Friday, December 23, 2011


Vilija is what we call our dinner Christmas Eve. This year it’s a small affair, just the three of us, Luba, and Christ. I will have fought the good fight to keep the house clean, boiled and fried the pierogies, made kutia and fish on the stove. We will watch for the first star to rise, a second or two later than the night before. Vilija can be opulent or simple, this year we revel in the simplicity, the smallness, turning our eyes inward, toward the silence that welcomes the tiny Christ to nestle his head.


Blessed Nativity to all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Discussion: Ritual Silence

..with Jenna & Mr. Pond

Daily Ritual*

4am: Lamplight, coffee, writing
5:30am: Breakfast, coffee, nursing
6am: Angelus
7:30am: Housekeeping, check for eggs
Late morning: Attempt a nap, hope to write, coffee
Noon: Angelus, attempted lunch
Afternoon: Randomness, attempt a nap, sunlight fades, lamps are lit, soups and sauces simmer
Evening & Night: Tea, dinner, music, candles, baby to bed, vodka, writing

*days ritual is attempted: 5; days ritual is lived fully: 0

Like Jenna, a good day for me requires looking good, unlike Jenna, it doesn't usually include a shower. It does include make-up, clothing I like, and some coffee or tea. On draining days, very little in my rite is successful, on thrilling days, most is. Often the fault is mine. I love the rhythm of well lived days, I love refreshing myself with ritual time, but I have trouble with commitment. Too often I attempt a complete overhaul of my time, I spend a whole day at the cafe, I lounge in bed late into the morning, I let the coffee cool and the papers pile up. Ritual that doesn't arise naturally is a hinderance, I tell myself, and wait lazily for inspiration to strike.

But even with my daily failure to fully live the ideal, the ritual of the day my natural rhythm, given discipline, encouragement, and a good deal of patience. That is the necessity, I think, remembering to view time with a sense of humor, to remember that attempting to shape the day into beauty is a slow work of love.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reflections on Motherhood II: Solitude

“ I am too alone in the world
But not alone enough
To make each hour holy.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Solitude is enriching. My life here is rich in solitude, rich in the pursuit and nourishment of beauty, but when our daughter arrive this past summer, I realized that the time of aloneness I enjoyed while my husband worked would never be mine again, the silence of the trees is interrupted now by the happy chatter, and not-so-happy wailing of Petka, who eats up attention as quickly as she can get it, always hungry for more. With her around, I need to hunt for a purer solitude, finding it in late nights or early mornings, while she and my husband sleep, or days when I can disappear for a few hours. I find myself more appreciative of the time I do manage to carve out for silence and reflection, and I find myself loving the imperfect solitude, the inner silence in the face of the daily sounds.

I thought recently of the many desert fathers who, longing for a life alone with Christ, retreated to the wilderness only to find they’d been followed by scores of enthusiastic young monks in need of a spiritual father. No vocation is entirely as we imagine it to be. This morning I’m up at four, listening to the rain pounding and to the wind. It’s December, and I’m grateful that we still have rain instead of snow. I like to spend these early mornings letting the solitude wash over me, watching the gold on the icons flicker in the lamp-light, preparing to do something great with the coming day. Today, it will be dishes and shoring up the road if the rain lets up.

With Petka, there is still a partial solitude to the days. She’s here, present and demanding, but she isn’t an adult, her demands are different. She and I live the day together. I write, while she grabs at my pen. I sweep while she grips the broom handle, determined to help. We walk the land together, laughing at Luba’s antics, at the birds in the sky, at the wind in the trees. She reminds me to really see the world around me, as she sees everything for the first time - studying it all with her upper lip stuck out and her eyes wide. My times of true solitude are richer for it. My daughter, the student of life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Magic III

Christmas Eve is the night to remember dreams. Rosemary under your head and you will certainly dream of coming love, basil and you will see the path to take in the new year. But even herbless, the dreams of Christmas Eve foretell the year’s blessings and sorrows.

We live too far to walk to mass, but if you can walk any bit of the way to midnight mass, and are still waiting for love, listen for bells. Wherever they sound, bells foretell love to come, the closer they are the sooner your love will arrive. Faraway ringing could have you waiting another year or more. New clothes to Christmas Liturgy encourages prosperity, but take care your clothes aren't too nicely made, too perfect and well arranged, least you tempt death to take you before the new year starts.
 
Of all the days in the year, Christmas Eve tells the most of the year to come. Most of the signs are for unmarried girls, who can cut apples in half to count the seeds - five mean you will wait a bit longer, four and the wedding will come soon, but we all walk softly this day, to guiding the year as we would have it go and hoping God goes with us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sacred Circle

A discussion with Jenna and Mr. Pond

Jenna's post from this Monday could almost have been my own. Like her, my sacred space is my home, the little round hut in the woods where I spend my days sweeping and re sweeping the dirt that never stays outdoors. My home is a place without dark corners for little devils to hide; a place where the sun makes bright circles on the floor, where the rain drowns out all other sounds.

There are other sacred spaces, places memory or magic have hallowed - there is the cafe in Michigan where I spent hours watching people walk by, writing in little notebooks and dreaming of the future. There is the parish in Pennsylvania where I found my spiritual home and the parish in Detroit where I married my husband. There is the house with the dogwood I remember from childhood, there is the stream I bathe in on hot summer days, and the hidden paths that lead to secret glades. But my home is primary, because I work to make it so. I fight disorder daily.

I try to make our home a sacred space, a retreat, a little domestic sanctuary where we can thrive despite the world around us. And where we can gather strength to improve the world around us - to touch it with the beauty we nurture here, which is the duty of any sacred space - to reach beyond itself and alter, improve. To place a fingerprint or two of love on the wider world.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Magic II

At midnight on Christmas Eve, while many are at Mass, greeting the first hours of Christ's new birth, the animals open their mouths to praise the Lord. I have a hard time picturing Luba speaking any words that aren't sarcastic and condesending, she spends most of her days acting like a spoiled teenager, but on Christmas Eve, when she is given the gift of speech, if we are far away, I know she will spend the time speaking blessings.

