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I sit in my wing-back chair, the Jerusalem Bible open upon my lap.

Earlier, I shuddered with media reports of Russians firing long range missiles at Kyiv, Karkiv, and Mariupol and more killing of civilians; with phone conversations blistering the wires between France’s Macron and Putin and between Biden and Xi Jinping.

Still another day of Russian mind control: the existence of biolabs and Nazis in Ukraine that justifies their aggression.

Yet, another day of Ukrainian resistance remains in place, with its demands for security guarantees from Russia, should it not join NATO.

Such terror-rhetoric glistens with menace, its intent to foist global panic: Ukrainians’ devastation could become the lot of other nations, including our own.

Such issues scathe my depths like zillions of flashing daggers. If unaddressed, psychic dismemberment occurs. I choose not to go there.

Instead, I enter within the psalmist’s imperative, Seek his face (27:8)—a redirection toward Spirit where, alone, faith stirs and stretches tall.

Like gardeners harvesting seeds of spent flowers, I collect my scattered energies and focus upon the present moment in which the face of God abounds. Today, I pray to be teachable, to live with events, terrifying and unpredictable as they unfold, fraught by Evil’s illusion.

We’re in good hands and always have been.

Grainy, sooty, found in shades of gray and black, dull or glossy, ashes form the residue of what remains after intense burning; in the eleventh century they were incorporated into today’s liturgical observance of Ash Wednesday around the world.

The 2020 Covid epidemic halted this ritual until now. Again, priests sign the faithful with a cross of ashes on their foreheads while praying, “Remember, that you are dust and into dust you shall return.” Then, and now, its observance proclaims the beginning of Lent with its practice of varied penance, and the reminder of our mortality.

In my imagination, these blessed ashes of diminishment co-mingle with the ashes left in the wake of Russian armaments blanketing Ukrainian cities, burying the living and the dead, scarring and obliterating buildings and landmarks, stultifying psyches. Ashes weep, blown by recalcitrant winds around the world.

Aside from Russia’s offensive losing its wallop, aside from the heroism of the Ukraine’s president and his people, the outcome of the conflict is uncertain.

“But, in the end, I think Ukraine’s darkest days are ahead of them…Vladimir Putin’s going to burn down Ukraine’s house.” So says Daniel Hoffman — for years, one of the CIA’s top experts on Russia.

With the burning comes more ashes of what was, the leitmotif of Ukraine’s beleaguered history, and with it, its sanctification. We’ve much to learn through prayerful weeping. 

One step followed another, mindful of keeping my feet angled to each other so as not to trip. With my helper holding my left elbow, with the cane on my right, we slowly circled the court, its melting resembling Antarctica’s fragile out-cropping of ice. Ahead of us, the sun’s caricature cavorted like acrobats performing in a two-penny circus: balance was critical to the performance.

Snow-covered lawns, both hilly and flat, bumped in places like snoozing polar bears. Puddled sidewalks mirrored scraggly limbs from above; ice-melt-stained pavement resembled a child’s smear of cookie dough; fragile embroidered-like ice crystals edged bleached grass, the split second before melting: such impressions suggest focusing upon the area around my feet rather than around me. Yet, the firm hold of my helper allowed these choice impressions imprinted upon my imagination.

Then, a pause and a snatch of air. Above, ivory-blue skies invited awe: its expanse cradled the houses beneath, exposing pieces of black and brown tiles and dripping gutters. All is as it supposed to be, this benign afternoon.

I can still walk.

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