Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Gaudete in Domino semper: interum dico, gaudete."

Gaudete Sunday is here - already! I wore pink to Mass, in the form of a pink headscarf, wrapped around my head and twisted in front. It is so thrilling to dress in accordance with the daysI felt fully alive with the joy of the day - and so much a part of the Liturgy; as though I'd fallen into it and, instead of merely participating, I was swimming in it - swallowing whole mouthfuls, the way we do in the ocean, when a huge wave hits.

After Mass we had friends over for brunch. It is so much easier to prepare a brunch now that we attend the earlier Liturgy. I have a whole two hours of time in which to clean, chop, bake, and boil.

Now the snow is falling in fast little flakes, making the night bright with reflected light. I love snowy nights when we are at home and can just sit and watch the falling snow gather all around us. Our lights are dim inside to let the glow warm our windows. We have coffee, a warm bed, and so many blessings. How could we not rejoice?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show."
~Andrew Wyeth

December has been hurrying along - unnecessarily quickly in my opinion. We watched the first snowstorm of the season cover our town with deep white drifts, and now we sit in the warm, blue-walled middle room, listening to the creak of the kiln as it rises to temperature. The days are so short now, I'm adjusting to lamplight and early nights.

I feel more productive this winter -after the distraction of autumn skies. My pots are everywhere - in the kiln, on the floor, on the wheel - and all across the country as well. I'm happy to see them go - these little bits of my soul - in the hopes that they brighten lives out in the world.

Advent is such a beautiful season - amazing that we are at it's third Sunday already! I think I have not appreciated it as much as I would like this year, but I'm sure that every year is the same. We never look back and say "Ah, that was the year I did everything right!"

My husband and I have been reading "The Book of Hours" this Advent, not intentionally, but because we were drawn to the beauty of the words this season. It is a wintery book of poems, I feel, and a book of hopeful longing.

Blessed Advent to you all!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Perhaps I am a bear, or some hibernating animal underneath, for the instinct to be half asleep all winter long is so strong in me."
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Today the weather is "seasonal," meaning that the lovely blustery days we've been having are gone - in their place are cold, dark days, frozen puddles, and the smell of winter. Each season has a scent of its own - winter's scent is all around us today - light and cold, the scent of bright stars and soft snow and frozen things. If seasons were wines, winter would be dry and white, with hints of citrus and a crisp finish.

I always eat an abundance of oranges in winter. The fresh, living taste drives away the darkness in the long evenings, and helps the short days last. I've discovered a recipe for an Orange Salad, which I love, and which can be altered when some of the ingredients aren't avaliable:

4 peeled Oranges
3 shredded Carrots
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 tablespoon Orange Flower Water
1/4 cup Pomegranate Seeds
1/4 cup chopped Fresh Mint Leaves

Anything except the oranges, mint, and cinnamon can be left out if neccessary. All mixed together it looks as beautiful as it tastes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"At twilight, nature is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets."

~Oscar Wilde

I've been neglecting my blog. The dark, November skies are so distracting. I get very little done - less than I'd like anyway. We've been enjoying walks in the Bird Sanctuary nearby. I love to hear the leaves crumbling under my boots and see my shadow stretched out before me.

But I haven't been completely inactive, our soiree went wonderfully, and Thanksgiving is fast approaching - I don't think I've fully realized that yet. And I've been doing autumny things; not early autumn things like apple-picking and leaf-peeping, late autumn things like walks in the wind, curling up with tea and old books, writing letters, and planning parties.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Why was I born with such contemporaries?"
Oscar Wilde

My husband and I are throwing a small soiree, by invitation only. We want to start having a few small parties, with varying little collections of friends getting together formally. We don't wan't to stop having larger parties - but to add and mix up our social gatherings. It's seems to be a popular idea with our crowd, and the first is due to happen next week. It's awkward, however, to begin having invitation parties in a crowd so used to open parties. We don't want to be snobbish, and we plan to include everyone at different times, but in this first soiree, we are inviting a few of our closest friends, we are supplying the food - funky, light fare, and we are arranging the space, with the small size of the gathering in mind. Unfortunately, some of our aquaintences here have never (it seems) encountered a formal party, and don't seem to realize that it is not open to anyone and everyone - it can't be, without being a completely different gathering. How do we deal with this situation - being hospitible but also throwing the party the our guests and we expect? What would you do in such a situation?

Tonight we are headed out to hear a few friends perform in the city. Tomorrow, and Sunday, we expect rain, and cozy at home baking, throwing, writing, and reading.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"I don't know what I will become,
nor what I was to be,
I can only replicate the earth's
deep gestures.
I have storm and stillness,
clarity and dusk;
my will is absorbed in growing
and young.."
Rainer Maria Rilke

Outside, dusk is hiding all the dirt and dying leaves - inside, I sit among my candles, incense, and icons; something about autumn evenings calls me to darken my eyes and sit still amid flickering lights and watchful eyes. There is music in the background -there usually is, music makes our home come alive. I like to dance to it - across the smooth wood, in and out of doorways, I like to feel my legs and arms lift and twist against the song. I'm not a good dancer - though my husband tells me I have rhythm - I never really learned, I lack discipline; a few lessons, ballet when I was very young, belly-dance a few years ago, nothing demanding. But I do love to dance.

Tonight we have a book-club meeting, we are discussing Chesterton's The Man who was Thursday. Though the meeting seems like it will be very small, I love book and still hope to get some decent discussion out of it. If you haven't read it, do - it's a fascinating, trippy trip into a Catholic imagination.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"The best thing would be to work on till art lovers feel drawn toward it of their own accord, instead of having to praise or to explain it." - Vincent van Gogh

My home feels brighter tonight then usual. The blue around me is deep and smooth, I can see none of the imperfections in the walls tonight, only the color, that meets sunflower yellow of the front room and calls the gold of the Icons to leap out into the spaces between the walls. It is a dance of color all around me and I am buried in them - warm, safe, enraptured.

Pots are scattered across the floor as we prepare to list a huge batch of pots for sale. My husband is taking photos. I spent the morning cleaning, tonight our floor is smooth and shiny as amber, clean, and temporarily home to various photo props - a chopstick, numerous books, potted herbs, a jug of wine and scarves. I'm lucky to have him, lucky he takes such lovely photos, and loves taking them - enough to spend his entire afternoon surrounded by pots and props.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.'' - Oscar Wilde

Last Friday I discovered that it is nearly impossible to go out to a late supper in Maine. After attending a concert in the city, we wandered for at least an hour - looking for an open restaurant that was not a bar or a club. After an hour we realized that we had no options - nothing was open; we drove home hungry and ate sandwhiches in bed with tea and oranges. It was delicious, but disappointing - we had intended to go out on the town, and we both enjoy late-night dining.

