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Trick or treaters, masked as princesses, pirates, ghouls, inflated by assumed identities, may again canvas our neighborhoods this Halloween, their parents watching from the sidewalks. Winds will nip ankles, flit crisped leaves across lawns beneath a waning moon. The drama, the hilarity will deepen.

Perhaps you have also donned a mask for such haunts when a kid or for Mardi Gras carnivals? Perhaps experienced masked performers in a play or ritual performances of native peoples? Or worn masks for Covid protection? Or still do?

You are not alone. Peoples from cultures all over the world have donned masks for such purposes. The oldest one, made of stone, dates back to 7000 B.C., the pre-ceramic Neolithic period; it is kept in the Bible and Holy Land Museum in Paris, France.

But there is another way of considering masks.

As children growing up in troubled families, we can develop masks or defense mechanisms that later thwart significant relationships in family and at work. A gnawing emptiness results. Nothing is significant. Addictive behaviors soon follow. Some visit the consulting rooms of psychologists or other helpers and begin the painful process of owning their self-constructed masks and learning to discard them.  Perhaps for the first time in their lives, they experience their spiritual center and live from this Source. They thrive, at whatever age.

I know. I’ve been through this process. And here is the result – I keep it in my study!

At 6:40 A.M., I awoke with this hilarious dream:

I’m visiting a new friend in Rome, Italy, the October morning shadowing our steps toward the square thronged with shoppers. We buy food, then climb aboard her double-seated Vesta and set off for the day—a new experience for me.

In no time, we’re roaring down country roads, my friend’s thick blond hair snaking around her red helmet, the same color as her Vesta. Her heavyset body sways with the turns of the dirt roads, and I with her, holding her girth between my arms. Merriment exudes from her spirit like splashing spring waters. My mouth aches from laughter.

Beneath ancient water chestnut trees near an abandoned farm, we stop. The hilarity continues as she tears apart baguettes, then offers me Brie cheese, with red grapes and wine. Even the ravens, strut in tall grasses nearby.

The dream’s setting, Rome, Italy, suggested the center of Christianity into which I was initially enculturated until directed to search deeper for the Cosmic Christ in all of creation. Dire compliance of the rules and regulations no longer drew fire.

October morning spoke of bright aging filled with even deeper opportunities for learning prior to my transition.

The new friend revealed Precious God, disguised as a swarthy French laborer, intent upon opening me to the laughter of living: She smelled of earth. She swept the floors of my closed mind and threw open its grimy windows to another world, the one that awaits me. No longer was it appropriate to grieve my diminishment—just watch it happen and let it go. To strengthen my resolve, she also offered me communion. And she’s still in the driver’s seat.

Composing this blog still evokes laughter …

Who’s messing around with the rough edges of my life?

Whose sinewy hands tweak my brokenness?

Who forces me to feel my shards and claim them?

Whose fingers pull and knead, pull and knead?

More pinches, slaps, punches startle me.

Take me where I never dreamt sojourn.

Patting smooths my new shape.

A wet towel cools me.

Then explosion—

Like toddlers, jumping piles of reddening leaves.

Expanding-resting-expanding-resting.

What am I becoming?

More pulling and kneading.

Will this never end?

Yet this touch coaxes surrender.

A song releases mine, long hidden beneath barrels of stale flour.

Change continues:

More shifting from here to there.

My pregnant shape swallows my fears.

More waiting follows.

Suddenly, my belly is cleaved and braided together.

Brushed with egg yoke, I wink at the sun.

The brick oven’s fire evokes more transformation.

It’s happened–the aromatic new creation.

Above me a shawled woman blesses candles,

chants psalms to the Challah I have become,

offers me to be torn apart and consumed by her loved ones.

Within my new brokenness, I am whole.

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