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“It’s only winterbite,” my gardener friend assured me, handing me several mottled leaves from the Christmas Hollys we’d planted last spring in my side yard. Her windblown cheeks, her bulky sweatshirts and jeans, smudged from previous work, bespoke her authority tending gardens. She brightened and leaned over. “See these buds beneath other stressed leaves? Once the earth warms up, they’ll push them off and form new leaves.”

Like the Christmas Hollys, I, too, suffer from winterbite. So weary of wearing long underwear and multiple layers of heavy clothing, so bone-chilled by arctic winds, so leery of inaccurate weather forecasts, so sun-deprived, so tired of in-house walks.

Like everyone, I yearn for the warming sun to quicken my own budding with spring’s pastels: pinks, raspberry, peach, rose …

 

 

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April’s winter burn, a combination of blowing winds, freezing temperatures, and low soil moisture, wrecked havoc upon the southern magnolia tree that was planted recently in my backyard. Its lustrous leaves mottled, turned brown, then dropped off, one by one, skirting the base of the tree with what resembled piles of furry pelts.

The arborist from Droege Tree Care in St. Louis, Missouri, advised me not to lose heart and to continue the weekly waterings with the soaker hose. I did just that while loving its spindly branches and noting still more speckled leaves barely attached to the limbs. Other well-established magnolia trees in the neighborhood were already leafing out.

It seems to me that hardships, any time of the year, not properly handled, can also cause winter burn; it crimps psyches: embittering the taste for life, withering the resolve to endure, shrinking the desire to speak, and jettisoning social contacts. The resulting soul-sickness reduces the afflicted to a mealy regurgitation of the predictable—the entrapment by Dark Forces that want them dead.

Salvaging such conditions requires the spiritual infusion of warmth, calm, nourishment, and light. I know. I’ve been there.

Such is happening to my southern magnolia tree; its lime-green leafing now glistens in the morning sun. God willing, it will thrust its branches into the sky, become a haven for winged creatures and a joy to passersby.

 

She prays.

Slowly, her veined hand moves across his sunken chest. No longer is there a heartbeat. He is gone. Unfathomable peace suffuses his shriveled remains. Within that sacred moment she rests—fulfilled are her vows of almost seven years, pronounced that festive afternoon in their parish church where they had met at daily Mass, their snowy hair enhancing their flushed faces. Afterwards, merriment enlivened their white-tent reception filled with families and friends. It was all about love with its inherent sacrifices.

She prays.

Of little consequence, now, were his temper tantrums, rigid judgments, blaming—behaviors exacerbated by his Parkinson’s Dementia, three years into the marriage. Of little consequence was his frequent need in the middle of the night to pack his things in a pillowcase and go home. Of little consequence was his emptying the contents of the kitchen drawers into the refrigerator, of flooding the bathroom floor. Of little consequence was his violent reaction to placement in a skilled nursing facility, despite painstaking preparations. Now, he lives in eternal life and that’s all that matters.

She prays. Her eyes glisten.

Salted by keen suffering, she lives the mandate of Jesus Christ to be “the salt of the earth.”

Her name is Mary.

 

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