half-submerged buildings threaten to collapse as his family waits to get the signal from his father if they will wait it out, or if this time they will run. This seems to be part of a theme that is recurring in my work and life lately. In the face of fear, do you stand? Or do you run? And the other stories in this anthology examine similar questions. But the answer is not always to stand your ground, as many of us have been taught. In fact, sometimes I have stood too long in the face of abuse, or impossible circumstances, and only felt I escaped a situation by the narrowest of margins. Life is like that, isn’t it? No instruction manual. And it’s not always about the strength of the human spirit to withstand circumstances. So fear is fear, but maybe the spirit side of this equation goes a little deeper than the human spirit itself.

In Music of Sacred Lakes [ ], the protagonist Peter Sanskevicz feels he doesn’t belong anywhere, and can’t accept the sixth-generation family farm he feels was unwittingly stolen from the Odawa Native Americans who controlled the land before it was opened to settlement. But he can’t keep serving as a gardener and garbage man as he has since leaving home. As he tries to decide what happened to his life–does he leave his beautiful Lake Michigan and head south, or should he stand and face the fate his father is handing down to him, being the unwanted son of an unwanted son stuck propping up the family farm?–he accidentally kills a girl in a distracted driving accident. Seeing he is devastated and near suicide, his friend takes him to his uncle, a pipe carrier of the Odawa tribe, who tells him he has lost his connection with the land and must live by the shores Lake Michigan until the lake speaks to him. Without any other options, Peter goes, and finds himself pursued through his waking and sleeping hours by strange sounds and images, and the spirit of the dead girl, who rises out of the lake like an apparition and seems to be trying to help him. He falls in love with two very different girls and makes a mess, he begins to get his life together, and in the end, he finds an inner silence he has never known before. It is then that he hears what the lake has to say to him. A message of peace, of belonging, of grace. In the end, Peter makes a different decision than anyone anticipated. He doesn’t stand, and he doesn’t run. This novel took me an entire year of research–physics, mysticism, Native American history and culture and spirituality, wisdom traditions and what they have to say about connectedness, belonging–and in the end, I realized one very important thing. Everything is connected. Absolutely everything in the universe. And this connectedness–of matter in the universe, of the energy behind all things, of the God-breathed spirit of life (the Odawa call it the manidoog) that flows through all the manifestations of creation in the world–it is the answer to this question of fear and spirit. Do you stand or do you run?

The answer? Wrong question. This is not just about your spirit. This is about spirit. The spirit of everything. The answer is: You’re always home. Because if everything is connected (read Music of Sacred Lakes [ ] to get the cliffs notes version on this epiphany if you don’t want to study Sufi mystics and theoretical physics for a year) and if you belong in this world, then you can run, you can stand, you can walk your path. But you’ll always be walking with the spirit of the world. You’ll always be home. So do what you came here to do, walk where you need to to discover what that thing is. And go in grace. I know, right? Not what I expected when I started writing, either. Life is like that. So is spirit.

Laura K. Cowan, The Dreaming Novelist, writes imaginative novels that explore the possibilities of the human condition through the connections between the spiritual and natural worlds. Her debut novel The Little Seer spent its launch week at #2 and #5 on the Kindle Bestseller List for free titles in Christian Suspense and Occult/Supernatural, and was hailed by reviewers and readers as “riveting,” “moving and lyrical.” Laura’s second novel, a redemptive ghost story titled Music of Sacred Lakes, and her first short story collection, The Thin Places: Supernatural Tales of the Unseen, will be available soon. Connect with Laura on her website, on Twitter or on Facebook.


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