It's easier to imagine dogs and horses singing the praises of Christ than it is to picture chickens raising their little thoughts from food and petty fights to the nativity. But legend says the animals speak on Christmas Eve at midnight - that for a few moments, the whole earth blesses the new Child.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Silence and the Wilderness

A discussion with Jenna and Mr. Pond

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

    ~Henry David Thoreau

Silence is hard to find. Even in the woods I will often turn around and find my silence gone. Without television and neighbors nearby, I often discover that the greatest enemy to my silence is myself. I can blame my husband, my daughter, my dog, or the demands of our social calendar, but I know the truth. There is time enough for the silence I need, too often I fill that time with the noise I don't need, the noise that drives out all peace and reflection.

I went to the woods to live deliberately, but the determination to live deliberately, to cultivate the sacred, often struggles against the temptation to "rest" in distraction for a while. Our world offers so many distractions, so many little noises that can break the internal silence and bury the individual in a crowded mass.

But, as Jenna says, this is the road I have taken to silence, it isn't everyone's road. It isn't even the road most can or should take. We are all individuals, the silence that soothes me, might fall short for another. The woods is not a home for everyone. Silence is necessary, but silence can be found internally, even in the city.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reflections on Motherhood I: Becoming

The downward push of blood and bone…

Mud and new grass
Pushing up…

Beginning the long good-bye.”
~Kathleen Norris

I'm am thinking now of the quickly passing months of pregnancy, when my daughter grew like a poem within me, wiggling, forming, and finally bursting into dawn; while the clouds cleared and the summer sun rose before her. Pregnancy was the time to meet her, to know and love her before seeing her face and feeling her tiny hands grasp.

For the three of us, my husband, my daughter, myself,  labor was not an isolated experience so much as it was the expansion of a relationship: prior to her birth, Yarrow was the quiet, hidden one - the child within, growing, loving, and learning in secret ways. After, we could see her wide eyes taking in, we wanted to wrap her up in love in a new, richer way; a way that can grow and expand as she grows, a way that can continually see her.

Labor, I felt as a shared experience. I felt my husband’s presence so completely in labor that I have trouble seeing it as solely a feminine experience - it felt so completely ours. I forgot he was not feeling and doing everything I was. In pregnancy and in labor, my husband belonged so naturally. With him beside me I could loose myself completely in the experience, I could let the physicality of birth overwhelm my mind, and greet my daughter with strength and confidence, knowing my body would bring forth her small one with all the grace of a storming summer night.

I loved the immersion. I love the warm water all around me, loved the full caul covering my daughter’s face as she met the world. Loved the rainy night and the bright new day that followed. I remember most the sense of roundness: the roundness of my full womb in the water, the roundness of her head leaving me, the roundness of life cycling. I remember the joy of loving, and the triumph of the new day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Magic

Everything depends on Christmas Eve. I like to wake early that morning especially to make sure my house is clean. If the yurt is clean on Christmas Eve, cleaning will be easier all year long, dirt won't stick and dust won't take over in the hidden places. Last year, my house was only superficially clean, and it has remained so all year, despite my efforts. This year will be different - I say it every year, and mean it every year, but living it is difficult.

I clean deeply the days leading up to the Eve, and work hard all day to make sure that the cleanliness stays. I think dirt works harder to creep in on Christmas Eve, so to have a home all year. Discord is the same. I work to avoid even minor unpleasantness, to keep it from our lives in the months to come. Christmas Eve is a day to live as we would like the year to go, full of love and freshness.

I have all of Advent now to prepare for the magic of Christmas Eve,  make it a day of goodness, to banish laziness and delay. I've begun with the Altar, where all the Saints give encouragement, and with luck will move along the walls, making my home ready for Christmas to work it's magic.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quotidian Mystic: Sacred Time

continuing the discussion with Jenna and Mr. Pond

"Abba Poeman said concerning Abba Pior that everyday he made a new beginning."
    ~monastic saying

Early mornings are my favorite. When I’ve slept well, I like to be up before the sun, before my husband, before my daughter. I like to put the water on for coffee and the oatmeal on the stove, light a lamp, and write. In the daylight, writing is hard. I see the work around me - floors to sweep, dishes to wash and I am pulled away into the tasks of the day; predawn I see nothing but my work, and Our Lady under her glittering scarf, watching her candle while her Child prepares to suffer. These dark morning times of silence give the hours that follow a sacred taste.  Surrounding myself with true silence in the early hours, I am better able to carry with me an interior cloister in the busyness of the day - a reminder that all these mundane tasks - repeated again and again - weave around me the sacredness of time given in love.


When the silent morning is lost for some reason - when I can’t wake up or when Yashynka wakes with me full of need, I have to push to create the inner cloister, to walk in the quotidian with reverence. To see my sacred time in the ritual of cleaning, cooking, keeping the fire, and loving. Perhaps the afternoon will bring me my silence, and my ritual can live in hot tea and shortbread while Yarrow naps and clouds gather above. Perhaps, though, I will have to wait until the night comes, and write while my husband reads or sleeps, with a cup of vodka and the coyotes making my silence shudder from time to time. Perhaps there will be no outer silence and my sacred time will be simply the joy of a basket of eggs, a new-made bed, or my husband’s guitar in the soft-lit night.


As Jenna writes, sacred time for artists, for housewives, for each of us, involves an attempt to make each hour holy, and like her, my hours often fall short. I'm continually reminding myself that the sacred is often found in the mistakes and imperfections that make the hours our own. And, like Kathleen Norris, I often forget when faced with dirty dishes or muddy floors that "God is inviting me to play" with my time.  This Advent our discussions explore sacred time: solemn and playful; as we count the days till the Nativity.

