A Wolf in Strange Clothing

What makes a hero?

I just read about a marine who disobeyed orders and moved into the line of fire to rescue his fellows. He saved several lives and received a Medal of Honor.

That’s a hero, for sure.

Just the fact that he endangered himself for others is heroic. But strangely, the “disobeyed orders” part feels like icing on the cake. We admire him even more.

Which is interesting, because if we tweak the story so that he disobeyed orders, but failed to rescue anyone or even endangered or brought harm to others, we might call him a fool. He might be court-martialed instead of honored.

Conclusion: Social approval is situational. If George Washington had failed to win the day, we would all be British colonists and calling him a traitor.

But why does disobeying orders in a “winning” scenario stir our admiration?

Because our culture preaches independence. We worship the John Wayne/Clint Eastwood cowboy, alone on the range, needing no one, the thinker/doer who doesn’t give a rat’s hinny what others think of them, the rebel who fights against the system.

Speaking generally, we in the West are prouder of our successes, more focused on personal growth, and less connected to the people around us than other cultures. (The older I get, however, the more important those connections are.)

Other cultures, especially in the Middle and Far East, don’t worship individualism the way we do. They value their entwinement and interconnections, the group over individualism.

One way is not superior to the other. Different cultures emphasize different values, but—

I wonder if Western “individualism” might be more of a thin cultural overlay. Group-think sways us more than we like to believe. In fact, we are daily witnessing group-think in the wolves’ clothing of individualism. 

Many define freedom as individualism, choosing our own path, having control of our own destiny. It’s a founding reason for America’s existence.

But history has revealed it is far more complex than that. One person’s freedom is another’s prison. Since the penning of the Amendments to the Constitution, debate over the scope and meaning of “freedom” has continued.

For all our focus on behaving independently, we forget we are hard-wired to care about what others think.

Why? Because we evolved in small groups where being ostracized meant death. A person exiled from the group could not survive in the harsh world of lions, tigers, and bears.

I have to wonder if the tsunami of group-think-in-the-name-of-individualism sweeping our world got switched on because social media presented the reality (or illusion) that a large group of people think the same way. Thus, making it “safe” to move toward or to voice views that would have been anathema a decade ago.

We need our heroes because they are, in essence, stories about who we want to be and who we want our children to be.

But we might need to look closely at how we define them.

T.K. Thorne writes about what moves her, following a flight path of curiosity, reflection, and imagination.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A.I. and I

Artificial Intelligence (while not yet self-aware) is here, now. Much ado is made of AI these days with the public emergence and access to a chat program called ChatGPT. I couldn’t resist “chatting” with it myself. 


  • Impressive
  • Scary
  • Exciting

As a writer, I was curious about its abilities, and I was also really tired, so I asked it to write a blog about AI (this is not it), which it did. It was fairly stilted and boring. Then I asked it to write the blog in the style of TKThorne.com. (Yes, that felt weird.) 

It rewrote the piece, and it was a bit more interesting, LOL.

Then I started looking at some of the collaborative art that has been done with AI, and I realized how exceptionally good some of it is. I began to get depressed about what the point of doing anything was when AI will soon do it so much better and faster. (I am not the first person, nor will I be the last, to think this.)

AI can already paint far better than I can. At some point, it will write stories better. It will sculpt better than any human artist, take better photographs, etc.

I had an existential meltdown. What is the point?  Why strive if AI will just do it better?

Deep into my melancholia, a thought gave voice.

“What is it?” I asked, irritated at being disturbed from my funk.

“Is that why you paint?” the voice said.


“Do you paint because you want to produce something better than Monet or Rembrandt?”

“Of course not. I just want to express myself.”

“And you write because you want to be better than Shakespeare?”

I snorted. “I see your point.”

“Do you? Well, in case you didn’t, you write because—?”

“Well, why do I write?”

An inner shrug from the voice, perhaps a little piqued that I turned the question back on it. “I don’t know, actually. You just must—?”

