Books Set in Watch Hill, Rhode Island

Are you looking to add a book to your TBR that will transport you to a cozy, New England town? Do you dream of sandy spits, salty breeze, and the charm of a wealthy, multi-generational coastal haven? Is your favorite song “the last great American dynasty” from Taylor Swift’s folklore? Or maybe you wish you could be on the guest list to one of Swift’s notorious, star-studded 4th of July parties?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, this is the ultimate book list for you!

The books listed below are all set in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

Watch Hill, Rhode Island

Watch Hill, Rhode Island is a historic New England coastal village that is steeped in tradition, affluence, and American values. Just a two hour drive from Boston or three hours from New York City, Watch Hill is located at the most southwestern tip of Rhode Island and is characterized by gorgeous sunsets, rocky seashores, and old money.

View of Watch Hill, photo taken by Richard and Mary LaGarde

The bluff after which the town is named was used as a lookout point during the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Watch Hill became an idyllic summer resort for a number of families— many traveling via train from places like St. Louis and Detroit.

Today, upon Watch Hill’s highest peak, sits the legendary Holiday House— a multi-million dollar mansion that once belonged to Rebekah Harkness (who married into the Standard Oil fortune) and now belongs to singer/songwriter Taylor Swift.

Holiday House, photo taken by Richard and Mary LaGarde

Watch Hill’s geography, culture, and notable residents make it the perfect setting for any type of novel. Many authors, including myself, have been inspired by the history, tradition, and all-American nature of this timeless New England coastal village.

Books Set in Watch Hill

Lucky by Kristina Parro

If you are a Taylor Swift fan (especially any folklore lovers), interested in the Golden Ratio, love mythology and philosophy, or enjoy unique, genre-bending fiction, Lucky is a book you need to check out!

Lucky is a story unlike any other… a fairytale of modern times. Inspired by 2020 Album of the Year, folklore, Lucky weaves together the stories of two powerful women: Rebekah Harkness— notorious, scandalous heiress of the Standard Oil Fortune— and Rhea (Rae) Harmonía— America’s favorite pop-star. Both women become rich beyond their wildest dreams… but soon come to a harrowing realization. It may be that only the pursuit of happiness is fun. Once the dream comes true, life seems to become a nightmare.

Bonus: This book is my debut novel! There is a ton of content on this blog that talks more about Lucky.

Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Goodrich Royce

If you are looking for a lyrical, thought provoking thriller, Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Goodrich Royce is the book for you. Susan Ford lives an idyllic life, splitting her time between New York City and Watch Hill, Rhode Island. She seems like the type of woman who keeps her life— and everything that is part of it— under control. Until one morning, in the summer of 2014, when the FBI pays her a visit… and Susan is forced to revisit the summer of 1979. A summer where everything changed.

Bonus: Finding Mrs. Ford was written by Deborah Goodrich Royce who lives in Watch Hill. There, she and her husband restored the iconic Ocean House hotel. Deborah also played Silver Kane on the hit ABC soap opera, All My Children. You can check out a conversation I had with Deborah on Instagram LIVE!

Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg

Eden: A Novel by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg has the cover image of a black and white Watch Hill beach.

If you are looking for a poignant family saga full of generational wisdom, Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg’s Eden needs to rocket to the top of your TBR. Eden is set in Long Harbor— a fictional Watch Hill, RI— a town packed with wealth and tradition. But as with everything, for families summering in this coastal village, there is always another side to the coin. In Eden, secrets are revealed, stories are shared, and lives change with the times. Join Becca Meister Fitzpatrick, a wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community, for what might be her last summer in Long Harbor… as she struggles with the discovery that her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg.

Bonus: Eden’s author, Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, also has a home in Watch Hill! She is an amazingly inspiring author and thought leader in independent literature. You can check out the conversation I had with Jeanne on Instagram LIVE!

The Summer House by Hannah McKinnon

From the book’s description on Amazon: “When Flossy Merrill summons her children to the beloved family beach house to celebrate their father’s eightieth birthday, both cherished memories and long-kept secrets come to light in this charming and lyrical novel from the author of The Lake Season and Mystic Summer.

Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. Featuring McKinnon’s “sharp and evocative” (Kirkus Reviews) voice, this warm-hearted novel is perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Mary Alice Monroe.”

Blue Blood by Craig Unger

If you love narrative non-fiction (and can manage to get your hands on a copy of this rare book), Blue Blood by Craig Unger is for you. Blue Blood is actually a primary source I used for my debut novel, Lucky. This book chronicles the life of Rebekah Harkness, heiress to the Standard Oil fortune and star of Taylor Swift’s song “ the last great American dynasty,” and includes her scandalous history with Joffrey’s ballet.

Other Art inspired by Watch Hill

Florida based artist Mary LaGarde has also used Watch Hill as inspiration for her art. Her painting, A Marvelous Time, is inspired by Taylor Swift’s folklore and the last great American dynasty. You can find her painting (and prints!) here: A Marvelous Time.

Bonus: check out the transcript from the conversation Mary and I had about her painting and my book here: A Marvelous Conversation with Mary LaGarde

Thank you to Mary LaGarde (and her husband, Richard) for providing some of the photos used in this blog post.

Have you read any of these books? Comment below and let me know what you think.

Also, feel free to send me an email if I have missed any Watch Hill inspired reads. I want this to be an all-encompassing list!

Note: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you click any of the above links and purchase the listed books, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Healing through Art with Sowelu Studios

All strong souls first go to hell before they do the healing of the world they came here for. If we’re lucky, we return to help those still trapped below.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Last Friday on Instagram Live, I spoke with Australian author and artist, Sigrid Wharton. Sigrid is the founder of Sowelu Studios, a small business that focuses on healing through art. She recently published her first book, “Carving the Path,” which explores metaphysical landscapes, the nature of reality, the vulnerability that connects people, and the very heart of the human condition.

An oil painter by background, Sigrid began writing her book because she found herself overflowing with messages she needed to express, but couldn’t paint fast enough. During the pandemic, Sigrid exchanged her paint brush for a pen to help heal herself and others. Her poetry works to understand the mind and is filled with lessons Sigrid wishes people would have taught her during her self healing journey.

Our conversation was insightful and inspiring. You can find the whole conversation on Instagram TV.

Some topics we covered include her book, archetypes, healing through art, energy, the nature of reality, people who inspire us, philosophy, psychoanalysis and much more. We also talked about how creative exploits— such as art, literature, poetry, music, and dance— help remind us of what’s important in life. Creativity can also help us transform as people and help each of us reach a more enlightened state.

In life, transformation often goes from periods of dark to light. Sigrid’s book aims to helps you not be weighed down by the dark times, and look at things from a more aerial perspective. Darkness and lightness— and how both of those live inside of you— is something that philosophers have been looking at since the beginning of time. Shadow work is important for people going through a self-healing journey because, in the words of Sigrid, “fear is something we should befriend. It teaches us well.”

Fear is something we should befriend. It teaches us well.

Sigrid Wharton, Sowelu Studios

That was one of my favorite takeaways from our discussion: Friend fear. Fear is a part of life. It helps us learn lessons and get to the other side, or to “level up,” and can help us understand our inner cycles.

Resources

During and after our chat, Sigrid provided me with a variety of resources to share with my audience, in hopes of inspiring and aiding in others’ healing/self discovery journeys.

People

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Clarissa Pinkola Estes is an American poet, psycho-analyst (studies Carl Jung), and post trauma specialist. She is also an author, and is probably most well known for her international bestseller “Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.” Sigrid was first introduced to Estes’ work as a kid when she listened to her fairytales and folklore via her mom’s cassette tape. Sigrid and I share a similar philosophy regarding fairytales and folklore: these stories are packed with rich symbolism and stories that help you understand yourself and the world better.

Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multi-volume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them. Don’t waste your time hating a failure. Failure is a greater teacher than success.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Trevor Hall

Trevor Hall is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. According to his website, Hall’s music is a blend of roots and folk music with touches of electronic elements, and is imbued with a deep love of Eastern Mysticism. Sigrid recommends you check out the stories behind his songs here:

Music was such a love of mine. It was my way of exploring life, my internal world. To be honest, I don’t really know why or why not. It just seems life without it would be death.

Trevor Hall

Aubrey Marcus

Aubrey Marcus is a NYT bestselling author, podcast host, and the founder of Onnit, a lifestye brand that is based on a holistic health philosophy he calls Total Human Optimization. Sigrid recommends his podcast, which can be found here: https://www.aubreymarcus.com/blogs/aubrey-marcus-podcast

To live one day well is the same as to live ten thousand days well. To master twenty-four hours is to master your life.

Aubrey Marcus, Own the Day: Master 24 Hours, Master Your Life

Films

Embrace: The Documentary

You can watch this documentary about shedding negative body image on Netflix. From the documentary’s website, “Embrace is a social impact documentary that explores the serious issue of body loathing, inspiring us to change the way we feel about ourselves and think about our bodies. Released in 2016, this film is relevant, relatable, highly engaging – but above all life changing.

Nominated for the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Best Documentary, Embrace has been seen by millions of people across the world and has created a ripple of positive changes.

The documentary was supported by 8909 KickStarter pledgers who responded to the fundraising trailer released in 2014. The trailer has now had over 45 million views.”

The Shift

Per Amazon, “In this compelling film Dr. Wayne W. Dyer explores the spiritual journey from ambition to meaning. The powerful shift from the go constructs we are taught early in life by parent and society— which promotes an emphasis on achievement and accumulation— are shown in contrast to a life of meaning focused on serving and giving back.”

I watched this movie with some friends the other night and found it to be thought provoking. Directly afterwards, we watched a short film based off The Egg short story by Andy Weir. These two resources in tandem are guaranteed to change at least one thing about how you think about the world!

Books

The Language of Archetypes by Caroline Myss. Sigrid recommends listening to the audiobook.

You can pretend to be something other than who you are but eventually you will run out of energy to continue because that’s not authentically you.

Caroline Myss

Healing the Core Wound of Unworthiness by Adyashanti. Sigrid also recommends listening to the audiobook.

and the most amazing thing happened. That love that I had experienced didn’t budge, it didn’t cower, it didn’t pull back from his criticism. In fact, I felt such a sense of appreciation and gratitude and joy because him telling me ‘I shouldn’t have left and I shouldn’t have come back’ I realized that it didn’t budge that quality of love that had been poured into me. And I felt so grateful…it provided a perfect contrast to what I was experiencing.

Adyashanti, Healing the Core Wound of Unworthiness

Another great resource is Sigrid’s FREE course: an intensive, self-paced 7-week program called The Soul’s Palette, which is designed to take you on a journey of vulnerability from darkness to light. She gives you the tools you need to carve your own pathway, while filling your spiritual coffee cup. This course has even more resources for your self-discovery and enlightenment journey.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the amazing Sigrid Wharton, both for speaking with me last week and for these amazing resources. If you enjoy them, don’t miss our conversation on Instagram TV.

You can find me on Instagram @kristinaparrowrites. Sigrid can be found at @sowelustudios.

Visit Sigrid’s website: Sowelu Studios

Poems for the Family: The Perfect Gift

It’s funny to me how words seem to flow,
Only after a person is gone.
But I want to express the love in my heart,
Before my loves venture beyond.

I gave these poems as gifts,
But they mean too much not to share.
The people who inspired them
Are amazing beyond compare.

Poetry makes a thoughtful gift for the holidays, a birthday, or just because. All of these poems were written by me, Kristina Parro, as Christmas gifts this year. The recipients gave me permission to share— to help inspire the flow of your own words and maybe even your own poetry.

Tina’s Tip: Be vulnerable with yourself and others. It feels good to put words to your feelings and even better to share them with those you love.

Poem for my Mom

My Mother, My Captain

If my life were the ocean,
We’d have seen
The sunniest days
And stormiest of seas.

Through it all,
My captain,
Who weathered each
Alongside me.

My mother,
My captain,
My light,
And my world.

Without you,
I’d be ship-wrecked.
My survival,
Up to the sea’s swirls.

Poem for my Dad

A Daughter’s Debt

If I had ten million dollars,
And spent it all on you,
I’d never be able to repay
The debt to you that’s due.

Remember when I was little?
I’d fall asleep in the car.
You’d carry me inside,
But I was heavy and it was far.

Then, when I grew older,
You taught me how to be.
Generous, inquisitive, and stoic.
All the advice you gave for free.

You taught me to work hard,
To think, to create, and to love.
To be true to myself,
And to hold my family above.

We are cut from the same cloth,
You and me are two peas in a pod.
I’ll always pick you as the MVP:
My favorite on the squad.

I’m grateful for what you’ve given me,
But more thankful for our bond.
We will be together forever,
Whether we’re here, or the beyond.

Poem for my Brother

Yin and Yang

She was the sun, 
He, the moon.

Different, but complementary.
Separate, but together.

Yin and yang.
Brother and sister.

They say a connection between the two
Brings harmony so powerful
Wars would stop
And world peace would be had.

They say, infinity is found,
Between balanced opposites.
Like with you and me,
And the relationship we’ve fostered.

In this kaleidoscope world,
Often separated by distance and reality,
I’ve become grateful for adversity,
For it only strengthens our bond.

Poem(s) for my Grandma(s)

Grandma’s House

Blue was the color of the house 
Where I made those
childhood memories.

Ivory were the keys of the piano,
Which played your
lyrical melodies.

Coffee was the smell in the air,
When the words “Good morning,”
you exclaimed.

Sweet is the smell of the flowers
After which that beautiful street
was named.

Warm was your smile
When I walked inside
Lily of the Valley in my hand.

Full was my heart
When we got to do all the
fun things you had planned.

Stamped and Etched

Remember when you called me,
Just a few weeks ago?
To thank me for the pictures and poems
From the beach, so well, you know.

“Thank you,” you said, enthusiastically.
Then you repeated it five times.
Your voice made me so happy,
I thought that I might cry.

“Thanks for sharing your creativity
and your talents with the world.”
Words like that, from a woman like you,
Gave my heart a little twirl.

Your voice made me so happy,
I’ll remember it forever.
Stamped with love in my memories,
And etched in every endeavor.

Poem for my (future) Sister-in-Law

A Distant Memory

Inside you is a spirit,
That I remember
With sparkling clarity and vivid color,
Yet hadn’t known,
Until you wandered into my life,
On the arm of my baby brother.

Maybe it’s your energy,
Or a distant memory from a past life.

All I know, is that
Life finds a way
Of returning to you
Those whom you need to find.

Poem for my Boyfriend’s Brother

Trip of a Lifetime

If years were measured in miles,
This would be your longest one yet.
Countless hours spent in your van,
On a quest for a life sans regrets.

How many spend their lives wishing
To travel far and wide?
But not many would forgo their comfort
To live a life outside.

You made the most of the pandemic,
Doing what others wish they could.
I’m inspired by your trip of a lifetime,
And the challenges you’ve withstood.

My Poetry Writing Process

While writing these poems, I began with a brainstorming session: writing down some of my favorite memories, stories, or concepts that reminded me of the poem’s inspiration. I read poems that others had written about their loved ones. I meditated and tried to connect with my deepest feelings. From there, I built the message and prose for each individual poem. Finally, in order to make sure the flow and rhythm worked, I read the poems out loud— over and over.

Comment on this post with your best poetry tips, or a poem that you have written for a loved one! I’d love to read them!

Poems from Long Beach

Lights, rocks, the beach, the lake, and the sunset. Photo by Kristina Parro.

There’s nothing quite like spending time at the beach in autumn. Leaves falling like rain. Fiery sunsets. Nights by the fire. Waves crashing into the shore.

It is magical for me, being so near the place where the water meets the sky. Cleansing. Inspirational.

