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A solitary cardinal alighted on the plank fence in my back yard, then zoomed down upon the winter-ravaged grass; its redness quickened my heart, plunged me into stillness. I continued watching. Like a wise professor attired in scarlet robes, it discerned the next step and took it boldly. Then it was gone. I had been visited and I knew it. Rather than resume my work in the kitchen, I savored this intrusion.

The cardinal’s fiery presence recalled images of Christ Pantocrator (the Lawgiver), rendered in mosaics or frescoes, which still adorn domes and apses of medieval Eastern Orthodox churches. The dark outlines of Christ’s iconic eyes, his red tunic, his left hand holding the jeweled book of the New Testament, his right hand raised in blessing—Such was the demonstrable power that had inflamed the imaginations of worshipers, huddled below in the nave, whispering their prayers. Such moments sustained their lives of hardship until the next Mass.

Such still has the holding power to thwart evil, with its allure of dark power. Willingness to follow its sway freshens us with loving care and protection.

 

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Such is the perspective of Leah Friedman, octogenarian author of this slim book of essays that is available on Amazon; its sepia photo of a framed drying bulb, one taken by her, portends to the richness found on each page.

Through the lens of seasoned wisdom, she counters the strictures of ageism with anecdotes from her kaleidoscopic life as an academic, wife, mother, widow, grand- and great-grandmother, photographer, author, lecturer, friend. Beneath them, stirs a vibrant and inquisitive spirit, because of which her aging readers readily identify with her. In unvarnished words she lays out the terrain of her sixties, seventies, and eighties, each with their tasks and challenges, not without losses and unexpected surprises. Referencing poets, psychologists, and theologians nuances her impressions within a larger frame.

An adept with life-long change, she can now say, “On one level I am awaiting my demise, while at a deeper level I am continually in the process of discovering who I really am.”

 

“Oh no! —Would look at that? —That’s me! —I can’t believe that!” It tickles, unmercifully, the heart, the mind, even the gut.

Even the presentation of these nine essays is a hoot. No serious authors use the color orange for their book jackets. Sky-blue graces the inside covers, the title page, the chapter titles, and page numbers; it also highlights the first letter of the word in each chapter’s opening paragraph. Lavender replaces the usual black print in the text.

Who is behind these reversals?

It is Anne Lamott, a prolific author, now in her sixties, “with bad hands and feet.” Again, she leads her readers into the intricacies of her seasoned psyche found on each page of Hallelujah Anyway – Rediscovering Mercy (2017). Wide-eyed, she does not flinch from life’s setbacks. Her soldering spirit enlists humor, the “wise counsel of teachers with flashlights,” the fruits of Eastern and Western spirituality, and the courage to change, with others, often—all within the mystery of heart-mercy that forgives and offers relief.

Anecdotes flesh out this process, often messy and unseemly.

Such tickling pries open the clinched heart and plummets it within deep prayer wherein mercy resides. We breathe, again.

 

 

Available on Amazon

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