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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!

Covid seems to have a mind of its own—a stripping that flattens initiative, that dissects energy into unseemly burps, that short-shifts plans into uselessness, and impales spirits upon re-runs. Nothing seems to work the way it used to. Patience thins like threadbare overcoats on city pigeons perched upon window ledges.

A bleary scenario, to be sure, but not unlike November’s stripping, also in process.

No longer do winds tickle leaves from branches; they rip them asunder, strewing bits onto gables, creek beds, and wooded paths. Swirls of yellowish-browns skitter along sidewalks, bed down in gutters, spike in woody hedges, mass atop listless perennials. A solitary flame-tree cackles at this despoliation, until its own during the next windstorm.

Juvenile squirrels frisk around tree trunks, then gawk, stunned. Canadian geese meddle about like staid sergeants on a murder case. Swarms of blackbirds swoop and caw, echoing distress. Our world sighs in muted grays and browns as death stalks in between the next breath.

There is something to learn here if we are willing. It’s about acceptance of what is, including the cyclical nature of change. True, Covid has bruised every institution, modified communication, left a swath of the ill and dying upon our planet, and altered esteemed values—substantial losses, admittedly. But whoever said that we were more than human? That suffering wasn’t wrapped within everyone’s birthright?

Wounded as we are, hushness envelops us with the grace of waiting for what we know not: There will be some form of greening, if we are still and watchful.

At 4:30 A.M., this corrective dream woke me:

In front of me stood a suntanned mom, her arms filled with kid books, her blonde toddler holding onto her jogging shorts. Then it was my turn at the counter. “You’ve a ten-cent fine,” said the librarian looking over her computer.

This dream felt like a particle of a larger one, but substantive enough to work with.

The ten-cent fine stands out.Admittedly, an annoyance, it speaks to the issue of contracts, including book rentals. The imposition of fines for late returns speaks of the library’s ownership of books and other materials on their shelves.

In the dream, I incurred such a fine, unlike my usual attentiveness to such matters. Paying the dime smarted: it was not the amount but “someone” had found out—I was not perfect.

On a deeper level, the fine serves as a wake-up call to my present circumstances. That “someone,” a unified voice of trusted family and friends, kept reminding me of how well I looked, much to me dismay. Eventually, I learned they were right.

Despite diseased lungs, I was not dying—not yet.

For too long, if I’m honest with myself, I have been harboring scenarios of my demise, lapping up others’ sympathy, concerns, gifts, and notes of loving prayer. In recovery circles, such obsessive thinking catastrophes the future.

It’s all about mindfulness, of pacing my ADLs lest further weakened by exhaustion—limited living, but living, nonetheless. Others have done this and so can I, with Higher Power’s help, each twenty-four hours.

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