I love to wake up early and watch the sun rise on the horizon, while drinking my latte and listening to the surf. I enjoy long walks on the beach, while talking and taking in the views. I cherish moments spent with my friends and family; moments spent with my thoughts and my notebook.

These photos were taken and words were written on the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana.

Enjoy!

An Indiana Morning

Waves crashing against the rocks of Long Beach. Photo by Kristina Parro.

Morning. Two lovers. A walk along a hazy, pebble-covered beach.

The sky is aglow, painted by the rising sun. The tide is high; waves crash into the shore. The froth rushes out, leaving behind reflected rainbows in its wake.

Still water snakes along the lovers’ path, leaving sand islands between them and the lake. As the sherbet hues dance in the stillness, the couple stops to take in the view.

She leans in for a kiss, then they pause for a moment, faces pressed against one another. Just being, together.

The smell of his Nivea lingers on her face, long after the walk is over.

Who knew an Indiana morning could be this beautiful?

Surreal

A figure walks along the shores of Lake Michigan, the sky and setting sun are reflected in the water. Photo by Kristina Parro.

Dive into my dreams.

Learn each square inch of my sun-lit cliffs and the shadowy depths of my valley floors.

Take a dip into my subconscious.

Learn who I really am. Deeper than I even know?

Bathe in my rivers. You shall learn, then be rewarded.

But, beware of the depths. Don’t drown.

Constant

The sun sets on a rippled Lake Michigan. Photo by Kristina Parro.

Spring turns to summer, then fall to winter.

Things grow, then die.

Love burns, then withers.

The circle of life: nothing is constant but change.

Water and Fire

A couple walks on Long Beach at golden hour. Photo by Kristina Parro.

The waves crash behind me. I’m warmed by the fire in front of me.

I sit on the beach, thinking about the people who have sat here before me. The Potowatomi’s, pioneers, and Presidents. Simon Pokagon, Harry Tuthill, Joe Biden.

My grandparents.

I want to ask them, “Were the colors always this vibrant? Was the sand always this soft? Were the sunsets always this beautiful?”

Time changes everything, but maybe this beach is beyond her grasp.

The lake grows dark behind me. I’m enlightened by the crackle of the flames.

A November Sunset

Unedited photo of the sunset on November 7, 2021 on the shores of Lake Michigan in Long Beach, IN. Photo by Kristina Parro.

As the salmon November sun sank into the glassy water, the world, momentarily, was set on fire.

Brushed stripes of magenta and apricot appeared painted on the turquoise sky, then reflected in the tide.

Just above the horizon, lead clouds were lit from underneath. For a moment, just a moment, the entire world glowed.

The beach doubles as a panoramic stage for the ultimate virtuoso to show off.

God? Mother Nature? Or, Miss Universe?

Selfie of me at the lake in November 2021

An Open Letter to Vanguard Logistics

Dear Vanguard Logistics and potential Vanguard Logistics customers,

I am writing this open letter to express my deepest disappointment in Vanguard Logistics’ customer service, follow-through, and failure-to-deliver on promises and payment-rendered services.

It is important that the general public knows about this case, as it may save someone (like me, who is trying her best to grow a small business) from having similar issues.

I ordered 39 boxes of goods from overseas that have been in possession of Vanguard Logistics since (at least) early July 2021. This order was set for “self-pickup” from Vanguard’s Chicago warehouse (GLO4). As of today, November 1, I am still unable to pick up my packages. I have no date of when I will be able to pick up my packages. I have been offered no compensation for Vanguard’s negligence.

It feels as if Vanguard is holding my packages hostage, despite already receiving my payment for their services over 4 months ago.

Throughout this process, I have received a litany of excuses of why I am unable to access my goods. The current excuse is that their system is down, company-wide, and has been down since last Friday.

Keep in mind, Vanguard Logistics is a company that generated two hundred million+ in sales last year. I am confused at how a hundred-million dollar+ company is able to function without their system for over a week.

I sent this email to the C-suite at Vanguard Logistics, including to their CEO Onno Meij, as well as all of my contacts re: this case last week. Nobody has responded to my email, so I decided to publish it to my blog, in hopes of eliciting a response:

“On 7/6, I got this message from Linh Lien from Vanguard: “ON 7/5 THIS CONTAINER WAS IN TRANSIT TO GLOBAL 3 DUE TO CONGESTION. PENDING MOVEMENT TO GLOBAL 4 FOR GROUNDING. UPDATES TO FOLLOW.”

Linh’s message tells me that, by 7/5, Vanguard Logistics obtained access to goods that were being shipped to me. I payed, in-full, at that time in order to ensure timely pick-up of my goods. It is now October 26, and I still have not been able to pick up my goods.

I received infrequent updates regarding the status of my packages in July and even less frequent updates in August.

I sent multiple emails to Vanguard in September re: updates to where my packages were/ when I’d be able to pick up. No one from Vanguard returned any of my emails in September.

In October, I sent additional emails, stating that this would be my final attempt to contact Vanguard. Finally, I was connected with Chris Baillie, VP of Central Region. Chris has acted unprofessionally in a variety of ways: making false promises, failing to follow through, not answering his phone or returning phone calls. 

I have sent and continue to send Chris and his assistant Sharice several emails, only some of which they respond(ed) to. The phone number for Vanguard that is listed on my paperwork is disconnected. Sharice nor Chris answer their phones. I am unable to leave Sharice a voicemail. I’ve left Chris at least 8 voicemails over the past few weeks. He has returned my call in less than a third of opportunities. I typically have to email and leave additional voicemails in order to get him to call me back. Following up with Vanguard trying to elicit a response has turned into a full-time job. As a customer, I find this completely unacceptable. 

On Friday, 10/22, Chris spoke to me on the phone and guaranteed that I’d be able to pickup my packages on Monday 10/25. On Monday 10/25, he told me that I was not able to pick up my packages due to system-wide issues. He has not provided me a date for pickup. He has not returned several calls and emails that I have made in the past two days. I have left him three voicemails since the last time we talked, and have not heard back from him. I also have had two other people call him and leave multiple messages to call them back; Chris did not return any of their calls either. 

As the Vice President of the region, Chris Baillie is casting a dark shadow on the entirety of Vanguard Logistics. His behavior is unprofessional. The lack of customer service I have experienced and the abysmal timeliness re: my order has stained Vanguard’s reputation. I am an author and a blogger, and I will not hesitate to share my opinions and the facts from this case with the internet.

Vanguard has failed to deliver my packages to me in a timely fashion. I do not trust that the company is in possession of my packages, due to the lack of communication and abysmal customer service. I have already filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and I am considering taking further legal action.

Thank you, 

Kristina Parro”

I am eagerly awaiting response from Vanguard, and more eagerly awaiting the pickup of my packages.

If anyone reading this has any advice for me, please leave it in the comments.

Note: Since sending this email, I have been in contact with Chris Baillie who has been providing me more frequent updates re: status of their system (but only when I initiate contact). He has also provided me photographic proof that the container my packages are in is at GLO4, but has stated that he is unable to allow me access to my packages.

Author Interview + Behind the Scenes of Lucky’s Release Party

Last week I was interviewed by the amazing Shannon Lane for her new bookish YouTube channel. Shannon is another independent author of contemporary fiction. Check out Shannon’s book, Soul on Fire! Make sure you like the video above and subscribe to Shannon’s channel!

In the interview, we talked about Lucky: A Novel (inspired by Taylor Swift’s folklore and the incredible true story of Standard Oil heiress Rebekah Harkness). Lucky is my first book which I published this June!

One of my readers (and a friend!) sent me this adorable of their cat with my book. She said, ‘Syd wants to read your book!’

Lucky is the story of the American Dream, an epic juxtaposition of glitter and tragedy: the tangled stories of two powerful women who are connected through the transcendental nature of time and space. In Lucky, the reader tumbles down the rabbit hole with America’s favorite pop-star, Rhea Harmonía as she dives deep on a journey through American history, Western thinking, modern philosophy, mythology, math, music, and time.

