queuing up for the adventure

Image result for human beings lined up with communion

No, this post is not about yet another wilderness adventure, at least not in the more literal sense that you might imagine it to be, given my proclivities. That is unless you consider, as I do, that this experience we call life is one wild (and precious) adventure.

On Saturday, I attended the funeral of a friend, a dear soul whose life’s journey overflowed with the depth and breadth of all that being human brings — beatific bliss and wretched despair, profound joy and deep regret. Of course, in truth I really knew so very little of her, merely the small bits of her life that brushed up against my mine, my understanding of which was most likely colored by my own experiences of life and subsequent interpretations of hers.

This reality struck me poignantly during the funeral, how little we are known by, how little we know of, one another. Each person in attendance, more or less touched by this woman’s life in some way, glimpsed but a fragment of the mystery that lay beneath the surface of this precious human life. All of the storytelling, put together, was but a morsel of the feast, a hint of the fragrance, and drop of the essence of who she was, and Who she was. I was affected particularly by the observation that it is so often the children of the deceased who are the primary storytellers in these moments, knowing how distorted a perception of our parents we all carry.

Later, at the church service (which I’d questioned myself about attending, especially as the service of poetry reading and sharing at the funeral home had felt so complete), I was moved, as I frequently am, witnessing the procession of humanity, pressing forward in that continuous stream, making their way toward the altar for a taste of this exquisite life, a taste of its sorrow, its nurture, its sacrifice, its love, it’s blessing. It always feels to me like so many souls lined up, a throng of beings at the gates of life, waiting for the chance to taste humanity, fully knowing the extremities of its expressions and experiences, saying ‘yes’ I want to be a part of that.

It is such an extravagant mystery.

Today, the snow falls heavily outside my window, visibly piling up on the winter-bare earth, its invitation also beckoning. I too am drawn to step out into that bitter beauty. Though I am cozy and warm next to the fire with a quiet view of the wonder, I want to be IN it, to feel its sting, to taste its beauty, to breathe its cold joy.

We were to be in Canada this week, camping and snowshoeing there in the 2 feet of snow that fell last week on the several feet of snow that already blanketed the earth there. But here I sit instead, my wild heart choosing, freely and naturally, to say ‘yes’ again, to be where Love calls me to be, present to the pain … and the beauty ….. of life.

My son called, on the morning of my friend’s funeral, the day before we were to depart, broken open by the pain that his father-in-law had died unexpectedly and suddenly the previous night. His heart was torn apart at his own loss, but even more so, at the loss for his wife, and the loss for his two young daughters of their beloved grandfather. How would he tell them this news, which would crush their hearts, breach the cocoon of their childhood innocence, where all is love and safety, to introduce them to the deep grief of this life.

I have felt blessed by the these days companioning my son, holding his heart as he walked through terrain, new to him, along this journey of being human. He didn’t really need me after all, his heart is so big. I just reassured him that he knew the way through— how to tread lightly, how to hold tenderly, how to listen compassionately, how to trust love, how to be human. I simply reminded him Who he is.

These things he knows. He is a phenomenally loving man. And just as I am so often astounded by the crush of humanity lining up to say ‘yes’ to life, I also frequently find myself in awe of the profound wisdom and tenderness of my adult sons, the ways they embody Love. I don’t know why it astounds me when I catch a glimpse of them like this, when the beauty of their souls shines through, but I always feel the blessing of that glimpse wash over me like a baptism .

Of course this experience – this very real human experience- of profound loss and deep grief- in the paradoxical way that life always presents itself- is also allowing this part of him to come forward, to grow, to become more fully incarnate, if you will. It is allowing him to taste the terrible beauty of life that he perhaps signed up for. Last night, he mentioned that he is in awe of the tender beauty and strength of his little ones.

Perhaps that’s why we line up for it, after all, for a chance to know this wonder, to be filled with this awe, to touch this tenderness, to taste this feeling, to know this Love.

Addendum

This evening I received a phone call from a friend with the news that our mutual friend’s son took his life yesterday. And this is also true about life, that for some the terror looms too large, and the redemption of pain never comes. I wonder if at the end some part of them simply says ” I didn’t sign up for this”, or I’m so tired of waiting for something nourishing to eat.

