May 9, 2008

Flowers like flames

Acts 2:1–4

The flames separated and settled on each of them….

Ten years ago at this time I was on a retreat at Our Lady of Solitude in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.

During most of my three and a half weeks at OLS, the only other retreatant was an abbess on sabbatical from her convent in India. She and I spent much of each day together in silence in the chapel. One day she looked at me knowingly and pointed to the now flowering ocotillo plant outside the chapel window. “It’s almost Pentecost,” she said. “Those flowers remind me of flames.”

The anticipation of Pentecost in the middle of one of the hardest years of my life. Spring in the desert during an El Niño year. Flowers like flames.

The director of OLS when I was there, Sister Therese Sedlock, has since passed away, and OLS is now the home of five warmly dressed Poor Clares, four cats, and two puppies.

I wish I could return to OLS. I sent an email to ask about the possibility, and one of the sisters replied that they now offer retreat space only to Catholic priests.

But in my heart, I’m there. I found a lovely photo of an ocotillo plant, on a lovely blog. Worth visiting. Do click.

(Especially appropriate because Sr. Therese loved Cardinals, and she knew the individual birds that visited her bird feeder. She also had a special relationship with some members of the Arizona Cardinals football team and would fax them prayers and messages of encouragement before their games.)