Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bread for Sanity's Sake

Many things I do are probably downright irresponsible and illogical. Like making bread and blogging about it, when large areas of the house are still scary to venture into because of the piles of this and that tottering around you. Just fixing that one many-faceted problem should take priority over any optional activities, but there's more.
A party is being given for B. this Saturday, for which actual cleaning would be in order, and maybe hanging some balloons in those places where we still don't have pictures back up on the wall for several reasons. I don't have all my wedding garments ready or chosen or shopped for, for my own son's wedding that is in two weeks. The church garden needs some more things planted, so they'll be ready for the big festival we have in two months, and my garden wants weeding. Grandchildren are having birthdays for which I mustn't forget to send the gifts I do have around here somewhere.

If I say that some things must be done just to keep me sane, I hope it will make people think twice before they call me to account for what is probably laziness. In any case, I'm glad I did make bread yesterday. I tried to come up with a sensational title to this post, seeing how breadmaking is so fundamental and important an activity in the history of the world. And I love to make bread, though I haven't for a year or more...can't remember the last time I took out the yeast. When God gives me a summer of fog, and goosebumps in my own house, perhaps I could make a case for it even being logical to make bread.
Any bread would do, the mood I was in, so I found this card in my recipe box, and rye flour in a drawer. I started by mixing a sponge in my Kitchen Aid, and would have done most of the kneading in there, too, but I couldn't find my dough hook. It must be in one of those boxes I haven't unpacked. So I initiated my new quartz countertops in a monochromatic kneading session that only hurt my wrists a little bit.
I stayed up late last night waiting to take this bread out of the oven, and I'd have blogged about it right then if my camera battery hadn't been used up. The plan was to go right to bed as soon as I turned off the stove. But it didn't seem long after I set the loaves on my new baking stone and shut the door before B. called from upstairs to ask what that "strong" smell was; he hoped the bread wasn't burning.

No, it wasn't, but when I looked inside, I saw that it was browning more quickly than I expected. Must be the convection oven, or the amount of sugar in the dough. I put some foil loosely over the top and let it stay in the full 45 minutes, during which time the whole house filled with the heady anise smell on top of the plain wonderful bread smell.

When I did take it out, I must have been in the middle of reading something interesting; anyway, I didn't go to bed, and before I knew it, the bread was cool enough to slice and eat, which I did. I'm glad to report that it wasn't as exquisite eating as it was intoxicating to the olfactory senses, or I'd have gone to bed really late, with a tummy ache.

It's a very nice bread, but a little too sweet and rich for my taste. I'll have to make some adjustments if I use the recipe again. This morning I hope to take one loaf to a friend. Thank You, Lord!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Foggy Flowers

Yesterday the sun never did come out. They say our summer is 4° cooler than average, but it seems worse than that, especially when the morning fog continues all day. It's making me slow and dull this morning.
I was busy in the kitchen yesterday, so it didn't bother me too much. The lack of bright light made it possible to take flower pictures, so I did catch my new hyssop plant that has reached 4 feet!

Next to the hyssop is an echinacea flower from which someone took a big bite off one side. My garden is so untidy it's hard to get a good picture of anything without there being a random brick or weed or untrimmed dead flower protruding on the nice thing I'm trying to feature. But I cropped most of the ugliness out of the picture at left.

I bought the hyssop back in April, in a 2" pot as I recall, but I can't find a picture of it as a baby for comparison. It did grow fast.

The New Zealand Spinach I was so pleased to find at the plant sale has done beautifully. This is what it looked like back then:

And earlier this month I made some Creamy Green Soup using the first pickings, shown in this bowl, which you can't really tell is 16" in diameter. Creamy Green Soup is a recipe I got from Laurel's Kitchen long ago. It is infinitely variable, depending on your whim and what greens you have around. This last time mine had split peas, this spinach, onion and garlic and basil in it....maybe some other things, certainly butter. It's nice to add a little cream or cheese, too.

