Bending Holy Light

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The upstairs windows are washed, and the glass and crystal tchotchkes on the top of the sash and sill have been wiped off. Looking out, I notice the seventy-foot maple in the neighbor’s yard is tipped in dark red. Within a week, it will flash its fall color, a glowing dark-orange that will illuminate my room.

In front of the east window, hanging from the curtain rod just below the valance is a nylon string with clear multi-faceted prisms and hand-made beads. Dozens of vibrant rainbows are drifting across the butter-yellow walls in the gabled room. The prisms are bending the crisp autumn sunlight into these splashes of color, and my office feels bright, cheery and warmed.

I have been working on a manuscript for a new book and find myself reflecting on the Fruits of the Spirit, and there are twelve: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (CCC1832). I see the Fruits of the Spirit in much the same way as the colors resulting from the prism in my window.

When sunlight enters into the prism and bends as it exits, a rainbow is seen. In this rainbow, I see an analogy: we are the prism in which God bends himself, his Holy Spirit, through us.

We have read in the Bible, in both Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-12, how each of us has unique gifts but are all of one body. Depending on how we are gifted by his design, and shaped by our rearing, we will change or bend the light of God’s Holy Spirit, dispersing his Light into spiritual colors through faith, hope, and charity, the virtues that are infused into our souls.

We are mentally and spiritually altered when we realize the Light of God is within us. With this awareness, we interact in a new way to the people around us. Those who see this light, or spiritual fruitfulness in us, may also be changed. They may open their hearts to the Light, and, once open, they too become a prism revealing the warmth and brightness of faith.

I think God wants us to be spiritually radiant, to bring his Light into a world grown dim. In order to be, as Gandhi said, the change we wish to see in the world, we first need to accept how we are changed to reveal the spectrum of this Holy Light.

I delight when I see colors and how they play about in my world, and I find joy in the colors of God’s Light. You, dear reader, are part of that glow.

Image Pixabay.com, CCO Creative Commons

10/12

 

Quiet Grace of Change in Nature

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Autumn moves in with its usual quiet grace. I took note the other day that the shrubs and trees have become peppered with color. I smile to myself and think of my own autumn-of-life with hair becoming peppered gray—and the next thing I knew, almost white! I had changed and like the trees, in due season and incrementally.

In Michigan, and throughout the Midwest, there are visual seasonable changes in nature. There are also expectations of what each season brings. The greening in spring and the coloring dormancy before winter, the migration of birds into a region and their eventual return to warmer climates as the temperatures drop, are just a couple of the things I know and anticipate each year.

I like the rhythm of it all, when everything is not always the same. This shift leads me to alter my perspective, to see things differently, to pray in different ways. The energetic prayers of springtime are not the same as those said during times of slowing down entering winter.

I find that age—young or mature—dictates my response to change. The sudden shifts that took place in my youth would be harder to manage these days. I like change in moderation and can adapt well with a show of grace. It is dramatic changes that are jolting; when the scenery becomes unfamiliar and uncertainty skews my view.

There was a time as an adult when I came to fully embrace Catholicism. It was then that I was jolted by the reality of my relativistic decisions as compared to the new scenery of faith, and found myself disoriented in my ethics.

The prayers of my early years, chronologically and spiritually, were vigorous, eager, and thrust unto the Holy with certainty of specified resolution. The prayers that I now pray are much less frenetic and are presented with fullness and patience. I have no less confidence that they are being heard, but my expectations of how they will be answered are less defined.

Like the gentle, slow and steady pace of changing leaves at the end of a season, my prayers are slowly spoken, and hopefully more graceful in their petition. Seasons change as do our lives and how we pray. We live in all our seasons with assurance of the rhythm—day by day, familiar with the pace.

 Image Pixabay.com, CCO Creative Commons

10/12

In the Shadow of Birds

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Image morguefile.com

I did not see the migrating birds as they flew past, nor did I hear their calls. What I did see was fifty, maybe a hundred, small darting shadows cross over the lawn and my arms. Suddenly I felt heavy in the shadow of birds and my heart longed for home.

Where I live is within the flyway of several species of birds. It’s not unusual in the fall to stop the car when driving along farm lanes and wait on cranes coming in low, legs down, wings cupped, landing easily in marshes or corn fields.

The timing of their migrations are controlled primarily by the changes in sunlight. The day length signals the seasonal movement from the region of spring breeding to the place of wintering rest.

There is an instinctive stirring of such birds to migrate, an internal movement of the spirit towards a home. It is not the same as a journey, which is an irregular and singular event. Migration is done seasonally, aroused by light, and usually follows a path of food along the route.

There is seasonality to my prayer life as well; aroused by The Light my spirit yearns towards an eternal home. It too follows a route of nourishment.

As daylight hours decrease, a faith-filled migration draws me towards the Feast of Christ the King and Advent, and the contemplative resting in the abundance of His gifts. I am just as drawn in a few months, in the lengthening of days, to an active Lent and will long for new life and fresh air in my faith.

Like the flock of little birds that passed overhead, I am heartened by the coming winter—seasonally and temporally—to find rest.