Lucky was inspired by 2020 Album of the Year, Taylor Swift’s folklore. On folklore, is a song called the last great American dynasty, which was also inspired by the true story of Standard Oil heiress Rebekah Harkness.

I dove into Taylor Swift’s lyrics to help me make sense of some of the tragedy I found myself surrounded by (as an essential healthcare worker during the pandemic).

Kristina Parro in an interview with Shannon Lane

In the first verse of the song, the last great American dynasty, Taylor introduces the main character with the lyrics: ‘Rebekah rode up on the afternoon train, it was sunny. Her salt box house on the coast took her mind off St. Louis. Bill was the heir to the Standard Oil name and money. And the town said, “how did a middle class divorcé do it?”’

Throughout the song, we learn that Rebekah married Bill and they bought the largest, most spectacular house on the Eastern seaboard: Holiday House. Swift sings, ‘Their parties were tasteful if a little gauche,’ which was a little tongue-in-cheek. Everyone wanted an invite to Holiday House. Rebekah Harkness felt like she was the queen of the world.

Then, Bill died, and the tides turned. Rebekah quickly became the ‘maddest woman the town had ever seen.’ Swift sings that ‘she had a marvelous time ruining everything.’ Rebekah’s story ultimately ends in an epic tragedy.

By the end of the song, Swift reveals that after Rebekah died, she bought Holiday House. Almost immediately, Rebekah’s story began to manifest in Taylor’s life. I read more about Rebekah’s story and learned that there are many interesting parallels between the lives of Taylor Swift and Rebekah Harkness. Their stories are a perfect example of an adage echoed throughout Lucky, ‘stories repeat, almost cyclically, throughout history.’

I uncovered this magical story that helped me, as the author, navigate and cycle through a really dark time in my life and bring me to the other side.

Kristina Parro in an interview with Shannon Lane

Learn more about Lucky, my publishing process, the release of my book (including my release party!), the importance of writing, why I chose the name Lucky, and so much more in Shannon’s interview!

Let me know in the comments: did you learn anything new about me from Shannon’s interview?

P.S. I just wanted to take a moment to say, ‘thank you,’ to everyone— my family and friends of old and new— who has purchased my book, read it, provided me with cool opportunities, written reviews, and overall supported me in person or on social media during this process! It has been so much fun to take on this new life path, and I know it wouldn’t be possible without you. I appreciate you all more than you know.

The Fun Stuff!

Bonus content: photos from my release party! A HUGE ‘thank you’ to my parents (for having the party), my brother for coming out, my boyfriend Matt for everything, and everyone who came to the party! It was the best birthday ever!

I signed over 100 books this night!
Check out my necklaces!! One says ‘Lucky;’ the other two relate to Lucky’s secret code!
My mom had these cookies made! The teal cookie depicts my publishing company’s, Logos, logo!
My mom also had suckers made with the picture from the front cover of my book! How cool are these?!?! They are edible!
Me, the birthday girl, with a big stack of her own books. Who would have thought?! A truly surreal moment.
The set up! I was signing books at this table. We sold out of hardcover books at the party! It was crazy! I feel so LUCKY 🥰
Matt with a fat stack of Lucky books!
I LOVE YOU GUYS!
Thank you to everyone who brought these beautiful bouquets of flowers!!!!

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Salvador Dalí: The Man, The Myth, The Marvel

Art by Kristina Parro; Dalí illustration by OM Nair; Background: Dalí’s Persistence of Memory

Many have heard his name. Most have seen his work: dreamscapes, melting clocks, eroticism, and otherwise shocking scenes. Maybe you’ve even seen a photograph of Salvador Dalí, most recognizable by his stiff, upwards-turned, handlebar mustache. But, how much do you really know about the man himself?’

Obtained from WikiArt

Salvador Dalí is one of the most celebrated artists of all time; an eccentric, artistic genius, and leader, specifically in the field of surrealism.

Surrealism

A refresher: surrealism is an art movement with undertones lying in geometry and modern physics that began in France in the 1920s. It is characterized by dreamscapes and images that make the viewer question reality by delving into the depths of the subconscious.

Sleep, Salvador Dalí (1937)

Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.

Salvador Dalí

Surrealism, and Dalí himself, were extensively studied by the renowned psychologist, Sigmund Freud. After meeting Dalí, Freud wrote, “For until now, I have been inclined to regard the surrealists, who apparently have adopted me as their patron saint, as complete fools. That young Spaniard, Dalí, with his candid fantastical eyes and undeniable technical mastery, has changed my estimate.”

More than Einstein or Watson and Crick, more than Hitler or Lenin, Roosevelt or Kennedy, more than Picasso Eliot or Stravinsky, more than the Beatles or Bob Dylan, Freud’s influence on modern culture has been profound and long-lasting.

psychologist and Freud critic, John Kihlstrom
MOMENT DE TRANSITION, Salvador Dal (1934)

Dalí’s Childhood

Dalí was born in the 1904, on the rocky Mediterranean coast, in Figueroa, Spain. His older brother, also named Salvador, died almost nine months to the day before Dalí was born. Early on, his parents had him convinced that he was the reincarnated version of his brother— who, according to legend, died, almost 9 months to the die before Dalí himself was born.

As a small boy, he fell in love with the ocean. Dalí was particularly fascinated by the rocks on the shore of his sacred childhood summertime haven, in the seaside village of Cadaques. The sun shone bright in the sky and casted shadows on them. Dalí noticed how life-like the rocks looked— almost like human faces. At just five or six-years old, Dalí sat on the beach for hours and sketched the faces on the rocks.

Faces on rocks was a theme seen later in Dalí’s work, as well. This piece is called “Three Faces of Dalí on the Rocks,” painted by Dalí.

As the shadows shifted with the passing of the sun, the faces on the rocks changed form. The tiny Dalí marveled at their metamorphosis. He recorded the changes he saw on his father’s sketch pad, in striking detail. That was Dalí’s first foray into art.

One of Dalí’s first known painted works is called Landscape, which he finished in 1914. In 1916, Dalí attended drawing school in his hometown and studied with Ramon Pichot, a local impressionist painter who later became Dalí’s mentor.

Landscape, Salvador Dalí (1910-1914)

Pablo Picasso

Another of Dalí’s mentors/ inspirations was Pablo Picasso, who he met in 1926. Their meeting was hugely influential to Dalí, as evidenced by themes in his work. Picasso gave Dalí “a model to emulate.” Their relationships evolved into a weird, one-sided, obsessive correspondence, with Dalí sending the artist hundred of letters and postcards.

Photo from Dalí Universe

Around this time Dalí enjoyed freedom of self-expression while experimenting with various avant-grade painting styles, including cubism, futurism, and purism. In 1926, following disciplinary actions at his art school, he was dismissed. By 1928, Dalí was notorious… and he began experiencing international acclaim.

Gala— Dalí’s muse

Dalí married Gala—his muse— in 1929. She often modeled for him, and her likeness is seen multiple times in his work.

Gala and Dalí (from photos by Getty Images)

She was destined to be my Gradiva, the one who moves forward, my victory, my wife.

Salvador Dalí in his book, Secret Life

It was love at first sight for Dalí and Gala, who was 10 years Dalí’s senior. He painted her as Madonna twice, as Leda with the swan, as a nude. She sparked his imagination in an unparalleled manner. Their love story is best characterized as volatile… maybe even surreal. By 1969, Dalí bought Gala a castle, which he could only visit her at with prior written consent.

The year he met Gala also marks Dalí’s artistic transition into surrealism. In the years that followed, Dalí explored a self-coined “paranoid-critical” method of painting, described by Dalí himself as “irrational knowledge” based on a “delirium of interpretation.”

I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.

Salvador Dalí

In 1931, Dalí painted one of his most well-known pieces— which currently resides in Museum of Modern Art in NYC— called The Persistence of Memory. The painting depicts an irrational, hyper-real dream world: melting clocks, swarming ants, entropy, death, decay, and maybe even Dalí himself.

