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In the wake of spring rains irresistible puddles swell holes along woodland paths.

 

 

Eighteen-month-old Lily happened upon one, her rubbery legs encircling it with glee. Excitement mounted as the circles narrowed. Then, she paused at the puddle’s edge and jumped, water drenching her boots, her arms flailing at her sides. More circles followed with intervals of pausing and jumping. Instead of retreating to dry ground, she stooped over and rippled the water with a stick, stood up, then did it again. Her mother noted all of this beneath an oatmeal sky, and when Lily tired, gathered her in her arms and headed for home.

A simple story repeated around the world—it spoke of reckless abandon. Fearless, in full motion, focused, her senses totally engaged, Lily yipped with gusto—Certainly a desirable approach to new learning, when starting over.

And do we not start over with the gift of each day?

This prayer from The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous fires my attitude: We ask his protection and care with complete abandon.

Something red flickered, gentling the branch of the viburnum shrub outside my study window: It was the cardinal, its feathered crest bespeaking authority. Mesmerized, I sought its spirit. For a split second, turned inside out in riotous colors, it happened. Then, I was alone, the branch slick with raindrops still trembling from its visitor.

I had been visited. Its import would be revealed. I’d just have to listen.

Earlier in the morning, I wondered whether I was still eligible for hospice, given Medicare’s second benefit period winding down. I was still performing my ADLs, albeit more slowly, still managing with helpers in my home, still content with new learning each twenty-four hours. Yet imperceptibly, I was still losing ground. The steroid, at first helpful with my symptoms, was less effective, rendering me weak and lightheaded. Breathing still limited my endurance, increased my need to pace myself, and messed with coughing up phlegm during the day.

“Of course, Liz, you still meet the criteria for hospice,” Alice said later as she wrapped the blood pressure cuff around my upper arm. “We’ve also gotten to know you these past months—you’re doing very well—and you know to call us whenever you need help with personal care.” Often, she had offered this additional service. I brightened with her words, seeping into vestiges of denial still lurking within my psyche’s depths.

So again it was about acceptance, deeper than previously experienced. I felt its sweet release. This was working out, literally one day at a time. I only had to show up and keep an eye out for the cardinal, my backyard companion and teacher.

 

“If you love the truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sun will illuminate you in God.”—a trenchant saying attributed to Isaac the Syrian, the seventh-century Bishop, theologian, and monk who the Eastern Orthodox Church regards as a saint.

Simple words, if pondered, reveal the unseen caught in the flux of time. Key to this process is passion, whose firelight, like the sun, ignites inner worlds. But who cares to go there? To discipline unruly instincts clamoring for expression? That would be like dying. Such flies in the face of our cultural mores, engulfed in denial and rationalization. The predictable is more comfortable, yet soulless.

It does not take much to see who is truly alive among us: their quickening gaze, their resonant voices, their authority, of whatever age and background.

That’s what happens when you sit in the fire. It works…

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