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Like a room filled with seasoned quilters, their needles keeping time with their stories, messes of tree sparrows sputter, peep, and shrill skirting the budding branches of the mature verbena shrub in front of us. Around its base, clusters of daffodil blades promise splashes of yellow. I’m perched upon a guardrail along the asphalt path, my chest heaving, while my caregiver keeps an eye on me. Despite the difficulty of these short walks, my diseased lungs benefit from the stretching.

Then, it’s time to start moving again. With my caregiver steadying my left forearm, my cane in my right hand, we walk in tandem along the road in my neighborhood. Above us, the Delph blue sky exalts with clarity, while sunrays toast our backs. Yards have been scraped of winter’s indiscriminate trashing, flowerbeds cleared for blooming. Mindful of gumballs or other tree debris, I focus upon taking the next step; when a clean space opens before me, I latch onto the curving line of the asphalt that helps maintains my balance. My caregiver senses when a pause is critical. The air chills my cheeks as I rest.

Aside from participating in the greening world humming with new color, I also appreciate meeting dog walkers, joggers, or others out for a stroll. In this venue, there’s no place for discord. Masks cannot conceal heart-smiles.

It s precisely heart-smiles that evidence our blooming, whatever the season.

Plants and Flowers: Narcissus buds

The portal of thin places, found in ancient Celtic spirituality, still speaks to the experience of prayer.

The Celts settled the British Isles in the early Bronze Age, about 1180 b.c., and brought with them imaginations teeming with myths, poetry, songs, and rituals that maintained communion with the Otherworld. Earth mounds marked entrances to this realm, but only the initiated could enter; others did so, at their peril. Heroes peopled these enclosures and became sources of inspiration, guidance, and courage for the Celts as they vanquished other warlike tribes and expanded their influence.

In the early fifth century a.d., however, the evangelization of Ireland began through the preaching of Bishop Palladius and St. Patrick. Except for the Otherworld, its “pagan” heroes, sacred wells and springs, portals, and landscapes were Christianized. To this day, the Otherworld is still accessed through the portal of thin places, permeable membranes to the Sacred; it alone separates us from the God of compassion.

Our times, like those of the Celts, call for extraordinary measures as planet Earth reels with sickness and enervates spirits. Powerless and humble, we await the interventions of the medical community, follow recommended protocols, and check developments online.

Through thin places, we also access our God who wants the eradication of this deadly virus more than we do, wants restitution of systems, so sorely disrupted.

As prayer-warriors, we can help.

 

“And you can change in here,” said the director, her curvaceous body and shocking pink nails unnerving me as I stepped inside the locker room with my new leotard and tights.

It was a rainy autumn afternoon, 1970, following the failed synovectomies of my knees. My surgeon had regretted the outcome, but recommended total knee replacements when the technology was further refined. In the meantime, I was to exercise, keep my body strong. For some reason, I complied—even received my superior’s permission to join the First Lady’s Health Club on St. Charles Avenue, just down the street from our convent. I was thirty-six years old.

Inside the cubicle, the curtain pulled behind me, I grunted as I pulled on the skimpy outfit, black like the habit I used to wear. Whining saxophone music further undermined my resolve to go ahead with this venture. I abhorred exercising, yet I kept moving toward the workout room with mirrored walls and cherry carpeting.

Fluorescent lighting momentarily crazed my vision. In front of me stood a tall brunette looking back at me. Stunned, I touched my waist. She did, too. I smiled—My body was different, with the twenty-five pound weight loss from the surgeries. Smiling again, I greeted the trainer approaching me. I would do this.

From that afternoon to the present, exercise has buoyed my spirit, kept me functional, and cleared out low moods. It also enlisted Spirit’s love and protection to support my efforts in becoming woman.

It’s never too late to start, no matter the stiffness or pain. It worked for me, and still does.

 

 

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