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I am glad—Still more to be gleaned from my study window this morning:

The finest mist freezes, midair, and saturates the plank fence across the backyard; it decomposes the twiggy circumference of the empty sparrow’s nest, from the summer, lodged among branches of the snowflake verbena. A few of its monkish leaves still clings as if grieving the loss of the chick’s family.

Beneath the shrub, the crystal droplet swells from the tip of a fallen leaf, its indecision like a toddler’s first steps: there is security in holding on.

Sudden movement in the corner of the yard distracts me. A mature squirrel, its pelt blending with the trunk of the London plane tree, pauses, then scrambles to a higher limb and disappears. Below, snow swirls pattern the bleached grass with feathery fingers. More melting islands of what looks likes snow creates rivulets across the pavers of my patio and slinks into the muddy corners, across more spent leaves. The ground appears juicy, its remote preparation for spring, in the making. The softest of breezes seems to slumber this world, dormant with life.

Prayer easily follows sloshing around in play boots stamped with ladybugs.

I used to notice a sparse-haired patient cuddling a baby doll, pressed against her full bosom, her feet swimming in maroon socks crossed in front of her. Around her, sat several generations of family in the front parlor of the nursing home. Sunday after Sunday, they regaled her with stories, despite her vacant look. Only the doll in her arms mattered as she fingered its high-tops.

Indeed, dolls have a long history of companioning. In prehistoric times, considered images of the soul, dolls were used in rituals: the Egyptian doll paddle was one example. Later, archaeologists found dolls made of clay, wood, ivory, or fur, with the remains of entombed children in Egypt, Rome, and Russia. And in ancient Greece, engaged women offered their dolls, in sacrifice, to the nymphs or to the goddess Diana, as they prepared for marriage: an exchange for authentic intimacy.

Closer to our own time, doll makers in fourteenth-century Nuremberg, Germany, fashioned them after real children, monks, and women dressed in the style of the day. Other European countries, especially England, also introduced dolls into their colonies that took fire around the world.

In every culture, little girls clung to their dolls that also fulfilled many psychosocial needs: wordless immediacy soothed inexplicable experiences; imaginations teemed with stories; maternal instincts roused the inner caregiver; hostile living spaces, transformed. Dolls also helped little girls’ transition into sleep and waking.—Even accessing the archetype of the Divine Child, their real life companion.

Again, I return to the sparse-haired patient in the nursing home. For however long she lived, she brought a semblance of who she used to be for her extended family. For them, it was enough.

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