Northwest Washington State, 1985 For years, Harris Hayes has taught his daughter, Aggie, the ways of the northern woods. So when her mother’s depression worsens, Harris shows the girl how to find and sketch the nests of wild birds as an antidote to sadness. Aggie is in a tree far overhead when her unpredictable mother spots her and forbids her to climb. Angry, the ten-year-old accidentally lights a tragic fire, then flees downriver. She lands her boat near untamed forest, where she hides among the trees and creatures she considers her only friends—determined to remain undiscovered. A search party gathers by Aggie’s empty boat hours after Celia, fresh off the plane from Houston, arrives at her grandmother’s nearby farm. Hurting from her parents’ breakup, she also plans to run. But when she joins the hunt for Aggie, she meets two irresistible young men who compel her to stay. One is autistic; the other, dangerous. Perfect for fans of The Scent Keeper, Where The Crawdads Sing, and The Great Alone, Sugar Birds immerses readers in a layered, evocative coming-of-age story set in the breathtaking natural world where characters encounter the mending power of forgiveness—for themselves and for those who have failed them. Drop in with us for a conversation about transcending shame, guilt and loss.
A short bio from Cheryl Grey-Bostrom: I live on a bench of land we call Goose Ridge, on a farm a friend dubbed Three Setters. It’s rolling ground that overlooks Washington’s snow-capped Cascade Range, forests, stream-fed ponds and acres of pasture. You’ll often find me gardening out back. Our Gordon setters, scores of wild animals, and the very best of friends keep us company. Seasons unfurl in a grand show. Creation speaks daily, and I try to capture its language in my photography. A son and daughter return home, when they can, with their spouses and our grands. Or we go to them for visits as necessary as breathing. My writing and photos have traveled, too. My columns have regularly landed in publications ranging from WomenOfFaith.com and the Upper Room Disciplines, to the American Scientific Affiliation’s God and Nature Magazine and various newspapers and journals. I’m also a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and have authored three books: The View from Goose Ridge (Thomas Nelson / HarperCollins Christian, 2001); Children At Promise: 9 Principles to Help Kids Thrive in an At Risk World (Jossey-Bass / Wiley, 2003) with Dr. Tim Stuart; and Sugar Birds: A Novel (She Writes Press, 2021).Leave a comment for radio show guests
What’s the story behind the story? We’ll find out on Dropping In. Our guests are today’s original thinkers. Conversations that spark new ways of seeing what’s going on. We bring it all to the table. Diverse perspectives, controversy, loving and singular voices. Magically stories reveal the common threads that link us. Experience the joys, the fist pumps, the detours and the hard-won truths of those who blaze the trail so that we might do the same and now here’s your host Diane Dewey.
Diane: Welcome to Dropping In everyone. It’s December folks. Time to figure out what we haven’t forgiven ourselves for or somebody else for this year when you’re a ten-year-old girl named Aggie it’s hard to put down the burden when the family house burns and she’d set a small campfire coincidentally. Aggie goes into hiding communing with nature in the trees above while the bloodhounds search for her below. This scene was created by our author guest Cheryl Grey Bostrom in her novel Sugar Birds published by She Writes Press. We’ll talk now with Cheryl as she does what she does watching nature seeing life. Welcome Cheryl.
Cheryl: Thank you Diane. Good to talk with you today.
Diane: Good morning. It’s lovely to have you. Congratulations on the American Fiction Awards for this beautiful book literary fiction, general fiction and cross genre fiction. Well done.
Cheryl: Thank you. I was excited about that.
Diane: I’m sure. As well you should be. When you envisioned Sugar Birds did you write it with anyone specifically in mind? Now that it’s out and so well received can you tell us who it turned out to be for?
Cheryl: Well initially I knew that it would be for my granddaughter. That was my goal at the outset but it didn’t really start like that. It started as a prompt in a writing class that I took because I was switching from long form and short form non-fiction to fiction. I was in a cohort of fiction writers and I wrote a sketch about a girl and a fire. I thought that was the end of it and then I started hearing from other writers in the class and from the instructor and people writing me privately saying hey, we really want to know where this goes. Take it see what you can do.
