Counseller Comes Full Circle

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Veteran Roundup readers must have thought they were caught in a time warp when they picked up their April 16 issue of the newspaper.

There, on the front page, was a familiar but long gone byline that of Beth Counseller.

Wife of late western artist and Zane Grey aficionado Mel Counseller, she was a frequent Roundup contributor for many years before moving to the Valley when her husband became ill.

Once again a Rim country resident, Counseller recently published a book about her experiences during several trips to Russia and the Ukraine as a member of the Foundation for International Professional Exchange (FIPE). They were life-altering experiences for her.

"It's a very different culture from the way we live here in the West," Counseller said. "They lived under communism for so many decades, and we were over there during the 90s when freedom was very new to them. We were sharing our experiences just being Americans and interfacing with (people) who for so many years had been our enemies.

"To my generation, the Russians were the bad guys and they were going to come bomb us any minute. To go over there talk with them, and eat with them, and drink vodka with them, and understand that they're human beings, and have the same hopes and fears and loves and dreams as we do, and to be able to share our resources with them, whether that's information or supplies or just compassion was just a very enriching experience."

As a result, Counseller has left her profession as a nurse and returned to college to pursue a bachelors degree in religious studies.

"I came back to Payson last Christmas because I really needed a change of everything: of environment, of jobs, of lifestyle.... I can't be a nurse anymore; it's just gotten too stressful, too frustrating, too difficult for me.

When she lived in Payson with her husband, she got involved in her husband's work with Zane Grey's cabin.

"Mel was working at the cabin and we began to do some Elderhostel classes, teaching people about Zane Grey and the books he wrote how they related to the history of the area. We had so much fun with the whole atmosphere and character of the Rim country."

When Zane Grey's cabin was destroyed in the 1990 Dude Fire, the Counsellers opened the Zane Grey museum on Main Street.

"We started our own collection of books and memorabilia and kept it going until somebody with more influence and financing could make something of it which they did. It was a beautiful museum before it closed," she said.

Now that she's back in Payson, Counseller plans to do some freelance writing for the Roundup while also commuting to the Valley to complete her schooling. But her new love is her work with FIPE.

"One of the women I went to Russia with came back and said, 'I can tell you what I did, but I cannot tell you what I felt.' These experiences are that moving and profound. Her comment moved me because I knew I could express those emotional experiences in writing."

Two experiences she included in her book were especially meaningful to Counseller, who describes herself as "a cradle Catholic."

"On my first trip to Russia, I was in St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral on Christmas Eve the first time the Christmas liturgy had been celebrated in that cathedral in 80 years. Then on a trip to the Ukraine, we were at St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg for the Easter liturgy, and again it was the first time in all those decades of communism."

She considers her book, "A Few More Candles," a "feeling piece of work." She hopes it will encourage others to become involved with FIPE.

"It made me realize how privileged we are to have the kind of freedom we have in this country. And it broke down boundaries for me: cultural, political and emotional."

To buy a copy of the book, call Counseller at 472-6211. All profits go to FIPE.

Profile

Name: Beth Lynch Counseller

Occupation: Writer, student, RN

Employer: Payson Roundup, others are pending

Age: 48

Birthplace: Albany, N.Y.

Family: My father, four brothers, and their families

Personal motto: Keep the faith.

Inspiration: The writings of the contemplatives

Greatest feat: Grief recovery

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Long walks

Three words that describe me best: Unconventional, spiritual, fun-loving

I don't want to brag ... but I wrote a book.

Person in history I would most like to meet: Jesus of Nazareth

Luxury defined: To make a living at what I love to do.

Dream vacation: Ireland because it is ancient, mystical, sensuous. It is the home of my ancestors.

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