The experience made me wonder about the new attitude towards meal-times. We generally have four in our home: breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. Breakfast is early - as we both wake up before dawn - and simple: toast and tea, coffee and oatmeal, fruit and yogurt. Lunch is the meal I generally miss, my husband eats his at work and I often forget. Tea is our new addition, its lovely to have a specific time to refresh the Zakuska fresh food, hot tea, and little things to munch while planning dinner. Sometimes we have a cup of soup at tea, but generally it's just whatever is out for zakuska. We eat dinner late - usually sometime after seven, and when we're not waking early we often eat after nine, so it was suprising when at ten on a Friday night, no decent restaurant was serving. Why are our mealtimes so limited - I'm hoping this is only a local issue, I miss the freedom I remember having, to go to a show and follow it with a long, late dinner, drinks, and conversation.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"He who practices hospitality entertains God Himself."
Hospitality is still on my mind. Perhaps its the weather. In autumn and in winter, when the air is cold and the wind is blowing, guests, comfort, and a welcoming home become more important to me. Today our zakuska has only ciabatta, oranges, and tea. I am not expecting anyone to stop by, but how many times have we heard the story of the Unexpected Guest, who is Christ. How sad if Christ came and found no welcome!
There is another Russian tradition that I love relating to hospitality. It is a city tradition, and if we lived in a more walkable city I would practice it: when families were home at night, and welcoming guests in Moscow, they would leave a candle burning in a prominent window so that any friends passing by could see that they were welcome within. It was an informal invitation to share the evening with friends. Now that our society spends so little time walking around towns and cities, it is an impractical tradition to ressurrect, but I love the openness and the generosity of that sort of attitude towards guests. Who knows who might stop by, perhaps even Christ!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible."
T.E. Lawrence
Tonight we are resting. There are some evenings that call us to retreat a while into the haven we've created, rest from the world amidst our icons, art, and home comforts. I think everyone is called, some evening or another to these retreats. They are the times that prepare us to venture out again into the world - refreshed by the beauty and love that belong in a special way to our homes.
Our apartment is excellent for dreaming. In the daytime I dream in bright yellow, blue, green and red, with sunlight and sandlewood in the air. At night the shadows and the smell of hot food turn my dreams warm and sleepy, or else silvery-grey and restless; on those nights I wander the rooms, throw, and watch the sky. A beautiful home is a blessing in that it enables us to dream awake as well as asleep.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"A guest should be permitted to graze, as it were, in the pastures of his hosts kindness, left ever to his own devices, like a rational being, and handsomely neglected."
-Louise Imogen Guiney

I am full of thoughts on hospitality today. I was raised in a generous and hospitable family, and am now married to a generous and hospitable man. I am looking back now on the times when I have been a guest -those times when I was most comfortable as a guest, as opposed to those times when I've been least comfortable. The visits I've enjoyed most of all are the one where I am welcomed joyfully and allowed to fully enter into the life of my hosts.

As a hostess myself I love to provide an abundance of good food, good music, and good conversation for my guests, as well as good books and time alone to explore. I especially appreciate the Russian concept of having a zakuska - a table that is a permanent fixture, constantly replenished, always avaliable. I try to keep this custom in my own small way. Currently our table offers garlic bread with dipping oil, Russian teacakes, and small slices of banana-nut bread, as well as tea and coffee. Our little zakuska makes me happy. I know that any guest, no matter how unexpected, will at least be able to nibble away at his appetite while I make a true meal. I also enjoy the constant table - it gives me an opportunity to display food, reminds us to break for tea, and gives the whole house an atmosphere of hospitality.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"You came when you were needed
I could not ask for more,
then to turn and find you walking
through the kitchen door."
Kate Wolf

I'm listening to the album Gold in California, sipping green tea, and thinking about friendship. Last night over tea and chocolate at a friends we started discussing the nature of friendship, and particularly, whether or not a person can truly be friends with his parents. What is a friend, and is friendship so distinct from filial love that the latter supersedes it? Friendship is such a misunderstood form of love - real friendships are rare and hard to come by, but our culture has replaced it with social obligations, acquaintances, filial love, and affection.

Think about it a bit. What is friendship? Who can you enter into a friendship with? What is required?

"Friends should be only like dance and music. One should never come to them deliberately, but always out of some spontaneous need. Friends should be outcomes; on the way they are hindrances." - Rainer Maria Rilke

"Friends do not ward off our loneliness, they only set bounds to our solitude." - Rainer Maria Rilke

"if it weren't for kitchen songs and mornings spent with friends
we all might lose the things we love the best." - Kate Wolf

I love to think over all my good friends, scattered now across the country living their different lives. So many of these friendship grew up around steaming mugs or cold beers, at kitchen tables heavy with conversation. It is always easiest to discuss over coffee or tea - the strongest disagreements are soothed by the steam, and each sips warms and calms us.

"Somehow in that warm room with coffee on the stove
our hearts were really most at home." - Kate Wolf

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower."

Albert Camus

October is a month when anything and everything can be done with love. I have so much energy and so much interest in the world when the leaves are red and gold and the water is wild and cold. Water is so much more watery in autumn: its last dance before winter makes ice of it all. We've passed lakes, all dark blue and white capped with autumn energy, and I can feel the water calling to me - looking deliciously deep - inviting one last swim.

Our apartment is still not warm, though I've fired today and raised the temperature ten degrees - from cold to chilly. I gave our icons new candles to 'keep them warm,' or at least assure them they are not neglected in the cooler months. I've always thought of our icons as very present, living things in our home - watching out with their wide eyes for us, helping with their good, God-magic - their saintly interference; so its important to us to respond to that, in our little way, with flowers and candles and kisses - just as we respond to God, little things He doesn't really need in return for all His good gifts. That's not to say I see my icons as little gods - they're not, but they do connect me to Christ, and to the Church Triumphant, like little windows letting in the warmth of His light.

Its difficult explain my relation to icons sometimes, without sounding pagan. Our little corner of the world has absorbed too much that is either puritan or else materialistic to be comfortable with mystery. I remember Busha used to say 'don't point at holy pictures' (usually when we pointed at her) and I always remember it when I look at my icons and in my mind I link the two: Busha and the little living prayers on my wall. Both so far from the way the world sees truth today and so very close to the way Truth sees Himself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"There is something in October set the gypsy blood astir,
We must rise and follow her;
When from every hill of flame,
She calls and calls each vagabond by name."

William Bliss Carman

Today is grey and wet and dark. I'm watching the rain drip steadily outside my window and I am inspired. Only a few hours into the day I feel as though this day is destined for good. I am throwing many little things: bud vases, ornaments, dipping bowls, espresso mugs, and ashtrays to sell and it is so pleasant to see them lined up on the shelves, their wet, earthy sides glistening - looking so touchably soft, like the mud piles of childhood.

Beside me I have my tea, to keep away the chill in the air; there is pumpkin soup on the stove for lunch, and very likely for tea as well. My indoor herbs are thriving, Chopin is playing on the radio. There is beauty all around. I danced through my cleaning up this morning all across the cool honey wood of the floor. My eyes are dark, with soft greens and browns like the leaves outside that are turning, but not yet turned.

I'm longing to take the beauty of my home with me on a trip down the road, wandering with my opulent little life on my back and the loveliness of the world all around me. These photos I've found only encourage me.

here, of course is my ideal home, cozy, lovely, excessive.

...and more clothing inspirations.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Some people feel the rain, others just get wet."

Bob Dylan

This weekend has been entirely restful - up to today. Friday night I made battered fish with roasted vegetables, served them with bread and white wine, and ate in the incensey front room while the rain dripped against the windows. The rain started in the afternoon and kept us company throughout the night. It put me into planning mode - I want to have a good stock of pots for the winter, in the hopes that I'll sell quite a few Christmas presents.

Saturday was bright, windy, and cool. We picked apples and wandered through tall grass while the wind blew my little braids all around. Inside again, I worked on a yellow skirt, layered and beaded and made from the lovely silk my father brought back from India for me. I've had it for years and never cut it out of fear I would ruin its perfection. I've had the fabric draped on tables and hung against walls, but now it's cut and partially sewn, I think I'll like the final product.

I'm putting together a little book of clothing ideas, cut from catalogs and sketched from online, to give direction to my style choices. Some clothes are saved for the fabric, others for the style, others for a vague sense I get of the attitude behind the style, which appeals to me. Here is one photo from a site I discovered online called "Gypsy Moon". The clothes themselves are way beyond my price range, but the styles are lovely and they are what encouraged me to pull out my scissors and begin.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"When the first-rate author wants an exquisite heroine or a lovely morning, he finds that all the superlatives have been worn shoddy by his inferiors. It should be a rule that bad writers must start with plain heroines and ordinary mornings, and, if they are able, work up to something better. "
F. Scott Fitzgerald

The clouds are all over today, in grey clumps with bursts of sun between them. Right now, the sky outside my window is dark. I'm in green and brown, which feels autumny because I can see outside green bits of grass growing up through the fallen leaves, green mint still growing in the cold air, and brown, brown earth below it all. I've realized that I love making-up my eyes again - like an artist - with colors and with black kohl. Today I made my eyes and my home a new work of art. My eyes are black-lined, with soft grey and white and earthy greens; my house is all adjusted for the colder months when we live in the warm front rooms. I've changed it all around so that the table is in the yellow room and the couch in the blue, plants are at the windows and our desk is as well. We are very cozy now.