I know that anything I say here will fall far short of understanding, for I cannot grasp the mystery of this young man’s life, the depths of his pain, anymore than I could catch a glimpse of the soul of my friend, whose funeral I attended last week. It is all so ephemeral and fleeting.

I only hope he is tasting Love now.


Go to the Limits of Your Longing
  Rainer Maria Rilke
                                                                                                                                   
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Book of Hours, I 59

delight

In meditation yesterday morning, I received an invitation (yet again) to plant a seed of intention into the soil of my heart, then to trust that spirit (godde, the universe, love) would nurture it, outside of my mere willing it to be so, growing it into something fragrant, or fruitful, or shade bearing, or… Of course, this is the time of the year when such seeds, hidden in the earth’s soil, are doing the same– burrowing and receiving. This day, the temperatures here are such that the recent freeze is melting. I am sitting on my porch, listening to it tap and ping, drip, and trickle, and run. Quenching those buried expectancies.

I wonder if it can happen that way with a heart too, that one day it feels frozen and the next day, something suddenly shifts and you hear music where there was silence.

I hope that you are hearing music on this day.

Often, intention setting is an abstract thing for me, and at the suggestion, I feel like I am grasping for something tangible in the midst of swirling mists.  Whether it was goal setting as a young adult, intended to set me on a specific path, or the ‘tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life’ as an older adult facing the empty pages of the next chapter of my life, I often don’t seem to grasp an answer. Is it that I don’t know who I am?

Or is it that who I am is boundless?

Sitting afterwards (after the meditation, that is) with my journal, I thought to explore what the pen might reveal that I couldn’t see in all that ethereal fog. It played around with the word Freedom, trying to pinpoint this longing in me to feel released from a life-long nagging feeling of never quite measuring up—being enough, doing enough, loving enough—the fear of unworthiness, I suppose. Earning love.

I’m not sure if you caught up with the news that my mother died this fall, her parting message to me a reminder that I had never quite earned her love. (so yes, this has been with me a long time). The season of advent was one of attending to that tender place within me, listening to my body’s wisdom to simply BE with it, to dwell quietly in that darkness, to slow down and be still/tender with it. The natural world was my teacher during that season, too, as I followed the teachings of beaver and turtle, muskrat and bee.

Back in my journal, yesterday morning, my pen led me from freedom to words that spoke of my desire to simply be. Me. As I am. With permission to engage joyfully in life, in the things that bring me contentment, peace, beauty, without fear of judgment or rejection. Somewhere in that swirling mist of intangibles the word Delight emerged. That is I new one for me and I wondered what that might look like. To gaze upon life with delight.

Perhaps it seems a subtle shift from the abstraction of Freedom to the nebulous Delight, or from Beauty (which has been an in-forming word for me for a long while now, with its invitation to seek and to see it in All) to Delight, but in other ways it feels as marked as the shift from last week’s subfreezing temperatures to today’s 50 degree thaw. There is a lightness around my heart when the word, Delight, settles there. A sparkle, like sunlight on melting snow, which is not there when the word Freedom or even Beauty alone holds that space.

Today, during my morning practice, I pondered whether the word should be tempered a bit, with Compassion, for instance. If it is wrong somehow to take delight in life when others are suffering. If it is wrong to deny that some aspects of human existence are not delightful at all.

Our dear Mary Oliver perhaps offers a prescription for this too, in the line right before that elusive question about what one plans to do with one’s wild and precious life, she asks, ‘Tell me, what else should I have done on a day like today…. than to be idle and blessed’, observing life through eyes of wonder– a fitting description of delight.

I shall try to hold onto this promise, not let it slip like mist through my fingers, but let it be tangible as a seed in the palm of my hand. Real. Reality. Let it grow into Joy from that seed in my hand, that seed in my heart, now visible and glowing, after the thawing of winter’s freeze around it.