 The nasturtiums I planted all over the back yard are doing famously. I remembered at least once to put three colors of their petals in a salad.

Now I really must go upstairs and do some ironing. Maybe it will help warm me up on this wintry summer day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Architecture of War and History

The uses and abuses of architecture, that subject that interests me but which I barely dabble in, got my attention again recently through an article by George Packer in the Feb 1, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. In his "Letter from Dresden: Embers," Packer writes that the German city "has the unstable character of a place with a romantic self-image and a past that it would rather not discuss." But we will discuss Dresden's past, and ask also, if its latest building project in present time is vandalism, or an enlightening statement.

Before reading Packer's piece I was fairly ignorant about this city, but as is often the case with New Yorker articles, this one led me on several tangents. The gist of Packer's thesis is that Dresden is well served by having a gutsy architect like Daniel Libeskind to design its new national military museum, because the artistic violence of his plan is exactly what Dresdeners need to shake them out of their nostalgia and set their view of history straight.

Since reading that article I've gone on to learn a little more about the architect, the city, and what took place there toward the end of World War II. I also happened to read a novel that ties in to the reluctance of Germans to talk about the war and come to grips with that painful history. Of course, I haven't taken my own photos. But if I do get to Germany I'll be sure to visit these buildings and write another more personal blog post. For now, I want to set down what little I learned--I should say, the questions that have been raised--and if I put it here it's available for anyone else who might like to know.

It was on February 13, 1945 that the Allies bombed Dresden, an event that some say resembled the horror of Hiroshima, and that the Neo-Nazis brand as equal to the Holocaust. What troubles people about the Dresden of today is the city's selective reporting of its history, the portrayal of its wartime past as only victimization. 

Matthias Neutzner is a local historian interviewed for the New Yorker article: "Neutzner said that Dresdeners remained unusually resistant to the past: 'The city was erased in one night, and it was very easy for German propaganda to transform this city of art into a city of innocence which had nothing to do with the crimes of war.'

"In Dresden, Neutzner said, the story of the war has effectively been reduced to just one day: 'It started and it ended on February 13, 1945.' Neutzner's aim is to get the city's residents to remember 'that this was the sixth year of a huge war, that there were twelve years of Nazi crimes, there were eight small concentration camps in Dresden with three thousand prisoners. All this is completely unknown in Dresden.' "   

The diaries of Victor Klemperer are held up as an essential source text for those who want the whole story. He was one of the fewer than 200 Jews who remained in the city on that day of destruction in 1945, out of more than six thousand prewar. Published in the 1990's, the three volumes in English are I Will Bear Witness, To the Bitter End, and The Lesser Evil. Packer writes that they tell "in mundane and relentless detail how the humanistic city of his youth turned into a place of terror that ostracized, humiliated, warehoused, tortured, and, finally, annihilated its Jews."
Since the war the city has been busy rebuilding, trying to restore architectural Dresden as much as possible to its lovely pre-war state by recreating buildings like the Frauenkirche cathedral. This activity contrasts with the attitude of another war-torn city, Berlin, where the "new architecture often has the quality of what Bertolt Brecht called Verfremdung, or the V-effect--estrangement, distancing. Berlin makes little attempt to hide the worst decades in German history. After 1989, the city placed its vanished Jews near the center of its collective consciousness, understanding that this was part of the price of reclaiming its international status."

It was the Jewish Museum in Berlin, shaped, as one person said, "like a deconstructed Star of David," that in 2001 made a name for Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind, the one chosen to design the Military History Museum in Dresden, a renovation of the former military arsenal building that has been serving as a museum since 1897. 

Not everyone likes this architect's style. Back in 2003 Deroy Murdock cautioned against Libeskind and his art in a National Review article quoting heavily from the architect's own words, poetic and otherwise, calling his poetry grotesque and his Berlin museum ghoulish. Murdock was lobbying against Libeskind as a contestant in the running to design the new World Trade Center in New York, and in fact, he did end up designing the overall site plan.