“Must what?” I demand.


“But what if I struggle and sweat while AI writes it all out in seconds?”

“What of it?”

“Nobody is going to want my books, that’s what of it!”

“So, [dripping with sarcasm] you are worried that you might not sell a million copies of anything with AI in the picture? Like you are selling a million copies now?”


The relentless voice [a little kinder]: “If another writer writes something awesome, does that lessen you?”

“No, I mean, well maybe I am a little jealous . . . for a couple of minutes.”

“And then?”

“I’m happy for them and grateful for having had the chance to read their work and learn from them. There is room for all creative voices.”

“But not for AI—?”

“I . . . guess it would have a right to a voice. I should learn from it?”

“Why not?”

“Yes…why not?”

Several very smart folks are worried about something called the “singularity” (a reference to the point at which a black hole forms and a cascade of effects takes place.) The singularity is a theoretical point after AI starts improving itself when it reaches superhuman intelligence it, and we become unable to control it.

What happens then?

No one is sure, but at that point it is called AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), and one of these scenarios is possible:

#1 AGI determines humans stand in the way of its goals and proceeds to wipe us out (ala Skynet of Terminator).

#2 AGI ignores humans and goes about whatever it wants to. (Until humans decide to try to pull the plug, in which case we have defined ourselves as “in the way” and back to #1.)

#3 AGI puts up with the trauma and panic from #1 or #2 and partners with humans to create a better world.

I have no idea. 

But I am very curious.

If AGI wipes out humanity, I won’t be worrying about competing with it. If it goes about whatever it wants to, ignoring us—well, who knows what it will “want” to do. It’s interests may or may not include art. And if AGI writes better than I do, I will keep creating, because it is part of my nature, and I’ll look forward to reading its blockbuster.

T.K. Thorne writes about what moves her, following the flight path of curiosity, reflection, and imagination.

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

When Will We Learn?

It felt like a blow—what the woman beside me was saying.

Questions flicked through my mind: Was this what happened? How could I not remember that? Why did I not remember what had triggered the entire thing?

Circa 1980:

My partner and I went into a well-known restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama to eat dinner. We were working the Evening Shift (3-11 pm). Though we were both young female officers in the Birmingham Police Department, the shift sergeant had put us together to work a beat that included two housing projects, a couple of fast-food joints, and one “nice” restaurant—the one we walked into.

The number of females and the number of black police officers were small. My partner was a member of a smaller demographic as a black female officer. I was a minority of “one” as a Jewish police officer, evidenced by my engraved name tag.

My religion was not something I spoke much about, unless someone asked a question. Thankfully, I never encountered direct prejudice from fellow officers about it. Dealing with being a rookie and a female rookie was enough. But that is another tale.

This story began when we entered the restaurant and sat at a booth. One of us took the portable radio from her gun belt and placed it on the table, as was customary for uniformed officers when eating. The man in a booth behind us twisted around and asked if we could turn it off. I replied we would turn it down and did so. When he repeated his request, I explained we had to keep the radio on in case we were called or there was an emergency we needed to respond to. Again, we adjusted the volume as low we could and still hear it.

This did not satisfy the “gentleman,” who stood and snarled at us. 

I have always remembered what he said as being something that included the “N” word; he got loud in the restaurant with his remarks; and we arrested him for Disorderly Conduct or (possibly) Public Drunk, not without some trouble. After being told he was under arrest, he became passive-aggressive, sitting down again in the tight booth and refusing to stand up. It took several officers to carry him to the police car.

Forty-plus years later at a retired female officers’ luncheon, I sat next to the woman who had been my partner that night, the first time I had seen her since those days. She told me the story as she remembered it. Her recollection, though similar in the basics to mine, contained a particular addition that stunned me. After twice requesting that we turn off our radios, the man stood and said, “What do you expect from a ‘N-word’ and a Jew?”

She threw the contents of her salad bowl at him.

