Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trace Him by the branches.

Many months ago when it was my birthday, I received from my husband a book of the works of John Donne, poetry and prose and sermons. On a recent trip we had listened to a Mars Hill Audio Journal CD that included an interview about him, with the always fascinating Dana Gioia. I've been perusing the book since then and have found many good and juicy snippets, such as this:

Acknowledg God to be the Author of thy Being; find him so at the spring-head, and then thou shalt easily trace him, by the branches, to all that belongs to thy well-being. The Lord of Hosts, and the God of peace, the God of the mountaines, and the God of the valleyes, the God of noone, and of midnight, of all times, the God of East and West, of all places, the God of Princes, and of Subjects, of all persons, is all one and the same God; and that which we intend, when we say Iehovah, is all Hee.
--John Donne 1572-1631, Sermons V

Sunday, July 28, 2013

St. Panteleimon

St. Panteleimon had studied medicine, but it was by the miraculous powers of Christ that he healed many people whom the doctors had not been able to help. He was martyred in 304 after the jealous doctors denounced him as a Christian.

We remembered him with hymns in church today, the same morning that the gospel passage recounted Christ's healing of the Gadarene maniacs. In both cases the earthly powers did not rejoice that the sick had been made whole, or that God was present and active in their midst. Their spiritual eyes were so clouded over that they completely missed the blessing. Lord, have mercy!

I love this painting of St. Panteleimon that Leah posted last week.

St Panteleimon the Healer by Nikolay Roerich

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Neighboring Sea

For a few years of my life I lived a few blocks from the beach near Santa Barbara, California, but my world was so full of other kinds of excitement in those days that I gave very little thought to my neighboring kingdom. It pains me at this stage of life to think what I missed by not spending more time at the ocean's edge or at least gazing from the cliffs.

I'm reminded of that experience when reading Anne Porter's description in this poem. In the wee hours she is "remembering" what must have been as near in the daytime, just at the end of the street. It's from her collection Living Things, which was given to me at Christmas. My husband read this poem first and shared it with me only this morning. Devils-apron is a type of kelp.

The Neighboring Sea

At three in the morning the village is all in silence
But the silence is afloat on the roar of the sea
And all the streets are bathed in the roar of the sea
The waves are at their labors
Cresting and flooding all along the shore
Tumbling and spinning the kelp and the devils-apron
Threshing to meal the morsels and crumbs of stone
And the light seashells with their storm-blue linings.

This is the time of day when I remember
That down at the end of the street there is an ocean
A Nation of fishes and whales
A sky-colored country stretching from here to Spain
A liquid kingdom dragged about by the moon.
Anne Porter

Ke'anae Peninsula, Maui

Friday, July 26, 2013

My gleanings include rubbish and pies.

I guess I've had enough time and thinking power this week to read and ponder, but my activities didn't result in anything of my own to posit or report, so I'll just pass on some recent gleanings.

Women Priests?  I love it when a reviewer is bold enough to say "This book is rubbish." Honesty and confidence! Although, if that's all she can say, she won't get a hearing; I want to hear reasons for her belief. I just read this blog post titled "Merlin Stone's book is rubbish", and though I had never heard the author's name before I immediately wanted to read that article.

It's a brief review of  When God Was a Woman, which the blogger first had to read in seminary years ago. She writes, "There is neither historical nor anthropological support for her thesis that the Hebrews suppressed goddess worship. She tries to prove that the Canaanites had a matriarchial and matrilineal structure. She is wrong on both counts." Go to the blog Just Genesis to read the supporting details. The writer always has lots of fascinating historical and archeological knowledge to pass on.

Pies, pies, pies... Three women collaborated on a book, which as soon as I read about it I had to have sent as a birthday gift for my granddaughter. It may be a bit early for her, but I like to encourage little girls to start taking a creative role in the kitchen and to look to real grownups for inspiration.

The book is Pieography, written by Jo Packham, Food Styling by Anne Marie Klaske, Photography by Traci Thorson. All of these women have blogs; Jo and Traci feature photos of some pies, but I think you have to get the book if you want the recipes and stories.

I haven't seen the book yet, but I've enjoyed Anne Marie's blog in particular. The clean and elegant style is nice to surf around in and see snippets of the Klaske Family's farm life. On Thursdays you can get inspired to bake pies!

Death of the Old Man:  Father Stephen Freeman shared a link to his daughter's blog, on St. John of the Cross and the loss of identity, or the Dark Night of the Soul, or the "death of the old man." Actually the subtitle of the post is "The Loss and Discovery of our Identity in God" (italics mine), so it ends on a very positive note, to be sure.

