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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.

 

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” I fidgeted with the laminated card containing the vow formula—almost dropped it on my lap as I struggled to regain awareness of what I was doing. I was twenty-nine years old.

It was July 22, 1965, feast day of St. Mary Magdalen, a steamy morning in the fan-cooled Gothic chapel of the Motherhouse in Rome, Italy. Perspiration filmed sallow cheeks within my frilled cap, hunger scoured my innards, and skirts of my Sunday habit covered my polished Oxfords. Behind us, knelt families and friends gathered to witness our final profession of poverty, chastity, and obedience, until death, in our community.

Despite worsening stiffness in my knees and generalized malaise, I had completed five months of probation, the final formation and testing before taking this step. Conferences on the Rule and Constitutions—although in French, the universal language of the community—long hours of prayer and reflection, and direction with the Superior had spirited me toward this oblation, I perceived as God’s will.

Yet, emptiness smacked within the fissures of my psyche as I continued reading the vow formula. Where was my heart? Did I ever have one or had I been pretending all along? Who was this inner stranger, scowling at me? I was supposed to be happy.

As it turned out, seventeen years later I left the community to search for my heart, an arduous process more austere than practiced as a nun.

In the midst of another formation, this time in hospice, I’m preparing for another oblation that will jettison me from all forms of death into the arms of my Beloved. To Him, I’ll offer my scarred, but graced, heart. This is working out…

 

This corrective dream woke me at 11:30 p.m.

“Let Johnny Depp handle this for you,” I was told as someone placed an envelope in my hands and left.

 In the dream I was unfocused, not wholly present to my circumstances. My affect must have enlisted this unsought attention.

I’ve no image of someone, other than his voice repeating the directive several times. Nor do I recall the story or the setting from which this directive was issued.

After an online search of fifty-seven year old Johnny Depp, I shuddered with his creepiness: cunning as a snake, manipulative as a pimp, and stealthy as a thief. And in Jungian psychology, he corresponds to the image of my negative animus corroding my instinct to live.

 

Obvious questions followed: what was Johnny Depp doing in my psyche? Why was he singled out as source of help for my dilemma? If I did need help, why him, given spirited guides I’ve consulted in the past?

Certainly the weekend’s eruption of nerve pain in my left knee, the phone contact with the on-call hospice nurse, and the first time taking Oxycodone with its mellowing effect red-flagged my body’s continuing diminishment over which I have no control—and in its wake, dissociation from my body.

Then, spiritual insights gleaned from significant readings, breathless interludes of prayer, and phone contacts with my CPA sponsor could have messed with my groundedness. Like everyone else, I still pee and poop and use underarm deodorant.

For me, it’s about waking up to my finite humanness and throwing away the envelope. Ultimate direction flows from within.

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