The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dalí (1931)

During this time, a period marred by the Spanish Civil War, Dalí became more and more eccentric. He began to have strained relationships with other artists, including the leader of the Surrealist movement, Andre Breton.

Andre Breton became openly critical of Dalí’s growing celebrity. He coined Dalí’s anagrammatic nickname, Avida Dollars. By 1939, Dalí had broken from the Surrealists. When France fell to the Nazis in June of 1940, Dalí and Gala moved to America.

Dalí in America

In 1941, Dalí finished writing his autobiography: The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. This book contained an inter tangled web of fact and fictionalized events from Dalí’s life. The next year, it was published. The bizzare book brought Dalí even more acclaim.

In America, he became associated with the greats: Alfred Hitchcock, Walt Disney, Coco Chanel, Buckminster Fuller, and Standard Oil Heiress Rebekah Harkness, to name a few.

Dalí makes an appearance in my book, Lucky: A Novel (inspired by Taylor Swift’s folklore and the incredible true story of Standard Oil Heiress Rebekah Harkness) because of his friendship with Harkness.

During this time, he expanded his art practice to visual-performance art, jewelry, clothing, furniture, sets for plays and ballets, and even display windows for department stores.

Nuclear Mysticism

Nuclear Mysticism is an artistic style developed by Dalí later in his life after achieving a divine epiphany. He saw a connection between religious/spiritual mysticism and science (particularly physics). Dalí believed that science was proof of God’s existence and God’s existence was proof of the powers of science.

Dalí and the Golden Ratio

Salvador Dalí was taken by mathematics; how number seems to reveal a hidden order in the world.

Dalí became obsessed with the Golden Ratio after meeting author Matila Ghyka at a party. Ghyka wrote a book called The Golden Number: Pythagorean Rites and Rhythms in the Development of Western Civilization. He gave a copy to Dalí who became obsessed with the idea, as did many painters that came before him (such as Leonardo da Vinci).

The Golden Ratio is an irrational number that possesses a variety of interesting properties. It was studied by ancient mathematicians due to its frequent appearance in natural and man made phenomenon. The Golden Ratio has been suggested to reflect nature’s balance between symmetry and asymmetry (chaos and order). It is thought to be the most aesthetic number, or the proportion of perfect beauty.

The Avant-Garden at the Dalí museum

Dalí talked about the Golden Ratio in the above interview with Dick Cavett. There are countless examples of Dalí using the Golden Ratio and concepts related to the Golden Ratio in his art and life.

Dalí’s paintings Surrealistic Flower Girl and Surrealistic King: both contain countless references to Golden Ratio themes/imagery

Dalí the Performance Artist

Dalí was a born performer; a man who needed (and thrived off) an audience. Dalí was captivating; just as talented at self-promotion and money-making as he was at painting. His southwest-European accent was thick, but he had a way with words that threw you off just from pure amazement of its exquisiteness. He spoke in a scrambled language, but it was the tongue of genius.

Dalí wore a diving suit to a lecture at London International Surrealist Exhibition and appeared in the same on the cover of Time Magazine. He walked his pet anteater on a leash down the streets of New York City. He brought a Rolls Royce overflowing with cauliflower to an interview and rambled on about spirals and the golden ratio.

Dalí’s Legacy

Salvador Dalí changed the way the art world worked, through paint, film, design, his intellect, and his public persona.

Each morning, I wake up experiencing an exquisite joy— the joy of being Salvador Dalí.

Salvador Dalí

What do you think Dalí’s legacy is? Let me know in the comments!

If you enjoy learning about Salvador Dalí, check out my conversation about him with Kyle Wood on the Who ARTed Podcast.

Authenticity and letting go of fear of judgement with author, Mary Catherine Soulsby

On August 5, I spoke with Mary Catherine Soulsby, author of Tempting Vows, on Instagram Live. We talked about authenticity, letting go of fear of judgement, and her novel (Tempting Vows, a 50 Shades of Gray-esque tale of women empowerment). Check out our conversation below!

MC: I spent the longest time trying to figure out how I wanted to tell this story. Tempting Vows is very much fiction, but my character Ava Mae does have many similarities to me: the way she lives in her head and talks to herself. I wanted to figure out to tell my story in a fun and sexy way, that also incorporates taboo. We’re all stuck in a world where we think to ourselves, “What are they going to think about this?” “What is my mom/sister/dad/friends going to think about this?”

I just wanted to create a whole world that was based somewhat on research and understanding, but also throwing in a ton of stuff that I don’t have personal experience with. More important to me are the overarching themes of the book: women empowerment, finding your voice, being a sexual being, being feminine, battling the masculine side (especially as a business woman), and also the communication that needs to happen in every partnership. Relationships are defined by the two people that are in them.

Every relationship is different. The energies between the two people are contractually different. As you see my trilogy continue, you’ll see how important communication is. Then, you’ll see how lack of communication causes breakdowns.

Mary Catherine’s novel: Tempting Vows. Tempting Vows explores the story of Ava Mae.

From her website: “You never know what is happening on the other side of that picturesque front door. When you add in wealth and luxury, like in my case, it takes that to a whole other level.

My marriage is full of love, adoration, and mutual respect. I married my best friend. With a mixture of temptation, lust, and sexual pleasures we fell into a lifestyle we were constantly surprised by and that pushed our boundaries beyond our wildest imaginations.

I never thought that through it all, I would begin to find my voice and my power. My journey to finding myself is not unlike many women before me, just with a few added mind-blowing orgasms.”

Kristina: A trilogy?! Do you have the next book written?

MC: Not completely, but it will be out in December. The thing is, I’ve had these stories in my head for 10 years. It feels like I’ve been writing these stories forever. The trilogy is already planned out with my editor, but now I just have to fill in the blanks. It’s kind of like Mad Libs. The story has been in me for so long, I just needed the courage to write it.

Kristina: I think that is an amazing thing! A little spoiler alert: Tempting Vows is about a woman exploring open relationships and the swinger lifestyle, both concepts which are foreign and taboo for many people.

I know what it’s like to have a story inside me that is bursting out. I’m interested in your journey. With your topic being more taboo, what was your process?

MC: Well, there hasn’t been anything like 50 Shades of Gray released since 50 Shades of Gray. Sure, we have Sex Life out on Netflix, but it’s a based on a book written a bajillion years ago. We haven’t had an author recently dive into the “taboo” world (that really isn’t so secret if you open your eyes.) You’d be surprised: I bet you know more people in these situations than you think you do.

None of us are picture perfect. We all have our secrets. Whether you are in the midst of a swinger relationship, a don’t-ask-don’t-tell relationship, an open relationship, or no relationship— we all have a secret that opens your eyes to the idea that there is no such thing as a “perfect marriage.” What works for some people, doesn’t work for another. To my character, Ava Mae, I say, “You do you, boo. Your life isn’t for me to judge.”

Kristina: It is a very interesting perspective. You know, I think that fans of 50 Shades of Gray will really love your book.

MC: I hope that the fans of 50 Shades will show my book the same type of love. But, my book is different. Ava Mae is a crazy strong woman. She’s powerful. What drove me crazy with 50 Shades is that the main character was just so meek. But no! We’re in 2021. Woman aren’t like that anymore. I’m certainly not. But, my series is similar and I think fans of 50 Shades will love Tempting Vows. You don’t even know how juicy it’s going to get!

Kristina: You talked about exploring perspectives. I spoke with an English teacher last week about how perspective is everything in literature. Ava Mae has an interesting perspective like the main character in book. Sometimes, people who have that “picture perfect life,” well, there’s a dissonance there. There are two sides to every coin and you have to pick your poison.

MC: Yes! Even though they live a luxurious lifestyle, they are still a normal problem who has good and bad times. My goal was to have every woman who read my book identify with some part of Ava Mae: whether that be related to confidence, body issue, or getting pregnant out of wedlock and then getting married in a black dress. I wanted to make her relatable, but also show how we talk to ourselves in our head all day. I wanted to make Ava Mae frank and honest.

