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Friday, August 7, 2020

New eBook Edition of The Scent of God free from August 7-11.


You've waited and it's finally here: 
the new edition of The Scent of God. The memoir Ann Patchett called “A terrifying, passionate, and exalted examination of what it means to love with your whole heart.

The Scent of God is the story of the search for God that led to the forbidden and, ultimately, transformative love for a man of God that changed my life. This edition has a new cover, new interior design, Introduction, and updated afterword and is available in both print and e-book.

The Scent of God went out of print several years ago and was slipping into oblivion, although copies continue to circulate constantly through the senior residence where my husband and I have lived for the last three years. Health issues and distance necessitated out move from our beautiful, beloved home on Lake Superior.

In gratitude for your ongoing support, I am offering the eBook edition of The Scent of God free from August 7-11 (click the book jacket to arrive at that if the link does not work click

The Scent of God Should you not want a free copy, please click the link anyway. Clicking the link brings you to the site where you can see or purchase the book. Each click helps generate renewed interest in the book.

Thank you for helping me bring it back to the reading public's attention.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune named Beryl as a "Best of 2006 Minnesota Authors." Her book The Scent of God  was a “Notable” Book Sense selection for April 2006. Her second book, A View of the Lake was named a best regional book by the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2011

Monday, May 25, 2020

Beryl's Spring 2020 Newsletter

Dear Reader,

I hope you have been adapting to the world-wide Covid-19 monastic lifestyle. If it were not for the fear and suffering so many are experiencing, I would totally love being back in the cloister. The ceasing of the constant noise in which we live, a quieting of my spirit. Mother Nature might be enjoying a bit of a break as well. Perhaps a bit less pollution relieving the pressure we place on survival. How much longer it will last is the great unknown. Bill’s severely compromised heath might necessitate continual distancing for the unforeseen future.

I've been reading, thinking, journaling, and praying my way through this new world, trying to understand the forces unleashed by the Covid-19 virus. Empty streets, shopping centers, sidewalks, restaurants, and other gathering places testify to the power of this viral force to change lives and lifestyles. While disheartened by the forces of selfishness, anger, and hatred that threaten the world’s healing, I am moved by the huge wellspring of compassion and generosity this pandemic unleashed in the world. Nevertheless, it is difficult to maintain confidence and equanimity when observing the ineptitude and power mongering of those entrusted with our care.

Wall in Moulin sur Ouveze  Provence Italy
As is often the case when confront by paradox, I found light while arranging the books on my “constant-read” shelf. In a small gem titled Calm Surrender by favorite nonfiction author, Kent Nerburn, I resonated with his words.

 “When we reaffirm the goodness that sprouts from the soil underneath walls of hated or indifference, we are practicing a kind of forgiveness. We are saying that hatred and indifference are not worthy of our anger. We are turning away from the great force of animosity, and underscoring, instead, the goodness struggling to find voice in its shadow.”

I trust that you, my dear friends, embrace “the goodness that sprouts beneath the walls of hatred,” and, by doing so, nurture the hope and acts that will heal the world. Many of us might question God’s presence in events like this pandemic, but I choose to believe that God is with us. That God understands our pain. That God suffers with us and, as Julian of Norwich proclaimed during the besieged fourteenth century, that ultimately “all will be good.”

© Beryl Singleton Bissell 2020
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The Minneapolis Star Tribune named Beryl as a "Best of 2006 Minnesota Authors." Her book The Scent of God  was a “Notable” Book Sense selection for April 2006. Her second book, A View of the Lake was named a best regional book by the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2011

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Beryl's Fall 2019 Newsletter

From The Heart Fall 2019

Dear Reader

For much of this past year my world was saturated with words too heavy to write or speak. During that year, loved ones have died and my husband Bill still bears the scars of his encounters with respiratory failure, diabetic crisis and double pneumonia. Though it was spring, I felt muffled in a winter world. I moved through each day in a strange inner silence, capable only of coping with visits to the ICU and weeks of entire days spent in three different hospitals. Bill returned home in such a frail and weakened condition I moved in a vaporous world of uncertainty. Would today be my last with him? Would I be alone tomorrow? Thanks, however, to the effort of a blessed crew of doctors, nurses, and therapists and courageous efforts of his own, he is growing stronger. Buoyed by hope and filled with gratitude, I can now reach for words with which to reconnect with you, to let you know that though I was silent, you were never far from my mind.

Conscious of the rapid passage of time and my approaching 80th birthday, I wake each morning with a renewed sense of wonder at the gift of life. Bill is still with me and gratitude floods the entire day. I feel an added sense of responsibility to use this time well.