I recently bought filo dough again and tonight I've used it. We're having spanikopita for dinner, with filo-chicken pie, fresh bread, and brie wrapped in filo with a layer of jam inside. I hope the chicken-pie comes out well, I made up the recipe because I couldn't find what I wanted. For dessert, muhallabia massawa - a cardamom pudding - rich, decadent, and ideal with coffee. We're having friends over for dinner, and I'm excited to show off my new arrangement.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace."
Oscar Wilde

Autumn is truely here. My pots are piling up as I prepare for another sale; the sun is hidden behind the clouds and I am driving away the chill by firing up the kiln again. Today I am putting our life in order - my favourite occupation: cleaning, budgeting, baking, firing, and making long lists of things to do, to throw, to write, to read.

We spent the weekend up at the Common Ground fair, feeling that we somewhat lacked in common ground with many of the fair-goers, and unfortunately with many of our fellow traditional marriage supporters. I would like to like them. I would like them to be kind, loving, thoughtful people, not frustrated reactionaries. I would like the opposition to be the same, I long to discuss with them, but everyone asks first for my position, and then walks away. Whatever happened to discussion? There must be some place between the angry traditionalist and the relativism of the left - but why is it so difficult to find?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"God and other artists are always a little obscure."
~Oscar Wilde

On Saturday my husband and I wandered in the park. It was a cool, autumn day and we kept to the sunny parts - discovering a patch of bright yellow, "butter and eggs" flowers. A small bundle are now brightening up my kitchen window.

Yesterday was the first meeting of our new book club. I've been longing to start one - and it couldn't have gone better. We're reading books with a "Catholic imagination." Our first is The Man Who was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton. One of the "Catholic" aspects of the novel I'm hoping to bring out is the obvious enjoyment and full participation in the moment that the primary character displays throughout the entire book - no matter the situation.

I'm also currently reading Chesterton's "The Flying Inn," which has the same passionate intensity.

Is anyone reading anything amazingly good? Or absolutely awful?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."
Oscar Wilde

Yesterday at the farmer's market I bought snapdragons and chinese lanterns. Now they glow red, orange, yellow, and pink against the walls. This week has been abundantly beautiful. The sky outside is bright blue, the air is cool and autumny. Fresh pots are drying all around the pottery room, on floors and tables - some waiting for handles, some waiting for firing, some just waiting. My music has been folk records and classic rock. When I listen I'm grateful to my parents that the songs I remember from childhood are songs I can still appreciate today - not silly children's songs but the Beatles, Eric Clapton, John Prine, Bob Dylan, and old mix tapes. There are songs I never think of until they come on the radio and then I remember a hot Michigan summer, a long drive, good music for good times.

Right now, I'm listening to John Prine sing "In spite of oursleves." A song my huband is hoping to teach me to sing with him.

Friday, September 4, 2009

This is a fun, funky song we discovered recently:

"I want to be with those who know secret things, or else alone."
Rainer Maria Rilke

Our dinners this week have all been along a blue theme - the plates, bowls, cups, and table are blue, while the food is bright - reds and yellows to compliment the blues. Its refreshing, like eating the ocean in Spain, or picking sunflowering in the rain. I love seeing the table laid out in loveliness, with the Icon, the flowers, candles and tea. I love eating beauty.

I've been thinking more about Catholic culture, and how it has lost its way, at least here and now. The problem is that too many Catholics are trying to build a culture that is little more than going to Mass on Sunday and volunteering in the parish. But the culture of Catholicism is so much more than that; it is more than just regular participation in the sacraments, daily prayers, rosaries, and natural family planning.
Catholic culture is more than just theological orthodoxy, in fact, theological orthodoxy, while necessary to Catholic faith, is not necessary to Catholic culture. Catholic culture comes from an imagination formed by the mysteries of the sacraments. It comes from the realization that in a world where God becomes man to dwell among us, all things are possible.

So many American Catholics are trying to build Catholic culture based on the Protestant culture they are surrounded by, making a hybrid culture – which combines varying degrees of Catholic orthodoxy with a Protestant sense of organization and lack of mystery, destroying the Catholicity of the culture altogether. To be truely Catholic we must relearn Catholic culture, and we can’t learn it from our separated brethren. We must learn from our artists, poets, Saints, and philosophers; also from our heritage and our mythology. And we must learn by living. …not talking about the saints in our homes, but talking to the saints; not learning about the artists but by learning to see as our artists saw the world.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"My candle burns at both its ends;
it will not last the night;
but oh, my foes, and oh, my friends --
it give a lovely light."

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Even on warm days I can smell the autumn air. Today I biked across town in the hot sun and felt sixteen again - in those early school days, before its cool enough to wear new school clothes, and before the urge to skip has gotten irresistable. Early September always brings me back to high school.

I had a brown dress in high school that I didn't love as much then as I do now, I wish I'd held onto it. If I had, I'd be wearing it today with tights, and cowboy boots. Autumn dresses are ideal, I would like to find a few this season.

We've been out every evening this past week, and our solitude needs to regain its footing. I love going out, but it doesn't refresh me. We are returning to our home for a few days to recover before venturing out again into our social life; and it this recovery I love.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time."
Albert Camus

My home glows in honey tones today. I've deep-cleaned the front two rooms, rearranged furniture, and washed every surface with Murphy's oil soap. We have sunlight pouring in from the autumny outdoors and hitting the floor in bright patches. I've changed cloths on the tables and shelves, shaken out curtains, and wiped every window inside and out. I could lie on the warm wood and bask in the beauty of my home, kiss my happy Icons, or wander my lovely rooms rejoicing, but I'm just sitting, drenched in beauty, lost in it.

Sts. Nicholas and George have been moved to the blue wall, below the Trinity - if they, and my husband like the move, they will have a new home there. I think Nicholas likes sharing in the meals.

I never knew that Led Zepplin covered "Babe, I'm gonna leave you" but here it is, playing in the background.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

“Our will is only a gusting wind
that turns us and urges us,
for in our most fervent longings
we are a field in bloom.”

I’ve begun a cleanse this week – cleaning is so essential in every aspect of life, and so exhausting when done well, but the good sort of exhaustion; the kind that knows there are fresh sheets and plump pillows waiting in bed, a steaming cup of tea beside the bed and chamomile dreams hovering in the sleep-world, all ready to dance the night away. A body cleanse is no different – pleasantly exhausting. I’m thrilled to have begun this one. Generally I like to cleanse in rhythm with the seasons of fasting in the Church, but I’ve been neglectful, and I feel the need for balance now. But hopefully by our next fast, I’ll be ready to jump back into the season.

Our tomatoes are finally coming into their own, and our squash; but an animal is eating the cucumbers. I think it’s the woodchuck living under the porch. But I’m not sure what to do about him here, in the city. I can’t shoot him, and I’d be afraid of trapping some neighborhood cat. Are there any smells that might drive him away, without driving us away too?

Friday, August 21, 2009

"I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
heaven and I wept together."
Francis Thompson

There is a storm moving in tonight. I've heard the man next-door say it will be wild and I'm waiting for it to descend. We've got plans to go out to a party, but I'd rather stay at home and feel the storm from my back porch. Very few things can compete with a summer storm, at home, in the evening - with the wind whipping all around and the thunder shaking the bones of the house; nature is intoxicating, addictive, alive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Very hot and still the air was, Very smooth the gliding river, Motionless the sleeping shadows."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The summer air is puffing hotly through the windows, doing nothing to break the stillness. Hot, summertime sounds have been all around me today. Smokers walking up and down the street, shirtless and sweating, while their women hang out the windows, or lay out on the side porch hoping for a breeze. The boys next door played basketball in the sun and argued more than usual. Bikers, open cars with radios blaring race by - I hear snatches of country songs, hip-hop and converstions. Summertime in the city is like nothing else.

