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Atop fourteen-thousand-foot Pikes Peak, Colorado, summer, 1893, a Wellesley English professor and her colleagues rested following their climb, helped by a prairie schooner and mules. The magnificent vista compelled one of them, Katharine Lee Bates (1859 – 1929) to scribble “America The Beautiful” upon scrap paper, a four-stanza metered poem, each stanza with eight lines.

Only the first verse is usually sung, with the music later composed in 1910 by church organist Samuel A. Ward and popularized as a patriotic anthem.

The other three stanzas of “America the Beautiful” allude to Bates’s experience with our then, country’s dark side: the failure of the South’s Reconstruction, the evils of the Industrial Revolution, squalid tenements, crime, disease and deaths that could have been prevented, plight of the native Americans, hunger, prejudice toward Irish and Chinese emigrants, political entanglements, and the Spanish America War she covered as a correspondent for the New York Times.

Incisive assessments of our country’s ills led to her demand as a public speaker, and scores studied her published works. Fueling her zeal was her Congregationalist’s faith—how passionately she wished everyone live in harmony. In the second verse, Bates wrote:

God mend thine ev’ry flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law.

Because she lived close to her vision, Katharine Lee Bates relied upon God, the bestower of beauty, to correct the aberrations of the human family, still at war with each other. I share this vision for our country today.

Happy Fourth of July!

“Hello, again,” said a heavyset senior with hooded eyes, leaning upon her cane, waiting for her ride home. The afternoon sun bleached her faded housedress and shadowed her bulk against the entrance. I nodded as I passed her, noting her hallowed spirit.

We’d returned to the Y for short spells of walking with my cane, the humidity prohibiting exercising outdoors. Immediately, the cool air in the foyer felt like an elixir, eased my lung functioning. My steps quickened—So far, so good.

Again, Tyrol, maskless, grinned behind the reception counter as he called me by name. Again, not many members were around.

My first stop was the scale in the women’s locker room. My helper steadied me on the platform until the numbers settled in place—no weight loss relieved me.

Then, we walked through large connecting rooms filled with rows of exercise machines, weight lifting equipment; through the full-sized gym where two guys were shooting hoops; and then, through an exercise room with a mirrored wall and recessed closets with various sized balls and yoga equipment. Long strips of wood veneer flooring would help focus my eyes upon maintaining my balance. For time-out purposes, three blue-cushioned chairs sat along one wall. This arrangement would serve my needs.

I rested a bit before standing to get my balance, then began walking with/ without my cane, my helper, at my side. The mirror reflected a tall senior with long blue-jean-clad legs and short white hair, not as stooped as I had expected. Seven times around the room’s perimeter was enough. I was grateful, finished for the day. Tomorrow’s challenge, yet to be met.

It seems like The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (2019) surfaced from the unconscious of Charlie Mackesy and left tracks of the Sacred upon my psyche. Years of professional writing, painting, and illustrating merge within this whimsical tale and enliven seekers; its twelve translations, its mini-adventure film in the making, its audio-book, its vinyl recording, its prints and posters, its study groups illumine another way of relating with others. Mackesy can do this because he’s a humble man. He’s been there.

The stark simplicity of Mackesy’s words interfacing his pin-and-ink sketches with occasional watercolors, serve to brighten four questing spirits: the boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse, each of them replete with symbolism. The ensuing dialogues, tinged with humor, feels like the gracious Voice of the Sacred almost giggling, because of finally being heard. Toward the book’s beginning, we find such a turn-around:

What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the mole.

Kind,” said the boy.

Of little avail, is the Voice experienced in its usual sources, long discarded as irrelevant, but Mackesy’s message is the same.

Other outstanding features in this book include cursive writing rather than print, occasional blank pages for the reader to further reflect upon the import of what was just shared, and no pagination—one place is as good as another to start: Heartwarming wisdom is handsomely displayed within tracings of great trees and lakes and skies. Life can be fun in working relationships.

 The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse finds a resonance within anyone of any age and life circumstances. Its message to me is: You’re loved and always have been. Smile!

Available on Amazon

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