Friday, November 25, 2011

St. Andrew's Eve

The feast of St. Andrew on the 30th usually marks the end of the Catholic year, and Andrzejki, or St. Andrew's Eve, is the night to peer forward into that new year, discovering what will be. On Andrzejki, unmarried girls can drip hot wax into a bowl of water and interpret the shapes to discover who they'll marry.  Any sort of divination, especially using water, are supposed to be more accurate on this night. I like to imagine St. Andrew sighing with resignation and maybe playing around a bit, to confuse the results and remind the eager fortune-tellers that life is not so easily plotted and planned.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Amulets and Talismans

Last November I  began to wrap myself in blessing whenever I stepped outside, keeping the evil eye away from my tiny daughter. I had never worried before, never thought much about the piercing power of evil intentions, but her hidden little body, her tiny helpless fists and blind little eyes brought to my mind the many ways for hurt to touch her.

Many people forget the evil-eye, ignore it, or assume for comforts-sake that it's merely an invention of older days - times when men feared the thunder and burned hunger in effigy. But the evil-eye - a glance of malevolence; a cursing glance - is just as common among a culture full of frustrated and isolated individuals, people who forget that the thoughts and wishes within them do affect the outer-world. Aware of the danger, I kept Christ close to me in the months before I met my daughter. Red on the wrist to distract the eye, peacock earrings to stare it down, and a small, hidden agnus dei as a final barrier. The agnus dei is an almost forgotten blessing: a lamb formed from blessed wax and wrapped in foil. A physical prayer, working it's magic slowly, and with love.

Is it superstition, my god-magic, or is it living faith: seeing the dangers and asking to be spared? I think a bit of both. We can rarely walk the line perfectly, often I fall on the superstitious side instead of the secular one, unwilling to ignore the shadows of life, for fear they'll thrive on neglect.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Christmas is coming...


....$2,200.00 at Anthropologie.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rain God

It's raining again tonight. The pattering against the roof has become too familiar - still soothing, but not pleasantly, more like a drug, making my mind dull and unresponsive. I would love for the next week to be bright and clear, and I'm tempted to fight for it.  Our house is full of blessed palms from the Triumphal Entry, collecting dust behind the icons, or woven into the lattice walls. I just need a few for the fire to drive away the storms; light a palm let it burn like incense up to heaven, to St. Elijah, whose firey chariot rides across the the sky, driving in the weather, and chasing it away.

When I light one, I will smell the dust burning, worn out prayers from the years gone by; the smoke curls, filling the with hope, while I listen to the falling rain. Tomorrow, I know, will be a bright new day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mythos: The Discussion


Mr Pond is right in calling me out for a tendency to absorb a variety of myths, blending them to create my own, personal mythos. I do this on a regular basis, we all do. Part of the nature of living myth is a certain fluidity, an ability to stretch and absorb similar surrounding myths. Does this mean we can make belief into a sample-platter of accepted and rejected beliefs? Not at all, mythology is still, as Mr. Pond so nicely put it, something which "grabs us round the throat and tells us the way the world is." Mythology's ability to alter, absorb, grow, and change is precisely why it can survive in a world that has, for the most part, turned it's back on the mysteries of daily life. Modern mythology may not feel as exciting, as fascinatingly other to us as the mythologies of old, but it does live and grow strong in our modern imaginations, woven in with the myths of old that have lasting power. All this blending is not the result of conscious picking and choosing on the part of the individual, but the of the individual being grabbed again and again by myths which meet each other, blend, and create a complete, living mythos.

This week, Jenna continues our slow, spiraling discussion, bringing our definitions gradually into sharper focus. Mythos is like mythology, only more so. She refers to it primarily as "the overarching story or stories that define and shape a culture." I like this definition - it defines, but with breathing room.  Here and now we are not a unified culture, and the stories that define and shape us vary wildly. What stories define and shape our cultures? What stories unify? I know that when I meet someone who knows my stories: the dangers lurking in the dark, the mysteries we play with, the reasons we bless our home, leave some vegetables in the garden, and keep at least one apple on the tree, I greet him as a long-lost friend - we share the same stories, dream the same dreams.

Jenna is right, our mythoi give us depth, they give meaning even to the lattes and long workdays, they give hope for the future and a sense of belonging in the present, without which we would all drown in the shallow things.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thoughts and Plans

My posting has been a bit sporadic recently. Yashynka has been much more interactive at the cafes, and has discovered the mouse, which makes everything difficult. But I'm working around it by typing at home and then just transferring posts when I'm online, which should free up more time for actual editing, something I'm never good at, even in the best circumstances. Looking forward, I'm planning a discussion post on mythos for Wednesday. Jenna has given a lovely, well-thought out response to Mr. Pond's reminder that mythology is not something to play with and sample, but something to fall into - something that demands from us a wholehearted response. On Friday I'm looking forward to delving into sacramental "magic", or the folk practices, superstitions, and daily magic that are attached to common sacramentals. I love these little mysteries, the practices that continually remind me that "with God all things are possible".

Also coming soon, I'm editing and re-editing my reflections on Motherhood, in the hopes of posting as a three-part series thoughts on birth, solitude, and boundaries.

Blessings to all & thanks for your patience,
Masha

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tea Cakes and Russian Reflections

Autumn is quickly fading into winter and my thoughts are primarily wrapped up in making the homestead a cozy, warm little retreat amid the snow, though the trials of the Karamazov clan can drive out all practical thoughts for hours on end, even now that my rereading of the book is over. The cold nights, little mounds of snow against the yurt, and the scent of burning logs all encourage my distraction. I want to sit bundled in my rocking chair with hot Russian tea, Dostoevsky, and a little blue and white plate of three tea-cakes set in a triangle, while Yarrow sleeps in her cradle and the night breathes all around.

