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I was getting close—just around the corner. Three days had passed since last seeing them, alive with butterflies and inching toward the garage roof of a neighbor. Joy infused my steps with giggles as humid breezes fanned my cheeks.

Up ahead, brilliant yellows seemed to stretch into the morning sun, guffawing. Then, they appeared: rows of sunflowers, bleached strips securing their heads to stakes. Awed, I stood among them, looking up. Bees alighted upon their daisy-like heads and did their bees-thing while a solitary blackbird cawed. Quintessentially summer’s gift, I lodged this multi-faceted image in my heart for a later time.

That time is now. Like those sunflowers, their heads trained upon the sun’s beneficence, from sunup to sundown, I depend upon Creator Sun, to keep me vibrantly alive as I move through the continuing diminishment of my lungs, increased weakness, and occasional brain fog. Eventually, these symptoms will contribute to the death of my body and the consequent release of spirit.

In a related sense, after sunflowers wither and die their seeds are harvested, supplementing diets with protein, Vitamin E, and heart-friendly good fats.

So the imprint of death coexists within the living, until exhausted and disintegrated—No warding it off with miracle fixes or geographical cures. It’s always been that way, evidence of an inscrutable wisdom is at work in our lives.

It behooves us to pay close attention and learn.

 

Summer’s brazenness fleshes out in marigolds—reds, oranges, golds, and yellows—drought-resistant annuals that have brightened my front garden for years. With proper care, a single bloom can last for several days boasting in the sun; its inevitable shriveling and browning slows down its gossip until silenced by pruning shears: Snip-snip-snip. Within a few days, more buds jostle in breezes until full flowering picks up July’s chuckles and their chatter resumes.

Taught by gardeners to angle my shears for strategic cuts, I snipped away, summer after summer, tingling with creative energy as new shapes appeared among the plants, soon to plump out with buds. But my present circumstances have led me to put away my shears and let another help with the marigolds. I’m grateful.

My own pruning is well underway, and I live within the shorn limits of my eighty-four years; within them, I continue flourishing, not without occasional squalls of fear: eruption of new symptoms from Dexamethasone, the correction of dark dreams, episodes of nausea, spills, and so much more—all of which prompt me to ask for help, critical for the continuing effectiveness of the pruning. How else learn about humility?

Such deepens my faith in the Master Gardiner who reminds us in John 15:2 that Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

It is for this fruit that I yearn.

 

It finally happened! Yesterday, two speckled white eggs filled the nest outside my study window; in their place today, bob three naked chicks patched with gray down, their yellow beaks splitting with hunger, awaiting insects caught by their cardinal father; their mother keeps guard on a lower branch of the viburnum shrub, the afternoon sun shadowing its green leaves. For the next two weeks, frequent feedings will feather out the chicks and enable them to eat parts of berries or seeds softened by their parents.

Similar drama is enacted all over the world, the replication of the Genesis story: On day five, God created every winged bird…blessing them to multiply and fill the waters and the sky with life. It is precisely this unbroken chain of life that heartens the weary. Often when I used to walk in the nearby woods, a bird trill would seize my imagination and transport me to the wordless realm of the Sacred. A later blog told the story.

Never before this cardinal family appeared in my viburnum shrub, had I observed their instinctual caring, how it fosters fresh life with darting colors. It’s like Creator God orchestrated this event for up-close learning in my present circumstances—A more than timely lesson for me to assimilate.

And if Creator God set all this in motion what have we to fear?

 

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