I am waiting for my husband to come home, waiting for the stars to come out and the air to cool, waiting for another opportunity to take my bicycle up and down our city streets and across the river.

Another summer video...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prayer to the Child Jesus

O Infant Jesus, I run to You, begging You through Your Holy Mother to save me in this need(you may name it here), for I truly and firmly believe that Your Divinity can defend me. Full of trust I hope in You to obtain Your holy grace. I love You with all my heart, I am painfully sorry for my sins and on my knees I beg You, O Little Jesus, to free me from them. My resolution is to improve and never more to offend You. Therefore, I offer myself to You, ready to suffer everything for You and to serve You faithfully. I will love my neighbour as myself from my heart for the love of You. O Little Jesus, I adore You, O Mighty Child, I implore You, save me in this need (you can mention it here), that I may enjoy You eternally, with Mary and Joseph, see You and with all the angels adore You.
"one luminary clock against the sky
proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one aquainted with the night."
Robert Frost

I'm up late again tonight. At first it was too hot to sleep - the air was still and dead all around me until I could hear every night-noise and my mind went wandering to meet them. So I decided to throw "just one dish" and later, with a few all about me and freshly washed floors, I sat down to finally post pots on my etsy account. I've decided to try selling a few at first - bowls, and a couple mugs to test the waters, but I took my sweet time about it, and at last tonight I overcame procrastination. We'll see how it goes. Look me up at

I've been ignoring my blog recently - distracted by the coming of moja rodzina and our stay at the lake-house, which was absolutely lovely. Like a long, social nap - but better because of the lake and the sun and the games.

We've decided it's necessary we develope a devotion to the Infant of Prague - He's invaded and it's strictly self-defense. We began married life with one tall, white washed Infant, whose globe held incense on the back porch and now - little over a year later we've unintentionally gathered a tiny holy-water font, a small, tasteful statue, and the grand Infant of Prague in all His finery - crowned and decked out in purple and gold frills (with a quarter for prosperity taped to His back). If Christ is so determined to direct our devotion, who are we to resist. Holy Infant of Prague, have mercy on us!

We've also been blessed, through the generosity of moja rodzina, with an increase in relics - we've added St. Antony of Padua and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to the Unknown Relic. I'm hoping St. Antony's presence will help us loose our morning search for glasses and keys - though I have the impression he likes to hide objects, just to have a chance to find them later.

Tomorrow promises to be even hotter than today - I am headed to the ocean to enjoy cool breezes, cold water, and tanning under the sun!

Monday, August 3, 2009

"The passion of faith lies not in testifying to an eternal happiness, but in transforming one's own existence into a testimony to it."

Soren Kierkegaard

My favourite drink this summer is not alcoholic. I recently discovered cucumber water, which is simple, delicious, and amazingly refreshing. I make mine with lots of water, cucumber slices, and a sprig of fresh mint, and I drink it by the gallon. Another refreshing drink is made with water, lime slices, and mint.

Now that the humidity has tapered off a bit, I'm able to dry bee balm blossoms and lemon balm leaves. Today while training the cucumbers I discovered another dill plant hidden in a corner of the garden, I was thrilled, we use dill often and our other dill plant is getting tired.

The weather has really brightened up - is summer finally here? We spent Saturday at the ocean; my hair and skin are beinging to look sun-kissed. I hope it will continue, I would like one month of summer that is truly summer.

Friday, July 31, 2009

I am in love with this song!

Perfect for hot, humid summer nights.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"All was silent as before-
All silent save the dripping rain."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We had lightning storms last night that lite up the whole sky; I've missed to wild thunderstorms of the midwest.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at the farmer's market in town - chatting with friends under the hot sun, breathing in the salty ocean scent, and avoiding petition pushers on the sidewalk. It seems like everyone who collects signatures for medical marijuana is stoned. I passed two on the sidewalk, neither seemed fully present. Generally, the medical marijuana folks outnumber all other petitions in the square, but yesterday they were overwhelmed by the health care petitions. I was asked by one girl whether I wanted "health care for all." When I asked what that meant, she was vague - it means "health care for all," of course. I had to push a bit, is that government-run health care? No, not at all acutually, it's "public-run."

The term "public-run health care" confused me. Who is in charge of running public-non-government-run health-care? The term is misleading, as though this health care change would be led by a crowd of my neighbors and friends and not by politicians. Both ideas are a bit scary.

It is dark and dripping outside. I am going to throw this afternoon, but this morning I am organizing my desk - clearing out the pile of writing I've collected, saving what is good and tossing the rest.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Press close, bare-bosomed Night!
Press close, magnetic,nourishing Night!
Night of south winds! Night of the large, few stars!
Still, nodding Night! Mad, naked, Summer Night!"

~Walt Whitman

Some nights are not made for sleeping. I've been restless since the sunset and now the heat, the whirring fan, and the dark loneliness all around have conspired to keep me awake and dreaming.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"In summer, the song sings itself"
William Carlos Williams

I recommend reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez in summer. I'm not, his books are tucked away on library shelves, but if I didn't have Hemmingway, I would hunt him down right away. Hemmingway is excellent in the summertime too. It's sunny today, and humid. The walls seem to sweat with me today, nothing is dry. But the sun is bright and the breeze is soft and everyone is happy to have no rain today.

I made quiche for tea today, and had to piece together the damp dough for the crust, but it is a lovely, cheesey, fluffy quiche all the same. Moja rodzina is coming in only a couple weeks! I hope they'll let me cook for them at the cabin.

This afternoon I edit poems to send away.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Feast-day Sts. Boris and Gleb!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Man cannot possess anything as long as he fears death. But to him who does not fear it, everything belongs. If there was no suffering, man would not know his limits, would not know himself. "
Lev Tolstoy

The old mill down by the river burned the other day, and we walked down in the hot sun to watch with a crowd of others. Kids ducked under the security tape and played around the police cars and water sprayed blew back over us from the fire-hoses. The fire was beautiful - flames and black smoke shot into the sky from the old chimney - but when it was done the mill was pitiful, a dead thing - all hollow-eyed and alone next to the living river. Now we walk past it and avert our eyes from it's skeleton. The mill is dead, we are alive, and we would forget the past if only the skeleton would go.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"We must not only cease our present desire for the growth of the state, but we must desire its decrease, its weakening. "
Lev Tolstoy

I'm watching the president on a silent television at the cafe. Even without sound, I've learned that he doesn't regret wearing jeans, and that he's looking forward to involving himself as much as possible in my health care. I'd really rather he didn't, my health care is my own to care for, or ignore, as I see fit and his involvement can only cause me trouble.

My husband and I have decided to join the modern age and get internet at home, our intention is that with regular access, I can sell my pottery online, write more regularly, and keep on top of writing market. Its exciting, I'll miss my many walks down to the cafe, or the library, but I'm looking forward ot not having to buy coffee everytime I want to check my e-mail.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?"
Henry David Thoreau

We have a problem with ants. They have made their homes in the wood under our floor and they are not leaving. Our kitchen is clean, and there is very little for them to feed on, but they prefer the pottery room to the kitchen and seem to thrive on the Borax we've scattered - hoping to kill them. I see them marching alone past my pots and run for a rag and a bowl of bleach-water, its the only thing they fear these daring ants. They smell the bleach before it hits them, and scatter, but when the water has dried they're back marching to the borax which hurts them not at all.

