Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Enfolded in Benign Embrace

I have never been afraid in the woods. 
I am calmed there, as though enfolded in benign embrace.  

This is the opening paragraph in Shanti Arts Publishing's recent release, Current: Essays on the Passing of Time in the Woods. This short paragraph alone convinced me to publish this book. 

Jeffrey Stoner. Road of Man Colors.
I first came to know Robert McGowan, the author of Current, when he submitted his essay, "Discovery," for possible publication in Stone Voices. After I read the essay, I immediately turned to my computer to write to Rob to tell him I wanted to publish the piece. I loved it. What was Rob's discovery? Himself. Speaking from the depths of his well-lived life as an artist, writer, husband, colleague, and friend, Rob came to discover who he was and what was important to him. He discovered truth and wisdom. In the life of any person, such a discovery brings the contentment we all seek.

Rob submitted a few more pieces for publication, both fiction and non-fiction, and his art was featured in the Spring 2012 issue of Stone Voices. He and I developed a wonderful relationship. He passed on his wisdom in a most supportive and collegial manner He, in fact, suggested that I consider publishing books as well as magazines, and he wanted my first book publication to be one of his. He was willing—even eager—to allow me to use the process of publishing Happy Again at Last: Life in the Art World to be a learning process for me as a publisher. I did learn a great deal from it. It was a tremendous gift from Rob. 

Rob died in November 2012 from lymphoma, likely the result of exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. When he was first diagnosed, he was confident that he would beat it. He was looking forward to the publication of Happy Again at Last and had plans for book signings and author interviews. But he didn't beat it. He died within a year of his diagnosis. 

In the months before he died, Rob sent me several of his unpublished manuscripts with the hope that I might publish more of his work someday. When I read the manuscript for Current, I felt such a connection to Rob. I, too, love the woods and all they offer to the human spirit. Now, when I go to the woods, I recall sentences and excerpts from his book, and I am "enfolded in benign embrace"—both by the woods and by Rob's generous spirit.

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