(Image by Alvimann at morguefile.com)

Fall Blooming Pansies, Practical Gardening

Image morguefile.com

In the Midwest, we’re all pretty familiar with fall mums, Russian sage, and flowering kale as the main staples of the late-season garden. These plants are tolerant of cold nights and less sunlight. But why not add pansies to your selection?

Until recently the general public was unaware that the pansy is not heat tolerant, dying out in the summer. It flowers best when night temperatures are in the 40s and day temps in the 60s. Many areas of the Pacific coast are blessed to grow them all year round! The pansy grows well in Zones 3-7. In the northern zones if you plant the little lovelies in late September it will bloom until covered in snow.

Image by loneangel at morguefile.com

Image morguefile.com

Things are a bit different for species violas (Johny Jump-up or Heartease). It is the small flowered parent of the bold faced pansy, and will winter over–usually for only two years–and bloom in the spring, being a tender perennial that reseeds. The pansy, a hybrid viola, is a biennial grown as an annual.

Agrilife Resources gives a bit of history of the pansy’s evolution from the wild viola:

Viola is a large genus containing 500 species…. and were familiar to people living in Greece in the 4th century B.C. The center of origin for the plant was continental Europe. The hardy but delicate viola was cultivated by the Greeks for herbal medicinal use and much later inspired William Shakespeare to write of romance.

Some time after the 4th century B.C. in Europe, an acute observer noticed a plant similar to a viola but growing in open areas with more sunlight. This plant thrived in alpine meadows and on rocky ledges. Someone named this plant a wild pansy. Possibly, it was a person living in France who noticed this plant because the word pansy is traced back to the French word pensee, meaning thought or remembrance….

In the last 50 years much of the innovative pansy breeding has been in Germany, the United States and Japan. New pansy colors such as shades of pink, rose or orange and unusual bicolor designs have expanded the variety of pansies available to gardeners in North America

Compact and low growing, pansies are not fussy plants, growing best in a loose, rich soil. They prefer full sun. If you want instant color in their garden, you will find packs and flats of pansies at local nurseries or garden centers. Select the flower colors that suit your garden design. Choose plants that are stocky with dark green leaves, with a few blooms showing but lots of buds.

With the short growing season, plant them closer together than what the tag instructs for a burst of color. They are lovely planted at the base of fall mums, replacing spent flowers in containers, or in a grouping filling in where more tender annuals were removed.

 

Forcing Bulbs for Preseason Color, Practical Gardening

file0002136272075When I plant containers of bulbs in the fall, I am thinking about the color they will bring indoors during late winter days or as outdoor focal points early next spring.

To force a bulb means that you are manipulating its environment so that it will bloom out of season. Before spring flowering bulbs can be forced to flower in a container, they require a cold period of 12-15 weeks at temperatures between 38°-48°. This allows production of a good root system. A spare refrigerator is excellent for chilling the potted bulbs.  I have even used my basement window wells and covered the pots with a heavy layer of straw…much to the delight of the field mice!

Paperwhite Narcissus and Amaryllis do not need to be cooled when you buy them. They have already been prepped for forcing by the supplier. Plant them as directed, set them in a sunny location, and let nature take its course. Paperwhites can also be grown in water, much like hyacinths.

Hyacinth bulbs are first chilled in a doubled paper bag for 13 weeks and then set in a special water vase to grow; the basal plate of the bulb must touch the water for the roots to start developing. To prevent diseases, Hyacinth bulbs are treated with an agent that will irritate skin. Be sure to wear thin plastic gloves and wash after handling.

Forcing spring bulbs in a container is simple. Select a container from 6-24” wide with good drainage. Fill 2/3rd full with a good potting mix; do not use garden soil or fertilizer. Plant the bulbs so they almost touch each other and cover with more potting mix, leaving about a half an inch from the top. Tag your pot with start date and cultivar. Water the container and place it in a cold (38°-48°) dark location for the duration. Check it periodically to be sure the mix has remained damp, but not wet. Too wet and the bulbs will rot.

If you have a beautiful container or basket you want to use when your bulbs start blooming, find a plastic pot that will fit inside it. Plant and chill the bulbs in this plastic pot. When the time is right, place the pot with a saucer inside the container and set in a sunny location

The number of bulbs for a 6” pot: narcissus, 3 large bulbs and up to 6 if smaller bulbs are being used; paperwhites or tulips, 5-6; hyacinths, 3; minor bulbs like muscari or crocus, 12-15.

For a 24” pot and using a single kind of bulb you will need up to 50 tulips or smaller narcissus, or 30 of the larger flowering narcissus, and possibly 80-100 of the minor bulbs.

When using one kind of bulb per container, create several containers with staggered blooming periods. You can also plant an assortment of bulbs in one larger container but be sure they have the same bloom period. When using an assortment of bulbs, plan on layering them in the container. Plant the larger bulbs deeper and first, add potting mix and then place the next layer of bulbs on top and add more mix. End with the minor bulbs planted closer to the edges, keeping mix a half inch from top.

As time draws near for removing your containers from the cold treatment, you may see pale whitish tips emerging. This is the start of your bulbs, and once placed in the light, they will soon begin photosynthesis and turn green. It won’t be much longer and your blooms will emerge for the long awaited color!