She writes, "If we had always thought of the death of our old man as purely symbolic, it may come as something of a shock to think of real pain being involved. But when our turn inevitably comes to go through pain or tragedy, then we may take comfort in knowing that many have travelled down this path before us."

Icons and Images:  A book on the history of the use and theology of images in Jewish culture and in the church is the subject of this blog post on Orthodox-Reformed Bridge. Early Christian Attitudes Toward Images is written by Stephen Bigham, and a series of four blog posts is planned to review the book. This structure follows the organization of the book:
The book is divided into four chapters. Chapter 1 deals with the “hostility theory” which holds that the early Christians were hostile toward images. Chapter 2 deals with early Jewish attitudes toward images. Chapter 3 deals with the early Christian attitudes towards images, that is, the pre-Constantinian period. Chapter 4 deals with Eusebius of Caesarea who witnessed the beginning of Constantinian era.
The author is an Orthodox priest, and the blogger Robert Arakaki was Reformed in his theology before converting to Orthodoxy. I'm looking forward to reading all the reviews of what looks to be a thorough treatment of the subject.

Beethoven in Space:  Lastly, here's a music video featuring Hubble images and beautiful music. A blessed weekend to you all!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I'll tell you about the stars.

The stars made the biggest impression on me, this time at the mountain cabin by the lake, but not in the usual way.

Normally what strikes me at such a high elevation is the brightness, how the Milky Way is huge and obvious, and how even my weak eyes can see the Pleiades. But last week the moon stole the show with its competing lumens. I'll have more to say about the stars later.

Just below the place that was too steep for my timidity...
Tall and Short climb Gumdrop.

We had friends with us whom I'll call Tall and Short. They are good sports and happy campers, very resourceful and cheerful when challenges arise. I will only tell you about the most fun challenge, of climbing Gumdrop Dome. I failed to surmount it for the third year in a row, and after I gave up I walked around the base to meet the others coming down the other side.

Of course I found a new plant on my walk, something that looks like a fern and a succulent at the same time, and was growing against a granite boulder, its "fronds" about as tall as my forefinger. I marked it with cairns above and below so that when my camera was returned to me I would be able to find this best of the specimens again.

I have no idea what it is, or how to start researching it. And I need to spend time on other things now, like making small dolls.

Seemingly tiny real people descend Gumdrop.

I took along on the trip my doll project that has been in the works for years without a single doll being born. (More than three years ago what slowed me down was stuffing-wool so dirty I couldn't bear to tell its story, but that excuse is long expired.)

And while sitting on the cabin deck in the warm afternoons I completed three tiny dollies! I'll post more photos of them when I have a bigger family to show. But it was a breakthrough that added to my contentment with a vacation that tried to scream "too short!"

More pleasant hours were spent paddling around the lake with my husband, while Mr. Tall fished and Mrs. Short sat on a rock nearby and knitted sweaters for her expected first grandchild.
Gumdrop Dome from the lake
Many rocks are exposed that we normally prefer not to see. It was a year of little snow in the Sierras, so the lake is down. But it's fun to drive out into the dry lake bed a ways and park in the midst of granite drama, as in the photo at top.

We can't imagine that there is another Sierra lake that has so many granite domes and peaks encircling it. As we floated on the lake I studied the variously shaped rocks and tried to come up with names for them. Only one is named on the official maps, but I think they all are deserving.

This picture shows at least four hitherto unnamed domes. The one on the left I want to call Glad Peak, because Mr. Glad and Soldier climbed it one time. In the center of the photo are two domes side-by-side, whom I am calling He and She. Between those in this view is a peninsula that is in a normal year called Ant Island, and which we like to paddle to and around. But not this time....

It doesn't matter if the snow pack was light, or if some trees have died, the sky is unchanged. But on the first night up there I completely forgot to go outside to greet the stars. The next day we all talked about how we must view them together that second night -- but the sun sets so late, and half of our party was in bed before the other half of us remembered again. Then I forgot and put on my nightgown, and then remembered again. Almost dutifully I opened the slider, pulled the door shut behind me... and immediately felt myself in Deep Heaven, what C.S. Lewis wanted to name what we coldly term Space.

The stars crowded me, pressing their quietness down. I was alone, standing on the deck barefoot with the cool night air on my legs, but barely noticing the slight discomfort, because of the great company of beings so close -- just me and them being familar, and me wondering. It would have been rude to leave after only a quick glance, and besides, they were telling me something.