I must admit that Libeskind's poetry strikes me as twisted and broken, not lovely. But history shows mankind to be perverse as well, and Libeskind thinks it's healthy to face one's past and its ugliness, so that you can get a more balanced and true understanding of reality from which to make progress. The arrow-shaped addition to the old museum, cutting through the building just as the Holocaust made a gash through the 20th Century and human history, nonetheless rises to a higher elevation where visitors will get a broad and fresh perspective on the whole city, a view that wasn't possible from the former museum.

Spiegel Online quotes Libeskind as saying, "...sentimentality is not a foundation on which you can build a new city." To make a sure foundation, it would be necessary to know where the bedrock is, and where the sand. The architect has built in a degree of disorienting experience a step above the mere visual. Packer writes, "The effect of these [oddly angled] inclinations, Libeskind said, should be above all physical: 'It's like a collapse, isn't it? You feel it in your knees....You can't be neutral in these spaces.' "

He goes on to say, "The triangular structure on the front of the arsenal points to the direction from which Dresden was bombed. It also interrupts the smooth flow of that big arsenal. It creates a question mark about the continuity of history and what it means. It gives people a point of reflection."

It's these philosophical question marks that get my mind's wheels turning. I can see how trying to recreate the city as it was in the 1930's would convey that you want to go back to that better time. But was it any better, the society and people who participated in the extermination of their fellow humans? Even if it were, going back is not an option. We need to live where we are now, and go forward, trying to learn from the past, even though it speaks to us of our failings.

The new military history museum is scheduled to be completed this year and to open in 2013. Studio Daniel Libeskind's statement about the project explains: "The central theme of the Military History Museum is the human being: those who went into the war and those who have remained at home; people of different eras and people of different generations."

As the facade of the old building "represents the severity of the authoritarian past in which it was built, the other [new "arrow" facade] reflects the openness of a democratic society and the changed role of its military. In the new elevation of the Museum both are visible at the same time and one through the other."

Packer concludes: "...though the museum is crude architecture, its bluntness should give it power as a civic institution: nothing more subtle than this could offer Dresden the possibility to break from its self-delusions."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Feasting from Day to Day

Yesterday was the feast day of my parish, St Seraphim of Sarov, and a glorious day it was. I'm showing the fresco from the front of the church. I myself was overjoyed, my cup running over, just being at church where our bishop was present as well as a temple full of us regular parishioners and many guests. There was an ordination, and beautiful children, and much praise of God, followed by a cheery and relaxed festal meal so that we could continue glowing together for a while.
Today we remember St Elijah the prophet, and I just want to pass on this blog entry at Christ is in Our Midst!, with its wonderfully expressive painting of Elijah's chariot.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Orange and Purple

This afternoon I went to the church property and did a little watering and deadheading. Over a year ago I planted this daisy kind of plant that is so vigorous, I love it. Don't know what its name is, and wonder if I still have the plastic marker that might say.

I'd like to get some for my own garden, because even after all the petals fall off they look attractive. I do trim them off eventually so the plant will make a bunch more blooms.


Then there is this amazing psychedelic grape plant. Does anyone know what it is?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Baby Toys

It's so much fun to watch babies as they do their scientific experiments. That's always how I have thought of the work they do as they play. When nothing uncomfortable is distracting them they can work for long periods repeating tests on the materials in their lab to learn about the properties: how things taste or feel on the gums, what sounds they make when knocked together, and so forth.

Seventh Grandson is with us for a few days and I brought out my boughten baby toys, some homemade ones, and the usual kitchen gadgets and cardboard boxes that babies love.

This contraption made with leather and blocks might have been made by Baby C.'s own mother for her little sister many, many years ago. Or maybe for a nephew, maybe even by a different aunt. One of the children did set me straight on this but I seem to persist in holding to my Scrambled Maternal Myths.