The point of the book is exploration of your self. Knowing what you want and need… then, asking for it.

Kristina: So many of us go through our lives just settling for comfort. Even that some of these subjects are considered taboo show how our society is close-minded in a way. Close-mindedness lies on the opposite spectrum of growth: it’s like anti-growth. I find it interesting that we still have all these “taboo” topics.

MC: Agreed. It’s mind blowing to me that we still have taboo topics in 2021… there are all these movements saying “You can do what you want to do,” and “You can be what you want to be.” But can we? I wanted to write these books for so long, but fear kept me back. Are we— as women in society— really as free as we think we are? If we were, none of these topics would be so taboo.

Kristina: It’s true. I think another challenge is separating the art from the artist, or the author from the book. The public doesn’t need to know about your personal life choices, and in fact, knowing your personal interests doesn’t add anything to the book. It’s important to search for underlying meanings buried in the text.

I’ve learned, you can’t write a book unless you have a message that’s bursting out of you. When you are open to your truest, deepest self in that way, I think really amazing things unfold in the world around you. Have you noticed a positive change in your life since more authentically living your truth?

MC: Yes. Writing this book was very therapeutic for me, and my relationship is stronger for it. I talk to my therapist a lot about my writing, every Wednesday during my 2-hour therapy session. I have specific themes I want to get across, but in a fun and interesting way. I didn’t want to write just another self-help book.

The day I pressed publish was the scariest day I’ve had in a long time… since I literally birthed my son. I thought, “I’ve just bared my soul to the world and people are going to judge it.” People can be unkind… especially on social media. I was scared. But then, I made the decision to let that feeling/energy go. I decided I wasn’t going to focus on anything other than being true to myself. People are going to hate or judge whether you “do the thing” or not.

The day I pressed publish was the day I truly stepped into myself. I have stepped into a whole new universe. I wrote a book! Now, I feel like I can do anything… because, why not?!

Kristina: There is something so powerful about letting go of that judgement. Judgement can be so persistent… and cultural.

MC: That’s the thing. It never goes away completely. The fear never subsides. You need to acknowledge that fear, acknowledge where it’s coming from… but don’t let it lead you.

Kristina: I think life is risky, in general. People are going to judge you anyways, so you might as well be doing what you want to do. In a similar way, karmically, you’re going to pay for everything in your life too.

The only thing we have control over are our choices. We can’t control the outcome, but we can control our choice or lack of choice. But then, when you work single-mindedly towards a goal, towards your most true self, things start happening for you.

MC: Exactly. Why not!? Why can’t you do that business. Why can’t you do that thing you want to do? Fear shouldn’t be the thing that stops you. You especially shouldn’t be afraid to lose friends. If you lose friends, they never were your friends anyway. If they don’t support you, they were never your friend anyway. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my circle gets tighter and tighter every year. You have to learn to be okay with that.

Kristina: It’s true. We have to embrace the ebb and flow of life. Things are going to change in life regardless— inevitably— whether you are asleep in the back seat or calling the shots in the drivers seat.

When you choose to make a choices, you also get to choose to be your most authentic self. There’s a lot of research and philosophy that finds that once you find alignment with your most-true self, magic starts happening all around you.

A line I liked of your book: “A woman’s empowerment is caught between what is expected of her and how she expects to be.” I think that is an important sentiment. Taylor Swift also touches on it a lot. Especially as women, even in every part of our lives— our role in our family, in society, even as small as in your relationship— there are many cultural norms and pressure to fit in. It seems like that is the “right/good” thing to do because that’s what most people are doing.

But, even a dead fish can flow downstream… along with the current.

MC: I love that! The world will be a better place as soon as people realize they are meant to follow their own path, and that not everyone is meant to be on the same path. It’s not a competition though, like we aren’t ever going to be blocking each other’s paths. It’s more like, your light can help my light shine brighter (and vice versa). Let’s walk next to each other… allow everyone’s light to shine. When everyone is themselves, their own essence… it only allows the person next to us shine even brighter. We’re all different for a reason. It is so important that we all understand that it’s okay to let other people’s light shine in their own ways and at their own times. This is especially true in relationships! We shouldn’t be doing any blocking in our relationships or life. Think of everything as an energetic field. A grid! Everyone has their own path.

Kristina: I like to think about it statistically. Like, if you were to plot your optimal well-being on a chart throughout time and were to do the same with all of the other stories around you: all of the people around you, all the people who have ever lived, the story of the universe, even. We see, like in the stock market, how things tend to come back to their equilibrium. Prices flow around their equilibrium or average. I think, if you align yourself with someone with you admire, or someone you might otherwise feel competition with, you should look at it as them helping elevate your equilibrium! It’s selfish, in a way, but it’s also good for everyone when you are being the best you can be. Society needs that message right now! Especially with all of the polarization in society.

MC: I know! And all the message needs to be is: I respect you, you respect me. I’m shining bright, you’re shining bright. That’s it! It is then that we can help one another, even if we don’t agree on everything.

I don’t know if the divisiveness in our society will go away unless something major happens, but I hope that if we look within, we can find the answers. The truth. It’s all inside of you. It isn’t in what your husband says, your kids, or your boss. Those are just words. It’s inside of you. You have to believe it. Once you find that power inside of yourself— and you’re right, it ebbs and flows just like the stock market or the real estate market— once you stay true to your heart, you’ll find your way, strength and power. It’s inside. That is the story of Ava Mae in Tempting Vows, especially in book 2.

Kristina: That’s amazing. I think you find that you are most satisfied in life when you try to live in accordance to your truest self.

MC: I agree. And, look to what scares you the most. This book thing is the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life— and I’ve sold millions of dollars of real estate! But, when I got to the other side… you’re still going to have fear. I still have fear that I may have stirred up something crazy. But that doesn’t make me not proud. Once you get on the other side of the ocean of fear, you feel powerful. But you’ll still have doubt. You’ll have all the feels. You should feel all the feels all the time.

That was my goal with my book! To make you, the reader, feel literally every emotion. To feel all the feels! But, it was also something I needed to do for me. I needed to put my heart out there, so I didn’t regret it.

Also, shoutout to my editor Gabriel. He’s a very bright light. I’m thankful for that, I got lucky. Everything aligned. I think that’s what happens when you start going after your dreams. It’s coincidental, but is it? I think it might be meant to be.

Kristina: I totally agree! That reminds me of the story of my illustrator. I really randomly connected with him on instagram because I really liked his work. It turns out he’s a 16-years-old from India and I was the first person to ever pay him for his art! This guy is incredible, the illustrations are fantastic. Now, I see him expanding his professional art career and it’s so exciting. It helps motivate me.

If I would have gone into my book thinking, “oh, these are all the things I’m going to need: an editor, illustrator, printer, etc,” I probably never would have started, because that’s so overwhelming. I just started, and as I started pursuing my dream, it’s amazing how doors started opening for me.

MC: You just have to take that first step past the fear! What if this doesn’t work?! Well it won’t, at least not the exact way you think it will anyways. That’s okay. That’s the wonderful part of life. You adjust. You learn. My end product of my book blew my mind. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to cry. I’m so proud of it.

I think Book 2 will take it to the next level too… people love trilogies! People love to binge! Look at 50 Shades of Gray, she didn’t get noticed til the second book.

Kristina: I’m so excited for you! But, agreed…. I’ve established such a different perspectives throughout this entire process. Fear of other’s opinions can definitely hold you back, but I’ve realized that my opinion not only matters, but is the opinion that matters most in my reality!

MC: You know, I have a teenage son and wrote an erotic and sexy novel. This has all gone through my mind. I had a long talk with my son, and he was like “I’m proud of you! You wrote a whole book.” He’s right.

It doesn’t matter what it is— if you want to write a book, start a t-shirt company, whatever it is. Do the thing!!!

Kristina: It’s so true! I think that segways into a quote that I have for the end of our conversation, but first… where can we find your book?!

