Bowing to Elephants ... & Leonardo da Vinci?
The reason it has been quiet in blog-land is that I have been turning my attention inward to learn a new skill: making my book and myself known to the world. In plain English that’s called publicity! I have been digging deep to understand Bowing to Elephant's gifts to the reading public and I have to say the efforts have paid off. Looking back three years ago to the time when I held a finished manuscript in my hands for the first time, I thought to myself that the memoir was “intimate,” a quiet little book that would appeal to a modest audience. With the support of a few people who will go unnamed, I have come to feel differently. It turns out that my story of traveling the world and navigating the pain of my childhood has broad and universal themes: suffering and forgiveness, abandonment and self discovery, letting go of past narratives and finding freedom in spiritual practice, finding communion with fellow beings, and seeing that love in the end is our ultimate refuge. What I hadn’t thought about earlier was that our world has been (and is) a deeply suffering place where most humans are craving relief, freedom from pain, community, wisdom, and insights about leading conscious, good lives.
Bowing to Elephants explores all of the above. While being deadly serious, it is also a colorful and sensuous portrait of the building of a full life from a place of abiding hunger and deep curiosity. What follows is a brief and thoughtful summary of the book. I want those of you who have been following my blog over time to see this now so you may perhaps be inspired, share some of these words, and help this book find the broad audience it deserves! Important fact for you all to know: Bowing to Elephants becomes an officially published book (from She Writes Press) on September 17, 2019.
Bowing to Elephants is a travel memoir with a twist. An unloved rich girl from San Francisco becomes a travel junkie to escape a dysfunctional family and a narcissistic, alcoholic mother.
Thanks to a journey of healing and self-discovery, she navigates depression, loneliness, and loss while learning how to break down the false barriers that separate people.
Music, literature, art, and food influence Dimond as she finds her way to far-flung parts of the world—the perfumed chaos of India, the damp, nostalgic streets of Paris, the grey, watery world of Venice in winter, the reverent, silent mountains of Bhutan, the golden temples of Burma, the vast, breathtaking African bush rich with elephants and lions and wildebeest, and the grim “killing fields” of Cambodia.
BOWING TO ELEPHANTS is an epic adventure — Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, India, and San Francisco — that transformed the author’s life.
More than a travel memoir, readers will be inspired by one woman’s journey of self-discovery, healing, and forgiveness… as they encounter strange lands, tantalizing foods, and mesmerizing characters (including a 14,000-pound African elephant).
By the end of the book, Dimond is able to accept the death of the mother she never really had and find forgiveness, peace, and her authentic self in the refuges of travel and Buddhist practice.
And now Leonardo enters into the conversation:
I just finished Walter Isaacson’s most extraordinary, lavish tome about the life of Leonard da Vinci. I savored it for many weeks, reading sometimes only four or five pages at a time when I snuggled into bed in the dark of night. Why so slowly? Because the insights about the life and times of Leonardo were so rich and profound that I had to take it slowly. And all along the way through over 500 hundred pages, I kept feeling a strange identification with this Renaissance genius. How so? It wasn’t until the final concluding chapter when Isaacson reflected on Leonardo’s essential qualities that I understood why I felt this way. At the top of his list of Leonardo’s essential characteristics was: invention. Yes! Of course. And then the natural companion of invention: curiosity. It would seem that curiosity is the mother of invention….
At the opening of my memoir, I am an eight year old girl asking my mother for answers to a question that had been living in my head for quite a while, a question about whether my family would stay together and be normal, and it was a question my mother was incapable of answering. From that time forward I would grow into an insatiably curious young being who was convinced that finding the truth in my life was essential. That curiosity formed the bedrock of an amazing humanistic education where I kept digging, and asking questions, and sifting through answers in order to learn the nature of the life that surrounded me. I was an obsessive reader, and I wrote my ideas down constantly in notebooks — this was a behavior of the esteemed Leonardo as well. I wanted to know how people loved, how they dealt with death, why we held harsh opinions of our fellow beings, and I wanted to know the secrets of abstract art (what did it offer and why?), and just what it was about Beethoven and Bach that made them such prodigious composers. Getting this grand education was deeply important because I was surrounded by a number of dysfunctional adults who were chronically incapable of speaking the truth to me. The only exception here was my paternal grandmother who helped to raise me while my mother pursued her romantic dreams of becoming an artist. Grandmother Dimond was the most naturally curious human being in my entire life - she was self educated, spoke three languages, trained herself in classical piano, traveled the world, and bravely spoke her truth about social and political issues of the time. I adored her - she was my guiding light through a very chaotic childhood.
When it came to writing my memoir, Bowing to Elephants, I knew I would have to weave together key strands of my journey: my current day travels all over the world, and my childhood adventures and reflections that spoke to a gnawing loneliness and disconnection. And in the exposing of those pieces of my past, many blurred in memory’s amorphous network, I realized I had no linear story to tell, but rather a circular pattern of impressions and feelings that appeared more like a mosaic than a story. Rather than fault myself for having a bad memory, or a brain impaired by some irresponsible drug and alcohol use as a teenager and young adult, I admitted that memory itself is ephemeral and unreliable. So what to do? Well, of course, one must invent. One must shape a narrative out of the scattered vivid impressions and events alive in one’s head. Any good writer who is working with autobiographical material does the same, simply because there is rarely a concrete linear through-line in our brains when it comes to our past. And it occurs to me, too, that the brilliant Italian painters like Leonardo or Massaccio or Botticelli did the same - they invented when they lacked concrete material to work with, creating unusual landscapes, characters, or visual effects. And we could go on and on … to remind ourselves that some of the best music has been born out of invention - from JS Bach to Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett or even Billy Holiday.
I am proud to call myself a creative artist, for in doing so, I remind myself I’m a being who loves to create and invent, to find the beauty in the shadows and make it visible. And there’s no arguing that this puts me in very good company…