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Each morning I show up for another sick day of my terminal illness as differentiated from actively dying in Dr. Singh’s book The Grace in Dying. Still handling my ADLs, I fill the hours with blogging, praying, reading, phone and email contacts, resting, and CPA meetings. The little blue pill still supports my functioning. Weekly visits with the hospice nurse and occasional ones from the social worker continue; the chaplain, on medical leave. Time seems to careen like gymnasts hurtling the vault.

Two days ago, however, I was diverted from my routine.

On my bookshelf lay the paperback The Room on Rue Amelie (2018), by Kristin Harmel, which a friend had dropped by months ago. I picked up the novel and scanned the reviews. A kernel of fact held it together: During World War II the Paris resistance developed Comet, an escape route into Spain for Allied pilots shot down over Germany and Nazi-occupied France.

Although the novel afforded me a respite from my usual routine, it was a thin read: Too many characters, too many coincidences, too many clichés, too many gaps in the story line. Withal, the author’s ambition misshaped her story. Yet, I completed the novel, surprised by my critique. The experience prompted my return to studying books with depth, with artistry, with life-lessons. Despite my limits, my imagination still needs feeding.

I could be sick for a long while and life’s fullness still abounds with glimpses of the Sacred.

 

 

Recently, a single red balloon found its way into my backyard, its bottom booted by trickster winds under brooding skies; its redness plummeted me within the experience of Pascal, the kindergartner in the Academy-Award winning short, The Red Balloon (1956) by Albert Lamorisse. Filmed in the run-down Ménilmontant neighborhood of Paris, still recovering from the war’s devastation, the mood is somber, its grayness pervasive. Spare is the dialogue amidst the noise of street life.

On the way to school Pascal happens upon a red helium balloon snared within the crook of a streetlamp, frees, then, tames it: its brightness emboldens his fragile sensitivity, easily bruised by the crimped world of adults and hooligans around him; it becomes his confidante. A playful lei-motif traces their developing relationship, with its pranks, foolishness, joys, and grief.

But The Red Balloon is not just an ordinary movie. Its opening scene engages our imagination and plunges us into the world of symbols; some of the following are notable: grey clothing: mourning; the Cosmic Suffering Christ: red balloon; wetness: cleansing; the Divine Child: innocence; stone stairs: heights and depths; and redemption: the cluster balloon ride—thereby imprinting this story upon viewers for decades.

Even today, eyes quicken with smiles whenever the story of Pascal and his red balloon is shared.

Do treat yourself. Both the book and the short are still available on Amazon—even a freebie on YouTube.

 

It is cold—very cold—and it is still winter.

Somehow that matters little in my warm study when enveloped within Winter Dreams, the subtitle of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor (1866) played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Yuri Temirkanov. The first movement, fragile and effervescent, evokes inchoate scenes. Like hesitant sparrows, words surface—putting something out there that wasn’t there before:

Moonlit snow-scapes—wind-startled frozen lakes—flocked mountain pines—brush-filled meadows—gust-sculpted cathedrals—critter-tracks meandering over hills—color-splashes angling down slopes and crisscrossing paths.

Beneath this frozen world, deep smiles thaw my imagination; trickles of water create wiggle-room for my breathing. Like the first morning of creation, Beauty still evokes such things through Tchaikovsky’s Winter Dreams.

Joy surfaces, again and again. We’ve only to receive it.

 

 

Available on Amazon

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