I walked slowly around in the dark, annoyed by the light from the lamp inside, which I tried to keep behind me. Not a human sound could be heard, not even an animal sound. It was the kind of quietness that is roaring -- but with what? I couldn't pin down what it was, so I stood and listened. The host of heaven with weighty silence conveyed the presence of The Holy, and it was almost too exhilarating, that close to bedtime.

Eventually I had to go inside and climb under the covers. But my exciting encounter with the stars changed me in this way: Years ago I did make solitary mountain retreats here at the cabin, for several days at a time, but I haven't felt up to doing that again. Now that the feeling has been revived in me, of being alone and at the same time the opposite of lonely, I am hungry for more of it, I want long days and nights of it, and I plan to return in September. I think those stars are angels.

Friday, July 19, 2013

St. Seraphim Day

I was sad to have to leave the mountains yesterday and come home so soon. But God knew I needed the major infusion of the Holy Spirit I would get today when we commemorated St. Seraphim of Sarov, patron saint of my church. The example of his life encourages me, and also his words, such as
God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the devil—for the devil is cold—let us call on the Lord. He will come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him but also for our neighbor, and the cold of him who hates the good will flee before the heat of His countenance.
Rejoice, St. Seraphim, Wonderworker of Sarov!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What I love and don't fear - domiciliphilia

Hyssop is blooming in my garden, reminding me of Psalm 51: Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed. Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow. Three years ago seeds must have fallen into the ground from the plant I'd bought; why they waited so long to sprout this spring, I don't know.

The zinnias are going strong, and now the purple coneflowers are coming on. I got distracted and forgot about them when they were dormant and the foxgloves were dominating that space, and by planting the red zinnias I broke my rule about not having red and magenta-colored flowers together. That could have been a disaster!

But they seem to be getting along o.k. Even when the landscape is not living up to my visions, I'm relaxed out in the garden in the midst of my accomplishments. They are really God's accomplishments; the little contributions I made could never on their own have created the splendor that is right here in my back yard.

An orange dragonfly posed for a picture.
I have joked that I approach agoraphobia, but it's not near the truth. I just love being home and working at home. Until I came home to the Orthodox Church, I dragged my feet even about going to church, much as I loved the people there, and God. And though I will gladly drive and fly all over the country and even the world to see and be with those dear to me, it's annoying just having to run errands in my town and break my concentration, my focus on home.

It's not laziness, it's an attentiveness that encompasses many kinds of mental and physical work. You've seen the long lists of things homemakers are called upon to do; well, I have my own intensely personal version of that list, and only God knows all that is on it, what burdens I carry and how light they are here in my realm.

No, I don't fear going out, I don't have a phobia of The Marketplace. But when I do go, it is always with the anticipation of feathering my nest with things I will bring back, or with the confidence that I will soon return to the place where I am most alive and productive...and the hope that having accomplished those outside tasks I will have a longish reprieve from distractions, and be able to get on with my best work.

I'm not agoraphobic, I'm domiciliphilic.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The morning air is all awash with angels.

Lots of us homemakers, in the Northern Hemisphere anyway, are writing about laundry, as the summer sunshine makes it easy to use the fresh warm air to do part of the job. Cathy even posted a poem, which reminded me of my own favorite laundry poem. Funny, it's from a man's point of view, and written by a man who probably didn't have too much direct experience, but maybe that's why he could see not just the mundane and practical aspects, but the poetry and love of washing and drying the clothes of our fellow humans.

 Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

    The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
                          Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

    Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks; but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

    Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
                                                       The soul shrinks

    From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd  day,
And cries,
                  “Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

    Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
       “Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;

Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in pure floating
Of dark habits,
                          Keeping their difficult balance.”           

--Richard Wilbur

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What the World Needs Now

A recent confluence of thoughts began with hate and destruction, in a blog post from Fr. George:
When we dream about changing the world, we are expressing our own dissatisfaction with it, and thus our rejection and disdain for it. Can you really change something you hate? Not really. What you really want to do is kill it. We want to destroy the world to build one of our own liking.

To love is to accept things as they are, calling the good as good and the bad as bad, and not needing to change them in order to accept them. The truth is you can only change yourself, and even there we have limits because we were all made in certain ways and some things were not made to change.
Fr. George's exhortation to love and accept "things as they are" brought to mind this poem by Mary Oliver that I have posted in the past:

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
When I pay attention, I can hear that a message is always being sent my way, a choice is set before me every day, and on some days it seems to come every few minutes: Will I receive life, and my life, as a gift, or will I fight against what is handed to me, and try to create my own life and self the way I see fit?

