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It was 7:20 A.M., and again an engaging dream wanted my recall—most unusual because long weeks have passed with no dream stories that glimpse the milieu of my psyche, no cues that still needed work for my transition. This morning’s glimpse goes like this:

I’ve traveled to the Southwest for the weekend gathering of artists, their handcrafted ware displayed beneath tents in a grassy meadow. Adjacent to this area are classes offered in the crafting of the displayed articles: weaving, pottery, cooking, leather working, jewelry, especially turquoise, drawing and painting. I join the hundreds moving slowly among the exhibits. I’m itching to try something new and find myself welcomed by the weaver, a Native American with strong knowing hands. The final evening, she informs the students which of their works they can take with them.

In my perception, the Southwest represents a centuries-old world of warmth, intimate with nature: like an incubator, it served its primitive people with rich imaginations who storied their gods, then etched them upon cave and rock drawings. Such icons still breathe fierceness. There’s much to learn here.

The seasoned artists at this gathering who have mastered their craft, suggest submersion into the waters of Life. To express their passion, they’ve overcame obstacles, endured ridicule, and scrimped and saved to support themselves. Their hand-crafted ware triggers potential artists to do similarly. And because of this self-imposed discipline, they’re willing to teach others.

The weaver, a Native American with strong knowing hands, suggests God in disguise, a critical life teacher who will help me weave together the final version of my odds and ends, still to be incorporated into the Elizabeth of my birthright.

I’m a work in progress …

Nothing like a folk tale to engage imaginations and enlarge the world around us—Such is the Brothers Grimm’s Town Musicians of Bremen (1819), still enjoyed by young hearts, six years old or ninety.

The story begins with an aging donkey, decrying his master’s displeasure over his slowness in pulling the cart to market. Rather than face probable death, the donkey flees to Bremen where he will become a musician.

On the road he meets a weary dog, fire thinning his bones. No longer able to hunt, he fears being put down by his master. But the donkey’s invitation to make music sparks his interest and he climbs onto his back.

Next they meet a cat with a face “like three rainy days.” She fears her mistress’s 

drowning, because blunted teeth prevent her from catching mice in their cottage. She, too, joins them.

Then a rooster crowing with all its might causes them to pause along the road. They learn that cook will cut off his head and prepare him for tomorrow’s dinner. He, too, welcomes the invitation and they continue on toward Bremen.

Although the story contains other adventures, I want to focus upon the four friends, so human in their fears of aging and the specter of death. Happily, the donkey sees beyond his fate and chooses an alternative: making music for others. So inspired he is that others choose similarly and climb onto his back and head for Bremen where everyone loves music.

It’s about discovering and developing meaning in life that keeps us fresh—even living with a terminal illness. I have found it so.

Grainy, sooty, found in shades of gray and black, dull or glossy, ashes form the residue of what remains after intense burning; in the eleventh century they were incorporated into today’s liturgical observance of Ash Wednesday around the world.

The 2020 Covid epidemic halted this ritual until now. Again, priests sign the faithful with a cross of ashes on their foreheads while praying, “Remember, that you are dust and into dust you shall return.” Then, and now, its observance proclaims the beginning of Lent with its practice of varied penance, and the reminder of our mortality.

In my imagination, these blessed ashes of diminishment co-mingle with the ashes left in the wake of Russian armaments blanketing Ukrainian cities, burying the living and the dead, scarring and obliterating buildings and landmarks, stultifying psyches. Ashes weep, blown by recalcitrant winds around the world.

Aside from Russia’s offensive losing its wallop, aside from the heroism of the Ukraine’s president and his people, the outcome of the conflict is uncertain.

“But, in the end, I think Ukraine’s darkest days are ahead of them…Vladimir Putin’s going to burn down Ukraine’s house.” So says Daniel Hoffman — for years, one of the CIA’s top experts on Russia.

With the burning comes more ashes of what was, the leitmotif of Ukraine’s beleaguered history, and with it, its sanctification. We’ve much to learn through prayerful weeping. 

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