At that point I was just still getting my feet wet in writing fiction. It was a great joy to hear that it was received like that but as I started writing the story I realized that there were elements of my own experience that were coming in and of course my great love for the natural world I wanted to offer to a granddaughter who was at that time just one. That would be around with her and would offer her elements of my life and things that I thought would be valuable for her as she moved forward.
Diane: You’ve written two other books, non-fiction books. I wonder if you feel as though at this point in your life you have more to say, more to offer.
Cheryl: I do. I’m in my 60s and I think that writing fiction is a beautiful way to synthesize truths that I’ve learned throughout my life. When you can insert memories and yet fictionalize them you have just a lot more opportunity to make sense of the things that have happened in life. Then for those who are coming behind you to engage the conversation, in this case, in this book about things like guilt and about shame and about suffering and about resilience through all that. I have an awful lot of joy and have experienced a lot of trauma. For me I guess I wanted to set that out there as possibilities for other people and particularly in this time where so many have suffered so deeply.
Diane: Well it couldn’t be a better place to help with healing for sure. I’m going to give a short bio. You live on a venture land called Goose Ridge on a farm that a friend dubbed three setters. Its rolling ground that overlooks Washington State snowcapped Cascade Range, forest fed streams, ponds and acres of pasture. You keep company with Gordon setters, wild animals. The seasons unfurl, I’m reading now from a bio that you wrote. Creation speaks to you daily and you try to capture it also in your photography. I can’t help but notice too your writing and photos you say have traveled too. Your columns have regularly landed on publication ranging from womenoffaith.com and upper room disciplines to American Scientific Affiliations, God in Nature magazine and various newspapers and journals.
I also noted you have a strong writer’s guild. Redbuds Writers Guild and this now makes three books. The first was the View from Goose Ridge, Harper Collins 2001. Children At Promise: 9 Principles to Help Kids Thrive in an At Risk World, 2003 with Dr. Tim Stewart and now Sugar Birds, a novel from She Writes Press in 2021. I think that I felt there was such a richness in the experience of Aggie, that ten-year-old girl who accidentally or at least as far as she’s concerned has caused the fire that ruined her family home. I wondered if there was a significance to the main character being 10 years old kind of pre-adolescent, pre-ripening, a time when you might absorb a lot of shame or blame. Did you purposefully create a character in that age point in her life as a young girl?
Cheryl: I did. 10 years old was really significant for Aggie because she’s old enough to have the skill sets that her dad had taught her and that he’d schooled her in survival and in tracking. Her dad of course is an arborist and a former Alaska Forest Service guy. She’s pretty skilled and she’s pretty capable and yet cognitively and emotionally she’s not as developed as she will be in the surge of growth in the coming years for her. She had to be ten to draw the assumptions she did. She accidentally lights this fire. She watches her parents carried out of her burning home. She flees to the forest that is so familiar to her and where she really feels that she has her only friends because her mother’s mental illness has isolated her and isolated the family.
When she heads out there she believes that she is going to be hunted, that they’re going to capture her. They’re going to put her in juvie or jail or whatever from her limited knowledge hearing on the school bus about that. She can’t grasp the notion as this ten-year-old girl that these throngs of people who are hunting for her actually want to bring her home and that they love her, that she is beloved. Her worldview turns upside down. Her self-concept becomes one of deep shame and grief and guilt. She believes that she’s being hunted and that nobody could possibly love her from the milkman that she spies on. She’s delivering milk, to neighbors, to of course her brother who is an autistic savant and works at a nearby dairy. So she hides. She’s very skilled at hiding from everybody.
Diane: Well she deems herself unworthy and unlovable. She finds a sanctuary in nature. In the intro of you it’s clear that you have a spiritual component. There’s a spiritual component to the book. I wonder if you really identify nature as being a sort of a sense of a kind of a new religion. A religion that’s perhaps more accessible. Anyone can go out in nature and have these transcendent feelings of reverberation of something greater than us. There’s no hierarchy to it. There’s no church but there is a sense of absolution, a sense of sin or shame being able to dissolve as you grow healthier again in nature. Do you think that nature stands in in some way or becomes a new form of spirituality?