I learned to make tea-cakes from my mother, and her recipe book, which was not at all Russian, but the cakes truly are: tiny, crumbly, rounded, and so easy to display - they go so well with the strong "Peter the Great" tea I found at Bagusha's - half it's lettering in Cyrillic, with my pretty dishes, and with the immoderate heroes who run wild in all of Dostoevsky's writing. He makes me think about the cult of moderation, which cuts both ways, stealing away the passion that makes great saints as well as great sinners. We don't like to think of moderation as a stumbling block to sanctity, but it very often is. What would Magdalene be with out her immoderate love, or Mary of Egypt, or Paul with only moderate zeal, or Francis who was unable to avoid extremes in any case. Dostoevsky's Russians are forever reminding me that God longs to be taken to the extreme, and that moderation is at best a lukewarm virtue, based more on fear than love.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Collecting Dreams

"God said to Abraham 'kill me a son.'
Abe said 'man you must be puttin me on.'
God said 'no.' Abe said 'what?'
God said 'you can do what you want Abe but
next time you see me coming you better run.'"
   ~Bob Dylan

                     Continuing the discussion with Jenna St. Hilaire and Mr. Pond

Myths can be difficult to collect and to study. But to understand them we must collect, we must study, and we must immerse ourselves in the ever changing relationship between myth and culture. Because when a myth is living, it is in constant flux, and even within a culture, the relationship to the mythology is varied - Jenna rightly describes our own culture as "an enormous sampler platter both for use and study, not only of belief systems but of exaggerated tales" in which we search for things to believe in, and for fresh ways to experience what we do believe in.

Jenna writes that she loves fantasy fiction because it allows her to "take a night off" from the polarizing aspect of living mythology, from religious, social, and political conflicts and immerse herself in a comforting  mythology, one that lives, but that may not be so polarizing. Right now, as the discussions around me because increasingly full of conflict, it is refreshing to take refuge in soothing mythologies, both real and fictitious. I'm fortunate that my home is full of both - it's easy to feel healed in the mythology of living when surrounded by candle-light, reading about Long Meg and Her Daughters, standing stones which no man man can count, while coyotes howl in the night. My own collection of myths is full of tales of Christ coming hidden in the night, of saints who hide among the birches to keep the evil out, of feasts, and fasts, and reasons to avoid mirrors at night. Like Jenna's retreat into fiction, my mythology strengthens me, allowing me to resurface calmer, stronger, and kinder than I could be alone.

Understanding mythology is like collecting dreams, something is always left out, forgotten or misplaced. The essence of myth is not something that can be studied, it can only be experienced. The stories and characters can be written down, studied, and known, but the essence is elusive, like a half-remembered dream.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mythmaking: Beauty and the Boss

A discussion with Jenna and Mr. Pond

"Remember the morning we dug up your gun
the worms in the barrel, the hangin' sun"
 ~Bruce Springsteen

Every time and place needs it's own mythology, it's own prophets and poets and myth-makers, the "necessary other" as Kathleen Norris calls them. They create myth by being so much a part of the world they live in that they understand in an interior sense what drives their people. Myth-makers pull moments out of time to make them mean more than the moment could on it's own, and as Jenna reminds us in her post, "Myth is not made alone," it belongs to the whole culture. The myth-maker weaves the dreams of his society into realities that hover just out of sight, dreams that are sometimes joyful and sometimes nightmares.

When I think of our myth-makers, I think first of the Boss, whose lyrics make myth out of the mysteries of American life, out of factory work, long drives at night, out of trampled dreams and broken love. Like the character's Jenna so loves in her writing, it's "frightening..how dear these people are" - unreal, imaginary, but "more true than if it had really happened" (Hemingway), the people of myth populate our souls, forcing us to grow into a muturity they can never reach. Myth-makers are artists, shaping the souls of those who fall into the myth, they offer each of us a chance to believe in beauty, to remember who we are, and to step out again into life, strengthened and renewed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Grounded

 In Icons of the Christ-child, his little feet are shown to remind us of his humanity - that he walked on the earth, with dirt between his toes and perhaps blisters where the sandal-strap rubbed. The feet in Icons are a constant reminder of God-made-man, his physicality and his life in the world.

It's amazing to see the newness of baby feet, with none of the signs of use they'll pick up soon enough. They remind us of Christ, who makes all things new - baby feet and spring blossoms - all in the proper time and place, all with the joy of freshness and love - just to watch them grow old and rich and full of stories.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Autumn Cleaning


"The materiality of the writer's life cannot be exaggerated."

After college I pared down to what could fit between the doors of my green Focus with the racing tires and opinionated bumper. I had my little kiln, my wheel, and 100 pounds of clay. The spaces between were crammed with books, silks, scarves, pots I loved, and a Rubber Tree Plant that grew in my grandparent's house on Telegraph sitting shot-gun beside me as I took off down the road.

Now, cleaning for three, things cannot be abandoned with such ease. My house is full: skirts, boots, diapers; Saints and feathers, books and herbs. I've set down roots and my life is spreading. Now the road is a pathway, not a destination. I'm a housewife with chickens to feed, a baby, a dog, and a to-do list that goes on until eternity. It's a comfort, direction is something I'd hoped to find driving mapless across the East. This year I scrub my floors and wash my walls under the gold of my maples and know where I'm headed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Feminism

I'm thrilled with the responses I've gotten to my post on the words that define us: masculine, feminine, feminist, etc, and thrilled that the responses are so polite and so different. The most interesting part of the discussion for me is how varied the reactions to the word "feminist" are. In one of my discussions, a woman defined herself as a feminist because she expects her husband to work so that she can stay home with their children, do heavy work for her, and support her as she does "womanly things" which led me to post some thoughts on a woman's role "in the home" on Piekno. In the same discussion, another woman defined feminism as the desire for equality in work, wages, and education, and in our blog discussion, Laura, defined feminism as simply, "people are people, don't be a jerk" while both Jenna and an anonymous commenter considered feminism in a harsher light, as women who don't seem to like men and masculinity much. 

