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It was dusk: cloud stacks slowly encroached upon fluid fields of peach and aquamarine washes, resembling the insides of summer’s richness. Stillness wafted upon southern breezes that felt like a newborn’s breath.

I stopped walking.

Ahead, the serpentine path slithered alongside undulating hillocks shimmering with emerald-grasses. Occasional peeps heightened the drama of the fading light.

Within a stand of rough-barked honey locust trees, glowing flashes darted here, there; then, behind me. Suddenly, other summers from childhood engulfed me. Alone, away from whooping kids playing kick-the-can on our street, I held the mayonnaise jar in perspiring hands and trained my eyes for the next blip of light. I would catch one of them. Within this pursuit a shimmering darkness assuaged my loneliness. I could breathe.

Such inexplicable events occur in the in-between-times of our lives, satiate our senses, nurture our spirits, and bond us in communion. Indeed, all is well!

 

For eight Februarys, a single gold crocus has pushed through the mulch in my flowerbed, preening its petals within the morning sun. Its blooming, in the same place, seems to proclaim, “I’m back! Take heart!” Solitary in its uniqueness, it streams hope: beneath winter’s apparent grip, life does persist.

Its burst of sweetness evokes deep questions. How does one learn to stand apart from collective norms and witness to ultimate truth? How to express one’s findings in the face of killing winds? How to relish one’s solitude in pursuit of the Sacred?

Responding to such questions opens many doors, perceived as locked; behind them, untarnished treasures abound for still further exploration.

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Have you ever been mesmerized by a squirrel skittering across a plank fence, by winking stars on frigid nights, by rushing streams in shady creek beds, by cardinals’ chirrups in the morning sun? Such in-breakings suggest a realm closer than our next heartbeat. Thrust outside time, we pause, enlivened by freshness, and smile.

It is precisely this experience that Susan Vreeland captures in her novel, Girl in Hyacinth Blue (1999), the name she gives to an unaccounted canvas, created by the Dutch Neoclassic painter, Jan Vermeer, in the 1760s. And such a young girl she is! Her sun-bathed profile seized by an inner awakening, pulls her away from her mending, her hand, idle, palm up. She is elsewhere.

So what lays beyond these momentary gaps in consciousness, so unexpected, yet heartwarming, this stillness that dissolves restlessness and paradoxically opens onto bliss? How access this realm?

The author Susan Vreeland imagines the Dutch painter Vermeer speaking of such moments, “… grounded in deep beds of contemplation, the only way living things could be stilled long enough to understand them…”

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