Perhaps the project was inspired by the book, No Bored Babies. I love to give the book to older children in a family where a new baby has just arrived, providing them one more way to be involved in caring for the younger brother or sister. The author shows many ways to take inexpensive raw materials like cardboard or cloth and make toys appropriate for the increasing skills and changing interests of children in their first couple of years.

When children start playing outside by themselves they collect their own materials, the favorite being sticks. As I was getting ready to load Baby C. into his car seat, I noticed that his parents have thoughtfully already supplied him with his own First Stick, carefully chosen and sanded for safe science experiments.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kristin Lavransdatter

The first time I came to the end of Kristin Lavransdatter I resolved to read it again very soon. The friend of a friend reads the trilogy once a year, and certainly it could stand up to that degree of intimacy; Kristin's world of Norway in the 14th Century is vast with well-developed characters, complicated politics, and a daily life where the pervasiveness of the church and Christian faith often shows cracks revealing the old pagan traditions as an under layer.

My own initial discovery, in the translation from Norwegian into English by Charles Archer, seemed to provide a mere introduction, partly because I was reading too fast, eager to see how the heroine's life turned out. There were so many people involved, as I noticed midway, I started taking notes on how they were related to the protagonists, knowing that it would help me understand their significance. My plan was to take even more extensive notes from the outset on my next reading.

That was more than ten years ago, and by the time I got to my second reading this year I was willing to try the new translation by Tiina Nunnally, touted by pretty much everyone as a better one, in that it does not involve the unnecessary--and, to some people, stilted and cumbersome--older English words and syntax. I had rather appreciated the language, as a reminder that Kristin's world was not much like my own, no matter how similar some of her womanly and just plain human concerns resembled those of people everywhere down through the ages.

This time, I was reading in bed, lying down before sleep, or at the gym on the treadmill, so my smart plan to take notes wasn't feasible. I had to make my second tour through the novel as I've been admonished to travel through a foreign country, fully expecting and planning that it won't be the last time I visit. They say that is the only way to make yourself relax enough to enjoy and retain what you do manage to see and encounter.

And I did see new and different things this time through. There are many books I truly want to read more than once, but not many novels have I actually gone back to again, so this kind of rereading was not a familiar exercise. As I came to remembered parts of the Kristin tale I was surprised to see that they didn't take up as many pages as I thought they would need. Many sub-plots and attributes of Kristin's family and friends were as good as new to me; evidently I missed them completely before.

As infused with a sacramental faith as the medieval world of these books is, I'm sure they influenced me on my path to Orthodoxy. Now that my own perceptions and beliefs are being forged into something more like the tradition that was Kristin's foundation, I think I am better able to appreciate some parts of the story. The deathbed scenes were striking, for the way the Christian reverence for the body, and the repentant heart of the Christians, were displayed. I'd like to write more on how they compare with descriptions of similar scenes in the Islamic culture of The Cairo Trilogy.

For a few pages near the end this recent reading I found myself thinking that I was getting bored with medieval Norway, or at least, that I didn't want to spend time on a third reading when there are so many other books still to be known. That feeling didn't last long, because by the time I came to the last pages I knew that I still have a lot to gain from acquaintance with the themes in this amazing epic by Sigrid Undset. It's a glory to God that one human mind can create a complex and rich world like that of Kristin, peopled with characters whose drama reflects our own struggles to love God and repent of our besetting sins. Image Journal included the novel in its list of 100 best books of the 20th century that "manifest a genuine engagement with the Judeo-Christian heritage of faith."

The Nunnally translation has extensive notes on the history and politics of that era in Norway, and some real historical characters come into play in the fictionalized account. Wikipedia's entry on the novel lists many of the characters; I think I'll print it out and use it for an outline on which to build my notes, those notes that I am still hoping to make on one of my revisits. I'm eager to return again and again to a place where my faith and thankfulness are encouraged as I make friends with fellow pilgrims.