I pray that you find moments of delight this day, and throughout the remaining blessed days of your wild and precious life, my dear ones, for it is precious indeed.

morning meditation

grace. i am suffused by her, infused by her

she bathes me, permeates me,

swirls like mist into my cracks,

behind closed doors, beneath the sills,

through locked and rusted keyholes.

between my toes,

she softens

every step, like treading upon air…

or walking upon water…

making it impossible

to crush, to trample, to lay

anything to waste.

grace,

never refused, she turns back

the thought that harms, the self

judgment, self critique, self

recrimination.

how can something so utterly soft

turn back hardness such as that?

it is diffused,

perhaps,

into her pillow, my very hardness

is suffused, infused

yes, even that within me

which intended harm

to me, is loved

by her. she softens my whole

being.

moments flow

as if through me,

finding no surface upon which to concuss,

no purchase upon which to snag.

she wraps Herself

about them and they exit

as my breath, as mist

rising from the surface on a cool september

morning, drawn forth by the rising of the light,

grace dawns upon my being,

upon my story,

upon my life,

lifting the heaviness

of yesterday’s grief, of yesterday’s sorrow,

of remorse, of shame

of pain,

moistening my world with dew.

so saturated is my world with her, she leaves

remembrances now upon my skin

as i brush past her gifts, hidden

in full view,

along my way.

Let go

Last evening, I heard from a dear one, who asked me quite gently and lovingly (both to herself and to me) if I would please hold off on texting inspirational quotes and links to helpful articles. She said that right now it just causes her more anxiety and sends her down the rabbit hole that is the internet.

I’d started sending a short tidbit before going to bed each night, thinking that she would see it first thing in the morning and know that someone out there was loving her. She’s been awakening lately in such distress, her mind instantly reminding her of her sorrow, and my hope was that these simple re-minders would point her away from that downward spiral of despair. I thought I was planting seeds of hope.  I was imagining these offerings as something like receiving a ‘thinking of you’ card in the mail in the middle of one’s grief.

But with her request, instantly I understood what it felt like to her. Like too much to an already overwhelmed mind. Like one more thing to absorb, one more way to look at things (as if her way of looking at things was not valid), or as if she needed something outside of herself  – some wisdom or understanding or some new way of thinking (the ‘right’ way) – added to her self in order to be healed or whole.

As if she needed to be fixed.

Or saved.

From herself.

I wondered if it feels invalidating to tell someone she is beloved if that is not at all how she feels, if that is not at all her experience right now. I wondered if it feels like I do not trust her to find her own way.

I woke this morning realizing that it is likely my own fear I seek to assuage when offering such ‘sage’ comforts. That my responses are probably addressing the fear within me — of the intensity of her pain, of the intensity of my own pain in response to hers – more than they are speaking to hers, and are a subtle (or perhaps not so subtle at all) form of control. Even when sharing what I have found to be healing, to one who is trying (needing) to find her own way and to trust her own wisdom my words are not helpful. Indeed they may actually trample the seeds that her own soul is tending.

I thought – Perhaps it is loss that I fear – loss of connection, loss of intimacy, loss of esteem?, or even the ultimate loss, if her despair overcomes her at last. Perhaps I fear my own world crashing down in that devastation. Perhaps my offerings then are thinly veiled anxiety, fear wearing the cloak of Love (or is it the other way around?), masking my pain.

And I knew then, upon awakening, that it is time to let go, to turn my attention inward, again, toward healing myself, not fixing another. Time to gaze upon my own fear with compassion, to hold it in the Love that I try to give to tell to another.

And as yesterday’s message to me was so clear, that it is time to Hold On, this morning’s was just as clear that it is time to Let Go. Let go of control. Let go of striving – to fix, to heal, to save, to safeguard her my heart. Let go into trust. Let myself simply be, powerless as I truly am.

I cannot fix this.

Surrender.

This evening, these words were given to me, as a mantra or a prayer, to nurture (or to seed) this new Grace-full soil within me, to practice this Letting Go.

“I love you.

I bless you.

I release you to your own indwelling Presence.”

Wise words shared with me by a wise friend.

Hmmm.

 But I think they could actually save me.

hold on

Its that time of year when we all need to hit the reset button, when our internal and external systems have become so jumbled and chaotic that something inside of us knows its time to shut down, and start fresh. I don’t think it’s a fluke that we have ascribed such meaning to the turning of the calendar each January 1, just one week after Christmas. In a culture where the month… and more particularly the last week… of December has gotten swept into such a whirlwind of elusive expectation and fraught with the inability to accept our humanity -self and other- as we are, we are all in desperate need of a coming to our senses. All around me, the people I love are screaming, ‘enough’! All around me the people I love are crying, ‘this doesn’t feel like love”

But, you may say, I thought you’d been listening to the earth – both inside and outside your body – found stillness and healing there? Found Love. I thought December had been different for you?