I don’t know and didn’t ask if the lettuce connected, but I assume (and hope) so.

Apparently, he had spoken loud enough that others heard him and, according to my partner, something like a bar brawl ensued, with people taking sides, and I called for backup. Several went to jail. In court, the judge required him to make contributions to a charity of our choice (a unique sentence, but one that seems aligned with the principles of justice).

What disturbs me is not that I forgot many of the details—I have forgotten way more than I remember about the past—but that I forgot the “. . . and a Jew” part.

Did I just pass it off as a drunk idiot, and it faded from my mind? This seems odd, since I distinctly remember the first and only time someone called me a “kike” (a derogatory slur for a Jew) in middle school. It stunned me. It is one thing to know intellectually that some nebulous people hate you, another to hear it from the mouth of your peers.

So why did I forget?

I don’t know the answer. But I know that anti-Semitism has increased 500% over the past decade in the country I call home. And it is still on the rise.

And that makes me profoundly sad . . .  fearful . . . and angry at those who spew hatred and spread conspiracy lies that have roots hundreds of years old.

I have researched and written about the Civil Rights days of my city. I know that the movement for Black rights—to vote freely, to sit in the restaurant of their choice, to go to a school with White children, etc.—was decried as a “Black-Jewish Communist Conspiracy.”

Blacks and Jews have their own stories, their own histories, but we are particularly linked. 

In a deeper sense, the entire human race is linked. As Dr. King wrote from the Birmingham Jail in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

And from a song of my youth: “When we will ever learn? When we will ever . . . learn?”

T.K. Thorne writes about what moves her, following the flight path of curiosity, reflection, and imagination.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 26 Comments


Three is a magic number.

Can you hear your mother counting down the time left until unnamed but dreadful forces will compel you to do what you haven’t done yet? Your personality might have made you immediately hop to at “1.” Or (like me) you might have waited until the last possible moment before her lips formed that dreaded last number—

—Which was, and will remain for all time, the number three.  “1 . . . 2 . . . 3!”

Never has a mother anywhere given four seconds or five.

Similarly, everyone engaged in moving something heavy, hoists together, not on “1” or “2,” but “3.” Without argument or consultation, “heave” happens on “3.”

Goldilocks is confronted by the three bears with their three bowls of porridge at varying temperatures.  Only with the third does she find the perfect one.

The very bad wolf huffs and puffs and blows down two of the pigs’ homes before being foiled by the solid brick structure of #3.

The prince makes two failed tries up the ice mountain before rescuing the princess on #3.

Two of Cinderella’s sisters fail at getting their hefty feet into the glass slipper, but on attempt #3, Cindy slips it gracefully on.

Three is a triangle with three points and three sides. The formula for a right  triangle is the basis for the pyramids of Egypt.

For Pythagoras, famous ancient mathematician, the number three was the key to all the hidden mysteries of the universe.

Isaac Newton: The Three Laws of Motion

Isaac Asimov: The (original) Three Laws of Robotics

No artist would be happy with two elements in a grouping.

Three is:

  • the family—mother, father, and child;
  • the Three Wise Men who visited the infant Jesus (with their three gifts);
  • the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and
  • the three primary gods of Hindu mythology—Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the keeper of reality, and Shiva, the destroyer.

The multiples of 3 come up 3 times in each set of 10 (3,6,9, etc.) And 3 x 6 (another multiple of 3) is 18, a special number in Judaism.

All of life depends on three types of molecules—DNA, RNA, and proteins. The structure of DNA is made of three combinations of molecules.

All this “three” stuff began when I randomly noticed there are three beautiful shells in my home that are special treasures.

One, from a dear friend, lives in my newly created little pond, nestled among stones and an old water pump.

One was a spontaneous gift from a Bahamian woman I met years ago in her little island home, who told how she had almost drowned at the age of 84 and had to swim two miles in the strong currents to survive.

The third shell is the one that sat on the glass top of my grandmother’s porch coffee table for most of my early years of life. I never failed to lift it to my ear when I visited Granny, listening with wonder to the mystery of the whistling wormhole to the sea.

So, that led to the ruminations on the magic number three, which is imprinted into us, perhaps in our cells, and which every writer worth her salt knows is important in telling a satisfying story.

T.K. Thorne writes books that take her wherever her imagination flies. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

When Walls and Water Speak

One day, I looked at an area along the brick walkway in the front of my house and realized I needed to do something extreme. Despite having spread grass seeds more than one season, only weeds grew in the shadow of a magnificent weeping yaupon that arcs over the sidewalk and shades a crescent-shaped area.

I looked at it with despair.

(How many times have I looked at a blank page without a clue what words to paint on it?)

Suddenly, I saw a garden in that crescent-moon space. In a previous post, “Goddess in the Garden,” I wrote about its transformation into a moss-garden.

But nature had other ideas. When it rained, water caught in the yaupon’s draping branches, streaming down them in torrents that hit the ground and tunneled trenches into my creation.  

(How many times have the words I carefully crafted looked very different when I returned to them later, requiring I rewrite them or throw them out altogether?)

I tried to repair the craters, but each time it rained, the holes and mini-gullies returned. The space was not happy. I was not happy. But I had put in so much work!  

It was not fair.

I grumped. 

And repaired what the water had torn up.

Until it rained, yet again . . . as it is wont to do. And again.

Finally, I surrendered.

“What do you want to be?” I asked my garden.

(Once, I wrote about a blank wall speaking to me, eliciting mockery from a local radio host, but the wall wanted something, and I listened.)

“I want to be a pond,” my garden said. “I want the water.” 

“What about little rocks?” I mused. “Can’t I just put pebbles down where the water flows?”

The garden’s reply was a definite, “No.”

So, I began to dig. It hurt to dig up what I had painstakingly planted, what was beautiful just as it was, for something new.

(How many times do we have to start over in our lives, to force open scars, so new love and light can enter?)

I dug for days. Frogs came to visit.  One cutie in particular dove into my hole on three occasions, probably looking for a place to hibernate for the winter. I took him out each time and asked him to be patient.  

Finally, the hole was done…I thought. Then came the Plastic War.  Instructions on lining the pond sounded very simple.  


One of our horses, who should be named “Curious George,” made an appearance to help out, but alas, was not equipped. Hubby helped of course, particularly with the large rocks I coveted. It was a great feeling when they settled into place! 

The rocks came from the streams and creeks on our property. My husband became accustomed to having his truck appropriated for rock gathering expeditions.

My fear was that the black lining would show along the steep sides in the deep end. I had never done anything like this and had no real plan other than the foundation rock placements.

(How many times have I started a book with only a few words, just a sketchy idea of my characters, and no idea what happens next?)

I tempted the creative muse yet again with my crazy pond idea. Yet, she didn’t fail me. 

As I worked, I realized the edges of the stones placed on edge along the bottom provided a shelf for another layer and so on. Each stone had to be fitted for shape and stability. They let me know when it wasn’t the right place for them.

When I thought I was finally finished, the water said I was not honoring its flow, and I had to tear up and redo a section. 

It is the middle of winter. The plants I tried to save are hopefully sleeping. Some of the moss is thriving, even in the cold. The water is happy, flowing as it wanted to all along. The garden is something very different than it was and yet the same.

Isn’t that so of us, as well?

Every moment we are different, a memory of all the moments before spun into the illusion of a constant, just as the garden changes every moment—as water swirls, plants grow and rest, leaves fall and change form. Every morning when I visit, I and the pond are new and old. Sometimes I change it by way of a rock that needs adjustment, a tuft of moss to add, or a new idea of where a gift of crystal should nestle. 

Sometimes I just breath in the peace of it.

(The tales I’ve told don’t change once they are printed, yet each time a reader opens the book, they come alive, changed by the perspectives and person who recreates them from a few words. The stories are the same and yet different, a joining of imaginations—theirs and mine.)

I am looking forward to the spring when I hope my frog friend will return.

Update: Here is the pond in spring.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

A Husband’s Tale

Yes, I am Jewish and don’t “officially” celebrate Christmas, but well, I’ll let my husband tell it [except for my added comments, of course.]:

“She had me at Dickens. You need a bit of backstory to understand that.

During some of my wife’s travels earlier this year, she discovered a Dickens festival in some far away world called California. Being a wonderful wife, [this is my favorite part] and knowing my deep affinity for anything related to Charles Dickens, Mrs. Thorne started formulating a plan to get us to that festival as a way to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and my birthday. I choose not to release the number of anniversaries of the day I made my appearance on this planet, but suffice it to say this year was a milestone.

Saying I sorta like Dickens’ writing is like claiming Elmer Fudd sorta likes to hunt wabbits. I’ve read everything Dickens wrote (more than once) especially all the works regarding Christmas. Yes, there is more than A Christmas Carol, but I’ll spare you the list. I also love to watch the many, many, many versions of ACC that have been produced on film. I dare not tell you my favorite for fear of influencing you, but suffice it to say I watch them all, every year. My darling wife  [Why doesn’t he talk like this the rest of the year?] flees in distress when she hears the opening line, “Marley was dead, to begin with.” I can “hear” her eyes roll even though she may be in another room when she realizes what I’m watching.

The problem for her was to get me to the mystical land of California and keep it a surprise. I suppose after discarding the idea of using a baseball bat and burlap sack, she decided the best course of action was to just ‘fess up; she told me about the event and asked, “Would you be interested in going?” My heart skipped a beat and I tried to contain my joy. I replied, I think in an even voice, “Yes, but why don’t we go to the one here in Alabama?”

You see, I knew that just up the road in Tuscumbia, they’ve had a Dickens festival for the last eight years. It’s called “It’s a Dickens Christmas Y’all!” I discovered it in a North Alabama tourist booklet last year, but knew my wife would never want to go immerse herself in my Dickens fantasy, so I stuck the information in a drawer.

Here is where this little story reminds me of another favorite writer. Do you remember O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi? In it both husband and wife give up something important in order to buy Christmas gifts. The wife sold her long, lovely hair to buy a chain for her husband’s prized pocket watch; he sold the watch to purchase the jeweled hair combs she had long admired. The story is about sacrifice in the name of love.

In our case, my sacrifice was stifling the desire to check out Tuscumbia’s festival by tucking the brochure away and hers was a bit of her sanity in offering to go.

This story has a happy ending because we did go and both had the jolliest of times. It was the best gift I have ever received. Not only did we attend, we went in costume, which is not a requirement, but enhances the experience.

[These photos are from our return trip this year-2022. Left to right, with ghost Marley and Christmas Future, with Tiny Tim, and carriage ride.]


There were plenty of events that catered to kids. Even though I felt like a youngster, we didn’t go to those. Instead we went to a feast on Friday night and the light and water show in the park on Saturday night. Between those two, we packed in a snack of scones, a reading of ACC, a canine costume contest, poetry, music, a carriage ride, and wandering around the town enjoying the food, the shops, and most of all, the people.

The volunteer Tuscumbia Retail Development group organizes the festival with the help of the city council. If you’re interested in going next year, give the folks there a call at 256-383-9797. They are the most sincere, friendliest, fun-loving group of ladies it has been my privilege to meet. From the moment we met, they treated us like old friends, and now we are. [Indeed!]

We will not be waiting until the Christmas season to visit Tuscumbia again though. There’s plenty to do and see anytime including the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Belle Mont Mansion, Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve, Railroad Depot Museum, and Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller. As for the Dickens festival, we’ll be there next year. Hope you will join us.

Merry Christmas, y’all!”* [And Happy Hanukkah!  …You didn’t think I’d let him get the last word, did you?]

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com

*Originally printed in The Blount Countian (Dec 25, 2019) by Roger Thorne

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

We are Living History

We are living history.

In 1958, the janitor at Temple Beth-El in Birmingham, Alabama discovered a satchel in the building’s window well with a fuse running from it. Fifty-four sticks of dynamite were in that bag. The fuse had burned out within a minute of igniting it. No one knows what happened, perhaps an early morning rain or a fault in the fuse itself.

It was a pivotal moment in time. The crime was never solved, but the perpetrators were mostly likely a Nazi-inspired organization called the National States Rights Party headquartered in Birmingham. They hated Blacks and Catholics and Jews.

Today, the incidents of hate crimes against Jews and Jewish institutions are rising at frightening rates. Along with other activities, like the attempted armed insurrection of our government, it is chilling and feels like it could be 1958 or even the 1930s when powerful men in this country echoed Hitler’s poisonous sentiments toward Jews, men like Henry Ford, the car manufacture magnate; Charles Lindbergh, the country’s famous “golden boy;” and Father Coughlin, a catholic priest with thousands of listeners on his radio show.

Having a common enemy often binds people together. Thus, the citizens of Germany coalesced when Jews were targeted as “the enemy.” But that works both ways.

Sixty-four years after the attempted bombing of Beth-El, the synagogue is working on a civil rights exhibit about looking to the future by examining the past. I was asked to be a speaker at the launch event because I wrote this book—Behind the Magic Curtain: Secrets, Spies, and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham’s Civil Rights Days.

It took eight years to complete. While I was writing it, I thought—Will anyone be interested in this or will it just be another tome for the historians’ bookshelves, if that? But it had become a labor of love, so I labored on.

I woke from the “coma” of writing to find my book relevant. That was not necessarily a good thing but was why I was speaking at Beth-El’s event.

For the most part, the White community has welcomed the book’s revelations about what  happened behind the scenes (or behind the curtain) in a city that changed the world—stories of secret missions carried out by the police and sheriff’s departments, as well as little-known deeds of civil rights’ allies in the city branded with images of “dogs and firehoses” used against children, an image seared into the nation’s consciousness.

I tried to honor the Movement as well and weave my stories into the context of the day and the efforts of those seeking long overdue equal rights and justice. But I’ve had little feedback from the Black community. After I spoke at Beth-El, however, a diminutive, elderly Black woman approached me and asked me to sign her copy of Behind the Magic Curtain, which she had brought to the event.

I did, of course, and she told me she had been a young child during the civil rights era in Birmingham and remembered how involved her parents had been in the boycotts of 1962 and ’63. She also told me she had enjoyed the book and how much it meant to read confirmation of things whispered in her home and community when she was young, things she had never known were true or not. It completed a circle for her.

It was a small interaction, lasting only a few moments in the chaos after the event, but it meant a lot to me, and I was delighted to see her again at another civil rights event at Beth-El.

TK and Paula Stanton at Temple Beth-El

She had probably given little thought as a child that she was living a pivotal moment in history. Nor did those who went to pray at Temple Beth-El one morning, or those who listened to Father Coughlin, Henry Ford, and Charles Lindbergh spew supremist views that eventually embraced genocide.

We are living in a pivotal moment. It will be written about (and already has) and one day we will be the ones who say, “I was there.” What are we going to tell future generations about what we did . . . or what we didn’t do?

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Art of Defense

In addition to being a writer, I am a few other things, at least one of which sometimes surprises people.

When I was a rookie at the Birmingham Police Academy (many years ago) my Physical Training instructor was a short, 71 year-old man. Despite his age and stature, Mr. Alex Marshall was more than a match for any police officer on the force, often to their chagrin. He took a liking to me and suggested that I study Aikido outside of the police academy to counter the disadvantage of my gender and stature (or lack thereof).

I loved the training . . . for reasons I never thought to articulate and even married my Aikido instructor (husband #2)! But when that divorce happened, I stepped away from the martial arts for a long time. The year after I retired, I found a new dojo (school) that was founded by Mr. Marshall and started learning a system that was familiar (as Mr. Marshall incorporated a great deal of Aikido in addition to Judo and Jujutsu).

 Mr. Alex Marshal with two of my current Akayama Ryu teachers—Mark Barlow and Richard Worthington

Why did I go back after thirty years? Why do I still train in my late sixties? Of course, as a writer it is helpful to pull on what I know about fighting to make action scenes realistic. And its really fun to let a character do techniques that I will probably never have an opportunity to do. But there are deeper things that draw me to the mat for two hours twice a week.

Focus: When I attend class, the world and whatever thoughts or worries I might have fade away. There is only room in my head for what I am doing. This is a form of meditation, even though it is active, resulting in a refresh and reset. I always have more energy when I leave class than when I entered.

Learning: Like all art, learning is ongoing. Learning evokes joy and wonder. Learning is play. It is what we do as children as naturally as breathing.

Teaching: Helping others achieve gives me deep satisfaction.

Self-confidence: Rose—the police-witch in my urban fantasy trilogy (HOUSE OF ROSE, HOUSE OF STONE, and HOUSE OF IRON) also studies martial arts. She observes: “It’s not about being a badass or thinking I can handle every situation that might arise, but the training has somehow restored some of the confidence I took for granted before . . . . I think it’s rewiring my brain to overwrite the role of victim.”

Studying martial arts instills a certain kind of confidence—a trust in the body and subconscious that allows one to enter a state where the conscious mind stills, and training takes over. In the movie, The Last Samurai, Tom Cruise played an American who studies Japanese sword fighting. He has studied hard but keeps losing to his trainer until instructed to have “no mind.” When he gives up trying to figure out what to do to counter the sword moves and just allows his body and instincts to react, he is able to match his teacher. (Of course, in a movie where the director only has at best a couple of hours, this happens quickly; in reality it takes a “bit” more time. 🙂

The mind (consciousness) is not separate from the body. It is an organ whose importance rises or falls depending on what is required. There are times when it is important to engage mind, and there are times when it is best to let go of mind, as we do for critical functions like breathing and heart rate and the thousands of other tasks done without our conscious oversight.

A musician strives for a place where the notes are so ingrained, the fingers do without direction and the player is free to devote energy to the emotional interpretation of the music.

For a visual artist, the paint can seem to act on its own to express the painter’s deep intent.

When I am writing in the “flow,” the words come from a deeper place than conscious mind. Once they are written, I engage critical thinking to edit, but even then, a better phrase often emerges from the deep mind or subconscious. I don’t know “where” it comes from, any more than I know how my body regulates my heartbeat. A skilled writer knows when to let the conscious mind still and when to engage it.

Like a ballet dancer’s perfectly executed pirouette, reacting with “no mind” to engage and redirect the energy of an attacker can create a moment of beauty and harmony that reflects something universal and profound.

I will be on the mat, I think, until I can no longer stand . . . and then, well, there are chair techniques!

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Goddess in the Garden

The last few weeks (during the heat spell, of course), I’ve spent on my knees with copious streams of perspiration running down my face (or as the Southern phrase goes, “sweating like a stuck pig”).

A few years ago, I was working full time and squeezing every minute of free time available into writing. The yard rarely got attention. Over the years, I planted a few things next to the house and basically let ground covers fill in.

Then I retired. My goal and dream was to write. But Covid hit. I was afraid of the groceries. I didn’t know who of my loved ones would die, how many would fall, or if I would die.  I couldn’t write.

At some point, I looked out the back window and realized that the small piece of wisteria root I had thrown into the woods thirty years prior had not only taken over the woods but had taken down large trees and eaten half of the backyard! Apparently, I had not ventured there for thirty years.

Unable to write and stressed out, I needed a purpose and distraction, so I learned what a mattock was and used hard labor to feel like I had a purpose. I dug up the long, stubborn roots spread all over the yard. It was the beginning of the months long Wisteria Wars . . .  which is still ongoing, but is now skirmishes fought with spray. Like Kali, the Hindu goddess of Destruction, I hacked and chopped, hoping to be able to sleep at night.

 Kali, Hindu goddess of Death

One day, I noticed the green moss on the brick walkway in the front yard was full of little weeds and grass. Something else I never had time to notice. Moss is magic. When he was little, I took my stepson into the woods and explained that elves lived in the rotting hollow tree trunks and that the emerald splotches of moss in the woods were actually “elf carpet,” touching off his vivid imagination, which he still expresses in his art. When he eventually had children, he passed on the wonder of elf carpet.

Forgoing the fearsome Kali for Venus, (who was a goddess of the garden and cultivated fields before the Roman assignation as the Queen of Love), I spent several hours absorbed in the work/craft of pulling up tiny weeds from carpet without tearing it. A different kind of gardening than hacking wisteria roots, it offered a calmer sense of purpose and absorption.


A huge weeping yaupon arches over that walkway. (Although mine is higher than the house roof and trimmed to have a “tree” bark, a yaupon is technically a bush with small leaves containing caffeine that the Creek Indians used to make “Black Drink,” for social bonding rituals. Translate:  having coffee with friends.) I love the “tree” (as do the birds—especially the waxwings—that descend on it on their way to wherever they are going and devour the berries it produces). But the shadow area it creates over the front yard has always been a scraggly place of weeds and dirt where grass refuses to grow.

I had the area scooped out in a waxing moon shape and re-dirted. (Writers can make up words, y’all; it’s in the writing rule book. You can look it up….) Then spent three days picking out embedded rocks. I considered many kinds of shade-loving plants, but discovered I really wanted a place for the elves. So, I went moss-fern-rock hunting in the nearby woods and raided the ditch next to our driveway that becomes a stream when it rains, careful to only take a part of the mound to allow it to grow back (a nod to First People wisdom).

My sister sent me a photo of a meditating frog statuette she found. (She knew frogs make me smile), and I had to have it. The elves would love it!  The meditating frog has a home now, as does a huge bell and a dragon my husband gave me and other cherished things, including a piece of driftwood from the Gulf beach and three black stones from my husband’s beloved Big South Fork of the Cumberland River in Tennessee.

It’s just a beginning. It will take time and patience and lots of sweat, I know, but my garden gifts me with daily joy, and a big smile every time I pass my frog, even though he doesn’t smile back . . . being absorbed in seeking enlightenment.

The garden reminds that creation requires a balance of destruction and growth.

Destruction is only a changing of forms. The unwanted plants transform into soil, feeding a new generation of life.

The garden is a place of humility. When new life stirs the soil, it also stirs the realization that you are only the tender, that creation comes from the Universe itself and even as you affect it, it affects you.

The act and process of gardening is a metaphor for many things, as is writing. Words blossom. Some need pruning and some need to be pulled out altogether to make room for others that work better. But even that act of creation comes from somewhere that is more than the sum of parts, as any writer will acknowledge.

And often, if you put sweat (metaphorically or real) into it, both words and weeds can create something unique, something beautiful, and maybe even inspiring.

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

What Love Really Means

The answer to what love is has defied the best efforts of philosophers and poets, yet we know it when we see it, as these keen observations from children prove. 

“Karl, age 5: ‘Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.’ 

Billy, who is 4, had to think about it, but decided, ‘When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.’

And Rebecca observed, ‘When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So, my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.’”

And Teresa (TK) age. . . never mind . . . said, ‘Daddy is love–you can crawl onto his lap, and he will read the comics in the newspaper for you; you can crawl on his shoulders, and he will flip you over and over again! You can know you will always have a place to go if you need it; he will always be there.’

Thank you, Papa for everything and always. I love you . . . and that’s the most important thing.

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  

No photo description available.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments