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“You do all the cooking ‘round here?“ I asked, pushing myself away from the table in the small dining room while patients toyed with their carrot cake and others slumped in wheelchairs. Above them on a wide-screen TV, a newsreader described Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for reunification with Taiwan, peacefully or otherwise.

“Just evenings,” she said as I approached her, wiping meaty hands on a cloth and tossing it upon the food warmer. Her eight-button chef coat fitted snuggly over her bosom like casing over sausage. “Only eighty-six tonight—The census is low ’cause of the holidays,” she added. Her speech suggested origins from the hardscrabble Mississippi Delta, her lightsome spirit from decades of graced angst. “Am glad to see you’ve been eatin’ better than when you came in,” she continued. “That you’re goin’ home tomorrow.” Her deep-set eyes bedazzled like the blinking lights on the flocked Christmas tree behind her.

“Yes, I am, and thanks for all you do each evening.” She had seemed tireless mingling among the patients, calling them by name, listening to their comments about the food, even returning to the kitchen to prepare special dishes for them. Hilarity infused her movements.

My feelings were running high. I had more to say. “And may we hug?” Instantly, her cook demeanor morphed into Earth Mother, with crooked teeth resembling centuries-old standing stones weathered into points; within that moment her juiciness sweetened me, commingling her world with mine—a psychic feeding like no other.

 

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The sign is old, weather-worn, its letters somewhat faded, but again the invitation is extended:

 

 

No matter the overcast skies, the chill in the air—barricades close off the street to vehicular traffic, cloth-covered tables and folding chairs fill the cul-de-sac, and neighbors carrying hot and cold platters and bowls filled with choice recipes spill onto the sidewalk. Their steps suggest enthusiasm, camaraderie, and anticipation that new residents will join in on the fun around the brazier fire.

What’s unusual about this block party is its longevity. Established in 1973 by a handful of residents, intent upon creating a haven for their growing children, the annual gathering did just that. Within this ambiance they thrived, as well as countless others, in succeeding decades. Currently, ten children below the age of seven are blossoming; another attends high school and two in universities.

Such neighborliness has fused a tangible energy that still pulsates among the twenty-two brick bungalows that line Douglas Court. Like kaleidoscopes with ever-changing jeweled vistas, stories abound: babies, grandbabies, graduations, birthday and anniversary parties, holiday gatherings, diminishments, even deaths, each illumined by the waxing and waning of sun-years.

Such a privilege to have lived on Douglas Court for over twelve years! I’m so grateful—and there have been many signs.

 

It happened again. No, not another school shooting—Something more profound, despite months of near-drought hardening the soil, intent upon imprisoning the emergence of all growth.

There was a reprieve. Days of dripping rain began juicing the soil and softening thirsty fissures. Faint hues of green patchworked lawns. Buds swelled, enhancing the tips of shrubs and trees. Even more wetness penetrated parched roots of bulbs planted in late autumn. Indeed, this quickening would not be stopped.

And today’s sunshine has energized the solitary gold crocus blooming in my flowerbed, one that I had not planted, and one that has given wiggle-room to my spirit for many springs.

Such is our hope in the greening Power that restores life, within and without. With the winter’s bluster waning, let us give thanks …

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