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Helplessness, searing bone pain, and fog-brain reduced me to total dependence upon others following last summer’s fall. It also shut down my egoic mind: I was no longer in control—of anything. Suddenly many helpers filled my waking hours; their cues prompted my snail-like return to life.

Dreams of healthy functioning gave way to long hours of exercise atop my bed. Indeed, they became a prayer, of sorts, while therapists eyed my weekly progress and urged more challenging stretches. My leg muscles, atrophied from the hip surgery, began to wake up. My elbow and shoulder stiffness lessened. I could dress myself again. Even neighbors applauded my progress during supervised walks with my cane around the court.

However, all this changed the morning of July twenty-ninth when I awoke to a one- inch-discrepancy in the length of my legs that skewed my balance. There followed a modified exercise program, chiropractic adjustments, and healing massages. After weeks of no change, I consulted my surgeon. An x-ray revealed the displacement of the three pins in my hip, and more surgery was indicated.

During the lengthy work-up of tests and x-rays, I again shut down. Within the ensuing silence I discovered I was still controlling my return to health. Somehow, my Healing Presence was taking orders from me. And when the November first surgery was rescheduled to the seventeenth, I finally surrendered.

The irony of this experience was not lost on me: Unfolding within the wake of last summer’s fall have been untold spiritual riches I probably would have not experienced had I been well enough to attend my annual retreat on the New England coast. Perhaps next September …

 

 

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Who does not get chills within the bowels of malice in stories of shape-shifting?

One of these is The Soldier’s Tale (1919), the collaborative effort of the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and the Swiss librettist C. F. Ramuz. Because funds were scarce in the aftermath of the First World War for the composition of large works, Stravinsky scored this old Russian folk tale with seven musicians and four actors/dancers, all sharing the same bare stage. (Check out YouTube.)

We grow to love this war-weary soldier, his knapsack on his back as he cavorts toward his village, all the while anticipating his ten-day leave with his mother and girlfriend. Suddenly, into his path steps the devil, disguised as a maiden who persuades him to exchange the old fiddle (his soul) in his knapsack for a red book filled with secrets for obtaining immense wealth. After three days of luxurious initiation by the devil, the soldier is hooked.

Years of prosperous but increasingly empty living begin to glut the soldier’s passion for fame, and he longs for his old life.

This story line is painfully familiar throughout oral and literary traditions all over the world: All is ours if we but surrender our souls to the devil. A period of unprecedented prosperity ensues until eviscerated by the maggots of worldly success. A longing for the way things used to be glimmers; within its light, some move toward conversion and return to ordinary life.

Others do not, including our soldier of this Russian tale.

 

 

From my study window a soggy breeze weights a solitary leaf falling from the towering oak in my side yard and hurtles it toward the spent grass. Interminable moments pass until it is lodged within a muddy crevice, its bronzed face weeping, unattended, susceptible to even more desiccation.

Such begins autumn’s necessary stripping with its obvious parallels to human life—The outworn must give way to the new.

However, last July this truth imploded within my body as I lay on my dining room floor, my foot caught within the tubing of my vacuum cleaner. Howling pain bit chunks into my left shoulder, elbow, and hip. Unlike the solitary leaf, I needed help and fast.

It came: paramedics, surgery, rehab, physical and occupational therapy. Indeed, hundreds of helpers knocked on my door, each with their piece of the puzzle that would eventually restore me to wholeness.

Slowly, my body-mind-spirit began to knit through the prescribed exercises, that is, until mid-August when gnarly pain emerged in my hip. Multiple modifications of the stretches only worsened matters and I was back on pain medications. My suspicions mounted: the surgery had failed. I’m waiting to learn what will happen next.

 

 

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