“We must trust in the small light we are given and to value the light we can shed into the lives of those around us . . . We live in a world alive with holy moments. We need only take the time to bring these moments into the light,” writes Kent Wilburn in his lovely little book Small Graces. I first encountered his writings in 1998 when we moved to Lake Superior’s North Shore. In an environment live with miracles, his quiet reflective words mirrored my desire to live a spiritual life and that is how I’ve tried to live most of my life. To remain open to the light present in every moment. To welcome each day as the miracle it is.
Assisi Heights MN

Our small book club is thriving. Together we delight in discovering the creative world within us. It has renewed my love of writing. While I have still not finished with The Glass Chrysalis, I’ve been working on bringing The Scent of God, which had gone out of print, back to life. I’d hoped to announce the publication of the new edition in this newsletter but life intervened and its rebirth has been delayed. It includes a wonderful new cover, beautiful interior design, the addition of an Introduction and an updated afterword. It should be ready early this fall. I shall keep you informed.
Meanwhile, may you be strong, may you be happy, may you be healthy. May you live your life with gladness. (Prayer of Loving Kindness)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Other Mothers Under the Cross

The Romans erected three crosses on Golgotha the day Jesus of Nazareth was put to death. The middle cross bore the savior, and the other crosses bore thieves or criminals -- depending on the translation you read. All four Gospels narrate this event.

Though Luke mentions women who stood weeping at a distance, and John tells us that women, including Jesus’ mother Mary, stood weeping under Jesus’ cross, none of the Gospels mentions the other women who might have wept on Golgotha that day or in the potter’s field when Judas took his life.

The mothers not mentioned in the Gospels confront me as we approach the end of this Lenten season, and have done so since Sept. 18, 2001, when I became one of them. I now find myself standing with Mary, the sorrowing mother of the innocent victim, as well as with the mothers of the guilty. I do not know the role my daughter played in her death, nor have the police or medical examiner been able to determine how and why she died. There are, of course, several different possibilities -- none of which belong in the life of a funny, generous and loving but troubled young woman, the child who wept with me over the losses thousands of women experienced on Sept. 11, 2001, and whose violent death a week later united me with them.

Before Francesca died, I’d empathized with women who must bear the burden of unknowing, those whose children’s deaths remain unresolved. I also grieved for those who had no doubt, who knew their children died as victims of murder or war or suicide. I knew that they too had loved their children no matter what identity those children wore to death. I participated in their sorrow from a distance. Until Sept. 18, I had not considered that other mothers might have stood with Mary on Golgotha, or in the potter’s field, grieving their shattered children on the day Jesus died. I now know that when those three crosses cast their shadows across the horizons of the earth, they united all of us who mourn.

©Beryl Singleton Bissell

Adapted from an article published in the New Catholic Reporter, 2006

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What Ashes?

Photo by Kathleen Gray-Anderson

Ash Wednesday has come and gone: ash free. I was stunned this morning when reminded that I'd forgotten, stunned at how easily I can neglect certain religious rituals when at one time, as a cloistered nun, my life was anchored by such observances. My spiritual practice now focuses on meditation, Lectio Divina, and the effort to live mindfully. And while I am filled with gratitude for the profligate bounty of a divine creator and the freedom to choose how I will live, I miss the years I spent as a nun. Especially when Lent creeps in quietly, and ashes no longer thunder.  

It's been a slow slide away from ritual since I left religious life. Had it happened more swiftly, I might have clung more tightly to it. I wonder if this is only emotional nostalgia for the innocence of youth or a reminder that how I live and what I believe in is my responsibility -- a much harder, dry and emotionless effort.

This morning I pondered psalm 51. "Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offence. Create a clean heart for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me." 

Yes. I long for this clean heart, not a new heart freshly molded by God, but the heart God has given me. A heart willing to be cleansed and made steadfast. A heart not built on emotion and youthful longing, but on reflection and the ongoing effort to remain true to myself and to God.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Thomas Merton and the Eye of a photographer

In my last post I spoke of Thomas Merton's skill as a photographer and of his admonition to a friend, who was busily snapping photos of the woods in which they walked: "Stop looking and begin seeing."

He gave himself to others in the same way, approached them without expectation. He saw them. He did not try to interpret, alter, or improve them, but allowed them to be themselves. In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander he wrote of an experience he had during one of his first excursions outside the monastery into Louisville, KY. I love the final lines.

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

About Me

My photo
Beryl is the author of The Scent of God: A Memoir published by Counterpoint NY in 2006 and A View of the Lake published by Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. in 2001. She’s been living on Lake Superior for seventeen wonderful years, and spent 10 years writing two popular columns for the Cook County News Herald: Newcomer Notes and Putting Down Roots. Beryl is past president of the Schroeder Area Historical Society and a long-time chair of its Oral History and Marketing committees. She is a past board member of the Violence Prevention Center in Grand Marais and committee member for the Grand Marais Art Colony’s first ever annual North Shore Reader and Writers Festival. She’s been published in the Sun Magazine, Minnesota Monthly, Lake Superior Magazine, and The Trenton Times and in the anthologies, Surviving Ophelia published by Perseus Publications in 2001 and The New Writer's Handbook, Vol. 2, published by Scarletta Press in 2008 and was named Best of Minnesota Writers by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She is currently working on her third memoir: the sequel to The Scent of God.