I'm familiar with the teaching from wise church fathers that acceptance is a large part of humility. And when I read this passage from Metropolitan Anthony (from "Meditations on a Theme") it seemed to go right along with these other expressions I've gathered here, on what should be my attitude in this life I've been made steward over. Met. Anthony credits St. Theophan as the source of his comments about how the earth can teach us:
Just think about what earth is. It lies there in silence, open, defenseless, vulnerable before the face of the sky. From the sky it receives scorching heat, the sun’s rays, rain, and dew. It also receives what we call fertilizer, that is, manure—everything that we throw into it. And what happens? It brings forth fruit. And the more it bears what we emotionally call humiliation and insult, the more fruit it yields.

Thus, humility means opening up to God perfectly, without any defenses against Him, the action of the Holy Spirit, or the positive image of Christ and His teachings. It means being vulnerable to grace, just as in our sinfulness we are sometimes vulnerable to harm from human hands, from a sharp word, a cruel deed, or mockery. It means giving ourselves over, that it be our own desire that God do with us as He wills. It means accepting everything, opening up; and then giving the Holy Spirit room to win us over.
 This week I'm getting ready for a trip to the mountains, to My Lake (see posts with the label cabin). I'll be getting the garden watered, and in the mountains I'll be seeing lots of earth and its fruiting forests and wildflowers. I will try to take it all as a reminder to open up and give the Holy Spirit room.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Books have beauty inside and out.

I love it when the AbeBooks newsletter shows us interesting book covers. This particular edition features "The Prettiest Publications of the Past" and there are some lovelies. It's almost enough to make me enter my credit card number right now so I can get a copy of The Book of Bugs for only $139.37.

Seas and Lands would cost not much over $80.

I could pick up Poppies and Wheat by Louisa May Alcott at $200...

But not really. I just like to look at the covers briefly, and then I go inside and delight in the artistry of the words, or I get caught up in the story or the vast worlds of ideas between the covers. I forget the pictures outside.

Still I wondered, do I have any pretty 19th century books on my shelves?

I own this copy of The Saints' Everlasting Rest by the Puritan Richard Baxter. It was published in 1850 though he wrote in the 1600's. I don't actually find it pretty, but it's the only one I found that has any decoration at all. It was given to my great-great-grandmother Margaret in New York City on the first day of 1859, when she was 24 years old and soon to be married.

I wonder if she read it? At the very back some words were penciled in and then erased. It wasn't her fiancé who gave it, or anyone obviously family, for the message on the front flyleaf is signed somewhat formally "H.E. Browne"....

Well, you see how right off I'm concerned not with art but with the people or the book's contents.

My favorite older book is from the 20th century, this copy of The Faithful Wife by Sigrid Undset. It was a recent gift to me from the shelves of an elderly friend, and I haven't read it yet. But I think the design is very homey and wifey.

I'm reading The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts these days, which is all about what's inside the books and what goes on in our minds when we are reading literature. That paperback is on my nightstand, so it doesn't show up on this handy-dandy bookshelf that Soldier made for me many years ago.
A disclaimer is in order: This son was pleased and happy to build a tabletop shelf according to the vision I described to him, but he made me promise to fill in the screw holes and crevices and paint or varnish it, because he wasn't happy with the roughness of the finished result. I lied, or broke my promise, and never finished it, and here I am showing the whole world.  My children put up with a lot.

But it is beautiful, isn't it? And when our older son Pathfinder saw it he immediately knew that he wanted several for his house, too.

Now go look at or inside a book.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Complementarity of Heat

I noticed some ways that our heat wave complemented all our hospitality in the last few weeks:

1 - The extra warm temperatures that stayed up into the nighttime followed closely upon a late rain. This sort of tropical weather caused the basil (and everything, really) to grow lush early in the season, and that meant I could -- I had to -- make a huge batch of pesto.

Pippin was here to be my recipe consultant and we decided to try adding some lemon juice to my recipe. My friend told me that she does that as a bit of preservative, and the kind of pesto they sell at Costco has a lemony flavor which some people prefer.
2 - It was convenient to have extra people around to help us eat the large quantity of green beans we slathered with the fresh pesto. Yum!

3 - Ivy and I could enjoy a long session with the lavender in the evening and we didn't have to go back inside for our sweaters.

