Monday, April 20, 2009

Christ is risen! ...eggs are eaten.

In the joy and fullness of Bright Monday I ate a few of the boiled quail eggs. What a wholesome and lovely snack.

I probably won't blog for a bit now as I am traveling again.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Trio of Pretty Eggs

While shopping at the supermarket this week I came upon a package of these darling quail eggs. Grown commercially, of course, but still so Spring-y I had to bring them home and take their picture, even if I don't do another thing with them.

During our decades of homeschooling, twice we joined or formed groups to decorate eggs in the pysanky style. This week I dug the remaining creations out of the cupboard to show you.

It is a wax-resist process. You apply your design with wax, and in multiple dips in the jars of dye the eggshell takes on the color where there is no wax. In the end you use the candle to melt off the wax and reveal the layers of the design.

Another egg-dyeing process is what I helped with today at church, to prepare red eggs that are traditionally given out to the whole congregation on Pascha night. We boiled and dyed these at the same time in one red bath, but then decided that they weren't red enough, so we dipped them in the bowl of stronger food coloring.

(That crock in the background is said to hold Russian pickles curing in brine.)

After the service, when we have gathered in the fellowship hall to break the fast together, we will two-by two hit our eggs against one another, to see who can keep his egg whole while cracking his opponent's. After all the elimination trials, one person will emerge as the winner. Whether they win something besides admiration, I can't say.

The Bridegroom

"Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and behold, blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching...."

This is the theme of the Bridgegroom Matins of Holy Week, which my church serves at 6:30 these first three mornings. Very sweet. After Palm Sunday the church is full of palm branches and calla lilies. Dawn hasn't broken yet, and in the dim light the lilies in their whiteness
decorate the temple, as do the Eritrean ladies in their white gauze that flows with them in their worship ballet of bows and prostrations.

On the home front, the C├ęcile Brunner roses are opening! They are sweet as well, and give glory to God.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Beloved Jars

Let's see if I can write a blog post that is actually about something that happened today...a cold and rainy day on which we actually got a fire going. In April! Yes, those are Christmas lights in the picture. Until Spring has settled in more securely I will continue to enjoy them shining against the dark and dressing up my bare window.

But the most satisfying part of the day was cleaning out the container cupboard. You'd think I grew up in the Depression, the way I save every jar and yogurt container until they are overflowing their space. No, it's really because in the first decades of married life, I was always cooking army-sized quantities of soup or rice or whatever, and at times I actually used up most of those receptacles to squirrel away batches of Comfort Soup or pasta sauce against the days when we were too busy to cook.

During that period we also ate a lot of peanut butter, which resulted in me collecting these most practical glass jars, now true Collectors' Items, I'm sure, because in this size, most food items these days are sold in plastic. Adams Peanut Butter was sold in approximately 2-quart jars that are more slender, and therefore fit better in the refrigerator, than what I have been able to buy as dedicated food storage containers. They were perfect, in the Old Days, for storing in the fridge enough soup for a large family. Or for cooling the stock before taking off the fat.

I've had them well over 20 years, and the lids aren't even rusty. As you can see, I have begun using them to store dry foodstuffs. My kitchen is always evolving. But now, if these break or get lost, the younger generation can look here for a memory jog.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Last Days of Lent

When I write my own words about Orthodox spirituality I tend to confuse people, so today I am going to quote Fr. Schmemann, whose books have helped me so much.
" ...fasting is the only means by which man recovers his true spiritual nature. It is not a theoretical but truly a practical challenge to the great Liar who managed to convince us that we depend on bread alone and built all human knowledge, science, and existence on that lie. Fasting is a denunciation of that lie and also proof that it is a lie....
"Let us understand ...that what the Church wants us to do during Lent is to seek the enrichment of our spiritual and intellectual inner world, to read and to meditate upon those things which are most likely to help us recover that inner world and its joy. Of that joy, of the true vocation of man, the one that is fulfilled inside and not outside, the 'modern world' gives us no taste today; yet without it, without the understanding of Lent as a journey into the depth of our humanity, Lent loses its meaning."

from Great Lent by Fr Alexander Schmemann

Friday, April 3, 2009

Rocks and Stones

If any one rock expresses for me the metaphor the Psalmist uses in words like this (Psalm 18): "The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower," it is El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Contemplation of this edifice over time probably contributed to my love for rock and stone. It may seem odd, or lazy, that I've never made the effort to study geology or petrology. All I do is stare at the big rocks and collect some pretty little rocks. The latter are good to put on the soil around succulents and keep the roots warm.