Cheryl: I think for many and for a lot of folks who are picking up Sugar Birds nature is a god to them. It’s not for me. For me nature and as a Christ follower nature is an illustration of the character of God that’s full of metaphor. When I was a child and really felt like my survival was up to me in a way because I’m the eldest of five. We like Aggie in this story had a mother with some mental illness issues. We were heartbroken children and yet I grew up on the Olympic peninsula where um you know our town was sandwiched between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We could practically step out our door and be in wild country, be in these deep, beautiful forests or along these creeks and streams.
My grandparents both were very well, very knowledgeable about the natural world and were always talking about the birds and teaching us trees and teaching us these beautiful aspects of nature but it wasn’t until I realized that these were all speaking to me not as entities into themselves, nature not as a god into itself but as created illustrations of God’s love for me and of my belovedness. In a place where I had, I didn’t have, I had an absent father and had a mother that was not able to convey that to me. I finally was able to experience belovedness of God through the natural world. For a lot of people the natural world does become their church but I guess I would say it’s the artwork, it’s the illustration of God. He definitely reaches for me and speaks to me most clearly through his word and through nature.
Diane: Did you know how to track and do all this stuff? I mean there was so much naturalist information in the book about what to eat surviving in nature. I mean I thought you must be very knowledgeable perhaps for your grandparents in the ways of nature. Were you and your siblings also did you have this experience, this firsthand experience?
Cheryl: Yes, we did. It was a lot of fun to be able to incorporate those into the book. I had one sister in particular with whom we climbed those trees. If you know Douglas Fir Trees, they are exquisitely formed for climbing high. These trees can end up 200 feet tall if you get some of the big old ones. Although they’ve usually self-pruned from the bottom you get the 100-foot trees. They have these marvelous branches that can just call you up into them. It was easy for Aggie to hide in those.
My sister and I probably in the recklessness of grief or the recklessness of sorrow and just looking for the exhilaration too we climbed to dangerous heights. I mean I can at least think of a few occasions where we climbed as high as Aggie did. The difference between what we did and in the story is that in the story Aggie as she was learning to climb had her father under her. This wanders from your question a little bit but I was struck as and I didn’t even realize it when I was writing it but when you’re loved, when you have your father under you and in my case father God. For Aggie it was her father. For Celia, the co-protagonist it was her father. You behave differently than when you’re alone. When Aggie loses her father and when Celia loses her father those girls go on a different trajectory and their worldview shift.
Back to your question about the natural world. I did check facts because there were things that I had always operated on as if I just knew them from childhood but then when I started writing them I thought okay, so I’m looking at these ants for instance or the bones or stripping the bones. Then I did corroborate all that information.
Diane: I think if anyone including me is into nature and learning about the interaction of nature and birds and wow, it was just a great like kind of scientific exploration. I really enjoyed it from a naturalist viewpoint. Also the sense of like a new girl power. There’s a couple of characters here. Aggie is a protagonist but the story is actually told through Celia who is an older girl but they’re both anomalous in terms of being girly girls. They’re not raising, they’re not being dress up with their dolls. No, they’re out climbing trees like to 60 feet. They’re doing math problems into like Fibonacci numbers. Like really very atypical doing 60 meter dash in a long distance running. Celia is a runner.
Aggie is also, she’s quite a tomboy. I think that this is a fascinating kind of new girl power character that’s coming into our realization that girls, many girls actually were not raised or grew up with the so-called like feminine identifiers and actually grew up outside alongside the boys with a lot of physical activity. We have to pause for a commercial break but when we come back we’ll continue this conversation with Cheryl Grey Bostrom author of Sugar Birds. It’s a fascinating read. So many levels to it and we’ll continue to find out what they are. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone we’re here with Cheryl Grey-Bostrom talking about her new novel Sugar Birds published by She Writes Press and the development of some anomalous kind of kids. Kids who are kind of outliers Cheryl. Outliers in the sense of being nerds, math nerds, girls that are not girly girls and a particular boy Burnaby who is the younger brother of Aggie. No, the older brother of Aggie sorry. Aggie has her own affinity with nature as we talked about. That sets her apart.
Burnaby is ordering because he’s on the autism spectrum and ordering is important. He’s classifying bones. He’s very knowledgeable about birds, all manner of flora and fauna. Then there’s a connection with Celia, the older girl who is also abandoned by her mom who’s left her to go off to work, a project in remote distance. Her father’s gone off to work on an oil rig. These people are connected through their location but they’re also connected by being kind of outliers. Talk to us about these new girl power and also the power of Burnaby, ultra-sensitive.
