November 24, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

A seasonal essay with a perennial truth

Shirley Vogler MeisterThanksgiving weekend for the Meister family kicks off the approaching Christmas season.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we have our traditional St. Nicholas celebration. In earlier years, Dec. 6 was our designated evening, but the current day is more practical now.

Earlier this year, a Christ the King Parish friend, Fran Quigley, shared with me a remarkable essay that came to her family six years ago during the Christmas season from Phyllis Loomis of Ashfield, Mass.

Fran describes Phyllis—an octogenarian and longtime neighbor and friend of Fran’s daughter, Mary—as being “so very talented that she can do anything!”

I wrote to Phyllis for permission to share her message, learning in her response that she always tries “to give [others] something to think about … .”

This was her beautiful and meaningful millennium message:

“Last spring, I chanced to pass an old, but well cared for, apple orchard. No buds or leaves blocked the view of strong, craggy branches stretching out—helter skelter—oddly parallel to the ground. I was fascinated and passed that way often as the spring and summer progressed. I was finding a new self at the time and felt a close connection with the trees.

“The summer clothing the trees and I wore covered our misshapen bones and may even have made us feel a bit younger. We were all still producing fruits of one kind or another. Not the fruits of our youth but ones appropriate of our ages—fruits of which we have a right to be proud about.

“Now that summer leaves have turned to brilliant colors and fallen on the ground, the superstructure of those wonderful old trees has once again become a focus of mine. We have much in common, the apple trees and I.

“Never again will we honestly look at ourselves and believe we are young. It is time to accept what we are, to remember the past with pleasure, to be proud of the positive things we have given to the world and what we still can give. May we remember the past with pride, live today to its fullest and accept tomorrow when it comes, if it comes.

“I have named one of those old apple trees ‘Phyllis.’ I feel sisterly toward the entire orchard. I think of us as the orchard of crones. I look forward to this new season of bareness, whiteness and cold as the beginning of our last four seasons.

“It is out there with new and different challenges—and with hope. I, like the trees, will stand fast and be ready to put my mark on each passing day as it greets us all. Each will bring with it the gift of one more beautiful new beginning.”

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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