MC: It’s on Amazon! Anyone can go onto my Instagram and see the link. Or, go onto Amazon and just search “Tempting Vows.” My book is the only one with that title!

Kristina: Amazing, I look forward to seeing your author journey progress! I’ll leave us with this quote that I’ve adapted from the psychologist/thought leader, Jordan B. Peterson, that reflects some of the themes we’ve been talking about tonight:

Stand your ground and articulate properly. Your haters will disperse all around you and it will be like they aren’t even there. Most of life is just illusion. So, be afraid, but be afraid of the right thing. Be afraid of not saying the things you want most to say, because that is the same thing as net being. If you don’t talk, there’s nothing to you, and then all of life’s suffering may not be worth it.

folklore/evermore with English Teacher KP (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1, where KP and I talk folklore/evermore, The Barbie Doll poem by Marge Piercy, art being a reflection of the society around us, and the idea of “perspective is reality.” Check it out here.

Kristina: I think our entire world needs transformation right now, and that may be why Taylor’s music is resonating with people so deeply.

KP: I have been trying to do a epiphany analysis for like four days in a row, but it’s difficult. The imagery and themes are just so relatable, especially now as the Delta variant of COVID is sweeping through the country. I have a young son, but I’m terrified of him getting sick. All of the war imagery, people dying on beaches, the connection between gloved hands… all of that imagery draws up so much emotion. I think that is why her music transforms us, because we get so emotional when we listen to it.

Kristina: I think when we become so emotional, it awakens some of our subconscious in a way that allows us to make a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. For me, much of Taylor’s music has a way about it that invokes that heavy emotion.

KP: It can be intense and heavy, but I think we do need a reminder sometimes. epiphany is such an important song. You worked in healthcare so you know, it is like a war zone out there.

Kristina: Agreed. I think epiphany will always be a hard song for me to listen to and talk about.

Changing gears, let’s talk about the idea of the “invisible string” we see throughout folklore and evermore. There are many references of an “invisible string” in literature, such as in Jane Eyre, with the idea of a “cord of communion” connecting hearts. There is also a Chinese parable about the Red Thread of Fate, a string that connects people and larger groups of people throughout time. It has spiraling branches… kind of like the willow tree.

KP: It’s interesting. I view the invisible string as something that’s just there. You didn’t make the choice to be connected with someone via an invisible string, you just are. It’s like fate or destiny. It’s like something is pulling you to something else. In willow, she follows the golden string out. But in contrast, Taylor loves to talk about choices. She often brings up the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. It’s funny that she talks so much about choices but also has the idea of an invisible string throughout the albums.

Kristina: I think there are some deep philosophical themes encoded here. In our own lives, we have to somehow juxtapose the idea of free will with fate. It’s like the Butterfly Effect in the way that your choices do play a role in the outcome of your life. But, there is a bigger picture too and there are bigger forces that work on you that help lead you towards your truest path. I don’t know, it’s a hard thing to understand.

KP: It is, but it’s such a beautiful thing to think about. Sometimes it feels like we’re faced with impossible choices. What do I do? Do I choose this path, or this one? But, it’s sort of comforting to think that there’s a bigger picture that we can’t see at the moment. “Everything happens for a reason,” is a really comforting idea.

Kristina: It really is. Otherwise, things can really just seem like a tragedy. I think that’s another theme in folklore/evermore, but more specifically folklore. It’s funny, because folklore was written at the same time I was also feeling the tragedy of it all… it was the thick of the pandemic/lockdowns, so many of us probably were. It was a time where I looked at the world around me and felt hopeless. I felt like… if life is all just a tragedy, what’s the point? I see a similar kind of theme in folklore

My book, Lucky, is the story of Rebekah Harkness. I learned through my research just how tragic Rebekah’s story is. Maybe that is why Taylor is so drawn to Rebekah’s story.

I think tragedy very often befalls the hero-type. It’s kind of like, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Taylor, being in her position in life… like, in The Lucky One, she talks about wanting to go to a garden far away from it all. But, during the pandemic, Taylor may have realized that isolation is not the answer, because we are all connected. The things happening in the world around us still have an impact on us wether we are apart of them or not. It’s especially interesting from her perspective, because she could have easily chosen to say “I’m done” with all of the tragedy/trauma she went through during her career.

KP: It’s so true. She could have so easily quit, and we wouldn’t have blamed her! “We understand girl, you do what’s best for you!” Going back to mirrorball, she talks about how her tragedy was put on display for everyone to see. It was almost for our entertainment. That had to have trauma. Then going to evermore, and long story short, were she talks about how traumatic the journey was… but then says, “long story short, I survived.”

Kristina: Yes! That’s so powerful. long story short is one of the most iconic songs. It’s so fun but there are so many literary references and so much deep meaning. One of my favorite lines from that song is when she says “I always felt I must look better in the rear view.”

KP: That’s a powerful line. You feel for her! I always try to separate the art from the artist, but that was one of the songs where I couldn’t separate it at first. At the beginning of the song I was so sad for her, but by the end, I was so proud of her. I felt like I have been on a journey with her for 15 years, and she DID survive.

I think that’s why I think about the Barbie Doll poem. The narrator is subject to much ridicule and judgement just because she was a woman. We all know, Taylor Swift has been there and bought the t-shirt! One thing I love about folklore/evermore was that she threw out the need to have radio hits. Her word choice, diction, content… those songs won’t get played! She didn’t care, because she wanted to have an album about where she’s at right now.

Kristina: That reminds me of one of her bonus tracks on evermore, right where you left me. Let’s talk about the bonus tracks… I think how Taylor released the album and bonus tracks is significant.

First, she released folklore and the story began. Then, the lakes came out, delayed and added more to the story. Then evermore came out, and it added more. Finally, the bonus tracks came out and added even more to the story.

KP: You know, I had never really sat down and mapped it out like that. I haven’t thought about it, but I’m wondering if this is a new frontier in releasing music and how music will be released. I’ve never seen someone do something like that. You would know more about this from a story teller’s perspective, but it really does seem significant.

Kristina: I noticed it first with the lakes. So, folklore ends with hoax. With that song, she’s saying “I’m done.” I mean, she says, “stood on the cliff side screaming, give me a reason.” What is the reason behind all of this tragedy?! She seems done. Then the lakes came out, and it was sad but almost hopeful…

KP: Yeah, almost… that’s a really good point because you think that’s it. With hoax, it’s almost like you’re standing at the edge of a cliff, waiting to be pushed off, waiting to fall to your death, ready for this to be over. But, with the lakes, it’s different. It doesn’t need to be over. It’s like, “actually, let’s channel your inner Romantic poet instead.”

I need to look at the track list order, because I haven’t done that. With all of her other albums, I have the actual CD. With these though, because I was doing live reactions for YouTube, I can’t trust myself not to listen to the whole album if I had it.

Kristina: I cannot believe you have enough self control to wait to listen to the album in order to do those live reactions.

KP: It’s very difficult. I have to not think about it. With evermore, I really hadn’t thought too much about it because I was still so focused on folklore. I was listening to some songs on folklore over and over and over again. Once I started listening to evermore songs though, it became harder to hold back. I can’t wait to get the album and listen to it all the way through.

Kristina: For sure, you should! Going back to the bonus tracks, the bonus tracks on evermore were also a very interesting pick. right where you left me talks about someone being frozen in time; but then in it’s time to go, she is saying “let go of what isn’t right for you, take the risk.”

Sometimes it’s riskier to do nothing if you are in a bad situation, a situation that isn’t right for you. it’s time to go was one of my favorites on evermore, and very soon after hearing that song, I quit my job at the nursing home. It was really hard for me to quit. It felt like I was one of the only people that cared about my patients so I felt really emotionally attached. I almost needed someone to tell me it is okay to choose yourself sometimes, because you never know what is going to happen to you. You need to look out for you because everyone else is looking out for themselves.