My husband laughs at the ant problem and accuses me of hating nature. He laughs when I accuse him of not caring about the ants; he laughs when I tell him they're ruining everything. He wonders what everything they could be ruining, since they seem indifferent to food, and all of ours is safely stored anyway. The war of the ants is amusing for him. He knows when he hears a clang, mumbled curses, and then "ANTS!" yelled from the pottery room that I'm running for the bleach, the lavender oil, and an old rag. Another battle has begun.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Every man's memory is his private literature."

Alduos Huxley

I found a folder of drafts and notes from college and from my year in Pennsylvania. It’s very exciting for me to look through my writing and discover quite a bit that can be re-worked and perhaps used for some good. I am particularly excited to discover notes from my time at the dairy farm, when I worked for an old man with too many cows and no hope. The Harold notes, take up the majority of the folder and some are very good. I worked for Harold the year after college, while living with my good friend, who was an actress in a small-town theatre. It was the hardest job I’d ever had – 10-12 hour days with no lunch break, outdoors, or in Harold’s drafty barn. At night I dreamt I was at work, mucking an un-ending row of filthy stalls. But in the evenings, and on Sundays – our one day off, we had such good times. I kept my pottery wheel in my bedroom and threw at night when I couldn’t stand another work dream, we read E.B. White and Hemmingway incessantly, and wandered the town, running, walking, drinking, talking, and learning to see the world well.

Harold didn’t understand why I needed Sundays off. He was forever telling me of all the things he would do on Sunday if I would only come in to work. His nephew worked Sundays, but the boy was “Trash”, and “so wretched he hates hisself”, and so could never be relied upon to help with all the important projects. Harold remembered his one good employee, Kurt, who would work seven-days a week, 5am to midnight, and longer if need be. Kurt never asked for days off, he never took breaks, he never complained. When I would drive away, at seven in the evening, after a long December day of frozen manure, broken machinery, and spilled milk, Harold would watch me go - shaking his head and thinking of Kurt.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Book List:

I'm reading Tolstoy. Last week I needed distraction from the rain, so I picked up War and Peace. When that was done I read The Death of Ivan Illych for the first time. It's very short, and very Tolstoy. Now I'm reading Anna Karenina. I would like to find a copy of Divine and Human.

At the same time, I'm often picking up The Book of Hours, by Rilke. I'm trying to prepare myself to edit my article in defense of art, and though I just choose books I enjoy to refreash myself, all of them are helping me form and solidify my ideas. Tolstoy is especially good for all this because he has so many interesting digressions.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."
E.B. White

Today I rejoiced in the sunlight. Our laundry pile had been getting out of control, thanks to the week of wet weather, but today, I managed to lower it considerably - though now most of my newly clean clothing is hanging nervously on the line, waiting for this evenings clouds to drench them. We're promised a storm tonight, but I'm hoping it holds off until Monday and we can have the weekend to enjoy.

I've been enjoying Tolstoy again, which distracts me from the important things in life. Tolstoy makes me hungry for good things - made with consonants and vodka, displayed lavishly; C.S. Lewis makes me hungry for soft-boiled eggs and toast; Hemmingway makes me hungry for beer, oysters, and bread. They all make me want tea. I have been drinking so much tea - hot and cold this month.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John 3:30

The summer solstice came on Saturday, and now the day is declining again. I love the solstices – especially the summer solstice when we celebrate the changing tide of light to dark, and the birth of St. John the Baptist, the fore-runner of Christ. The birth of John the Baptist today, used to be a celebrated with more enthusiasm. It falls directly across from Christmas and just as Christmas, which celebrate the Incarnation at a time when light is triumphing over darkness; at the feast of John the Baptist, we celebrate the fore-runner, who decreases as the coming of Christ approaches, preparing the way for Him.

There is a rumor that if someone was to go wandering in the woods on St. John's Eve, at midnight, when the feast is just begining, he might find a fire-flower - which blooms only for a moment. If he can find and pick this flower his life will be blessed and the scent of it will hang about him forever. We have no woods to wander, but someday, I would like to go looking for this flower.

It’s unfortunate that the days have been too grey to fully appreciate their length. We’ve had no real sun for at least four day. We’ve filled the house with flowers to try and brighten things, and I am trying to keep the floors as clean and bright as possible. The wood is such a warm honey color and it reflects what little light there is, but I miss how it looks in the summer sun when it glows. I hope this summer will not be like the last- too rainy to grow radishes, but it certainly has started out that way. Our first planting of radishes are already waterlogged, I’m sure.

A friend of ours came over yesterday and she’s reading War and Peace. I wish she lived nearer, I miss conversations like the one we had. I think I’ll begin the Death of Ivan Illych today, I wish I could find Divine and Human. Tolstoy is ideal for rainy days, cold tea, and sourdough bread.

Happy feastday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"If I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior."

Today the sky is bright and clear, and I've been walking under it. I need to fire my pots, and do a dozen other things I can't remember without a list in front of me, but I went walking instead and am thrilled to be a long walk from home, cooling off at the library before going out again.
I'm trying to discipline myself and accomplish more with my days, but under the grey skies we've been having it's difficult to feel motivated, or to feel anything but tired. But now that the sun is out I only want to be out enjoying it, not inside with a hot kiln. I suppose this is when discipine would start paying off.

My husband and I have discovered vodka mojitos. We have vodka, but no rum, and an abundance of mint in the yard. We made our own simple syrup with turbinado sugar, which makes the drink a little dark, add lime juice and club soda, sometime lemon balm, and it's fantastic. Perfect for sipping while grilling on the back porch.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

“Go thou my incense upward from this hearth,
and ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.”
Henry David Thoreau

I love to burn incense in my little home – particularly when it’s clean and well-arranged and I have bread, butter, and honey on the table, with tea to drink and cut flowers against the window. Because of the threat of rain recently, I’ve been staying home and walking less than I’d like to be. The heavy sky makes me tired and every hour feels like evening. Today though, I’ve braved the clouds and the few daring drips that always threaten to precede a downpour but never do. I’m out with the intention of reconnecting with a few friends I’ve neglected recently, and busily doing all those internet related things that need doing. I have a list now, of things that cannot be put off or forgotten –its better for me to have lists, with little boxes to be checked off, otherwise, nothing is ever done, except the few little things I remember. I can spend a whole day busy and happy, accomplishing many things, and doing nothing necessary if I’m not careful.

I’ve been rereading Tolkien recently, he reads like the Edda or like the Russian myths I love so much. I haven’t read him in so long, I’d forgotten how unlike the usual fantasy writer he is. Read the Edda –a collection of Norse myths – then read Tolkien and you’ll see.

I'm in the library looking for something to replace Tolkien now, something very good. Any recommendations?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"My will is absorbed in growing
and young..."

Everything is growing in the rain. I can see our late planted spinach in little green rows beside the peas, and the beans are reaching their tendrils as high as they can to grip and grow. The roses are almost blossoming and the irises are in their glory. I am having a pottery sale next weekend, and so my stockpile of pots is growing as well. I've just turned from mugs to pitchers today, and if all goes well I'll have a nice variety. I only hope the sale will be a success, it seems like little home sales are either a sweeping success or an utter failure. I'd rather not fail.

Today the sun stayed hidden behind the clouds and I couldn't fully wake up with the dim light and the soothing patter of rain agains the trees. I couldn't sleep either and lived out my day in-between - until my husband came home and woke me up with laughter.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"The only way we can be saved from succumbing to the inflation of words is if we have the courage to face silence and in it learn to listen afresh to the Word."
Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

Now that it's summer I'm beginning to feel stifled in the city. I want to wander in woods where no one can see me and stand barefoot under the trees while moonlight comes down between the branches. We have just renewed our lease, and so can stay another year in our beautiful apartment, and I am determined that at the end of this year we will be on our own land. There really aren't many better places to "learn to listen afresh to the Word" than a quiet wood at night.

I've been neglecting writing, the borrowed internet we had at home is gone again and in the rain all last week I couldn't be certain of making it to a cafe without getting caught in another shower. Our seedlings are out in the garden now, some doing better than others, but all alive and striving. I'm preparing for a solstice pottery sale out of the apartment, and hoping it will go very well.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"People were always the limiters of happiness except the very few that were
as good as spring itself."