When I think of feminism, I think of Kathleen Norris, and because of her I also think of the Virgin Martyrs of early Christianity. I think of my sister and her husband - who makes every family gathering more peaceful and pleasant, of my grandmother, my great uncle, and of many good friends from school. I don't think of man-haters, in part because of the men I know who are non-self-loathing feminists. I also don't think of myself.  I can't get past the impression the word gives, of being in favor of one sex over another. Though the feminists I've known don't hold to that understanding, the basic definition is hard to ignore.  In practice, unfortunately, I see more man-bashing in non-feminist circles, which saddens me.  I also noticed that the sort of feminist I generally encounter is incredibly supportive of my life at home, I've never felt in any way dismissed by them for being "just a stay-at-home wife/mother/potter/writer" with no career goals whatsoever, though they are typically viewed as extremely against women in the home. I think though, feminists are primarily against women staying home because they believe it is the only way to be a good wife and mother. As I watch women I know work, raise children, and hold their homes together, I wonder how they do it (I can't even manage to finish my road) but when I see their children happy, healthy and well-loved, when I see their husbands supported and supportive, I can't fault them for adding a career to the mix and living at a faster pace than I choose to.

So what am I? A woman who stays home with her daughter and dog, lifting heavy things when life demands it, scrubbing floors, tending the fire, and drinking too much tea while pots dry. Staying far away from labels that can't quite fit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dreams for Night and Day


I've been looking for ways to make each day holy. Primarily by reducing the things that clutter, organizing what remains, and returning to some semblance of order. It's difficult to build a schedule for myself when my life lacks any formal organization, but because I'm attracted to order, in moderation, I continually pursue it.



Yarrow's tiny feet and hands are so clear, just a few little lines, and so long. She reminds me of an elf, or a little fairy child. We call her a changeling, when she sits in judgement on the people around her. So aware.



Autumn nights are my favorite. Chilly and bright, but not the frigid, snowy nights of winter. I like the smell of falling leaves and woodsmoke and the bright starry skies. I love the crunch of frost under my feet in the early morning, and the late pink dawns.





Our priest is a dual-rite Byzantine, hoping to start a small Eastern community up here. I'm hoping he will, I miss my Liturgy. The Latin Mass is lovely, but I would love to have a Byzantine parish again.  October brings to mind all manner of night-time traditions with candles and prayers and Icons. It feels magic, with the wind in the leaves and the living skies, a month when anything can happen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Imaginative Reality

Jenna and Mr. Pond are very patient with me. Yesterday I really should have gotten into town and written my post, but Matka is still up, the sun was out for a few hours, and Yarrow has been driving more than she'd like. Life is altogether a little more social than I'm used to and it takes it's toll on my writing, my mood, and apparently, my health - today I'm down with a wretched cold, and feel a bit guilty sitting in a corner of my least favorite cafe in town. Sorry for the delay!

“Scattering a thousand graces,

He passed through these groves in haste,
and looking upon them as He went,
left them, by His grace alone,
clothed in beauty.”
   ~St. John of the Cross

I highly recommend Jenna's post from Monday, which gives not only my favorite definition of myth, but a few of her thoughts about it, which are interesting and insightful. This week we're writing on myth in general, and since I can't add anything really to Jenna's defintion, I'll just add my own thoughts. Myth is too often assumed to be just classical mythology, primitive stories, and pagan beliefs. But the definition: "a traditional story, ..typically involving supernatural beings or events" is broad and includes many stories that we take for granted today. Christ is a mythological figure, as is St. Francis, and my daughter's patron, Paraskeva, who comes to stick the negectful mother with knitting needles, or spin the wool of the overburndened housewife. They are traditional stories, and the events fall within the realm of the supernatural, but the people themselves are real and living, and the stories continue to have meaning to those who know them, as do the smaller myths: the apple-tree man who keeps the last of the season's harvest for himself, the fern-flower that blooms among the faires once a year, and the belief that the surprise guest on Christmas Eve is Christ in disguise. Little myths, big Myth, weave in with reality as we know it to make the rich tapestry of reality, full of half-hidden truths and beautiful mistakes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Magic Beauty

This week's discussion, on Beauty in fairy stories, is to kick of a new direction of discussion, from beauty to myth. I'm excited for the change. I suggested today's topic, as Jenna reminded me in her post, and the topic is an important one to me, but I'm having trouble writing on it. I'm interested in reading Mr. Pond's response, because this is apparently his passion. Write away Mr. Pond!

Fairy stories, folk tales, myths, and superstitions all meld together in my mind. The all belong essentially to a life that is more connected to the land and to the people around us; a life that sees the spiritual aspect of living things. The beauty in fairy tales is this worldview, the realization that anything is possible. It is a beauty that is thrilling, frightening, and joyful. Tales of changelings, of dark creatures that make nights in the woods dangerous, of river haunts who drown the unwary and unbaptized make the forests come alive in imagination, as do the joyful tales, of Eden returning at midnight Christmas Eve - when animals speak, flowers bloom, and lights fill the trees, of the apple-tree-man guarding the orchard, the domovoi guarding the home and sweeping up at night.

Fairy stories demand beauty from us as well - the domovoi will guard the house against it's owners if they offend his aesthetic. He will beat the lazy homeowner, pinch the inhospitable housewife, even dry up the cows if an ill-favored animal is brought it.  The fairy world loathes the unbeautiful - the brutal, frightening, and dangerous they have in abundance, but the unbeautiful they reject; which is one reason I love them, they remind us that failing in beauty has it's consequences.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"If you like metaphysics throw pots."
      ~Annie Dillard

I like metaphysics, as a hobby. Throwing pots is more serious, more a part of life; but I like metaphysics, and so I throw pots. Recently, my husband moved my wheel from the shed to the not-quite complete kitchen where it'll live for a while.

