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From within summer’s treasures bloom Asiatic lilies: crimsons, salmons, whites, yellows, and golds; their profusion enhances ash pits, garage doors, backyards, as well as formal gardens. Atop stalks, sometimes over five feet tall, stamens and pistils strut their stuff within six-petelled blossoms—their blatant sexuality preening under the sun. Unlike other flowering shrubs and plants, their showing lasts for weeks.

I’m always stunned by the perfection of Asiatic lilies: the symmetry of their waxy petals, their unified whole, their coloring, and especially their pulsating energy. Never can I walk past a cluster of them without touching and smelling. Joy wells from my depths.

Such vibrant beauty recalls the aesthetics of John Ruskin, a British art critic and watercolorist. He experienced God’s love in the wonders of nature as he traveled around Europe and later developed his findings in five volumes of Modern Painters (1885), seventeen years in their composition. Such findings also fueled his passion for environmental reform caused by smog from factories during the Industrial Revolution. Hazed over was God’s unitive presence in nature—its connection, minimized, snuffed out.

Unfortunately, similar smog still persists. At best, we can keep it at bay through listening, in stillness, to clusters of Asiatic lilies. Be open to their gifts and be renewed.

 

 

 

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It is cold—very cold—and it is still winter.

Somehow that matters little in my warm study when enveloped within Winter Dreams, the subtitle of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor (1866) played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Yuri Temirkanov. The first movement, fragile and effervescent, evokes inchoate scenes. Like hesitant sparrows, words surface—putting something out there that wasn’t there before:

Moonlit snow-scapes—wind-startled frozen lakes—flocked mountain pines—brush-filled meadows—gust-sculpted cathedrals—critter-tracks meandering over hills—color-splashes angling down slopes and crisscrossing paths.

Beneath this frozen world, deep smiles thaw my imagination; trickles of water create wiggle-room for my breathing. Like the first morning of creation, Beauty still evokes such things through Tchaikovsky’s Winter Dreams.

Joy surfaces, again and again. We’ve only to receive it.

 

 

Like a cunning lover, last week’s snowfall wooed autumn’s dismantling within the rigors of winter: Leafy branches sported white overcoats; spindly shrubs stooped in supplication; fence posts peaked with medieval turrets. A solitary cardinal flashed toward a neighbor’s woodshed, then alighted and preened like a celebrity caught within the blitz of paparazzi. From a snow mound poked the handle of a red wagon. Flurries outlined swirls of breezes that fashioned ghostly images upon the asphalt street and tousled the green muffler flapping around the snowman’s neck nearby. Only random cars moved about.

All was still: Its pregnant hush evoked an OH! The first morning of creation must have felt like that.

Such OHs burst with silence, trip breathing, balloon joy, and open onto the companioning Sacred within our depths. Yet a tinge of sadness lingers in their wake, such OHs! so fleeting and evanescent. Would that we could hold onto them. That being said, we can still watch for them and give thanks when experienced.

And this year, do watch for OHs! around Thanksgiving tables, graced with family and friends. Go beyond well-worn traditions and bring something new: a new dish, a new prayer, a new listening.

“Bidden or not bidden, God is present.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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