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For most of the day, splishy-droplets scrimmed winter grasses, plank fences, and specter shrubs hugging my study, a subtle drenching sorely needed.

I pulled a chair next to the window, rather than collapse within grey’s moroseness: its palette revealed pewter skies, foggy mists, smoking chimneys, charcoal streets, sidewalks slickened like the hides of hippos. More belly rains threatened in the sudden splats whipping off my windowpane, then retreating as if scolded for intruding. Moments passed. Then, breezes lulled overhanging tree branches, slate-colored, and caught in its lethargic play a mussed piece of wrapping paper until lodged within hoar-covered ivy near the fence.

Then change occurred, slow at first: the droplets, icyfying. Plink! Plink! They caromed off my windowsill, sheened the piles of leaves resembling discarded gunboats in my backyard. Even silence felt like sagebrush with its healing aroma. The show continued. There was much to learn.

For an interval, all the greys surrendered to lighter hues releasing imprisoned outlines of my backyard. Rosy-greyness infused what appeared dormant. My spirit breathed deeply into the metamorphosis until swallowed by darker greys and night.  

But I had been visited as many others who had been colored, anew, by this experience. Grey does have substance.


The doorbell rings.

Behind the screen door stands my plumber Rob, the beak of his cap shielding the morning sun from his eyes. I smile, knowing I am in good hands, skillful and sinewy. For years he has kept my kitchen and bathroom in good repair. More significant than his skill, though, are his cheerful manner, his willingness to address any problem, and solutions are found within the drawers of his battered toolbox or the compartments of his van. Unlike other plumbers I have had, he also wipes up watery streaked floors with paper towels that he carries with him, then disposes them.

On a deeper level, I view Rob’s lifelong profession from a spiritual perspective. Instead of wearing a suit and tie to work, he pulls on clean jeans, a red T-shirt, canvas shoes, this morning’s attire. Instead of scrutinizing proposals in boardrooms, he studies clogged sinks, leaking faucets. Instead of lunching at gourmet restaurants, he snacks in his truck, in between customers. Instead of ordering state-of-the-art adornments, he replaces worn fixtures or makes others serviceable. Such humble work has etched Rob’s servant-character, not unlike Jesus, beautiful to behold.

On an even deeper level, I liken Rob’s knack of cleaning up stinking messes and restoring water flow with Spirit’s action in human hearts, gone amuck with disorders. The process can be complicated, costly, even exhausting, but with the restoration of the flow of grace/water, exhilarating life returns in its myriad colors.

The Spirit-Plumber is still working on me.


Within the harrowment of the Cross, Jesus gasps, “I thirst.”–A cosmic thirst that crazes and warps planet Earth. He remains among us, his parched tongue scraping against broken teeth, his next breath pierced by shattered ribs—a bloody thing, still hanging. It’s always been that way. We do not suffer alone.

This image has heartened me when enveloped within thirst, an aggravation for much of my life—it prodded me to seek relief in the world around me, but nothing resonated. That changed with my discovery of AA, itself, an identification with the Crucified.

With terminal illness, however, a different kind of thirst crimps my spirit, generally during nights when I’m most vulnerable. At those times, weakness impales me upon my bed. At those times, leg exercises fail to return me to sleep. At those times, nothing of significance on Talk Radio distracts me. Bleary-eyed, I clutch my crucifix and wait until dawn.

At other times, thirst takes me away from my word processor and the blog underway, reminds me to drink more water, and makes speaking on the phone difficult. Usually, I keep a cupful close at hand.

As I compose this blog, I remember pristine mornings at Gloucester’s retreat center. After my first meditation I headed toward my favorite boulder next to the ocean and noted the fresh growth of goldenrod, the Monarch butterflies. Always, I smiled into the sun toasting my shoulders. Again, I resonated with Isaiah 55:1: “Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty.”

 And this morning I do so, as well. The invitation from the Cross is always offered.



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