I've missed throwing. For the past year I haven't had the space set up to throw, though I bought a kick wheel before we moved.  My etsy shop has languished and all the my pots have stayed in my mind.

Annie Dillard says it is the material that matters to the writer, the many things of life. I like the material things as  well, and I see what she means - throwing they are a distraction - writing, they inspire.

Daily Life

continuing the discussion with Jenna and Mr. Pond.


The art we see everyday is my passion. The ability to make each day sacred with beauty is an ability I attempt to cultivate by creating a domestic church, a place of beauty to rest in, to refresh in, and to grow in. A place that can both comfort and challenge.


Daily beauty can be simple and pure. The easy images of loveliness that give us joy,like butterflies, flowers, smiling babies, and sunsets.



They can be very human..


or spiritual. And like all beauty, they raise us up, even the easiest beauty is always whispering, "remember your death." Because all our daily beauty is just a preliminary, and that's one reason I love it: daily beauty only lasts the day.





Thursday, September 15, 2011

unexpected art

On a overnight greyhound leaving New York just before dawn I sat across the aisle from a man determined to convince me he'd been taken by aliens. I didn't argue, but I think he could sense my resistence to the idea, he kept taking, arguing against points I'd never made, citing proof after proof: his hair color had changed, he dreamt of them. I began to accept that I had hours of aliens ahead of me, hoping he would get off before Boston, or in Boston at the latests, when my seatmate broke in at last, offering me his headphones and a home-made cd. Garage-band jazz is not my favorite, but this was good, it fit the industrial dawn breaking all around us. It fit the abducted man across the aisle, and the mother and child three steats ahead. It fit me. The early morning music made me love my bus-mates, feeling as though we were all together searching for some deeper joy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Masculine and Feminine

Thanks to a Friday night conversation, my mind has been on these words all weekend. I'd really like to get a discussion going, but to being I'd just like to know how you all define these words and what images or attributes they bring to mind:

Masculine, Feminine, Womanhood, Manhood, Feminist, and "Gender roles".

You can respond either in the "comments" section, or by sending me an e-mail at cyganeria.milika@gmail.com

Thanks!

10 Things about me..

Thank you Jenna for giving me another opportunity to indulge narcissistic tendencies!

1. I have an unhealthy attachment to black clothing. I love it, my husband is working on introducing other clothes into my wardrobe, but black is still my favorite.

2. I love jewelry. I like to wear lots of it, all piled on. Silver and wood and amber and brightly colored stones all go together so well.

3. I wish I had a battery-powered blender, to make smoothies at home. I also would like a battery-powered hair-straightener. Apart from that, I don't really miss electricity.

4. Cosmo radio on the satillite is my guilty pleasure. I'm not sure why I like it, they talk about clothes I'd never wear, and their lives are nothing I would want..I guess that's why it is a guilty pleasure.

5. I can't donate blood. Every time I try they can't find my veins. I end up bruised, pricked, and still as full of blood as ever. 

6. Eyeliner is all it really takes to make me feel all pretty and put together. I have at least a dozen, in varying shades of black and dark brown.

7. I used to dislike St. Therese, she seemed boring and too sweet, until she helped me with a problematic nose-ring, now I pray to her for all my piercing needs.

8. I tape notes behind my icons, requsting specific favors, they've never let me down. The notes serve as a continual reminder, because certain Saints tend to be forgetful.

9. I've been called a snob a lot recently, because beauty is a major priority in my life. Baby clothes are no exception.

10. I love taking surveys. Other peoples thoughts and ideas fascinate and inspire me.

I think I'm supposed to "tag" other people, but I don't really know how to do that, so if you read this, and you have time, list off some things about you in the comments!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through."
  ~Edna St. Vincent Millay

This week I feel as though splitting the sky would allow not only the face of God, but bright sunlight and beautiful blue. Our sky has been grey since Monday, with a heaviness of air and more rain than I'd like throughout the days. I have jeans on the line being rinsed again and again.

On these rainy days I get thoughtful. I try to plan things, be responsible in some way. I've drafted posts to keep me blogging for at least another month. They will all be edited at some point, and either posted or lost. The typewriter is best for drafting. Seeing the posts typed out gives me a push to view them as more than just journal entries.

We lit the stove last night, to drive away the damp chill. I'd forgotten the coziness of being inside at night, with wood burning in the stove and the lamps flickering on books and papers. We listened to the rain patter on the roof, read aloud from borrowed books, and laughed at Petka and Luba as they vied for attention. It was a good night, if only sunny days would follow such nights.

Delayed technique

I have to apologize for not posting my discussion post on the appropriate day. I'd like to blame Yarrow, babies are good excuses, but it wasn't at all her fault. The day was too rainy yesterday, the yurt too cozy, and I was much to set on my continuing fall cleaning project to make it out to a cafe. Instead, we nestled in at home, much to Luba's delight, and I told myself I'd go out to the all-night internet spot while my husband and Yarrow slept. I didn't. By then, a chilly autumn rain outside, and a warm fire in the stove convinced me to sleep as well.

My motivation wasn't helped by the word. I have no emotional reaction to the word technique. When I think of it, I see just the word itself. With a bit of effort, I can give it a fancy script - like a typewriter, but with more curliness in the q and the h. I know that different techniques can give different impressions. I know that learning technique is important, particularly in dance and music, but the word is not one to inspire my imagination or my memory. I've never been particularly dedicated to anything requiring me to perfect a technique.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Craft: Witch and Otherwise


Jenna has set us the word Craft today. I like the word, it feels artsy and imaginative in my mind. When I close my eyes, I see craft preceded by the word witch, in a way it is rarely, if ever preceded in life. I see beautiful women, with darkly painted eyes and lond skirts cutting herbs to dry and cure. They look like my own idealized image of myself - when I'm being especially charitable. They wear amulets and medals, they watch the sky and understand what they're seeing.