Cheryl: Yes, these girls really are northwest girls. There are a lot of us. I was not raised as a girly girl nor were any of my siblings. Engagement with the outdoors and a very physical lifestyle is really very familiar to most of my friends, most of those I know and those of us who were raised you know in the rural pacific northwest. I also thought that that was important too for readers who will be reading this book whether they’re urban or rural to realize that there are other ways to experience girlhood with a lot more freedom and without the societal restrictions that in the past have been put on young women.
I love that. I love that. One thing is that the story talks about practically a character in the story is this wild country, this wilderness. When Aggie runs into the forest, she’s fleeing not only into a physical wilderness which is this wild riparian corridor that is flanked by farms but also foothills and mountains and national forests but when she flees into this wilderness she’s also going into an emotional and spiritual wilderness. Celia, Burnaby, a boy, a young man that Celia gets involved with Cabot, they’re all part of the search team for her. When they’re hunting for her they are also experiencing their own emotional spiritual wildernesses.
Burnaby, as an autistic savant who has lost his parents in this fire really connects with Celia because they both have this shared interest in mathematics. They have a shared interest in that in nature and in birds. Celia, who has come from Houston is staying with her grandmother who’s a wildlife rehabilitation expert. Celia has developed skills with saving raptors in particular. She and Burnaby have a lot in common but Celia identifies with him most because of their loss and because of this wilderness they find themselves in but it’s really interesting the way these girls, the way the four young characters do handle their grief and handle their suffering.
Aggie who’s been taught by her dad to go into the woods and look for the father’s song and then sketch it has been trained to sketch these nests of wild birds. When she goes into the forest she is grappling with and fighting against what her father has taught her about God. She’s really wrestling with spiritual issues. Celia, on the other hand is wrestling with her wilderness by retaliating. She wants vengeance against her dad who’s left her. She’s really angry and she, as a girl who loves science believes that something can’t be proven then it really doesn’t exist. Burnaby, as you say, is this very ordered young man who is on the spectrum and who has learned from his dad who is also Aggie’s dad about this God understands about resurrection but he tries to do his own resurrections.
While his mom is in the hospital he continues to build these birds and try to reconstruct their lives. There’s one scene in the story where Burnaby’s talking to Celia and she has discovered his workshop where he has all of these beautiful reconstructions, these skeletal reconstructions. He’s painting the picture of this swan whose mate has been killed in the road. He flicks this fugitive paint across the bird’s breast. He says what do you mean? What is this fugitive paint? He says with time the color will fade. He says with time he says it’s changeable as pain and that pain heals. He’s trying to be an instrument of healing in this and he’s a very interesting character. Very endearing character.
Then the fourth character whom you meet later in the book Cabot really deals with his own pain, his wilderness of pain as a victim. Then with all of the accompanying junk that goes with that. It’s interesting for readers to explore and then to take a look at their own what do you do with pain. What do I do with pain? What do we do with suffering?
Diane: The fugitive Red is also cadmium. Red is one of the fugitive colors. In other words when it’s flicked onto a particularly paper, absorptive cotton rag it will be very strong at the beginning and then it fades. The fugitive part is fading out. I did think that that was one of the strongest scenes in the book. I loved this symbolism of Burnaby flicking this pain and then and of course it’s the color of blood. It’s the color of heart. It’s the color of pain. That witnessing that Celia does with him is very primal. You really got a kind of a sense of their loss, their abandonment and their bonding. I mean to share something like that.
I will mention that for those listeners who are not in the Pacific Northwest or even near a nature preserve living as I did for a long time in New York City. I mean Central Park you can basically find this same stuff happening. There’s coyotes. There’s foxes. There are all these creatures that can teach you and certainly birds. There was always the mating of the hawks and the eagles. I mean the sightings. This can happen in a microcosm wherever you live particularly if you’re not a kid that’s on your iPad 24/7. I thought this was just a refreshing window given that a lot of kids really don’t have this window on the world and are not growing up this way but potentially could enter this world through other means whether that is even painting or a song or other artistic pursuits. You are also a photographer. I wondered how your photography, how capturing visual beauty figures into your writing and your ability to create I mean a setting that’s almost a character.
Cheryl: Hmm, that’s a good question. I don’t think in a linear fashion. I think in pictures. Then I have to try to assimilate that and form them into words and put things into a line. When I’m outside which I am every day there are so often these and usually it stems from an interplay of light and dark which of course has all kinds of spiritual implications and so forth manifested in the physical world but when I see a scene and I’ve always got a camera with me.
When I see a scene that catches me, I mean sometimes I’ll gasp audibly because it will strike me. I’ll take the picture and then oftentimes it’s afterwards that what you describe as this primal connection say between Celia and Burnaby or this primal experience, this visceral, primal connection with the natural world will begin to make sense to me or I will interpret it not always at the moment but after the fact. Then I try to put it into words but it’s a living breathing expression of love out there. There’s the cycles of life, the intricacies from the cellular level to the more grander panoramic landscape. It connects with me at a bodily level first.
Diane: I think it’s just fascinating the translation of this experience that you’re having viscerally into words. I love that this is your process multi-dimensional. As you say it happens all at once and then you tease it out and find the meaning of it later. I really hope people are listening to this in terms of ways of absorbing the world, the natural world and its impressions. I wonder Cheryl when you are talking about these pristine settings and not just the beauty of it but the profundity of it and the kind of meaning and the lesson making of it what about then the shadow side of nature at this point that is man-made and the whole threat of climate change. It’s not necessarily addressed in the book because it’s preserved as a kind of a life force but there is that. What do you make of that kind of, this kind of phenomenon in the shadow side of nature and what’s going on now?
Cheryl: I think that’s an important question. I’ve said this, I’ve given this illustration previously but I think it’s a big one and it’s one that if we watch for it we’ll see it. The conditional world, the conditional nature of the world is very evident in the life cycles. You’ve got the bloom of spring. You’ve got the advance of summer and you’ve got the decline in the fall and into death in the autumn and in the winter season but then you have a renewal. You have a rebirth which of course spiritually for me dovetails with my faith in Christ but it also illustrates what we can expect in our lives as well. That’s that there is pain, there is death, there is suffering. Right now and for a long time we’ve had a climate in which we’re seeing shifts.
Depending on one’s faith persuasion, if you believe that that’s up to human beings to solve it’s devastating. It’s terrifying because I think intrinsically we all know that this is something bigger than us and yet there’s a call to stewardship. There’s a call to care for the earth and to do what we can but I believe that, I believe from and have for 50 years that we’re not alone in that and that there’s a God who made this and who cares about this this earth. Who is always in the process of healing? Even so much so that even in our bodies that if we will get out of the way and do things that care for our bodies there’s healing intrinsic to us but here’s the illustration that I was going to give.
Do you remember when the Exxon Valdez cracked up in Alaska? It spilled a huge amount of oil. I think there were 250,000 birds killed. It affected all kinds of wildlife. I was just bereft when that happened. I was talking with my grandfather who said Cheryl, even during World War II he said there was a there was a lot of petroleum spills. I don’t think I mentioned that my grandfather’s family and that whole side were Alaska pioneers. He was raised in that pristine country. He said that even during World War II he said there was a lot of damage to the environment he says but it will heal. Watch, it will heal.
As time passed it did heal. That doesn’t mean that you cast it aside as just oh well. God will take care of that. That would be foolhardy and irresponsible because we’re to be stewards but we aren’t alone in it. There’s a healing that’s built into the earth and it’s built into the world that is phenomenal. We had a tremendous heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest that is unlike any we had ever experienced and it was right during nesting season.
We watched as swallows chose boxes only in the shade this year. We have several boxes that aren’t shaded and they didn’t pick them. We had birds that built nests in areas that when the temperature reached 108 degrees here and those eggs only survive to about 104.5 degrees were able to hatch eggs whether it was through insulation of their bodies or the way they chose their nest sites or whatever that you would never have believed that those creatures could survive but there’s this healing and this help built into the natural world that if we look for it we’ll see it. It can give us huge hope to be willing to engage the battle because we’re not alone in it. I love that.
Diane: I like that too. Rarely do we talk about the allies that we might have if we engaged in the process. Maybe it’s there for the asking. That’s just such a lovely concept in terms of our human stewardship of the world. We’re speaking with Cheryl Grey-Bostrom. We’re going to take a short break. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Cheryl Grey-Bostrom, author of Sugar Birds. We’ve started talking about the special gifts of children, the gifts from nature. We’re willing to receive those messages from birds, trees and the cycle of life but I thought when we spoke about Burnaby Cheryl, a couple of things not just this exquisite symbolism that he mixed the red paint with, the fugitive red with his tears. He used the tears for his liquid. It’s just incredibly poetic and beautiful as are many of the scenes in this book.
You have of course then these interesting names Burnaby. There’s a fire, a transformational fire. Of course I had to look it up and Burnaby is an Old Norse name meaning fighter’s estate. The grandmother that you mentioned who does heal and nurture birds back to health, raptors and other kinds of birds. Her name is Mender. Menders we know they are mending. They are bringing healing energy. They have psychic power maybe. They carry on for others. There were just so many interesting names in the book. Aggie included. Aggie her full name was Agate which is a stone that its heritage is that it transforms negative energy into positive energy. They were just kind of on and on it went these intriguing names. I just wondered how much focus you gave to the names and to the meanings. Does it originate in the naming of creatures in nature?
Cheryl: Oh I love that question. That’s a great question. Let’s start with Aggie. I guess Aggie’s name Agate was intended to draw attention to the parallel between Aggie’s mother and Aggie in that they were both risk takers. Aggie’s mother as a child and as a young woman and before she and her husband had children would climb these cliffs and go into the waves to find these agates that she loved so much. Then once she had children and once she started developing her manic depressive symptoms but even before then as a parent she became more fearful in guarding her kids and believed that she could protect her children from harm which was shown that even in the church setting her little girl Aggie wasn’t always safe. That safety, if parents think that they can keep their children safe then they’re going to be disappointed. Again then coming back around to realizing that they aren’t alone in keeping their children safe that God cares about these kids as he cared about aggie in the woods but Agate, her name then Aggie had to do with these agates that her mother hunted.
Mender as a grandmother is really not necessarily the prototype grandmother that you’ll see conveyed. She was an acclaimed biologist. She’s a wildlife rehabilitator and her grandfather nicknamed her Mender when she was a kid after she helped a snowy owl but oftentimes the older generation gets sidelined or relegated to irrelevance. Mender is constantly praying about everything. She just has this relationship in the natural world with the creator that isn’t it in your face in the story but you just see this woman who has developed this way of being that has built into her patients and a wisdom in dealing with her granddaughter that that gives the girl a lot of room to explore and to learn on her own.
Mender does mess up because she accuses Celia of wrecking some stuff in the garden and that’s alienating for them but you see her rebound. I just think that watching the power of these relationships is very mending and realizing that you don’t have to be so overt and aggressive in in your attempts or that one doesn’t need to be in their attempts to help a situation that sometimes your presence, one’s presence is enough. That’s certainly the case for mender.
Burnaby, I just like that name. There was a hired guy, my husband’s a dairy veterinarian. There was a hired guy at a farm he worked at. His name was Burnaby and then we’re close to Canada and across the line there’s a town named Burnaby. I just liked it and it was only after the fact and after the fire that I go oh yes, it’s burn. That was completely unintentional.
Diane: Jung would say there’s synchronicity and there’s desynchronicity and everything. We just have to look for it. I just think it was a kind of a beautiful coincidence. You also have this character Cabot who paradoxically is incredibly handsome, sexy, well built. Celia, as a young girl 15, 16 years old she is drawn to him. There’s all of that overwhelming sort of adolescent lust going on and hormonal discharge. You can’t tell the difference between feeling and what your body is telling you to do. She starts to realize that beauty isn’t everything. That Cabot has his own wounds and that he is in fact what I would call a pretty stereotypical narcissist. He’s not interested in her as a person. He interested in her as a reflection of his own handsome self and wants to make her his possession.
I just wondered through all of this. I mean I happen to have read a little bit more of your background and you were a teacher in your career. Were you not and you were teacher of the year. I wondered if some of these adolescent characters were taken from insights that you garnered while you were in the teaching environment.