Oregon - Part 4

The last big thing we did was visit Crater Lake. This is the deepest lake in the United States; it fills the caldera of another old volcano, and is the definition of blue. My grandfather as young unmarried adventurer from Chicago was one of the laborers who built the original road around the rim of the crater, completed in 1918.

In 2010 we arrived in the parking lot in three cars, cousins pouring out with shy grins after years of missing each other. The tallest boy stood back-to-back with his uncle to compare heights, and the two little girls and a couple of boy cousins followed suit. The 11 yr-old boys linked up and became a  happy world unto themselves, jumping in sync on snow shelves until they broke , and quickly getting separated from the rest of the group so that as we were setting off on a walk we had to take 15 minutes to hunt for them.

We were disappointed to find all but one trail still closed for snow; the one open trail was steep to the dock at water's edge. Everyone from the six year-old little bit of a girl to the stiffening grandma me tripped down the switchbacks along the inside of the old volcano's top.

By the path and in cracks at eye-level this flower grew. As soon as I saw Pippin again, later that day, she got out her wildflower books and we found out that it is Rock Penstemon.

All along the path to the shore, which was about a mile's walk, I was thinking about how much longer it would take me later to tromp back up the grade. That's the problem with hikes that start with a descent.

At the boat launch, one of my Grandsons from the East got permission from his father to swim in the lake, whose sides slope steeply down to the almost 2,000 ft. depth at bottom. He stripped down to his undershorts and plunged in, only to exit within seconds, the water was so icy. But back in he went, and swam a few strokes to make it official. The chance of a lifetime!

As expected, the hike back up was slow and rigorous. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and tried not to think of whether I was the last in the line, or to care. I was prepared for a long haul--or wishing someone could haul me up!

Then suddenly, perhaps half way ? son Pathfinder was alongside, and somehow we got on the subject of a book he is reading, and were talking about greed and how it differs from covetousness, and in no time, having meaningful and philosophical matters take my attention, I was surprised to find myself back on level ground and at the car.

Within a few minutes our carload was on the road south and out of Oregon, full of comfortably tired people who were mulling over the events of the last week, and the satisfactions of being part of a big and loving family.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oregon - Part 3

The DVD player was broken at the house we were renting--not a bad thing. The littlest kids watched several Disney movies on a video player in a bedroom, and the older boys got to reading books. I had brought a box of games and things to read, coloring books and lovely soft colored pencils. Granddaughter and I, and also her next-oldest brother colored a lot of pictures from the Greek myths coloring book, and then the Celtic animals one. At least one older boy said that Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt was Awesome. Pearl read Mrs. Mike.

Months ago Herm gave me a small old paperback, The Singing Forest, knowing my love of deer. This leisurely stay where deer did browse in the back yard seemed the perfect place to read such a book. One afternoon we had rain and cold, so we who were hanging out at the house turned on the gas fireplace and snuggled under blankets.

Between what groceries we had brought and the few items stocked in the house, Pearl concocted some chocolate cupcakes while I curled up with my book. It's very sweet, fascinating as a glimpse of life on a Scottish estate and also a sort of sociology of Scottish red deer. A real-life Bambi story.
Wallace Stegner's Remembering Laughter and Collected Stories were the other books in my Oregon stack. I'll have to think more on those before I can do justice to them by anything I can write, but I have to say that any fiction by Stegner I've read has been most satisfying.

Some of us went up Mt Bachelor on the ski lift and got views of The Sisters and Broken Top. It was 36° up there so we mostly sat in the coffee shop and sipped cocoa. 

Baby C. was kept on task learning to crawl by having one or more cousins demonstrating and distracting him from his misery at being on his tummy. He made great progress during those few days, and has now learned that exploring is fun.

<Aunt and Niece on the trail at Smith Rock.

