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I’ve written about Vanaprastha, the third stage of Hindu life when one retreats to the forest in pursuit of solitude. It is also a time to reap the rewards of one’s labor and reconnect with family and friends. Part of a connected harvest involves correction.

Proverbs 15: 31-32 He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

I am blessed with friends who tell me the truth, and I do my best to reciprocate. During a visit to a married friend who has a retreat in the Adirondacks, we two couples experienced first hand the strengths and weaknesses of our marriages. Genuine hospitality prevailed without party faces.

My friend and I talked about the decisions we had made in life, about our families, careers and our selves in transition. Honest connection allowed us to correct one another.

“It’s difficult to let family go after investing so much.”

“I fall into that trap, too, as well you know.” Thus necessitates an open heart.

“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my profession.”

“No matter how much I dragged my feet, that mindful connection ended for me. But I found another, and you will, too.” Thus necessitates an open mind.

“I can’t do what I used to be able to do physically.”

“Neither can I, so I’ve changed my diet and exercise routines and do what I can.” Thus necessitates an open body.

We parted in gratitude for abiding friendship and frankness.

On the way home, Keith and I visited my uncle and aunt in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Keith had never met Uncle George and Aunt Mary, and I hadn’t seen them in 20 years! We swapped stories; Uncle George sang some old ditties and played his accordion. I told him about my writing project. He listened and asked questions – and encouraged me to do the same.

Proverbs 25:12 – Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear. Through our connection, I heard Uncle George’s correction. I hope I remembered to thank him.

Last night after supper, a snake bit one of our dogs. Freya’s muzzle and throat behind her jaw swelled painfully; she drooled saliva and blood and became lethargic; her breathing and panting rate doubled. Other than maybe bee stings, we didn’t have the foggiest notion what was wrong. Our vet told us to take her to Greenbriar Emergency Animal Hospital in Charlottesville. At the clinic, the doctor treated Freya with IV fluids, antibiotics and pain medication. Through the night, they monitored Freya’s blood pressure and watched for signs of bleeding. Snake venom can lead to difficulty clotting blood.

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On the drive into town at 6 this morning, I tried to keep my mind, heart and body open and connected. Fog from lack of sleep mirrored nature’s fog in the Rockfish Valley. As the vet spoke, I listened, wrote down information, asked questions and noted corrections. Then I delivered Freya to her regular vet in Crozet and drove home again. By 8 o’clock, the fog had lifted from all but Afton Mountain. I pulled over and took this picture. Wisdom’s mystery lifted heart, mind and body – along with a second cup of coffee.

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I’ll pick Freya up at 4 this afternoon – all is well. Meanwhile, Keith will clean up near the woodpile where we think Freya ran afoul a copperhead. Connection and correction – that’s the harvest of marriage.

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