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Images of spiritual cleansing abound, but one with a strong appeal is composting, discovered in my psychic depths through the study and practice of the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous.

Much of my composting stinks of long-term resentments and the many faces of anger carried from childhood. Greed, envy, and sloth have also lined the perimeter of my ditch for decades. Denial kept me prim and pretty and codependent. Seldom was fault owned, lest the thief in the night despoil me. Filled with terror, I hid from life—Safer that way.  

In the almost five years I’ve been a member of Chronic Pain Anonymous, the shrill voices of my sinfulness, past and present, red flag immediate recourse to the gentle, but trenchant, uprooting found in the principles of the Twelve Steps: honesty, hope, surrender, integrity, willingness, courage, humility, love, responsibility, discipline awareness, and service.

My adherence to them is on-going, and the results, gratifying: the very disorders I’ve discarded, with God’s help, have resulted in the development of a new sense of being that deepens with more practice. Only the death of my body will end this process.

Note: These changes only occur within the global spiritual fellowship of CPA. No one does this arduous work alone.

Thick skin, leathery texture, meaty fruit, green color, tart flavor—Yes, it’s the Granny Smith apple, only appearing in American supermarkets beginning in the 1970s. The experience of crunching into this apple finds it in many shopping bags, the world over. Lowest in sugar of all the apples, it requires a cultivated taste to fully appreciate its gift. Once mastered, green apples grace pies, crisps, salads, sorbets, rolls, juice, dumplings and so much more, dependent upon the imagination of cooks.

But there’s another story about the Granny Smith apple that few know in our country. There really was such a Granny: her name was Maria Ann Sherwood Smith (1799 – 1870), an Australian orchardist who worked in fruit orchards, a trade she, her husband, and five children brought with them from economically strapped Sussex, England in 1839. A combination of hard work, study, camaraderie with other orchardists adjacent to their twenty-four acres, and their children’s willingness to learn the trade led to the Smiths’ simple prosperity.

Pie-baking was another skill that Granny excelled in, often taking home prizes from local fairs. When not working in the orchards, she could be seen by the kitchen window, tossing out seeds and stems from the fruit she was preparing for one of her concoctions. A twenty-five-foot creek close to their farm caught many of the scraps—site for their composting.

One morning in 1868, her practiced eye caught what appeared to be an unfamiliar seedling with green fruit growing near the creek; it resembled the crossing of a French crab-apple tree and an apple tree: the remarkable outcome of the scraps of her compost.

Maria Ann Smith was already a loving granny before her discovery of the green apple tree, so its naming after her was a given. Try one and learn to enjoy it. 

It was 7:20 A.M., and again an engaging dream wanted my recall—most unusual because long weeks have passed with no dream stories that glimpse the milieu of my psyche, no cues that still needed work for my transition. This morning’s glimpse goes like this:

I’ve traveled to the Southwest for the weekend gathering of artists, their handcrafted ware displayed beneath tents in a grassy meadow. Adjacent to this area are classes offered in the crafting of the displayed articles: weaving, pottery, cooking, leather working, jewelry, especially turquoise, drawing and painting. I join the hundreds moving slowly among the exhibits. I’m itching to try something new and find myself welcomed by the weaver, a Native American with strong knowing hands. The final evening, she informs the students which of their works they can take with them.

In my perception, the Southwest represents a centuries-old world of warmth, intimate with nature: like an incubator, it served its primitive people with rich imaginations who storied their gods, then etched them upon cave and rock drawings. Such icons still breathe fierceness. There’s much to learn here.

The seasoned artists at this gathering who have mastered their craft, suggest submersion into the waters of Life. To express their passion, they’ve overcame obstacles, endured ridicule, and scrimped and saved to support themselves. Their hand-crafted ware triggers potential artists to do similarly. And because of this self-imposed discipline, they’re willing to teach others.

The weaver, a Native American with strong knowing hands, suggests God in disguise, a critical life teacher who will help me weave together the final version of my odds and ends, still to be incorporated into the Elizabeth of my birthright.

I’m a work in progress …

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