I think the next installment in the Oregon series will be the last, and none too soon, for I'm not comfortable being so behind in my reports. New and more recent adventures are always presenting themselves and wanting documentation and analysis. It is well known that I am always willing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sticky Rice

Ten years ago we had a Laotian neighbor who invited us to her wedding, where we experienced our first Thai sticky rice. Moist and chewy, but at the same time clean and dry enough to pick up with our hands out of a giant basket on the buffet table. It was aromatic, but different from jasmine rice.

Some years after getting the recipe from our friend I produced a good batch; she had moved away by then. The first several times it scorched cooking in a regular pot, but eventually I read online that what I needed for success was a certain type of basket steamer, which I bought at a Southeast Asian store for under $10. 

It's so easy now to make this kind of rice. Start with a bag labeled Sweet Rice that is found at the same kind of store. The typical Japanese/Chinese/Korean Asian market near here doesn't even have it.  I don't have to measure, but I put three or four cups of sweet rice into a bowl for soaking, and then rinse it several times until the water is almost clear. Tonight I used four cups.

You have to soak it most of the day if you are using cold water, but I read somewhere that I could use hot water for soaking and it would only require an hour or two. So I almost always do it that way.

After soaking, heat some water in the steamer pot, drain the rice into the basket over the sink, and set the basket of rice over the steaming water. Put a sizable lid from some other pot over it to keep the steam in.It takes about 20 minutes to cook; sometimes I turn the lump of rice over midway.

When it is tender, dump it out on to a board or mat big enough that you can spread it out with a fork to cool it down, to keep it from overcooking into a soggy lump. At this point you can form it into balls, as I did for my grandchildren last week--balls that can be dipped in a coconut sauce. I often put a pile into a bowl and ladle Thai stew over it.

But tonight I mixed the cooked and still warm rice with sweetened coconut milk to which lime juice had been added, to make a platform for chunks of mango. Those are not ants, but black sesame seeds sprinkled on top, as I assured my husband.

A can of coconut milk, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons lime juice boiled together made the sauce that I poured over the rice that was still warm, then pressed it into a shallow pie plate and a pasta bowl. Within ten minutes it was firm enough to cut into wedges with a knife. It got even firmer when cold. This dish is called, naturally, Sticky Rice with Mango.

Oregon - Part 2

Summer isn't glorious the way spring was, along the track we take driving north. On our way to Oregon the only flower I saw on the first leg of the journey was yellow star thistle, the most unfriendly plant, growing where I'd stopped to take pictures of lupines on my last two journeys. Oh, and buckeye, which I also don't like. The hills are dry now, and "golden," or just plain brown.

One plain and pale slope I glanced at reminded me of a drawing I had made in fourth grade, of a dalmatian dog standing in the foreground, with the familiar California foothills baking under blue skies behind him, and no trees to be seen. It got me thinking for quite a while, about how the hills I see more nowadays are peppered with oak trees, and therefore hadn't connected to that odd crayon drawing that was tacked on a wall somewhere long enough to imprint into my brain.

It was a great relief to get out of those foothills and into the valley where green things are loving the sun and heat as long as they get some of that precious California water to their roots: broad fields of tomatoes, sunflowers and safflowers in long rows, and the plantings of onions still with their flowers waving in the breeze. My heart swells seeing all the lush produce, comforted by the land producing so much food.

And oh! we saw in one huge field an amazing kind of machine, that will save the backs and knees of many a farm laborer. Unfortunately we passed by too quickly to get a good look at it, but it consisted of a couple of tractors, one on each end, slowly pulling a sort of rack, on which several men lay face down, with their hands in the dirt and moving quickly. We think they were setting out small plants.

Oleanders are another kind of flower I enjoyed on the way up Highway 5. When I was a child living in the arid Central Valley, oleanders were pretty boring, but as I don't see them every day anymore I really appreciate them. There must be many thousands planted along the highways, and they are a delight in all their many reds and pinks and white, looking cheery and hearty in spite of 100° weather.

