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Emptiness discomfits me, snaps at my innards, and scrapes barnacles from my imagination while the sun-drenched afternoon toasts new budding on the snowflake viburnum outside my study window.

As a solitary dog-walker trudges up the hill, her chest heaving, a creeping barrenness unravels my grasp of life’s fabric.

I sit in my wing-back chair, close my eyes, and wait, uneasy and surrendered. Imperceptibly, a new courage emboldens me to listen. From the emptiness, an ineffable sense of the Sacred emerges, a whispering not found in human discourse or books.

This is something else.

It hurts: one of the faces of grief, united with the Ukrainians’ plight, the world over.

Yet, a wise potter once said, “We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds what we want.”

It’s the human condition. From the depths of scarred hearts emerge bruises, likened to neon flashing in crass colors on roof-top dumps. Only in night’s inky blackness can their evil be observed. Once aware of them, however, riddance is critical.

Such is my experience when side-winded by the unplanned, when beached upon foreign shores. It feels like my rootlessness rots in the scorching sun. More than ever am I alien to the once familiar. Such setbacks still occur, despite my daily vigilance and Twelve-Step living in Chronic Pain Anonymous.

I wait, my breathing crumpled like an accordion in the hairy hands of an amateur.

A closer look deepens shock-waves crashing around me: some of my bruises laced with entrails of sea birds; others, in stinking landfills.

I sit back in my chair and ponder where these words come from. I wait. More words come. My psyche glimpses the contours of my true shadow and informs me of more disorders likened to hard-shelled barnacles encrusted on the bottom of an abandoned lobster boat.

This lamentable image speaks of years unlived life, held in bondage by insidious fears of chronic illness and pain. But denial’s influence is lessening, the more I take responsibility during my end-time and surrender to God’s will. From hence comes true spiritual growth.

Often this mantra fills my psyche: Your will, not Mine, be done. Change comes, and with it, relief.

In memory, I return to the first morning of my arrival at East Gloucester, Massachusetts, stretch into the bleached lawn chair next to the ocean, and open my citified world to nature’s expansive healing. Desperate is my need for watering.

October’s brilliance caps hesitant waves with opulence that lap against the base of the monolithic Brace Rock; it resembles a dusky pachyderm snoozing in the morning heat, its humps whitened by decades of excrement. Against luminous skies, crowds of herring gulls honk into fly-space, while others pump their wings, catch columns of wind, gliding in somersaults and pinwheels. Like cobra helicopters, twin ravens pan the boulder-strewn shore until they vanish.

I breathe deeply in my chair, then notice surf-bubbles skittering among handfuls of sandpipers, toeing the grainy sand like princesses. Upon stringy brackish seaweed, mosquitoes crowd like irritable shoppers in check-out lines.

Nearby, splashy quilts of wild grasses, golden rod, and sumac enliven miles of bronzed granite rocks along the coast. A solitary honeybee suns upon the breast of a goldenrod spear. A rare Monarch butterfly collapses its circus wings and alights on the fringed tip of purple loose strife.

A cobalt sky smiles upon this riotous foreplay. Time hangs suspended upon boney and gossamer wings. Within this jeweled kaleidoscope, an unseen power reveals her Soul and invites surrender.

Again, it has been done. I’m washed, clean.

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