KP: Exactly, doing the thing that is right for you can be difficult. I felt a similar way before leaving the classroom. I always say, “leaving the classroom wasn’t without tears.” It was very difficult. It just wasn’t working anymore with COVID and my son getting older. At some point, you realize you are sacrificing a part of your self, and then you think “at what cost?”

I think Taylor does a really good job with both album, what is the cost of your circumstance and choices? Are you willing to pay that cost? I guess we’ll have to answer those questions at some point.

Kristina: That makes me think about the idea of karma, too. I think that’s another theme we see throughout the two albums. You will pay for everything that happens in life in some form or another. Maybe that is why Taylor seems to be so enthralled with the idea of tragedy… because she is so great. The opposite side of the coin of epic greatness is often times epic tragedy! That’s a scary thing to think about, especially when you’re sitting in the position Taylor is sitting in.

Click here to read Part 3, where KP and I talk season imagery, poetry, Blue Blood/Rebekah Harkness references in the album, and legacy!

Lucky Resources and Inspiration

Blue Blood, Craig Unger

Rebekah Harkness was one of the world’s richest women, the Standard Oil heiress, and founding patron of the Harkness Ballet. But beneath the elegant surface lurked a driven woman tormented by personal demons. This biography tells the story of how one of the richest families descended into a world of drugs, madness, suicide, and violence.

The Golden Ratio, Mario Livio

Mario Livio gives an accessible and objective history of the occurrences and uses of the Golden Ratio. He makes a strong argument for Phi as “the world’s most astonishing number” while at the same time mitigating some of the more radical claims about the number and its influence through history.

Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle 

Aristotle conceives of ethical theory as a field distinct from the theoretical sciences. Its methodology must match its subject matter—good action—and must respect the fact that in this field many generalizations hold only for the most part. We study ethics in order to improve our lives, and therefore its principle concern is the nature of human well-being. Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be central to a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues (justice, courage, temperance and so on) as complex rational, emotional and social skills. But he rejects Plato’s idea that to be completely virtuous one must acquire, through training in the sciences, mathematics, and philosophy, an understanding of what goodness is. What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honor, and wealth fit together as a whole. In order to apply that general understanding to particular cases, we must acquire, through proper upbringing and habits, the ability to see, on each occasion, which course of action is best supported by reasons. Therefore practical wisdom, as he conceives it, cannot be acquired solely by learning general rules. We must also acquire, through practice, those deliberative, emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion.

Aristotle on Happiness: An Analysis, Kevin Shau

An analysis of Nicomachean Ethics

Happiness, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 

Source from Stanford University’s website.

The Tragedy of Limitless Growth: Re-interpreting the Tragedy of the Commons for a Century of Climate Change, Matthew MacLellan

This article argues that Garrett Hardin’s primary object of critique in his influential “The Tragedy of the Commons” is not the commons or shared property at all—as is almost universally assumed by Hardin’s critics—but is rather Adam Smith’s theory of markets and its viability for protecting scarce resources. On the basis of this revised understanding, this article then offers a different interpretation of Hardin’s thesis by assigning hermeneutic priority to the concept of “tragedy” (Aristotle, Nietzsche) rather than the concept of the “commons.” Read through the concept of tragedy, it argues that Hardin’s thesis effectively asserts a rigid incompatibility between market economics and environmental protection, and to this extent “The Tragedy of the Commons” is more aptly read as a political critique that questions the viability of unlimited growth as the axiomatic premise of planetary economics.

Does Capitalism Require Endless Growth?: Marx and Malthus Reconsidered 

Thought piece, see the title. 

In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation, Matthew Desmond

A thought piece from the New York Times, part of the 1619 Project, which examines the legacy of slavery in America. 

W. E. B. Du Bois and the Racial Economics of Inclusive Capitalism, John N. Robinson

John Robinson III’s contribution to the “Race & Capitalism” series provides a historical perspective on what he calls American capitalism’s “selective democratization,” especially with regards to race. The myth of a self-regulating market, argues Robinson, obscures the political underpinnings of economic inclusion, which has consistently favored the “self-reliance” of white workers while excluding blacks. He draws on W. E. B. Du Bois’s analysis of the post–Civil War Freedmen’s Bureau and attempts to democratize housing assets in the 1970s through the Community Reinvestment Act as examples of policy efforts to increase inclusion that have been thwarted by racial politics.

The World is Made of Stories, David Loy 

In this dynamic and utterly novel presentation, David Loy explores the fascinating proposition that the stories we tell–about what is and is not possible, about ourselves, about right and wrong, life and death, about the world and everything in it–become the very building blocks of our experience and of reality itself. Loy uses an intriguing mixture of quotations from familiar and less-familiar sources and brief stand-alone micro-essays, engaging the reader in challenging and illuminating dialogue. As we come to see that the world is made–in a word–of stories, we come to a richer understanding of that most elusive of Buddhist ideas: shunyata, the “generative emptiness” that is the all-pervading quality inherent to all mental and physical forms in our ever-changing world. Reminiscent of Zen koans and works of sophisticated poetry, this book will reward both a casual read and deep reflection. A shorter, free version of this can be found here. 

Towards a Definition of Folklore in Practice, Simon J. Bronner

Cultural analysis on Folklore from Berkeley University 

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

The Awakening is a novel by Kate Chopin, first published in 1899. Set in New Orleans and on the Louisiana Gulf coast at the end of the 19th century, the plot centers on Edna Pontellier and her struggle between her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood with the prevailing social attitudes of the turn-of-the-century American South. It is one of the earliest American novels that focuses on women’s issues without condescension. It is also widely seen as a landmark work of early feminism, generating a mixed reaction from contemporary readers and critics. The novel’s blend of realistic narrative, incisive social commentary, and psychological complexity makes The Awakening a precursor of American modernist literature; it prefigures the works of American novelists such as William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway and echoes the works of contemporaries such as Edith Wharton and Henry James. It can also be considered among the first Southern works in a tradition that would culminate with the modern works of Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, and Tennessee Williams.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Stetson

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, published 1892 in The New England Magazine. It is regarded as an important early work of American feminist literature for its illustration of the attitudes towards mental and physical health of women in the 19th century.

Taylor Swift Woman of the Decade speech 

Emma Watson UN speech on Gender Equality 

Inspiration also came from the following books:

Philosophy/Ethics

Accidental Genius, Mark Levy 

The Desert and the Sea, Michael Scott Moore

At The Existentialist Cafe, Sarah Bakewell

The Power of Bad, John Tierney and Roy Baumeister

Purpose, Nikos Mourkogiannis

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz

Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely

Sapiens, Yuval Novah Harari 

The Behavior Gap, Carl Richards 

The Biggest Bluff, Maria Konnikova

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, Beverley Daniel Tatum

The Ethics of Ambiguity, Simone de Beauvoir 

Being Mortal, Atul Gawande

Philosophy of Economics

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang

The Richest Man in Babylon, George S. Clason

The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith

Poor Economics, Abjihit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Angrynomics, Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth

Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman

Winners Take All, Anand Gridharadas

The Millionaire Fastlane, MJ DeMarco

Last Ape Standing, Chip Walter

Economics: The User’s Guide, Ha-Joon Chang 

Story Telling

The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall

The Science of Storytelling, Will Storr

Uncanny Valley, Anna Wiener

Storyworthy, Matthew Dicks

The World is Made of Stories, David Loy

Living Your Best Life

The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

Reinvent Yourself, James Altucher

Think Simple, Ken Seagall

How Will You Measure Your Life, Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, & Karen Dillon

Rare Breed, Sunny Bonnell and Ashleigh Hansberger 

The Art of Statistics, David Spiegelhalter 

Novels

Turtles All The Way Down, John Green 

Peter Pan, Andy Mangels and James Matthew Barrie

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

A Month in the Country, J.L. Carr

Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Caroll 

Poetry

There are More Beautiful Things than Beyonce, Morgan Parker

Collection of William Butler Yeats poetry

Collection of E.E. Cummings poetry

The Poetry of Pablo Neruda

Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth 

The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost