It is with deep and heartfelt gratitude that I acknowledge the dedication, sacrifice and noble virtue of my role model and mentor… Thomas Jefferson, who provided life long guidance and support to all future generations, all future Americans, following his death on July 4, 1826. Jefferson’s advice enables us the opportunity to uncover a path we can use to carry the baton, and the torch, tin doing our part to maintain the American experiment in democracy as well as the American Dream.
Jefferson was a strong advocate of diversity, as evidenced by his obsession with botany, gardens and trees. He shows this through the expansive variety revealed in his gardens at Monticello, as well as his drawings for the gardens at his Academical Village and its architecture. He believed, like others in the Enlightenment era, that every plant and animal, no matter how big or small, is valuable and equal.
Jefferson also believed in immigration, and in the human rights of every human being of every color, but try as he might, he was not able to end slavery in his lifetime. As a political leader and writer, he was an advocate for emancipating the slaves, as well as the force behind banning the importation of slaves into Virginia (1778), one of the first such bans in the world. In 1779, Jefferson advocated gradual emancipation so that slaves would be properly prepared for life on their own (again, Jefferson was a scientist, a botanist, who used the rules of nature, “natural law,” to guide much of his decision making; plants grow from seed to mature plant over a period of time, step by step, with much sunshine and nurturing; it never happens all at once, overnight, except for mushrooms I guess, but people parallel trees rather than fungi). Jefferson went on to propose legislation that banned slavery in the new American territories (1784). As president, Jefferson criminalized the international slave trade (1807). After his long, hard fight across several decades, Jefferson wrote that freeing the slaves would be handled by a future generation, and even that took an extremely bloody war.
In fact, abolishing slavery proved to be way beyond the effort of one person, or a thousand people, even many, many millions. Jefferson was a man before his time, and recognized this difficult uphill battle back at the beginning when he was in the House of Burgess. He apparently wasn’t able to free more slaves at his death through his will because he died in debt ($2 million in today’s dollars) and slaves were considered property back then. Sadly, the value of Jefferson’s property was below the amount of his debts.
Jefferson methodically inked thousands and thousands of papers. The Library of Congress estimates the number at 26,690. These papers contain Jefferson’s deepest thoughts, insights, inspirations, observations and learnings. Most of the Jefferson papers were collected and bound into massive books preserved at the Library of Congress. Monticello also has a vast collection of Jefferson’s writings, although not as many as Library of Congress.
The most exciting part about Thomas Jefferson, as prolific a writer as he was, is that in addition to his massive archives of written words, he also graced the world with symbolic wisdom. By sharing some of his sage insights through meaningful geometric figures, as well as nature symbolism, the same way that his cronies did, many of whom were Freemasons and also Founding Fathers, we can learn a lot if we’re ultra observant in the historic zones where our founders hung out. It seems that they hid these clues in plain sight in the hopes we’d discover them and interpret them properly. This is an art.
I acknowledge, and am grateful for the fact, that Thomas Jefferson was a huge reader, and donated 6,487 of his personal books to the the Library of Congress when the British burned the Capitol and the Library of Congress in 1814 during the war of 1812. Jefferson believed that all Americans could be lifelong learners, and able to acquire the necessary knowledge to be good citizens, if we read books and farmed. Jefferson had the great vision that we would be able to teach ourselves most skills that we wished to possess by reading, observing and asking questions. The Library of Congress serves as a fantastic reference hub to “study the past.” Books are a significant part of the steps to knowledge, understanding and advancement.
I acknowledge that Thomas Jefferson studied ancient philosophers, one of which appears to have been Pythagoras. Pythagoras was an ancient Greek thinker, the Father of Music, Sacred Geometry & Mathematics. Pythagoras is another mentor of mine, founding what’s believed to be the first secret society. Pythagoras discovered the math in musical harmonies, the math between intervals, and found that these “quantum harmonies” were medicinal. He also believed that quantum harmonies enabled humans to connect with the cosmos. Any of us who have used music to survive tremendous ordeals can verify that this indeed must be true, our own life stories become the anecdotes that prove its validity. Sacred Geometry is also known as natural geometry, perfect math depicted in the flowers of life.
I acknowledge my deep respect for my mentor Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese general. Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War has been broken down to quotes of practical wisdom, which I’ve learned to apply to all the tough personal conflicts in my life, and they’ve never failed. How Sun Tzu figured out these best practices 2,500 years ago, while at war with arch enemies, that still hold true today, verifies the power and stability of universal truth. I’m eternally grateful to have been able to rely on Sun Tzu’s tactics that work so consistently. These tactics are particularly valuable during extreme life-threatening conflicts. It’s life-saving to be able to bank on someone’s advice. There are many theoretical notions that I used to believe in, and rely upon, but had to let go of when they nearly killed me. In relying on both types of input to solve problems, one becomes that much more aware of, and grateful for, those suggestions that actually work versus those that theoretically should work.
I acknowledge, and am extremely thankful for, my ancient mentor Aesop, who created such wonderful fables to illustrate the secrets of life. It seems that Aesop was a visual thinker, portraying his valuable advice through familiar animals that we can vividly identify with. We store memories as images, rather than words. Thus it’s much easier to retain and remember visual recommendations that we can apply to our daily lives, such as “slow and steady wins the race.” Aesop was quite brilliant to talk in pictures. He’s such a humble, down to earth mentor.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that I’m a gun violence survivor. Two-time gun violence survivor, actually. With so much gun violence in America now, and so many lives lost, I’m willing to open up about this. Back during my first brush with death from gun violence — approximately 20 bullets zipping by my head and body missing me by the smallest possible fragment — I was five months pregnant. How I walked away without a scratch is beyond me. Exactly two years later, it was one bullet whipping by before my eyes, missing me by a hair.
The challenge back then was that I wasn’t allowed to talk about it, which resulted in me compartmentalizing, and becoming a writer. But I now see so much pain in other survivors, that I want to express with a deep emotional connection, that I feel your pain. I understand how impossible it seems to process this traumatic heartache. I am passionate about talking with groups who are coping with gun violence survivorship. What pulled me through was music, and the discovery of a new concept about life… living on borrowed time. I consider borrowed time a life-altering phenomenon. When I realized I was living on borrowed time, I became much more fearless. Much more courageous and daring to say and do what I know is right without much concern about who will be annoyed by what I say or write. (Currently, I have a lot of urgent things to say about climate action and our climate crisis.) Living on borrowed time has also made me much bolder, especially when pursing dreams and goals and taking risks. I believe in silver linings, and I consider the borrowed time phenomenon a very valuable silver living.
After learning so much about Pythagoras recently, but surviving so many life-threatening traumatic events through music across the past 25 years, I was finally able to connect the dots about why music saved me. There’s math and science behind it, which confirms everything Pythagoras taught 2,500 years ago. With music in mind, I’d like to acknowledge another wonderful mentor who I’ve never met, but who’s had a dramatic positive influence on my life. I’m sure we all have favorite musicians whose songs have hit the right note at the right time, songs that become the soundtracks for our lives. But this musician is all of that, and more. Probably because he’s a singer songwriter and even a producer. And his career has spanned five decades. In fact, he’s still selling out monthly shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Billy Joel surely has the “quantum harmony” thing going on in his songs, whether you agree with the lyrics or not, although the vast majority of lyrics do seem to connect us to the cosmos — or, at least connect me to the cosmos — which is probably why he can still sell out MSG 26 years after his last album was released.
I used to live a mile from where Billy Joel filmed his River of Dreams music video. I moved to town less than a year after the second traumatic gun violence miss, and I was still in the process of trying to overcome the trauma, yet simultaneously filled with so many hopeful dreams. My one year old son and I had a new life. I was applying my new belief in borrowed time to my decision making, which meant I was feeling bold in pursuit of my dreams when I came to learn about the River of Dreams barn. I quickly became a super fan of Billy Joel’s music, as well as his life story, and his exceptional song writing skills (the many Billy Joel harmonies, and the sheer variety of his melodies, sounds and instruments).
I’m not sure how to calculate the math between the intervals in Billy Joel’s music. I can’t read music. But it seems that a mathematician who can, should study Billy Joel’s compositions, and find out if they are indeed quantum harmonies. They sure feel like it. For example, I’m now a runner. I never could run very far, just two miles a day. But when I began running to Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, over and over the same song, I was able to easily reach four miles. It was baffling, so I researched and learned that music can trigger the release of our body chemicals and for some reason Scenes From an Italian Restaurant releases adrenaline in me… Don’t Ask Me Why (LOL). If this example isn’t one that makes you curious about the health benefits of music and quantum harmonies, just look at Billy Joel himself rocking it out on stage at MSG at age 70. If he’s this young and strong after 50 plus years of hard living and performing, there’s definitely something in his music. Perhaps there’s a connection between music and our body’s circadian rhythm as well as the body chemicals released.
Interestingly, Billy Joel also embodies everything Jefferson promoted about being a lifelong learner, teaching ourselves new skills and acquiring valuable knowledge through reading and asking questions. Jefferson was a self-taught architect, inventor, botanist, etc. Billy Joel was a high school drop out, yet a book enthusiast, who sounds quite brilliant when he’s interviewed, or speaks during Q&A master classes at colleges and universities, as well as any other public speaking engagement. His 1987 interview while touring in Russia was exceptional, extremely detailed knowledge about Russia, it’s leaders and citizens. This makes sense if someone’s an incessant reader, I guess. Thomas Jefferson must be smiling.
I’d also like to acknowledge that I’m a cancer survivor. I’m actually a super survivor, going on 14 years now. At the conclusion of my cancer treatment — multiple surgeries, chemo and radiation — my fantastic UNC Chapel Hill Lineberger Cancer Center doctors explained that my Stage 3 invasive cancer was 67% likely to return within 2-4 years. Back then, recurrences were typically Stage 4 metastasized and quickly spread everywhere, and then death. In receiving this type of prognosis, when I was so young and otherwise healthy, it eventually dawned on me how lethal it can be to compartmentalize traumatic events, even though music and writing were my emotional life-preserver. I personally believe that trauma, stress and no sleep are what caused the cancer. Stress triggers large amounts of cortisol and estrogen that pump through a female’s body, around the clock in my case. Very toxic, especially over a sustained period of time.
There are now so many cancer patients and cancer survivors. I link arms in solidarity with all who are suffering and struggling through this extremely challenging journey. I’m grateful to have discovered another silver lining following this traumatic event. The importance of health and wellness and deep sleep, and the excellent daily habits we can create to support all three of these in our lives. And yes, music is an essential ingredient for healthy living.
I’m extremely thankful for my five months and 24 days living in London. Although it was a time of great personal difficulty, I was able to absorb so much history and also maximize the amount of time spent in nature by living so close to London’s most wonderful parks and gardens. It was very therapeutic. I barely noticed I was managing a challenging ordeal. But I did become hyper aware for the first time about the health benefits of beautiful flowers, gardens and trees. Botany became my passion.
How can I adequately express my incalculable appreciation for the time I’ve spent on Thomas Jefferson’s lawn at his Academical Village at the University of Virginia. More than five years of walking every inch of these cherished grounds, examining every nook and cranny. Jefferson’s Academical Village appears to be his autobiography. The ten different pavilions along with ten different gardens, underscore his belief in diversity. Jefferson was very aware that people can twist words and attribute new meaning to them. Perhaps this is why Jefferson often used symbols to outline beliefs. Nowhere is that more clear than at his Academical Village. The ten pavilions and ten gardens physically represent the importance of variety, just like the diversity found in a forest or in a garden. Thomas Jefferson was a genius, in my estimation. A man who lived before his time, and could visualize what the future would need. He sacrificed extensive time and money to provide for future generations what he felt would get us through our moments of crisis so that our democracy would prevail.
I am eternally grateful for the thousands of students I led on tours through the Academical Village. Their wonder, excitement and curiosity about secret societies, and all of our group speculation about UVA’s secret societies, were a significant inspiration while writing the Secret Tortoise series.
Sadly, I have to acknowledge that I inadvertently stumbled upon, and through, the horrific August 12, 2017, Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Living in Charlottesville at the time, I was tangled up in a mini documentary film that I was working on. So I was in a bubble, blocking all news, especially local. I had plans to be downtown that day to view a film at noon. I was shocked when I arrived, and managed to film bits of the rally. What I witnessed, left a permanent imprint on me emotionally and psychologically. I’m a fierce advocate against white nationalism.
I lovingly acknowledge the significance and inspiration of Monticello Saunders Trail in maintaining my investigative curiosity while writing the first three books of the Secret Tortoise series. This magnificent natural and manmade wonder, a two mile groomed trail up Carter Mountain leading to Monticello, again proves the power nature has in inspiring humans. Jefferson noted this repeatedly. He believed that gardens inspire the mind, and that natural beauty makes acquiring knowledge easy. Monticello Trail is all that.
I acknowledge my passion and appreciation for the US Botanic Garden in Washington DC and am very thankful for how hard Thomas Jefferson and George Washington fought to make sure there would be a botanic garden close to the Capitol. Their vision was for all Americans to walk through the garden and be very observant, in search of the secrets that nature shares with humankind to solve problems and overcome obstacles.
I eagerly acknowledge my wanderlust while driving through the Lower Hudson Valley, including Bear Mountain, and stopping at the historic towns along the narrow, mountainous 9W on the western bank and 9 on the eastern. It has been a writer’s dream come true, my definition of bliss (if done in July). Truly one of the most sensational landscapes in the world. My uncle taught at West Point when I was in high school. We visited often, and I was graced with the pleasure of seeing many USMA football games. So I became a big fan of this bucolic landscape way back when. (I recently learned that Billy Joel wrote New York State of Mind along some of the same roads. He lived in Highland Falls, NY just south of West Point, and commuted to NYC.)
I gratefully acknowledge the exceptional wealth of valuable climate change information from climate expert Dr. Joseph Romm in his clear, concise and organized book Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know. He spells out very simply what the next steps are for lowering our individual carbon footprint. We can begin cutting carbon immediately. We each have the power. We don’t need to wait for a politician to direct us.
And lastly, I acknowledge, and am extremely appreciative of, the many books that have broadened my understanding and scope on several salient subject matters. The following are personal favorites and quite significant, and have created a broad wealth of knowledge to draw from in writing the Secret Tortoise series.
- Wulf, Andrea. Founding Gardners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, New York: Knopf Doubleday, 2012.
- Wulf, Andrea. The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire, and the Birth of an Obsession, New York: Vintage Books, 2008.
- Kilmeade, Brian. George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved America, New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2018.
- Jefferson, Thomas. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Volumes 1 – 23, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1955.
- Tzu, Sun. The Art of War, New York: Canterbury Classics, 2014.
- Romm, Joseph. Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know, New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.
Secret Tortoise series
- The Secret Tortoise of Sleepy Hollow SAGA 1 Amazon
- The Secret Oak Amazon
- The Urgent Secret Cipher Amazon
- The Covert Influencer Amazon
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