Cheryl: Oh absolutely. It’s because these kids are sexually awakening at these ages and they do equate those physical feelings with love and especially young women will tend to idealize what their bodies are telling them. They really do misinterpret them. I just saw so many times where these kids would be attracted to one another and make decisions that they bypassed all the red flags because these kids were so physically attracted.
Here’s Cabot who is just stunningly good looking. Celia also has a friend who has become quite promiscuous and has encouraged her to go that same route. For Meredith, this friend it’s been a painkiller. Sex has been another drug for her. Celia, of course is experiencing a lot of pain and to find this outlet with Cabot, this potential outlet with Cabot as a relief. For her just being with him makes her not think about the fact that she’s been abandoned there at her grandmother’s. I came alongside a number of young women over the years as I taught high school who were in situations like this. It’s nothing that you can really explain to them but in coming alongside of them you just hope that they’ll realize it before they make decisions that are going to lead them down a path that it would be difficult to return from. It’s Celia but I like it that you recognized Cabot’s narcissism because he really wants her to mirror him. He doesn’t hear her. He doesn’t care about what’s important to her but she’s caught up in the thrill.
Diane: Absolutely and then I wanted to go back to Aggie for a second, the ten-year-old. She internalizes this pain of believing she set the fire, the shame of it. She takes it into herself. There is something called sort of negative narcissism or failure narcissism where you believe you doubt your own significance as you might as an adolescent girl, uncertain of yourself. Then when the circumstances turn negative like there’s a disaster then you bring it into yourself in a way where you’ve overstated your significance. You only correlate yourself as a causal prime mover if something’s wrong, you’ve done something wrong. Then she’s at a point where you know the smallest thing like dropping the milk and the cookies reverberates with this trauma of the setting of the fire. Talk to us about actually breaking those kinds of patterns and forgiveness and really the themes of this book healing.
Cheryl: Okay where do I start with that? Let’s see. Yes, it comes again to learning to recognize our belovedness and that we aren’t alone and we aren’t responsible for everything. We are not God. God is God. Yet from our earliest age it’s the human condition to believe that we have well let’s see how can I say this. Just to believe that we’re responsible for more than we’re responsible for and then to disconnect from things that we really can solve. That’s a little bit vague but one illustration is that when I was when I was in my 30s. I had a lot of stuff to work through because of things that I had experienced and I was sitting with a counselor who was a really wise guy and I was talking about some of my parenting stuff because I’m trying to disentangle my history from things that I didn’t want to bring into my own parenting. He said you know Cheryl he said you really aren’t powerful enough to have no, that’s not how he said it.
Diane: Yes, I know what you mean.
Cheryl: He said this is not all up to you. There are so many influences that are going into these kids’ lives and into your life and for you to claim singular responsibility for their outcomes is in a way a type of narcissist. He didn’t call it a type of narcissism but what you’re identifying. It’s this self-centeredness that that is in all of us that that makes us kind of believe that we can create our own little kingdoms. It was it’s immensely liberating to realize that that’s not the case. That we have huge freedoms, we have tremendous freedoms but it’s in partnership. It’s in community. It’s in relationship with God and with others. Did I even touch on your question there?
Diane: You absolutely did. You zeroed in on it. We have just a couple of minutes left. I think that what you’re talking about is tremendously important believing that we’re the center of the universe and how we need to understand our relationship in it and also our connection. I am going to thank you Cheryl Grey-Bostrom for being with us today and for bringing this book Sugar Birds into the world. We’re going to leave it with the question of whether we’re all sugar birds, our need for affection and they’re a honey creeper that feeds on nectar. Are we all sugar birds but thank you so much for being with us?
Cheryl: Thank you Diane. Loved every minute.
Diane: I did too and Cheryl has social media handles. On Instagram Cheryl Grey-Bostrom, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and a website cherylbostrom.com. Thanks also to our engineers Matt Weidner and Aaron Keller, to our executive producers Robert Giolino and most of all to you our listeners. Remember to stay safe and stay connected to others and to yourself. As Aggie said it was too much energy remaining hidden. Till next week thank you for dropping in.
Thank you so much for Dropping In. Please join Diane Dewey again next Friday at 8 AM Pacific Time and 11 AM Eastern Time on the Voice America Variety Channel. We’ll see you then.