Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"these dark nights hold me..
and I lie without a lover"

The rain last night was steady, it kept up for hours a soft drumming on the roof. The sort of rain that is comforting to watch and smell and feel. I sat up listening late into the night, curled next to the woodstove, reading, drinking tea and letting the rainfall make a soft, cottony pillow round my mind.

Outside, the darkness was absolute, there were no stars, no moon, none of the comforting lights I've grown accustomed to. I will never fully accept these starless nights, part of me is always looking for light. The darkness is too full, too alive, too easy to lose myself in. Outside in the rain, I half-hopefully looked for Orion, there was only the blackness, like velvet, with no holes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"There is nothing too small, I can still find its charm
and paint it in gold and quite big,
I hold it up high without even knowing
whose soul will be fed by it..."

Yesterday belonged to Paraskeva, the dark-eyed saint of women and the earth. In her icon she is often dressed in red with a scroll in one hand and a cross in the other. It seems fitting on her feastday, October 28th, to see her this way, guiding us, instructing in holiness, clean and sanctified; but on Paraskeva Griaznikha, Paraskeva the Dirty, I prefer my small icon of her holding a jar. On this day she is the household Paraskeva, working at a large spinning wheel, spinning out blessings, small helps to make daily tasks into blessings.

Paraskeva is still half-pagan in her role - a saint from a time when distinctions were less harsh, when Catholics knew as well as anyone that the world was alive with the magic of God. She silently helps in our unfinished tasks, punishes the indifferent, and guides us to our proper futures. She is the saint of anticipation, of autumn and of Lent; a saint at home in muddy days, fallen leaves, and the haunting rustles of dying trees agains the bright sky.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"I pray
to Mary Magdalene, who kept seven
one for each day of the week.
How practical; how womanly."
~Kathleen Norris

I love the icon of Mary Magdalene - hair past her feet and ragged as the Baptist's. She wears it wrapped around her, her only clothing - did she ever wash it after wiping Christ's feet? I think not. It is easy to see that she is one who might have kept seven demons - a woman who does nothing by halves.

I like to think of Mary Magdalene annointing the feet of Christ and wiping them down with her magnificent hair. She knows that there is nothing so restful as having one's feet cared for, and attention must be paid to the beauty of the Body of Christ.

I remember her and her abundant hair when I wash down at the stream, or when I haul water up along the path so I can sit on my doorstep and wash my own feet. Washing here can be a bit of a production. We are still in search of a cast-iron tub, and hope to have one before the cold weather sets in. When we do, heating the water will be easy enough, though hauling it will still be an exercise. Thankfully, early September is still warm enough to bathe at the stream; the lonely trees and tall grasses that surround our bathing spot are enough to remind us of the sanctity of washing - it's nearness to baptism. Mary Magdalene cleansed the feet of Christ, He in turn, cleansed her of each of her week-day demons. I imagine them leaving one-by-one, making each day so free as to to require a bit of the Holy Ghost to come, take up residence, and put her days to order.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"A recipe has so many different hands and minds in its history - I cannot recall who taught me what, and what parts I invented. That's the bounderyless pleasure of cooking; no one authorship. What counts is the final taste."
~Ketu H. Katrak

My old boss used to say that cooking was an art, but baking was a science, and she had never understood science. I thought, but never said, that she was being silly, and drawing distinctions where none existed. Both baking and cooking are arts, and like all arts, they take a good deal of natural aptitude, a good deal of dedication, and an eye for beauty. There are many who cook (and bake) well, but without the passion and artisty that would make their final product a work of art. That is the difference between a "competent cook" and a chef.

Food is an especially interesting form of art, because it is so living and so obviously essential for life. Recipes live and change with every person who puts a hand to them. I'm grateful to know that my pierogis taste like busha's, though I know I don't make them exactly as she did. I love forming them into little half moons and crimping the edges down, I love the feeling of connection with the generations before me and the opportunity to bring them to life in my meals. The beauty of that continuity; the beauty of the deeper link, between our little meals at home and the great Meal offered at Liturgy, as well as the beauty of the wholesome and lovingly craft of making good food, can raise up what we do around the kitchen to artistry.