To be truthful, I collect some medium-sized stones as well and haul them down from the mountains on occasion, with the help of stronger and less enthusiastic members of the family. Granite. These are not only reminders of larger hunks of granite, such as El Capitan, but they are very useful in the garden, for beautifying generally, adding another texture and color to contrast with leaves and flowers, or the colors of the cats who sit on them. In some places they also prevent cats from engaging in other less desirable activities.
The Southwest, where we have recently traveled, is a delight to rock lovers, even the ignorant type like me. The stone there is typically redder than in Yosemite. Here is a shot from the Grand Canyon.

But in Monument Valley I was thrilled at aqua blue rock faces gorgeously setting off the mostly red cliffs. As we climbed out of the car and hiked in among giant boulders and hills of rock, I looked forward to taking their pictures.

Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a sandstorm, which made it unsafe to use one's camera. My companions said, "What are you talking about? There is no blue rock here!" And when I got close to these piles of brilliant color and picked up some of the chips of sandstone, it wasn't bright at all, but sort of grayish-white. This photo I risked (above right) shows the bluest rock I saw--as it looks to normal people. I am still puzzled as to what was going on that day. If the rocks were reflecting the blue sky, why didn't the others see that? Did I have blue sand in my eyes?

In England and Scotland several years ago I collected small stones that wouldn't weigh me down too much on the return flight. Here is a photo of the first place where I couldn't help myself, where the chalk cliffs on the southeast coast of England meet the sea. I am the dark shape bending down to hunt and peck along the shore.

Also while in England, we visited several stone circles. Just being near these stones and thinking about the people who mysteriously erected them makes me praise God for creating humans with a desire to know the Absolute, people who are not content to live a life that is merely earthly. History is full of evidence of God's working in men's hearts, and I am linked with these people because we have all sought God. The standing stones I picture below are in Swinside. I much preferred just meandering in the historically rich countryside, soaking up....something, to visiting "museums" full of print-heavy posters that were too much like dull textbooks.

Stone fences and walls abound in Britain, including portions of the famous Hadrian's Wall and its forts, leftover from the Romans in the 2nd Century A.D. We liked hiking alongside it for a couple of miles (below).

I started out talking about the greatest, and will end this post with photos of the smallest, the collection of specimens I brought back from Britain--one group from Beachy Head in England, and three gatherings from Scotland. The plain white one from Beachy Head is pure chalk. The black cores of the other white rocks are a kind of obsidian. Beyond that I am pretty ignorant. If you click on one of the photos it will enlarge so you can see the stones more closely. I bet you're not surprised that I could find a stone embedded with a cross.

Loving the Desert

What is it I love about the desert? Not the heat—I usually manage to avoid it during the summer months. But in the last 30 years our travels have taken us through the desert every other year or so, and the beauty is always overwhelming. Perhaps the reading I did with the children years ago created a fondness in me, preparing me for the real thing. Along Sandy Trails, a library discard, was given to them by a neighbor long ago, and the loving descriptions of the plants and animals thriving in the arid soil of the Southwest make you feel friendly toward these hardy creatures and their home.

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes,” said Emerson. Montana may have the nickname to go with the phrase “big sky,” but the whole Southwest gives a feast for the eyes. Plenty of sky, plenty of space generally. In New Mexico the sky and the air were the aspects that demanded my constant attention and made the place so stunning.

As for the land, when you stand on a peak and look over the broad expanses, the first impression is often of brownness and barrenness. That’s where you are wrong. Get close to the ground, and you will see darling quail scurrying about, a graceful ocotillo, or the cholla cactus that seems always wrapped in a halo. The desert is always brimming with life, and sometimes blooming as well.

More spiritual lessons could be had from this large section of God’s creation than I will notice. (Even if, as some have said, there was not a desert in His original plan; Christ came into a world already changed and containing deserts, so even they are blessed.) We’ve been back home from our latest desert excursion for ten days, and after wrestling the whole time with possible connections to the heart’s topography, I feel stupider than before.

Perhaps the desert is compelling because there is something about it that draws me into the present. Certainly it doesn’t appear to be a crowded place, which makes it easier to focus on the details, the bits of Creation so exquisitely made. The next step is to glorify the Creator, and there you are in the moment of God’s presence.

Red barrel cactus