It was 108°, actually, as we went through the town of Redding, before climbing to slightly higher altitudes. I was grateful for the air conditioning, and thought back to my childhood when we had only a swamp cooler in one corner of the ranch-style house, with the girls' bedroom at the other corner. When coming indoors after exposure to the wilting termperatures we children liked to wet our faces and stand right in front of it, never understanding why our parents thought this was a bad idea. I first appreciated my grandma's humor when she wrote me once that she was about to "melt into a puddle of fat" because it was so hot in usually-temperate Berkeley, and when I feel limp in the summer I always smile over this image and her spirit.

We stopped at Pippin's house for a night on our way, where the temperature was 20 degrees cooler. The next morning, before crossing the state line, we stopped by Grass Lake, a lush and green place where a hundred gulls were congregating and making a ruckus. In this northeast corner of California you often find landscapes like this with layers of color and texture created from sagebrush, conifers, and wetlands. It all makes an ever-changing feast for the eyes. But in less than an hour we will be in Oregon--finally! More on that soon.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

God is Constantly Willing

Weeds grew thick and tall in my recent and repeated absences, threatening to hide and destroy the beauty of the garden I'd planted. This morning I spent an hour tidying things up and giving space to the cucumbers and peppers so that they could grow unhindered. I'd hired a girl to irrigate enough to keep everything alive, but I didn't ask her to pull weeds.

(Unripe grape tomatoes above, nasturtium in arugula below. All pictures taken just this evening.)

While hauling several baskets full to the trash I remembered my own advice to another young friend who was just falling in love with gardening. She asked me whether I thought she should do a little bit of garden work every day, or spend a couple of hours one or two days a week. I told her that the best way is to tend it a little bit every day. There is always a weed to pull, a tomato branch to be tied up, or a dead flower to be clipped off. The plants need water, and food, perhaps even a little shade from time to time. 

One year our Baby was raising a pumpkin she hoped would be a huge one she could enter in the local Giant Pumpkin Contest. We were told it was advisable to put the growing pumpkin on a pallet when it was still small so that it could stay dry and be easily moved no matter how large it grew. When I got around to helping my daughter with that part of the project the fruit wasn't very large yet, but the stem, having lain on the moist ground, had already sent out roots into the soil. This situation was hidden by a canopy of leaves, and when we hoisted the pumpkin on to the pallet, the vine stayed anchored by those roots, and the pumpkin broke off at the stem.

That was a hard lesson. I thought sadly of how a farmer, even a novice homeschooling pumpkin-grower, can't afford to procrastinate. Any job involving a living thing has to be paced according to that creature's rate of growth. And agriculture usually involves many living things all in relationship to one another: the plant, the soil, pests with their own life cycle, and probably others I'm not thinking of, not being a very good farmer still.

This morning's brief mediation on how I really ought to tend more constantly to my garden continued when I later sat down at the computer to read the transcript of an interview with the Orthodox theologian and writer Vigen Guroian in which the topic of conversation turned, as is usually the case with him, to gardening, and he said "...were not God constantly willing His creation, loving His creation into existence, it would disappear."

From my perspective as a lazy, distracted, and time-constrained gardener, I appreciate the steadfastness of our Lord in continuing His creative work moment-by-moment.  Colossians 1:17 says that he "holds all creation together." I am one of His creatures, whom so far He has seen fit to give life and breath to every morning, making it possible for me to tend my own mini-garden, which also couldn't live without His blessing and daily upholding.

Something G.K. Chesterton said on the subject often flits through my mind, when musing on this subject. He said, that in contrast to children, who through excess of vitality want things repeated, "...grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough... It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again,' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again,' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

So far, the garden hasn't seemed monotonous to me. Every day is different there. Of course, The Creator is making the daisies, and I get to discover them, along with the roses and budding fruits and spreading spinach. I do love my garden, and will try to be more constantly willing to keep it going, imitating my Lord.