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Within the dense viburnum shrub outside my study window, an orange-red flicker caught my attention until breezes hid it from view. I waited until the leaves again parted to reveal a female cardinal nesting her clutch. Beneath her long tail was the cone-shaped nest of leaves, stems, and twigs. She seemed content, her pointed feather crest bespeaking her authority as mother. For at least two weeks, her body warmth will facilitate the hatching.

This experience of nesting also recalled the Italian sonnet, “God’s Grandeur” composed by the mystic Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1877, the year of his ordination as a Jesuit. In the octet he discounts the evils of Liverpool’s Industrial Revolution dulling the sensitivities of the residents: “…all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil/and wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell…” Yet for the spiritually adept in the sestet, Hopkins images the Holy Ghost “…over the bent/World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.”

In view of global disease and unrest challenging our way of life, these images afford critical protection and care, there being evil intent upon rocking our foundations and disseminating fear. No one knows the outcome of this upheaval, how it will look like or when it will occur. Within quiet cloisters of our hearts, we watch and wait and pray. In the religious history of the world, there has always been a remnant that has survived and told the story to those willing to listen. Perhaps this will be our experience.

However this crisis works out, we’re always sheltered from harm like fledglings warmed by nesting birds, both natural and supernatural. Such is our God-given faith.



Beauty’s imprint upon the imagination unleashes streams of shimmering lights: wordless joys that warm chilled places.

Such is my experience as I gaze out my study window that frames the Summer Snowflake Viburnum shrub: Even its name, a juxtaposition that enlarges its reality, draws smiles.

This is the sixth spring that I’ve been companioned by its serrated green leaves and showy blossoms upon pagoda-like branches. I marvel at its prodigious growth, originally a spindly trunk about three feet tall. Two hot summers required soaker hosings to keep it alive, together with our conversations about surviving. Given my health issues, I never knew if I’d see another spring. Our preening in the sun must have worked.


The sudden drop in energy felt like a freight elevator in free fall: I could not inhale.

Slowly, I lowered myself upon the kitchen stool and took stock: I was on E, for empty, my brain feathery, my breathing flailing against my chest wall. Ashen whiteness eclipsed my thoughts and feelings. Then, the distress stopped. I inhaled, sipped water from my cup, and caught my neighbor’s flowering red-bud tree outside my window, its frothy pinkness the epitome of String’s effervescence.

More evidence of my lungs’ diminished functioning gave me pause. True, I’d cut back on the dose of Dexamethasone, but with that correction, my limited world was joggled back to life. Again, I could access words, the building blocks of psychic growth: without them, I am lost.

As with any terminal illness, mine teaches vital lessons of trust, each twenty-four hours allotted me. I had no say in the circumstances that birthed me over eighty-four years ago, and I’ve none as to when I leave. Death in my body will occur when it will.

So this episode in my kitchen is just another, and not that important to get worked up about. In time, this will change, and such a change it will be.

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love him… (I Cor 2:9)

Such has been promised to us …


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