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Goats from Bob’s Mobile Petting Zoo munch the begonias along the front walk of the brownstone. On the front stoop, kids bottle-feed spring lambs and pet others. Nearby, a saddled pony tosses her blonde mane and waits with her handler for the next rider. Ducks squawk as a neighbor, broom in hand, shoos them from her roses. Rock music and squeals of laughter pour through opened windows, their lace curtains frisked by winds within the froth of play.

It’s Chris’s surprise party for his twelfth birthday.

Inside, multi-colored streamers festoon the walls and fixtures, helium balloons smooch the ceilings, paper plates drip with remains of pizza and ice cream. Upon the dining room table dances the father who organized this after-school party; Chris and his buddies gyrate in tandem with him. In all the rooms more kids wearing party hats jump on sofa cushions and dance.

A sense of concerted play makes complete sense of this apparent mayhem until abruptly ended by the return of the irate mother, an interior design executive. “The party’s over,” says the father, and their shared camaraderie fizzles.

So the 1994 movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, begins.

Had not the mother axed this party, it would have continued into the evening; its momentum, open-ended and spiced with joy, fired imaginations of the participants and blessed them.

Imagine if Mrs. Doubtfire (the father’s later disguise) would throw a similar party on Capitol Hill—It would have to be a surprise.

 

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She hiked herself upon the seat of the ladder-back chair and grabbed a mound of pink clay from the tub on my dining room table. Her head bowed, her red hair swishing the sides of her round cheeks, she set to work. Small hands kneaded the clay, stubborn under her touch. She worked harder. Her freckled nose twitched as she rolled it flat on the table, one side, then the other. She hunched back in her chair and inspected the results, then rolled it out again.

Finally satisfied, her narrow fingers fashioned the flattened piece into what appeared to be a container. Her work continued. Again, she reached into the tub and pulled out an orange piece. After having smoothed it, she shaped it into a circle, a process she repeated with lavender, blue, and yellow clay. Next came narrow green strips of clay she rolled into tubes; upon them she mounted the circles.

“I need a toothpick,” she said to her mother and grandmother, looking on and smiling. One emerged from the tub. With deft fingers the young artist inscribed her message, I love you, from Mary, then offered me her creation: the pink vase with summery flowers.

Such was the fruit of Mary’s industry, my six-year-old great-granddaughter who was visiting from her Minneapolis home.

Her love offering reminded me of a striking parallel found in the prophet Isaiah: “You are our Father; we are the clay, You our potter, we are all the work of Your hands.”

May we be willing to participate in this daily kneading. It’s about letting go of the kinks in our instincts and thriving.

 

 

 

It was last Sunday, an afternoon of frothy flowering: nubby red-buds interfacing with cobalt skies; branches of apple trees thick-sleeved with blossoms; crab-apples, resembling cones of raspberry sherbet; weeping cherries bowed in supplication; tulips parading their colors like drum majorettes; and creeping moss carpeting rock gardens with lavenders and pinks. Such richness evidenced the synchronicity of warmth, moisture, and rich soil.

The same afternoon also held another kind of frothy flowering, one offered by the Missouri Women’s Chorus under the direction of Scott Schoonover. The rose marble sanctuary of St. Gabriel Catholic Church in St. Louis, Missouri, afforded the singers a protective womb from which to joyfully proclaim the revelations of six mystics: Mary, Mother of Jesus; Cecilia; Margaret Queen of Scotland; Hildegard of Bingen; Julian of Norwich; and Teresa of Avila.

Like the synchronicity occurring outdoors, we experienced the fruit of the Chorus’s four-part harmony; it illumined the sacred texts with ecstasy and opened them to wordless communion with the Sacred—No matter the obvious limits of the notes and words to encompass the Ineffable.

Such robust flowering in spring’s coloration and in the voices of the Missouri Women’s Chorus evidenced a power in our midst that effaces smudges from our “unclean hearts.” Humbled, we rejoiced with the fourteenth-century-mystic Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

 

 

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