Mary Brigid is my summer sister.
She blooms in the spring, when the sun rises over the ridges and melts the snow and cold away. Mary is a farmer, a horsewoman, and a lover of light. In the summer she can leave the farmhouse at dawn and spend the day cutting flowers for a huge ridge wedding or for the altar at church.
Mary slips into the garden with a pair of scissors and quietly creates beautiful bouquets, then places them on a windowsill or the center of the old woodstove, cool and waiting in the warmth of summer. She bakes cookies and cakes and pies for her brothers and sisters and the constant stream of guests at Sweet Ridge Farm, and then she is off. She is full of generosity, and brings great beauty into our lives, but she is elusive and hard to capture, a little like the horses she loves so much.
Mary is my summer sister, and when the wind turns cold and the sky turns iron grey and starts to spit sleet and snow, her spirits sink. Without the warmth of the sun, it is so much harder for her to find the beauty and the joy in life. Winter is a hard season for my sister Mary, but Mary is one of the toughest and most generous women I know. She has fought the darkness by opening her arms and heart and going straight into the cold to bring the love of God to others. She spent a winter teaching Native children on a reservation in North Dakota at St. Ann’s Indian Mission and School. She spent another long cold winter in Wyoming, working with horses and troubled teenage girls. Mary is really good with both skittish horses and teens.
Presumably because Wyoming and North Dakota winters weren’t tough enough, Mary headed off to spend the winter at an orphanage in Vladivostok, Russia.
The darkness of winter and the poverty were far deeper in Russia. Many of the orphans were born with AIDS. All of them needed all the love my sister Mary could pour out, and a whole lot more.
I am so proud of my sister Mary, who is one of the most courageous and loving women I know. I am proud of her for facing the darkness of winter and sadness and fear and striding out to North Dakota, Wyoming, and Russia.
I am grateful to have a sister with such a warm heart, and fierce desire to love God and to love the broken hearted. I am grateful to have a sister who brings such beauty and comfort into so many lives.
Today is the autumn birthday of my summer sister.
My wish for her is to spend a winter in the sunlight.