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From within summer’s treasures bloom Asiatic lilies: crimsons, salmons, whites, yellows, and golds; their profusion enhances ash pits, garage doors, backyards, as well as formal gardens. Atop stalks, sometimes over five feet tall, stamens and pistils strut their stuff within six-petelled blossoms—their blatant sexuality preening under the sun. Unlike other flowering shrubs and plants, their showing lasts for weeks.

I’m always stunned by the perfection of Asiatic lilies: the symmetry of their waxy petals, their unified whole, their coloring, and especially their pulsating energy. Never can I walk past a cluster of them without touching and smelling. Joy wells from my depths.

Such vibrant beauty recalls the aesthetics of John Ruskin, a British art critic and watercolorist. He experienced God’s love in the wonders of nature as he traveled around Europe and later developed his findings in five volumes of Modern Painters (1885), seventeen years in their composition. Such findings also fueled his passion for environmental reform caused by smog from factories during the Industrial Revolution. Hazed over was God’s unitive presence in nature—its connection, minimized, snuffed out.

Unfortunately, similar smog still persists. At best, we can keep it at bay through listening, in stillness, to clusters of Asiatic lilies. Be open to their gifts and be renewed.

 

 

 

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“The only thing I can’t … teach is whether a musician can get through to his guts. They have to find that themselves, and some of them never do.” So says the seventy-two year-old-world-renowned violinist, Itzhak Perlman, the subject of Chernick Alison’s documentary (2018). Such discoveries usually occur in the wake of intense suffering.

I suggest that Itzhak’s came to him during his formative years. His Polish parents fled their country in advance of Hitler’s ghettoization. Their purchase of a toy violin at a Tel Aviv thrift shop for their three-and-a-half-year only son, too small to hold a real one, evidenced their hardscrabble existence. And six months later, their shock as they dealt with Itzhak’s polio-ravaged body.

Multi-faceted interventions followed: medications and special diets to restore what was left of Itzhak’s health, passive range of motion exercises for his paralyzed legs, constant adjustment of his shoes and the heavy leg braces and crutches to accommodate his growth. When thirteen, his prodigious talent brought him and his parents to Manhattan where he began his studies at the Julliard School of Music—again, leaving behind everything familiar.

More studies solidified Itzhak’s violin playing with his gut, the sacred core of his being. Always listening, he still approaches each note with reverence, as if taking direction as to when to enter it, how long to stay, and when to leave it behind. His facial expression reflects this passionate embrace. Such playing informs Itzhak’s uniqueness and still crowds concert halls around the world.

Alison’s short documentary, Itzhak, offers clues to Itzhak’s genius—A must see.

 

 

So exclaimed Mary R Woodard (no period after the letter R), her body broken by decades of washing, ironing, and cleaning for others in St. Louis, Missouri. As a child she hunkered down in a ditch in Christian County, Kentucky, and watched her twenty-year-old uncle lynched for looking at a white woman. Following her move North as part of the Great Migration, her experience of racism morphed into “bitter with sweet meanness.” Psalm 37 protected her gentle spirit from its contagion.

 Into Mary’s life came another outsider, Jane Ellen Ibur, a toddler living in an affluent home with a swimming pool. Screaming battles with her parents led her to seek Mary’s bosom, in their basement where she ironed.

This little girl subsequently became a teacher and a poet who honored her mentor in this poetic memoir, both wings flappin’, still not flyin’ (2014). Their mutual selflessness defies words: Mary’s habitual recourse to God and Jane’s care of her the last eleven years of her life—such reveals the brilliance of the Sacred Feminine.

We learn from them.

 

Available on Amazon

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