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It was happening again—outside my study window.

Like hard hats, nubs tipped 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 burgeoning. Overcast skies, drenching rains, and bone-chilling temperatures imprisoned them in darkness.

But not so this morning—There was a change: the swollen nubs were splitting apart; beneath the shriveled skins glimmered a new green, and with more growth still to come, regal purple blossoms to delight the senses.

It seems that many life forms originate within buds. Once their protective function is served, they split apart and wither. For a time, greening plants, shrubs, and trees flourish, then begin to lose color, fade, then produce buds for the next season. The same holds true for the offspring of humans and animals.

In a related sense, I believe that the aging body also functions like a bud. When life’s energies and responsibilities begin to wane, the spirit seeks an increasing solitude within the womblike darkness of the body: therein, to remember, to pray, to forgive, to give thanks, and to embrace the Unknown.

This continues to be my experience—as I await my transition, whenever, however…

 

 

 

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As the rigors of winter fade, a single gold crocus pushes through the mulch of my barren flowerbed and preens in the sun like a rollicking clown—the tenth year of such flowerings that reveals the Creator’s kiss.

Glad are our hearts this morning.

 

“I can dance! I can jump! I can run! I can work! I can play!” so sings the ecstatic Amahl, the lame shepherd boy, in Gian Carlo Menotti’s one-act opera for children of all ages, Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951).

Set in Bethlehem, a fiery star, “as big as a window,” lures Amahl into the December hills where he pipes his heart out, one melody after another. An impossible dreamer, he frequently frustrates his widowed mother, further impoverished by the recent sale of their sheep. Piercing cold, hunger, no fire in their hearth, only sleep’s oblivion keeps death at bay. However, from out of the night emerge Melchior, Kaspar, and Balthazar, kings/astrologers and their page, seeking lodging in this widow’s hovel. Stories of their star-quest for another king quicken Amahl. Like their visitors, he will bring a gift, his crutch, all that he owns. In that decision, his withered leg throbs with new wholeness. He stands tall. He will have a life. He sings.

What was it that compelled Amahl to disregard the need for his crutch, without which he remained immobile, this reckless heart-gesture that gave its all? What did he see in that moment? What empowerment that changed everything?

Unfortunately, many of us still hold on to crutches, of whatever stripe, to inch us through challenges, to enhance functioning, to conceal our human foibles from others and ourselves. What would it be like to stride free from such hobbling compulsions and enjoy the sun’s warmth on our backs?

Perhaps in 2019, we’ll find out. May it be a very Happy New Year for you and your loved ones!

 

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