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Ann K. Frailey recalls how her first book, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien, became a gateway to later spiritual memoirs.

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)


It makes sense that I wrote my first book while standing on the shoulders of a giant. It takes work to scale the heights, but the view is breathtaking. My giant was J. R. R. Tolkien, and my first book, The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through the Lord of the Rings, was a reflection of the Christian themes in Tolkien's trilogy. Bishop Paprocki of the Springfield Diocese was kind enough to give the work his Imprimatur. His personal love for LOTR clearly helped.

Eventually, I had to climb down, touch Earth again, do the laundry, and manage the thousand and one things that pack a mother’s life with meaning. I had to take my road and see where it led. 

For the next several years, I wrote weekly reflections as a series of posts, starting in April 2012 and continuing until December 2019. They covered the messy terrain of my husband’s death; personal insecurity; reinventing my role as a mother as I tried to fill in for a missing father, discovered I couldn’t, and allowed my sons to play their part; fixing a ka-billion things that broke on our homestead; discovering that most fixes don’t last; taking in critters of all kinds and grieving when beloved pet-friends died—basically, exploding the boundaries of what I knew and was I sure I couldn’t do. I collected those reflections, re-edited them, and published the series as My Road Goes Ever On, Spiritual Being, Human Journey. The title had become my motto. 

My musings are not a road map for anyone else. I tumbled down too many rabbit holes to suggest that anyone should follow in my footsteps. I published them because, as one reader said, “I don’t feel so alone now.” Everyone has a story to tell. Dozens of worthy stories to share. I just happen to be brazened enough to put mine on paper and in front of the public eye. A radio host asked me recently how I managed to get out of bed in the morning with all I have to do, and I instantly imagined all the cold, dark mornings that I didn’t want to get out of bed. But I always did. Because, as I explained, love moved me. A powerful force, love. Works even while waking up in a muddle with hair that looks like I had walked into a wind turbine the night before. 


woman overlooking a mountain view


My second series of reflections began in January 2020 and ended in September of 2021. I published the collection as My Road Goes Ever On, A Timeless Journey. It began, as did the first book, in a personal battle with the demon of despair. My brother who I was closest to had just died, and I could not wrap my brain or my heart around another such significant loss. I had lost a brother years before and several friends through the years, and I thought I could handle it, but this brother was a beloved priest of a large parish, and losing him was a grief for many. At the same time, my kids were getting older, jumping off the merry-go-round of childhood, and found themselves flung into a world of drama-queen crisis. My head spun. My heart didn’t know what to do.


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Going through various hells seems to be part of the journey toward Heaven. #catholicmom

In a return to my Tolkien-mentor, an image played in my mind as I woke on cold, dark mornings: Sam sitting on the edge of an exploding Mount Doom, asking Frodo if he remembered the taste of strawberries. I realized, in my own humble way, that I, too, must remember. That despite the fear and pain of jolting experiences in this troubled world, I have been gifted with the power of endurance, memories of great goodness, and the daring to hope for a seashore—light-filled and wonderful—beyond all darkness, where strawberries taste like springtime. 

Going through various hells seems to be part of the journey toward Heaven. Remember the taste of strawberries and hold onto the best part. 

We are not alone.

Copyright 2022 Ann K. Frailey
Image: Canva Pro