I am looking forward to visiting moja rodzina this weekend. We leave in just a couple days. I've been spending my days enjoying the loveliness of spring - the sun, the rain, the growing things in and out of the house, and life has been so full I forget I'm neglecting my friends. I'm too full of the spring to notice the days going by, until most of May has passed me by - leaving only it beautiful footprint in my memory.

I'm throwing espresso mugs. The first firing of the year has gone wonderfully and I'm reassured. I will not have to buy a new kiln anytime too soon. Today I glaze my little mugs and finish them off.

I was thrilled to discover, yesterday, that our local Whole Foods does not contribute to Planned Parenthood. I celebrated by buying Cardemom-Ginger gelato and fantastic cheese there, promising to do my shopping there more often, the store itself is so appealing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Beauty will save the world"
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This week I have re-immersed myself in Pope John Paul II letter to Artists. I've been disturbed to discover that many of our friends are dismissing art and beauty - keeping it out on the fringes of life instead of at the heart. It's frustrating, and sad, and a very new experience for me because I've always unintentionally surrounded myself with people who love beauty. But this new experience is bring discipline to my reading and writing again, as I try to work out my defense of beauty in a way the will, I hope, speak to them.

The more I read of the Pope's letter, the more I understand the Church's esteem for art, and for the artist. I'm thrilled to discover that even reading only the Polish pope and our new pope, I have ample proof of the Church's passion for beauty. It's a comforting reminder that I am on the right path, at least in this area.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

“When I go toward you
it is with my whole life.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

We have been treated to exceptionally good homilies these past couple weeks, directing our attention to our particular responsibilities as individual Christians and as a community. The failings of our own parish tend toward two mistaken attitudes to community, though perhaps the same could be said of most parishes, we American Catholics have a natural tendency to Protestantize our faith, especially in our sense of community, or else to react so strongly against the typically Protestant individualism that we forget we are, in fact individuals called to a personal relationship with a personal God. The first failing, the ever-present, American individualism that separates the parishioner from his parish, declaring that man’s relationship with God is personal, individual, and private; allowing him to compartmentalize his faith, hold it aside for the proper time and place. In this failing, we forget that we are all the body of Christ, that my sins hurt the whole body; the Church worships as one body, and that community is essential in our relationship with Christ. But the second failing takes this essential community too far, forgetting that we must have an individual, person-to-person relationship to God if we are to be able to enter into the community of the Church. Without our personal, individual relationship to Christ, our community worship is only a failed attempt to be lost in the crowd, to hide our individual lack of faith in the faith of others. This failing has a tendency to commandeer the time and activities of the individual, considering as it’s rightful property our evenings, weekends, and talents; which are not theirs, but God’s gift to us, to be used according to our own individual vocations.

At our parish we have both failings, and we often forget when arguing against the one, that we can’t go so far as to defend the other.

Yesterday I got a surprise call from moja siostra to say she was reading a book I didn’t exactly suggest, but mentioned recently: Holy Feast and Holy Fast – the religious significance of food to medieval women. The book is full excellent selections of writing on fasting, feasting, and the Eucharist, written by fascinating medieval women. But the book itself, when the author herself is speaking, is less than thrilling. I’m reading Kierkegaard again, with the firm intention of moving on to a collection of Pablo Neruda’s poems this evening.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

“The Church is to transform, improve, “humanize” the world – but how can she do that if at the same time she turns her back on beauty, which is so closely allied to love?”
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI!!)

My ideal grocery store is an indoor/outdoor market-place, like the Eastern Market in Detroit, where exotic and everyday mingle on the streets and in the shops. It needs a meat-market, fresh produce, and a spice shop - where herbs, spices, and teas line the walls floor to ceiling. I’m still waiting for my ideal to come to New England, but Saturday, we took a walk around the local Whole Foods. It isn’t ideal, no smoky spice shop, no outdoor produce stands, but it was lovely. Cleaner than Eastern Market, and less exciting, the store still impressed me: fruit piled in pyramid displays, warm colours, inviting meat and cheese counters; looking and feeling like an upscale indoor market.

Aesthetically, it has a Catholic spirit; I could feel their desire to create a sense of community among the shoppers, to appeal to our senses. I loved it, the only thing that keeps me from making Whole Foods our regular store is the rumor I hear that they are big supporters of Planned Parenthood. I haven’t yet figured out if the rumor is true or not, and until then we’ll stick to our usual store. Visiting Whole Foods made me wish I could make over all aspects of life in the Catholic ideal – cafés, theatres, and all manner of shops. I want that, Catholic aesthetic without all the morally problematic elements that so often go alone with it. Why is it that so many Catholics forget that the ugliness and artlessness we surround ourselves with “constitutes a really grave spiritual problem” (Thomas Merton).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"You my own deep soul
trust me. I will not betray you.
My blood is alive with many voices
telling me I am made of longing."


It rained all day long today. We spent the day inside, listening to the wet dripping sounds and enjoying our bright walls. Our seeds are just beinging to sprout in boxes and pots along the windows of the blue room. I can't wait until we can pick our own greens again and eat salad everyday.

I love the Easter season, when everything is growning and the symbolism with which we celebrate the resurrection! As I've been talking more and more about the importance of symbolism and ritual in Catholic living, I've realized how neglected and misunderstood this symbolism is. Easter is the highest feast of the year and we can't abandon its symbolism and celebratory elements simply because they've become popular in the secular world. It saddens me to hear about people who want to take away the eggs, lambs, and candy of Easter to put the focus on Christ. They don't realize that all this things do put the focus on Christ, our sacrificial Lamb.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I have just finished Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Leaf Storm and other stories. Amazing. Read Leaf Storm, The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World, and A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. I love Marquez; in college I read One Hundred Year of Solitude and was completely overwhelmed. Recently my husband and I read Love and Other Demons and Memories of my Melancholy Whores. I think I remember seeing A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings on stage once, I can't remember when or where, but it was very familiar to me.

We have also recently discovered some fantastic modern poems, my husband especially is caught up in Claude McKay. It's taken a while for me to be able to appreciate modern poetry, I think in part because poetry professors tend to choose frustrating, disjointed, or angry poems to represent modern poetry, which only encouraged my own prejudice against them.
"For I have known them all already, known them all-
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room."
T.S. Eliot

Recently, a friend of ours sang jazz at a small club downtown. My husband and I went, walked around the city before-hand and enjoyed coffee and good bread at one of the dark little tables near the bar. The coffee was ideal: dark and rich. It came on a small black tray, in a two-cup French Press, with a white cup and saucer. The hot bread came, wrapped in a towel and we dipped large chunks of it into olive oil and devoured it, while C. sang jazz in front of the big café window. Jazz is full of varying sounds that almost become visual they are so alive, sounds that mean nothing on there own but seek only to build the song as a whole. They’re fascinating done well, my fingers tapped only and for a while I thought only of the music and the lovely coffee tray. Later, when the coffee was finished my mind wrote while my fingers sat useless without a pen. I thought of my pots at home waiting for the kiln, and my beautiful home. We had arrived happy, we left happier, with the exhausted happiness that comes after a day of pure enjoyment. We drove home forgetting the details of this late-night inspiration and clinging tighter to the essence, in our new blue car with the moon-roof.

Easter has come and the apartment is suffused with joy. Light is streaming in, making all our colours come alive again. We are living on Easter food: eggs, bread, meat, and cake are continually out for us to enjoy. There is a flower on the table, belonging to St. Joseph, which smells seductively of heaven. It is not a lily, I wish I knew more.

Wesolego Alleluja!

Monday, April 13, 2009

"When two people give themselves up in order to come close to each other, there is no longer any ground beneath them and their being together is a continual falling."

