“Dancing at the Yurt: An Interfaith Spiritual Journey” by Charles Pearl

Frankfort Interfaith Council member Charles Pearl, a retired journalist, has written his first book at the age of 72. “Dancing at the Yurt: An Interfaith Spiritual Journey” was released in November 2020.

Pearl retired from The State Journal newspaper in Frankfort in 2011, and started writing a book in 2012 while on retreat at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana. He and his beloved Black Labrador, Lily, stayed in one of the small, circular wooden cottages — resembling a yurt — for a little more than a month on their first of four visits there that year.

“I met fascinating people in Bloomington and started writing about their spiritual journeys. Later, I wanted to include many others of diverse faiths who have inspired me on a winding path of being Baptist, Catholic and Buddhist.”

According to Pearl, the book boils down to a few simple themes: “unity, compassion, nonviolence, loving life, our neighbors and our small, beautiful ailing planet. There’s so much division and turmoil in our country and world. My highest hope is that the book, in some small way, can help in the healing process.”

One chapter of Pearl’s book starts, “The more I study Buddhism and visit Buddhist friends, the closer I feel to Jesus.” When he took refuge vows as a Buddhist in 2013, Pearl said he didn’t drop his love of Jesus and Christianity.

“But I had to widen my spiritual path and heart to include Buddhism and how it lovingly connects to Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sufism, Baha’i, Unitarian Universalist and other religions.”

In Kentucky’s small capital city today, Pearl serves on the Frankfort Interfaith Council with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Baha’is and Unitarian Universalists. The interfaith council is featured prominently in the book, as are Tibetan Buddhist monks from Tashi Kyil Monastery in India, who have created beautiful World Peace mandalas made of colored sand in Frankfort.

Richard Taylor, professor of English and former Poet Laureate of Kentucky, says, “Journalist, shade-tree philosopher and chronicler of the spirit, Charlie Pearl in these personal reflections wears a coat of many colors — part memoir, part spiritual odyssey, part travelogue, part inventory of the heart. With honesty, humility and great zest, he leads us on an interfaith journey from Baptist to Baha’i to Buddhist, demonstrating convincingly that all faiths share a circumference equidistant from God.

“Along the way are engaging side trips that explore the stages of our celebrative dance through life. In sharing himself, he gives us a model of a life well and richly lived, one that each of us can profit from as we travel our own journeys.”

Chuck Queen, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort, says, “Charlie is so unassuming, kind and good, that if one has a halfway open heart, one cannot help but be drawn to him. In these pages, he shares his quest for God and for truth, and the loving friendships that sustain and fuel it. If the reader doesn’t grow following Charlie on this journey, it’s the reader’s own fault.”

Pearl has a yurt in Franklin County that sits on friend Angela Mitchell’s mother’s 30-acre farm. It’s a writing and art studio, and meditation center occasionally referred to as the “Pearl Center for World Peace.”

He also is in a senior citizens dance group, “The Glitterbugs,” led by Sylvia Coffey.

The new author has won numerous journalism awards for writing and photography. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western Kentucky University. In Frankfort, the 370-page paperback book is available for purchase at Poor Richard’s Books on Broadway Street, or by emailing the author at charleswpearl@gmail.com. It’s also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

— Special to FRANK. magazine

“Metropolitan Stories: A Novel” by Christine Coulson

In 1963, 1.78 million people in 27 days marched past Da Vinci’s masterpiece of the Mona Lisa at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was one of those privileged to view her, thanks to the determination of my mother and grandmother. That was the beginning of my life-long connection to the “Met.”

In future visits, I would seek the sculpture, carvings, paintings and cultural artifacts. Never did I consider that there were thousands employed by the Met, from curators to restoration artists to the janitorial workers. Christine Coulson began as a summer intern, and spent the next 25 years working in the Development Office, the Director’s Office and the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.  

Coulson has created a series of vignettes about the people of the museum, present employees, as well as ghosts, and then she weaves their unique stories into a successful tapestry of fiction.

There is the man who sweeps the front steps from the daily assault of the diners from the street-food vendors parked outside. There is the intern sent on a mission in the underground trek of tunnels across the many street blocks that the Met occupies. There are the “lampers” of the operational team responsible for creating the lighting for each room, who tell “light bulb jokes” in the cafeteria.

There is a woman who “pushed past the surface of a painting” to become a regular cashier in the cafeteria, so she could be part of something bigger than just a painting. There is also the guard who can hear and feel the “sentiment of the Met’s art in his own soul.” 

He can feel the frigid temperature of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” and hear the crew mumbling “this is a bad idea.” All these characters are part of the Museum’s hidden everyday life.

Coulson has an obvious love for the Met and is able to convey the idea that art lives. Read “Metropolitan Stories” and you will be entertained, enlightened, and enjoy a virtual trip to this treasure of the art world. And Coulson includes a fantastic, artful plot twist to complete your visit!

— Review by Lizz Taylor, Poor Richard’s Books

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver”

(Chosen as one of Oprah’s “Books That Help Me Through”)

In this collection, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver put together a selection of what she felt were her best poems from a writing career that spanned more than 50 years. These 200 plus poems are from her first book of poetry, published in 1963, through her last collection, “Felicity,” published in 2015. Oliver’s work, inspired by nature and the breathtaking beauty of it, fills the reader with a calmness.

To this reviewer, Oliver’s outlook is contemplative, attentive to the beauty around her, and it comes through on every word of each poem. It is worth noting that the poems in this volume are listed in reverse order. Oliver’s newest poetry is listed first, and her early poems are last.

If you need a quiet moment, a time to reflect upon things differently, read a poem from this book. Two favorites for this reviewer are “Roses, Late Summer” and “When I am Among the Trees.” This collection of poems was wonderfully introspective, perfect for those moments for inspiration after dealing with the world around us, pandemic and all. Highly recommended.  

— Reviewed by Paul Sawyier Public Library Staff

“Organizing Your Home with Sort and Succeed: Five Simple Steps to Stop Clutter Before It Starts, Save Money & Simplify Your Life” by Darla DeMorrow

If you are looking for ways to organize your home and remove clutter that has been causing anxiousness and frustration, then this little book might be what you need. Many books on decluttering quickly become complicated or want you to do everything all at once. Instead, DeMorrow writes that one should have an “organizing project,” not the impossible goal of decluttering the entire home all at once.

This was a great concept for this reviewer, as I could set aside a little time on a weeknight and weekend to work on it. She also writes about how the idea of organizing and decluttering is not to get rid of stuff, but to make room for the things you love. 

The book does not take long to read, and the author gives you tips on how to get started, setting and applying realistic goals and avoiding pitfalls. DeMorrow also has books on decluttering your kitchen and home office that follow her five steps. Recommended.

— Reviewed by Paul Sawyier Public Library Staff