I see, idealized again, the various potters I've know at the wheel, especially my friend with the fantastic handles. I see her shaping them again and again. I remember all the work I have yet to do with my own pots before can place them beside hers. I see the small green booties knited brightly by Matka, who knits many things, and is dissatisfied by them. I see my husband with his hammer and saw, his grid paper and his sketch pad.

Craft is a word that crunches in my mind when I think of it. It has substance, and it offers so many images. I like the word and the way it feels. "..he crafted it out of the raw earth." Like God, but with something to work from.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"You can never be overdressed or overeducated."

     ~ Oscar Wilde

I asked a priest, before my first tattoo, whether to get one would be an appropriate thing to do. My priest reminded me that the body is a temple and encouraged me only to tattoo art that reflected the sacredness of the body. I've always attempted to follow his advice. Recently, as I'm in the process of designing my newest, and most public tattoo, I've heard a good deal of negativity about them: they indicate an immoral lifestyle, they indicate self-loathing, or lack of education. Women seem to get the brunt of the negative press. According to one radio host, tattoos on "the female" advertise a lack of faith, promiscuity, and and attempt to be unfeminine. I'm a little disturbed by the generalizations more than the negativity. I'm sure there are people who are tattooed for these reasons, maybe..it is possible. I've never met such people, but I haven't met everyone, perhaps these sad people are out there. 

I can really only speak for myself. I love my tattoos, I love making the temple of my body as opulent as any cathedral. I love designing art that follows the lines of my body, that brings to light my passions, that creates a sense of the overall person I'm becoming, just as clothing, jewelry, make-up, and other additions do, only more permanently. Thanks to my art, I am unable to hide my faith, my passions, my attachments. I'm unable to become a chameleon, I'm forced to walk through that world as myself. Like the move to the land, my tattoos insist I live intensely, and fully. It is a lovely way to live, and an added benefit to the enjoyment of decking myself out in all the beauty I can hold.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A word I never liked

"I don't play accurately--any one can play accurately--but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
   ~Oscar Wilde



I don't really like the word talent. In her post, Jenna, uses a scene from Little Women to illustrate the word, which works well to explain part of my reaction to the word. Talent isn't genius, it isn't even brilliance. Talent is a certain level of skill, lacking either the desire, sensitivity, or some secret understanding to make it brilliant. Talent is generally disappointing. I often feel that "talented" is just another way to classify without any meaning behind it. Saying "she's talented" generally just means she tries hard enough to do well, but without any special aptitude, or else doesn't try at all and has enough natural ability to carry through her indifference. Either is disappointing.

Talent is a word I don't generally use, it's not that I would prevent the 'merely talented' from continuing to pursue their activities, it's just that there are other words, words I like better to describe them. Words that may describe the situation better: Louisa May Alcott is a sweet writer; I am an enthusiastic potter. Using the word talent seems to leave behind description, and thoughtlessly place the subject on some upper level of  mediocrity - far below brilliance, but not bad enough to be unskilled. It's a place to get lost in - too easy to go through life saying "I'm a talented artist" and never attempting more.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"I was just a little girl
when your hand brushed by my hand
and I will be an old woman
happy to have spent my whole life with one man."
     ~Lori Mckenna

I'm looking forward to the weekend. We have no plans. Last weekend we spent our time resting; refreshing our lives together. There is something wonderfully refreshing about time alone with my husband, it is as nice, though different, as time alone. Rilke writes that love "protects the solitude" of the other, and my husband does that well. He is a soothing, quiet presence in these weekend retreats - doing his work, helping with mine, watching the sky darken together with coffee and a clove, napping with Petka and Luba while I enjoy my little gardens. My whole soul feels brighter around him.

I'm grateful for my good fortune in finding a man who understands and appreciates the life I strive for. Who encourages my pursuit of beauty in life, and puts up with my impracticality, forgetfulness, and distractions - the times when real life is forgotten because of an absorbtion in some writer, idea, or activity. Last weekend, splitting firewood while I washed diapers, reading Bulfinches' stories aloud while the moon rose, he reminded me again of the peaceful joy I live.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The artist of my imagination

"Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?"
   ~ W.C. Williams

 In her opening post to this weeks discussion, Jenna gives a interesting and very revealing discription of growing up in pursuit of art, giving us an impression of a family that encouraged creative growth in all its members. It's a happy and attractive impression.


Mr. Pond in his post on beauty last week, gave another image of the artistic life "Clenched shoulders and strained eyes and running headache and stacks and heaps and piles of books and laundry and dishes." And I have to admit I like this image as much as the image of a earnest young girl, curled up with her mother's guitar in a room full of light and lovely paintings. They are both images of art. The first is the image I associate with cafes and students, with the 'intellectual artist' attempting her dissertation. I remember my time living with an actress friend, working 12 hour days at a farm and spending nights absorbed in living, pursuing, and discussing art. I associate it with coffee and vodka, with cloves and with take-out chinese in tiny paper cartons. And I associate it with my current life, as family demands both distract and inspire me.

Jenna's images make me think of Liturgy, of the rich art that comes from the happy soul. It reminds me of nights in college with good tea, guitars, and my good friend's hand-thrown mugs, with handles that still put mine to shame. It makes me think of my bedroom in high-school - bright green and soaked with incense - where I read all through the night. I feel the pile of smooth silk yarn as matka makes my wedding veil, and I smell my husband making coffee on Saturday morning, setting it out on a try with poached eggs and thin slices of avocado - the art of living well.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I've been listening to a lot of music recently:



This is a fantastic video, the album is amazing. Perfect with hot hazy days, dark rainy days, and any night.