Rainer Maria Rilke

I am supposed to write an article on "fighting in marriage". I'm at a complete loss. My husband and I have never fought. I've explained this, and been given permission to write about our lack of fighting, but I get the impression that it is considered something of a lack. Perhaps we lack the passion to fight, or courage in our convictions, perhaps we avoid issues that may cause fights. It surprises me, because I've never thought of fighting as something natural or necessary to marriage, now for the first time I've been told that it is essential. I want to write my disagreement without being self-congratulatory or defensive, and be convincing. I'm at a loss. Help would be appreciated.

"All things become more intimate for [the artist], and there is nothing else for him but a great recognizing, seeing again, and being welcomed."

Rainer Maria Rilke

It is difficult sometimes to find the balance between keeping a clean, beautiful, hospitable home and a neat, tidy, untouchable house. Cleaning can become draining – a chore we do only for the end result, which we’d like to keep as long as possible. Hence the untouchable rooms: clean breakable places to which children and dogs are forbidden. These rooms smell of dust and disuse; they are opened only occasionally to older, important guests – the people we hope to impress – cleaned, and closed off again, providing a constant temptation to children and casual guests, who long to touch the untouchable. When we see cleaning as an art itself we recognize that molding our environment is a continual process and that each day offers a new opportunity for beauty. People touch and alter, guests explore, husbands add and enjoy; and we have the blessing of rediscovering our homes each day as they absorb and adjust to the life within them. It is not an art to keep each room at its neatest day after day, but it is an art to create each day a beautiful space that is clean and inviting out of an environment that alters with each day.

Our attitude toward the process is essential. If the cleaning and arranging of our home is just a means to an end, then we tend to see the process as drudgery and the result fleeting. What is the point of cleaning if they’ll only mess it up again, we often wonder. But when the process itself is our focus, when we can truly appreciate the sound of the broom against tile, relish the smell of soap and the first shiny streak of Murphy’s Oil Soap on a dry floor, when we learn to play as we clean and forget perfection for the joy of momentary loveliness, then our attitude toward cleaning itself is not “what I must do to have a decent home” but rather “what I love doing for those I love, myself included.” Then we don’t think “cook first, clean later” but instead clean first, so that the home is an inspiration, then spill flour, dirty dishes, and chop fruit while the home is rejoicing at being loved, cared for, and used for its purpose.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our Lady’s home at Ephesus could not have been a large one, nor very grand. But being the home of the Queen of Heaven it certainly was beautiful. We often forget that our God is a God of beauty. The Catechism reminds us of what we see each day in the natural world, that “truth is beautiful in itself.” Our Lady, knowing God so intimately could not be blind to beauty, or neglect it in her own home; the home is the reflection of its inhabitants, if they value beauty, the house will be beautiful, if they do not the house will languish. That is not to say that it must be neat – everything in it’s place, swept clean each day, there is beauty also in artful chaos so long as it is a chaos of love. Clean and beautiful are not the same as neat and tidy. Clean and beautiful homes radiate welcome. They are places of rest and encouragement, as Mary’s home must have been. They are hospitable homes, where food is shared and love is thick in the air. Books may be piled on the floor, guitars lounging on love-seats; dishes may be forever accumulating in the sink, but they are lovely dishes, used to make each day special, not saved for better times, or better company; the books are well loved and the guests are welcome to peruse them.

In the past it was common for Catholic homes to have a crucifix in each room to make sacred each area of life; many homes still display this lovely consecration, others add to it by allowing the Catholic imagination to play at decorating. Colors, light, art, music, scents of holiness infuse these homes and allow them to step out of the stagnant repetition of many modern homes and into the wild beauty of the Sacraments. If we allow our homes to rise out of the pages of “Better Homes and Gardens,” if we instead form them from the richness of our faith, they themselves will become the canvasses on which the saving beauty of God’s love is illustrated for all who seek rest and encouragement within them.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain."
T. S. Eliot

It has been a gloomy morning, and promise to be a gloomy day; heavy with mist, damp, and grey. I am collecting my thoughts and trying to avoid taking on the colour of the day. In the second half of Lent I have been trying to frame my day with prayer - this week has been difficult. Not evening prayer, which we do together, but my solitary morning prayer, which I forget more often than not until afternoon has made it all-together out of place. Today I remembered. So I raised my voice from the earth, from the very gates of the netherworld, my cry. They are preparing us for the Passion; it is as dark as the grey morning. But the hope of God is behind it, and I found myself relishing the day.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

“We are not to know why
this and that masters us;
real life makes no reply,
only that it enraptures us”
Ranier Maria Rilke

Spring is such a hopeful season. The snow is almost gone from the garden. Our landlords have laid old doors down in a path to the garage; they come everyday now to clean out old wood, trash, and tiles that have filled the garage for years. We are cleaning out as well – the car which has carried me on so many journeys is dead and gone; we’re in the process now of finding it’s replacement. My high hopes about a car he looked at this evening, a very mundane car – not like the pick-up of my dreams, but a good car all the same, and of course, when it belongs to us, it won’t be so mundane. It will be ours.

Late Lent is such an ideal time for cleaning out and changing habits. I have a card from my sister I would like to frame and hang on the wall of the blue room. I have books I would like to find a home for, and walls that want shelves. After Easter, I look forward to taking the plastic off my windows and reacquainting my rooms with the outdoor air.

This morning I am drinking cold tea and making bagels. It’s a grey day, ideal for books, tea, and working around the stove. I’m trying to convince myself to throw in the cold pottery room later today and have almost succeeded.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae.

Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto."

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!

We are going to the chant mass at our Basillica this evening and celebrating with an abundance of food.
"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."
Flannery O' Connor

Our local library is full of bad books, lacking good books, and generally weak on information. All the same, I love to wander the shelves. There are so many books I would edit out of existence if I could. Books that belong unpublished in the journals of lonely teenagers, or in the private writing clubs of flighty women; instead they replace Claude McKay and Hemmingway on the shelves of public libraries everywhere.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

“When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is not difficult. He has a built in garden of reasons to choose from.”
John Steinbeck

Those who know me well will recognize that I have been remarkably settled since my marriage. I doubt I had previously gone a whole year without some major journey since leaving high-school freed me from most practical restraints. Though marriage has somewhat calmed my restless feet and directed my wandering mind, it cannot cure me. My husband has proposed a drive down south to visit his sister this spring, which sounds lovely, and along with our May visit to moja rodzina, an excellent, though temporary remedy for my restlessness. Our May trip is especially exciting to me, as moja rodzina is scattered at the moment, and we will all be together again at this visit – from Europe, Nevada, and Michigan.

This month we have an abundance of feast days to distract from the day to day Lenten atmosphere. It is good of the Church to break the fast with these joyful bursts in March, with, though not as ugly as February, is still a season of dirty snow, mud, and early nights. St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s feast days are so close, and I am always reminded of how neglected poor St. Joseph is as I watch the crowds gather to celebrate St. Patrick. On the 25th of March we have the Feast of the Annunciation, which is the largest Lenten feast, and which my husband and I are eager to make the most of. These feast days we relish because they are days when the Church demands we forget the rigors of Lent for a little while and rejoice in the grace and goodness of the Lord. The American Church often forgets this, perhaps because we have neglected Lent itself to such an extent that there is no fast to break in our celebration of these feasts. Where there is no fasting, there can be no feasting, the two must go hand in hand.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What fields are fragrant as your hands?
….Stars stand in image above.
Give me your mouth to soften, love;
ah, your hair is all in idleness.”

I never tire of Rilke. He has kept me company the past few days while my husband has been at work and I have been sick in bed. The flu hit me suddenly Saturday and stayed longer than I expected. It trailed into a sore throat that kept me miserable, though not in bed for the week and brought me to the point of considering calling a doctor, until the symptoms began to decline midweek.