Yes. And none of that has been taken away from me. It is still there, below the noise, this vast opening in me created by the dissolution of that heavy boulder of shame I carried for so many years for being motherless/feeling unloveable. But, Christmas brought with it the realization that there are other ghosts abiding in (or is it wanting to settle into the emptiness of?) that space.

What’s interesting to me, as I write this, is the awareness that, as I was envisioning that feeling of spaciousness in those days prior to Christmas, what came to me was the image of a great tree whose roots had reached, resiliently, around that great boulder of stone upon which it had been seeded. Suddenly freed of that stone, I wondered if the tree would be able to stand without that anchor, how it would hold onto empty space.

I am holding on, though the hurricane that swept through here on Christmas day was devastating — not just to me but to ones I hold dear to my heart. The storm temporarily abated, we are left surveying the wreckage, and I can only hope that something fresh and green will grow in the places now left exposed and scarred.

I know that this sounds dramatic, but it was that painful to witness, and to feel, that terrible breaking, to be in the midst of that storm when someone I love deeply was breaking, and lashing out from that pain to break others whom I also love deeply. I am left feeling bereft — empty in a different sort of way, a way that feels much more like loss.

Of course, it has made me wake up to the truth in some way, too. The ways I have not wanted to accept. The ways I have wanted to believe that all would be well if just given enough Love. The ways that I have denied illness that causes such pain, desiring/feigning perfection, I suppose, in my own way.

And of course, I wonder what I could have done differently in order to nurture deeper roots in these ones that I love. I wonder about my own fatal flaws, the ways that I was too blinded – by love or by my own pain – the times that I was too broken to respond. I feel such remorse over the ways that I failed – to Love in the ‘right’ (the healing) kind of way, over the things I did not hear or realize, the wisdom I did not have, the maturity I was lacking, the pain inside of myself that I was not able to keep from seeping into the soil of our lives. I am filled with regret, and I have been spending these days reliving, revisiting, reexamining, searching for clues that I missed…. or denied. Days journaling my confessions, stripping away my self-defenses, seeking self-forgiveness. Blaming myself.

But then, in a morning meditation* I hear these words of Grace.

I am recalled to remember that displays of fear are places begging for Love. I am invited to become soft in the face of what feels hard. I am invited to feel my distress and my dread, to see it as love rising up in opposition to the fraught frequency around me.

I am invited to walk toward the fear and despair within my own self and invite the healing power of my own compassionate heart, to hold it in love. I am invited to let the walls of self-protection and defense fall away, (erected around my shame, my fear of judgment and self-recrimination), to be vulnerable to Love. I am invited to step into the unguarded, soft aspect of my own suffering, to push gently at the tender spots, to challenge what is hard with loving awareness, to bless what is uncomfortable.

I am invited ‘to let grace find me, to let it sprout up from the cracks in my feet, to let it pour into me” I hear the words imploring me to not recycle the grief, but to root myself in my own goodness, to stand strong in Hope.

*What I heard inside of Sarah Blondin’s meditation, “Access your inner source of Hope”, on Insight Timer


And I know that this was no accidental plugging in of the headphones for the first time in months. I know that this is exactly what I needed to hear- what I must pour into that empty space inside of me where once that huge, impenetrable boulder, which was my relationship with my mother, resided. I need to flood that space with grace, fill it with the decomposed compost of all that has been hard in my life, now softened by Love, press the nourishment of tenderness, compassion, and grace gently but firmly around these roots. Validate my own being.

So that I can hold on.

Not clinging to pain. Not stuck in suffering. Not holding on to the hardness of grief and regret, guilt and shame, remorse and recrimination.

But holding on to Grace.

Hold on to Peace. Hold on to Comfort. Hold on to Freedom. Hold on to Joy. Hold on to Light. Hold on to Beauty. Hold on to Life. Hold on to Song and Dance and Deep silence.

