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A solitary cardinal alighted on the plank fence in my back yard, its redness quickening my heart. Then, it whizzed down upon the bleached grass, its dark eyes searching from side to side. Like a wise professor attired in the scarlet robes of a theologian, it discerned the next step before taking it boldly; then, more angular steps. Then, it was gone. I blinked, hard.

Stillness enveloped me. I had been visited and I knew it. Rather than resume my work in the kitchen, I savored this intrusion.

The cardinal’s fiery presence recalled images of Christ Pantocrator (the Lawgiver), rendered in mosaics or frescoes, which adorn domes and apses of medieval Eastern Orthodox churches. The dark outlines of Christ’s iconic eyes, his red tunic, his left hand holding the jeweled book of the New Testament, his right hand raised in blessing—Such was the demonstrable power that had inflamed centuries of imaginations of worshipers, huddled in the nave below, whispering their prayers.

Such still has the holding power to thwart evil, with its allure of dark power. Willingness to follow the Pantocrator’s sway freshens us with loving care and protection.

We give thanks for the daily gift of Warming and pray to remain open to its life-bestowing nurturance—Within it we thrive and share with others.

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s happened again outside my study window: November’s sunshine revealed the initial stripping of my lilac bush, its mottled leaves aproning its base. Yesterday’s gloom had shrouded its lopsided girth, its leaves still holding on like disgruntled dowagers still plucking their eyebrows. Only nail-hard buds tip each branch, with promise of new greening. 

Like the leaves on my lilac bush, I’m being hurtled toward winter, with its with browns, grays, and blacks supplanting autumn’s riotous display of reds and golds. Less daylight, like a vintage camera, will snap short the bug-eaten colors in spent gardens.

As days pass, the cold will tighten its icy tourniquet around flailing energies, shiver steps of dog-walkers, and coat trees and shrubs with filigree caverns and glistening angles. 

More darkness, stealthy as a thief, will snuff out the waning light and plunge us within an electrified world, its artificiality short-changing our perceptions of things.

But there’s a mysterious richness in darkness—an invitation to listen to its silence and be still within the present moment. Like a downy comforter, let it open your imagination, cell by cell, to its cheery warmth, to unseen realms filled with fresh color—they are there.

In the interim, though, my lilac bush will continue dropping its leaves to the bleached grasses below, giving even more prominence to its buds; unlike them, though, I wait for a different kind of spring where the colors never fade—It could take longer than five months.

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