I feel like I lost a week, so it's difficult to believe that St. Patrick's feast-day is tomorrow, and St. Joseph's on Thursday. I thought ahead enough to being a novena to St. Joseph on the tenth, thank goodness, as my Lenten prayers have been slacking I think. St. Joseph is an ideal focus for right now, as the house we live in has finally found a buyer, and we don't know his plans for the apartment we live in. Hopefully, it all goes well. I'd rather avoid apartment hunting.

Friday, March 6, 2009

“…love’s most intimate union
Is through eating, tasting and seeing interiorly.
He eats us; we think we eat Him,
and we do eat Him, of this we can be certain.”

My husband and I are unrepentant foodies; we fast and feast with passionate intensity. Beautiful meals are an essential part of the artistry of life. An ugly, unwholesome meal in an otherwise lovely home is an abomination. It cheapens the entire atmosphere and strips away the comfort of the place. Food done well is an artistic extension of the self: like music or clothing it reveals the state of our hearts. Done badly or ignored completely, it indicates a floundering interior life. That is not to say that those who can’t cook at all are spiritually deficient, so long as they don’t use their deficiency to excuse regular meals of wonder-bread and frozen burritos on paper plates; or tasteless, soulless health food eaten without joy. But we must recognize that “our meals are alive with the goodness of God” and that all of them “point toward [the] greatest feast of all, in which we receive no longer just earthly things, but the incarnate act of God’s mercy.” When we begin to see meals in this light, how can we be satisfied with food that does not also feed our sensual and aesthetic hunger? In this sense, “health food” often fails as much as “junk food;” neither the power bar, nor the candy bar lead us to dwell on the “goodness of God,” instead they encourage us to treat the body as a machine, to minimize the importance of the body. Instead of minimizing the importance of meals – treating them as a means to refuel the body, or else as solely an opportunity to socialize, “we should resolve to make our meals once more holy times, to open and close them with prayer,” to fill them with beauty, to allow the meal to nourish our faith; “doing this will introduce a new, [fuller] atmosphere into our homes.”

A meal doesn’t have to be extravagant to be a beautiful, holy time. Often simple meals of bread, cheese, fruit, and vegetables are filling, simple to prepare, and absolutely lovely. Set out on a table with cloth napkins and nice dishes it becomes a thing of beauty to be enjoyed by the whole person. Other meals may take longer to prepare, but they too are worth the effort. They make a meal the event of the evening (or morning, or afternoon). Lenten meals are sparser, and further removed from each other, but they too demand loveliness. Simple soups are ideal for the season. They are warming and filling; they evoke memories of loving parents or grandparents, and pleasant, warm winter evenings. In lent I have taken to making tomato soups with dumplings of flour, oil, water and spices; along with baked flat breads topped with herbs or sundried tomatoes. I try to avoid extravagence, but keep up appearances. To fast from beauty would be like fasting from God.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I'm spending another afternoon at the auto-shop. The car that has served me so well on so many long drives is on it's way out. We are going to dump it as soon as we can find a replacement. It's the first time I've had to replace a car and the process is a little overwhelming. The car has cost us more in the past month than we will probably be able to get for it, it's frustrating.

I'm watching television in the repair waiting room, something I haven't done in a long time. I think the commercials fascinate me more than the shows. I can't imagine watching television on a regular basis. My husband and I don't own on, and don't want one, but I can't but be fascinated by the most pathetic shows when I'm set in front of a t.v. Especially in the waiting room of the auto-shop, where there is very little to see.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Beauty demands for itself as much courage and decision as do Truth and Goodness, and she (Beauty) will not allow herself to be seperated from her two sisters.."
Von Balthasar
March always begins with celebration. Ojciec claims the first, his birthday has always reminded me of apple pie and hopes of spring. My husband has the second now, and his brithday was salmon and chocolate and snow; but still with hopes of spring. Now, the third, St. Winwillow's we have snow piled in the center of the road and blue skys. March is a lovely month. I have not been social recently, except with my husband and my books; but I mean well. I am so full of distractions, of Lent and Marquez and the need for ritual in life. I would like to sweep up the dust collecting in my loved one's lives and order them towards beauty, but I am not God, so I content myself with prayer and my own glorious home.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Christusque nobis sit cibus,
potusque noster sit fides;
laeti bibamus sobriam
ebrietatem Spiritus."
St. Ambrose

(Let Christ be our food and faith our drink; let us happily drink the sober inebriation of the Spirit.)

Lent is my favourite liturgical season. I love to begin with such hope and high expectation. It is not, our dear priest reminded us yesterday, a time of morbid thoughts and dark dwellings; but a time of penitence, during which we may "happily drink the sober inebriation of the Spirit" without the distraction of food and drink.

Surrendering to the rhythms of the Church, fasting and feasting according to the season, is so freeing, and so satisfying. Having feasted at Christmas, and all through Carnival, I begin Lent now, longing for nothing so much as a good, long, purifying fast. When Lent has refreshed me, I being to long for the feasting of Easter.

We celebrated Mardi gras with some friends on Tuesday, and unfortunately are left with some extra paczki. They are sitting on top of the kiln, waiting to be eaten, full of strawberry, raspberry, and my sister-in-law's fig jam. I wonder if they can be frozen with any success.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest."
- Hemingway

Yesterday and today have been lovely, warm, and wet days; and I have wandered all around town without my gloves and without worrying about my destination. It is too warm for worrying and too pleasent for staying in. Even this afternoon, under the heavy clouds it is a day for being outdoors and breathing the spring air. I know the warmth won't last - it's too early for true spring, but I am enjoying what I have while I can.
St. Valentine's day is on Saturday. It is also the feast of Sts. Cyril & Methodius. They are the patron's of my old Ukrainian church and I never think of them without thinking of that lovely parish. It was, without a doubt the most welcoming parish I have ever belonged to, fully orthodox, beautifully adorned, and so wonderfully passionate.
I'm surprised to hear that so many people hate Valentine's day. Either because they're single or because flower's are more expensive and restaurants more crowded on this day! I love Valentine's day. When I was single I loved going out with my single friends and now I love going out with my husband. I love celebrating love and joy and friendship. If flowers are more expensive and restaurants more crowded, it's only once a year, and it's fun being in the thick of everything, waiting an hour for dinner, and compare overpriced flowers with the dozen other couples waiting with us.

Friday, February 6, 2009

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."
Ernest Hemingway

I love overhearing conversations. There were two guys next to me just now talking about protest music. I wanted to tell them about the great labor songs of the early 20th century, but I didn't want to interupt. The guy with the plaid scarf talked about sixties protest songs, and mentioned that he knew that "a bunch of old folk songs are protesting stuff too." He would love to teach a class on protest songs, and to discover more. His friend, I think, has heard all this before, but I hadn't, and I was interested. Plaid Scarf and his friend replaced a group of girls comparing lip piercings and dietary restrictions. Having twice been vegetarian, I'm always interested in why people leave off eating meat. The girls ranged from fish-eaters to vegans and excessively pierced to unpierced. Now, in front of me is a couple on their first date. She has fantastic eyes and he is an enthusiastic talker. I think they'll have a second date.
I love people in general, even if I don't always like particular people. As strangers, they're so pleasant and interesting. I think I could find something about most people I see to like. I remember reading that God loves us because He puts His goodness into us and then finds it there. I've always liked that image, God continually surprised and thrilled to discover His joy in each and every one of us!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."
E. B. White

I have been getting very little done in the last week or so besides working my way happily through much of Jane Austen, some of Tolstoy, the Polish pope, and C.S. Lewis. It has been a week of snow piles and cold days. Days that urge so sweetly that I curl up on the blue seat with tea and peppermints and my latest book.

That's not to say I've done nothing else, but anything productive that I've managed to do this week was done in bursts of time, between books, and done with a restless energy that only takes me away from reading so that I can think about what I've read, run over it all in my mind again and dwell on my favorite bits. I love these breaks in life, when I fall headlong into my books and come out again refreashed and encouraged from having learned again how to see the world in a new and beautiful way.