Only by giving to myself what I did not receive can I heal. And only by healing myself can I make it safe for others, whom I love, to do the same. It is all the same fear, this fear of being unloveable, of being unworthy, of being not good enough.

Hold on, my loves. Hold on to Love. Then Stand tall, and reach once again for the light.

.

.

becoming virgin

Photo by Markus B from Pexels


The sky is just beginning to lighten into shades of grey as I settle this morning to write. A few brief moments ago the last of the stars, peeking through skeletal trees outside my window as I padded the hall to the bathroom, greeted my wakening.

The fire is now lit, breaking the chill of the dawning house, as are the candles, the tree, the mantle lights. Softly, quietly, morning unfolds. I cherish these gradual daybreaks, when I can move in rhythm with the earth’s own quiet awakening.   

Watching the morning coffee spill into my waiting cup, its steam swirling into the cool kitchen air, I am drawn to the hidden world it reveals, currents of life, unseen. The heat escapes the confines of my cup, dissipating into invisibility what was palpable a moment ago. Small miracles abound.

I note the parallel within me, so recently hot, strong, intense, now dissipated, softened. The reckoning fills me with similar wonder.

Morning dawns and my spirit is at peace, restful. I wonder at how that has occurred, when so recently it was agitated, its haunted ghosts stirred awake. Perhaps they have lain back down in their graves, settled back into the earth of my being, but perhaps they also have dissipated, escaped those confines, released by that heat at last.

Perhaps a little of each.

Last weekend, I hosted my siblings in our tiny home for a simple Christmas meal.  Tangible for me was the absence of my mother’s haunting presence, no longer, at least for me, heavy in the room, standing between us. I felt clear and free as a winter night’s sky.

Washed clean? So …perhaps this autumn was not so much a stripping as a cleansing. I can’t help but conjure up images of Dicken’s Christmas Carol – these ghosts of Christmases past, no longer haunting me; those chains, removed.

I am motherless now. Motherless. I try on the word and it fits. I suppose that my external, physical reality finally matches my interior one. Somehow that feels easy to me. Perhaps there is congruence where there was dissonance. No longer is there shame in saying the word, ‘motherless’, aloud. It escapes the shameful confines of my body like the steam from my cup.

At the same time, it feels as if something has returned to me.  To be actually motherless means my mother no longer holds that part of me that so desperately needed a mother, that longed for approval, acceptance, love.  She has come flying into my arms and my heart, for safe-keeping, where she belongs. I am intact

Whole. “A woman whole unto herself” is one definition of Virgin.  Intact, as SHE is on this night, bearing her own child within, that which was conceived in her by the Holy. The child, inviolably precious, a gift to the earth— no matter how unseen or shamed it will be.

Virginal. That word swirls through the currents of my body, flooding it with life-giving moisture. Moist as a virgin. Intact as a virgin- nothing given away to be defiled. Nothing broken. Nothing ‘Lost’.

I have allowed another to hold a part of me -my sense of goodness. Allowed my purity to be tarnished, shamed by that.

What does it mean to be virginal AGAIN? Is this the way of the Crone—this return to intactness, ceasing to give one’s goodness away to those who will name it as tainted. A second virginity, one seasoned by the experiences of a lifetime, with wisdom and grace.  A more deeply rooted, secure, confident virginity. A less naïve virginity. A wise virginity.

The earth is virginal now, on this cusp of Solstice. Virginal, like me, for she too has seen many seasons of life, and yet contains all of the seeds of life in her belly. Stripped of entanglements, she is her essential self, skeletal, structural, intact. Clear.

To mind come those venerated Virginal woodlands. They are so Old.  AND… of course, they too are not truly primal, not as they ‘first’ were. The earth herself has been washed clean innumerable times – by fire and ice, by uprisings of water and earth, and still She is considered to be Virginal in these places of long, deep-rooted growth.

May it be so for me.  May it be so for you too. eused0 \lsdpri

rising rooted – women’s winter retreat

Gradually, you will return to yourself, Having learned a new respect for your heart from “For One who is Exhausted, a Blessing”, by John O’Donohue

As I have been attending to my body, honoring its wisdom – to be quiet or still, to feel sadness or pain, to express rage or sense peace – and accepting without judgment the range of its feelings and instincts in all of its unfathomable intelligences, I have noticed something shifting in my perception of myself. I find myself deeply respecting myself in a new way. It’s seems that what I’ve gained from this season of darkness is a new rootedness—a deeper trust in the wisdom of my soul and the goodness of my being.