4 - Water play all day long! In the past I've seen others of our grandkids engrossed in washing play dishes while their teeth were chattering, it was so chilly. Ivy and Scout could be comfortable and wet at the same time.

5 - The pool warmed up and was fun to play in for hours. People could swim until the sun went down and not have to watch the fog come in.

6 - But I think my most favoritest thing has to do with the fact that I love to hang laundry in the sun to dry, and sheets are the easiest things to do that with, because they are so big, it doesn't take long to get them up on the line and down. This summer I've had lots of sheets to wash already, and I have four times had the supremely satisfying feeling of using the free sunshine and afterward folding up the warm and sweetest smelling bed linens. I should write letters to the dear people who slept here and thank them for this.

If we keep living here I might never experience this concurrence of heat and guests again, and this will go down in Glad history as The Summer of the Complementarity of Heat and Hospitality.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

One cupcake on Saturday and treats all week long...

My fortnight with lots of good company has come to an end. Of course I still have my husband who is normally all the good company I need, but it was a very wonderful thing to have our big house used for good purposes. Our guests were friends and family, and even strangers from Ohio and New York lodging here on account of a masters singing class held at my church. During this two weeks came the wave of heat.

One weekend Liam's parents Soldier and Joy used our house for a birthday party for our little grandson. I love it when creative people decorate my house and take care of all the invitations and food for an event, and all I have to do is provide a relatively tidy environment and clean towels everywhere. In this case I even swept the floor because I knew the guest of honor would crawl all over it.

Frosting the lemon cupcakes

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was the theme for Liam's party. His mother made the cutest treats and favors and lanterns relating to the story or the colors and shapes in the book. Liam didn't notice most of it but he did eat most of a cupcake after the candle was blown out by his mother.

Their family had no sooner departed than Pippin's crowd arrived with Pat. They had come south to enjoy more and different adventures before Pat had to return to MD. Pippin's little ones are Scout and Ivy, so I was treated to more time with more grandchildren. So sweet.

Ivy scooted around on the floor, too, and tried to kiss the little girl in the dishwasher door.

The heat wave surprisingly extended to the North Coast beaches and we all trekked to one where there was no fog or wind. Barely any sand got into our sourdough bread and cheese and blueberries, and only Scout stood on his head in the hole that the cousins dug.

God gave us a rainbow in a cloud. It was even more brilliant than this but faded somewhat while I rummaged around for my camera.

Tetragonia tetragonioides with CA poppies and iceplant

I took this photo for Jo in Tasmania where they call New Zealand Spinach warrigal greens. Its botanical name is Tetragonia tetragonioides. It seems to have naturalized here on the coast and this is the second time I've seen it on beaches.
big patch of NZ Spinach

Here's the same plant that keeps volunteering in my garden, amongst the tomatoes and snapdragons.

On the bluffs above the beach, as we were parting with Pat, I got a parting gift in this pale yellow/white paintbrush display in the middle of a coastal flower show. These all were just a few of the pleasures of the early summer - I will tell of more soon.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Aunt Ida warns against haste in the blood.

Over a year ago I shared here a few excerpts from old letters written from Central and South America by Aunt Ida. I still plan to transcribe them all and share some more stories, but I'm afraid have fallen right down on that job.

This week we've been struck by an unusual heat wave. No one has AC here, because it's so rarely warranted, and my recent experiences of wilting and sweating made me remember this passage from one letter in which she writes home to her sisters about how to cope in the Panamanian climate. I managed to dig it up and offer it here for anyone who may have need of it.
Tues. a.m. Aug. 5, 1919 ...I like this country. Talk about the lure of the tropics. It’s got me. You couldn’t pull me away from here. It’s warm but everything is built for it. And it’s always the same so you can get ready for it and stay ready. I sleep with a sheet partly over me every night, and it’s the same at 4 a.m. as at 9 p.m. Everything is built open like a porch and tightly screened and it’s comfortable. All you have to remember is to take it easy and not hurry. “Never hurry” .... A negro sewing woman said one reason why I was so warm was because I had “haste in my blood.” And that is right. If you even “feel” in a hurry, the heat just surges through you. But if you keep calm, you stay cool. This place would never do for Ma. She’d just naturally die. Because she has so much “haste in her blood” and she simply cannot learn to take it easy. You have to learn it or you perish. You know how easy I take things – well if I keep that pace I’m OK but just let me take a spell where I want to straighten up or do the least thing and I’m all “het up.”
May you all keep as cool as possible this summer, in every sense of the word.