Unmasking the Cycle

crisp, chilly, bright but muted light, chickens sounding like children shuffling through fallen leaves

Today I hope to re-do the sisters’ Mary Garden. (I say “hope to” because you never know what interruptions or distractions might come up.) But today is perfect for gardening: cool, crisp, sunny. The sisters are in the city convent for a meeting, so the schedule is somewhat relaxed. The four-foot square Mary Garden outside one of the chapel windows caved in because of bad drainage, swallowing half the plants. Bill fixed the problem by re-routing the storm drain from the roof of the chapel, and then filled in the sink-hole. Again. I’d like to make this space beautiful for winter – an arch of grape vines twisted through an old trellis the sisters don’t use, rocks, the Quan Yin statue.

Yesterday I pulled up the frozen annuals from the kitchen garden, dug, raked, trimmed back, generally cleaned the space up for winter. Today I’ll prepare the soil for next spring and plant bulbs .

I’m reading The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. I’m also watching the old Bill Moyer’s series The Power of Myth. I’m dipping back into Victor and Ethel Turner’s Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture. The Christian cycle of the year, is, of course, the hero’s journey – separation, liminality, tests, the vision of transcendence, integration of the experiences of the Other, the sending out with the message into the world …. The Christian Year teaches you how to face all these modes of the inner life (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent & Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost). For that matter, so does the Mass. Prayer is the vehicle of travel: the dangerous journey into the unknown and unknowable. I’m thinking of this, having written a long piece on contemplative prayer, and preparing now for the Advent Retreat at Holy Cross which will use pilgrimage themes this year.

The frost kills the flowers and I yank them out by the roots and put them into the compost. I put old compost and manure onto the bare spaces and dig. I let the earth sleep. Snow covers the kitchen garden, the rocks, the arch, the Mary statue. The ground freezes. The gardens no less beautiful for the hiddeness. And I know from intellect and experience the cycle of chapel flowers continues, however the heart yearns otherwise – that is, for the unmasking of the seasons.

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