As the animal kingdom, whose vast wisdom has also escorted me through this season, has an innate intelligence, not only for surviving but for thriving within the external environments in which they have evolved and find themselves, so have I. And while I always find their adaptations remarkably, delightfully, wonderful, I don’t know if I’ve often looked at my own life with such wonder.

However, during this late autumn of enforced stillness (really, that is how it has felt some days), imposed upon me by the utter stripping away of any remnant of defensive cover, I have learned that I really do have a lot of resilience and strength. Perhaps, just perhaps, my dear friend was correct when she said, ‘Your canoe trips are not what have made you strong.’

No, I was not broken- as I might have at times in my life defined myself- by the events in my life, nor by the external environment – no matter how cold or harsh it might sometimes have been—into which I was thrust. Yes, I learned ways to adapt, but I needn’t de-fine (to make less fine?) those adaptations as flaws. Perhaps, just perhaps, they are my strengths.

Just yesterday, during a time of honest sharing with my sisters, I heard myself, instead of lamenting the devastation to the trajectory of my life that was the teacher’s violation of my virginal, blossoming spirit, PROclaiming the remarkable resilience of my young self, the initiative she took to protect herself from his further advances, even when  that naive one didn’t know at all what that meant. Her instincts were alive and wild, knowing that something more terrible was what he was grooming her for. So she learned to stay out of empty stairwells, quiet libraries, and the aisle seats of darkened auditoriums, where he lurked with his plundering hands, like an animal learns how to play dead or feign a broken wing in the presence of a predator. How amazingly creative is that?

Yes, I carried the terror and confusion of it in my body. Some of that was released in the shower that day, 25 years later (almost 20 years ago now) when another man devastated my world and those ‘why’s’ poured out with my tears, bearing the memory of him. When another fire ravaged my safe and sheltered environment, I instinctively fled to the water.

I suspect more of that terror and despair was exposed with my mother’s final abandonment of me at her death. That despair, suppressed, never allowed full expression, shocked and shamed into silence, was at last seen, held, honored, by the adult woman within me, who was filled with animal rage for her child. I can celebrate that powerful energy of love within me. I can celebrate the creative resilience within me without in any way sanctioning or sanctifying the behaviors of those who did harm me.

The tree outside my window is visible now in the lightening sky. Against the backdrop of fog, I can trace her limbs, branches, twigs, tendrils – all built by the tree from the light, for gathering light- stripped bare. Today those light gathering branches rest, although in some way that resting also exposes her to potential breakage, for the winter winds are harsh and the ice hard. Less so, however, than if she still bore those leaves. Perhaps it is necessary for me too, at times, to let go of seeking the light. I need not find light in all seasons and all things….

I need no longer be ashamed of the way I pushed through the deaths of 2 babies to become the fierce mother I was, the ways I refused to lay down and die. I need no longer question my ‘receiver’ – the part of me that didn’t feel loved – because Love wasn’t what I was receiving. I can also clearly see, with tenderness, the times when I didn’t listen to my spirit/body’s wisdom, when I denied my instincts out of deference or fear, as well as the times when my animal instincts led me astray in order to save my life.

It’s as if, in this ripped open place within me, there is no longer room for shame to hide. Even my neuroses are visible and welcome and beloved.

That feels like freedom…..

I had risen early, before the others in order to have some quiet, to write, but C noticed my light and has come in from the cold. (she had been sleeping outside on the porch). Now that is a sentence that makes me pause, even as it flows from my pen. This community of sisters has shone a light in the cold for its members for seven years now. Each solstice we come, like bats returning to the cave where they congregate for mutual warmth in the winter, and we hold the light for one another in the dark. Community is as vital a survival instinct, it seems, as attending to one’s intuition is. To be WITH the warmth of empathetic beings whose thirst stirs them to waken the others in their midst, is to be kept alive in the cold. The conversations we have been having in this sacred place have, in their way, as so often they do, shed light for me, even when it is the other’s thirst that awakens me. By this light this day, I am able to see the blessed creature that I am.

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