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In my perception, the word play is like a lighthouse flashing critical illumination along hazardous rocky shorelines. Without play, darkness envelops the psyche, and encrusts inner faculties with viper-like stings, frequently self-imposed. With play’s bag of surprises, however, creativity surges; glee mounts as more of the beautiful reveals herself, in nature, art works, design, even a forgiven child with a skinned knee.   

A deeper look at play seems to suggest something of the Sacred, at work. The Old New Testament uses the verb, play, seventy-three times: with musical instruments, with harlotry, with performing, and with children. Each expression of play draws upon the individual’s imagination and uplifts listeners or warns them to wake up and observe the Law of Moses. 

A fifth use of this verb differs from the others. From the book of Proverbs (8:29-31) comes,

                    …when he laid the foundations of the earth

I was by his side, a master craftsman,

delighting him day after day,

ever at play in his presence,

at play everywhere in his world

delighting to be with the sons of man.

Within the essence of God, there seems to be a player who enjoys being with us, who takes delight with our efforts to play/ or co-create with him.

I would have loved to have known the sage who received this insight and gave it expression, centuries ago.

Elizabeth Lighthouse – Portland, Maine

Like hard hats, nubs tip the branches of my old lilac bush, caught up in the play of trickster winds. Over the winter months, the nubs appeared dormant, as if pondering their eventual flourishing. Overcast skies, drenching rains, and bone-chilling temperatures imprisoned them in darkness.

But not so this morning—there is a change: the swollen nubs are splitting apart; beneath the shriveled skins glimmer a new green as if hesitant to trumpet the earth’s warming. Such coloring stirs memories of other spring-watchings that unfolded like gyrating clowns tooting horns and clanging cymbals.

Like the bud, the terminal illness in my body is splitting open colorful vistas for further exploration: dreams, significant reading, stillness, contemplative prayer, substantive phone contacts, and writing. New lessons swell my spirit and keep it fresh: gentling my body with its symptoms, accepting the inevitability of my swelling and shriveling, waiting for inner nudges to embrace the next right step.

Interludes of angst also occur, and I know to be still with them as they do pass.

More than ever, my spirit seeks an increasing solitude within my body’s womb-like darkness: therein, to remember, to pray, to forgive, to give thanks, and to embrace the Unknown. The gift of another twenty-four hours for these endeavors helps.

Admittedly the richest time in my life, this new coloring is working out as I await my transition, whenever, however…

Words skitter as I plumb my depths. None seem to hang around for my use—as if they, too, were stunned by what happened.

It had stormed that evening, like being thrashed about in a washing machine, with no turn-off switch. An explosive crack sounded; then, the thud and splatter upon the street compelled me to my front window streaming with rain. Barely could I make out what happened. Shuddering seized me—It was my sweet gum tree.

Only at daybreak did I learn the full extent of the damage: the uppermost limb had been twisted off like a corkscrew; its lustrous leaves already crimping around the edges. With such an injury, the tree could no longer grow. The rest of it would have to come down.

Over fifteen years I had benefited from the sweet gum’s shade, its radiant greens and red-golds, its lofty branches, its symmetry enhancing my bungalow, even its gumballs I raked each March until I was unable.

The sweet gum’s demise accentuates the impermanence of life, including my own. Yet, its welcoming limbs, in all seasons, had heartened me, and I am grateful.

There will be another tree to replace the sweet gum, and eventually there will be shade, symbol of God’s protection and care.

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