I've also been working in designing my new "celebrating Yarrow" tattoo. This is the general idea:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Today is my birthday. I'm 28. In celebration I thought I'd look back on the year, and look forward to see what my newest year of life might have in store:

The Best of 27:
   1. Yarrow, obviously, who is watching me with reserved judgement. I'm still not completely convinced she's not a changeling. But I'm incredibly grateful for her appearance in my life
   2. Exploring and improving our land with my amazing husband. He gives me so much joy.
The Worst of 27:
   ..I don't really have worsts. Thanks to an awful memory, they quickly go into oblivion..I do remember being uncomfortable when the stove broke in winter. Oh, and not throwing all year, that was pretty upsetting.
Hoping for in 28:
   1. A kitchen, front yard with an herb garden, and goats.
   2. I'm going to be greedy and hope for another baby.
   3. An off-the-grid kiln of my own.

Overall, life is good. May everyone else's be as lovely!

Piekno Zbawi Swiat

"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

Jenna gave our discussion an excellent start on Monday in her post on her impressions of Beauty:

     I've spent a fair portion of the past twenty-four hours thinking about what to say. I've thought of it
    while listening to Beethoven's Piano Trio #2 with the sun streaming golden through the sheer
    drapes. I've thought about it at Mass, going through the reading of Scripture and the recitation of
    creed and the prayers of the Eucharist. I've thought about it while reading Dante's Paradiso aloud,
    with Lou, by candlelight.


I loved it. I loved feeling the connection, the similarities in our images of beauty. I imagined Jenna's home as a great, glowing place of art and loveliness. And it started my mind sifting through images for those that stand out to me in their beauty.  Moments of beauty make me hungry, I want to have them all in me and around me, I want to spread them all over the world. I can never be satisfied in the pursuit, that is why I'm forever rearranging my home, tattooing my body, and wandering my land in silk and linen - damaging my clothes in the process. I would rather catch my silk skirt on blackberry thorns than damage the activity by doing it in yoga pants.  For the most part, I try to live what many people consider a life of impractical priorities. And I love my life. When I picture beauty, I see hot coffee in hand-made mugs, my husbands hands on the guitar, I smell incense and cloves, or fresh rain and tall grass, I walk the aisles of my favorite church and gaze at icons while the cantors sings. I stand in my woods and watch the full moon rise. Like Jenna, my beauty is never stagnate, it lives and grows and is shared, and no matter how much there is, I'm always reaching for more.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Words, words, words

"I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works."

    ~Oscar Wilde

This week, Jenna was good enough to respond to my questions with kindness and clarity. I was thrilled. There is so much in her response I want to discuss, but I'm attempting not to get hung up on the details. I've realized, especially in this time full of family visitors, that when I respond to people, I have a tendency to try to explain all the minutia - circling around and around until, long after I've begun, the point is acutally reached. So I'm trying to lay off the small things and focus on the broader ideas behind her answers. Mr. Pond will have to forgive me for leaving his post behind at the moment. I want to address the idea that being and non-being are the same, but I really don't have any idea how to incorporate that into my response. I wonder if we can divide up some of this issues again to allow for fuller discussion, I think we might be at that place again, though "being and non-being" might be a little outside our theme.

I'm begining to understand our differences. It seems that when I write: "This book is entertainment, that book is art." Jenna has been reading " This book is merely entertainment - it has no power to effect the lives of its readers. It is banal, unimportant."  But there are high and low forms of entertainment, and some are both Art and entertainment. High forms are not only capable of producing a respose, they insist on and pull forth from the audience a response. I would put in this catagory some t.v. - like the Firefly series, many of Bruce Springsteen's songs (some of which can cross over into "Art".), and other creative works that aren't art, and aren't trying to be art, but still influence the lives and thoughts of their audience in an active way. Low entertainment: bad sitcoms, reality tv, professional wrestling, and bad romance novels do fit with Jenna's understanding, and I can understand why, with that interpretation she would reject the idea that a book she found meaningful, like Little Women would be called "entertainment" - it would be like she finds "Jersey Shore" meaningful. Which is not at all my intent.

In response to my question on substance, Jenna writes:

I suspect here that we're defining outward and substance differently. When I say outward, I mean the prose, the surface beauty that makes Hemingway an objectively better writer than Alcott. When I say substance, I'm referring to the vision coming through the text, the outlook on life and death and what it means to be human. Substantially, I put Alcott higher than Hemingway. Alcott infuses faith and hope and charity into her work, letting them walk with the reader through every curve of life and up to the deathbed. Hemingway was a brilliant man who lived a tragic life; he brushes up against Alcott's virtues only by accident, if at all.

We are actually defining outward and substance the same. Substantially, Hemingway is superior despite his failiure to live well, because his writing is continually in pursuit of those virtues. In Hemingway we see man in all his flaws, stumbling toward redemption. Alcott preaches her virtues, they are displayed well, but predictably. Hemingway - probably in part because of his tragic life - portrays them as they often appear in reality, half hidden behind the flaws of fallen man. I can see why you prefer Alcott, but its Hemingway's substantial superiority - the depth and richness within the writing, as well as the ability to express himself well and beautifully that make him an artist. He isn't so much brushing against them accidentally, but discovering in art what he fails to find in life. This might seem like minutia but what applies to Hemingway applies to all artists, both with and without tragic lives. The substance is as important as how the substance is presented, beauty is never "only skin deep"- it always goes deeper.

Regarding critical acclaim. I do understand Jenna's frustration with the response of critics.

"Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism; they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstanding." (Rainer Maria Rilke).

Critics tend to misunderstand, misread, or misrepresent in response to their own interests or desires for the work. There are trends in criticism that dismiss quality work due to prejudices, but equally problematic is the dismissal of acclaimed works out of a sense that the Literary elite are only interested in despair and post-modern rejection of joy. Being driven only by the feelings that a work produces is flawed way choosing reading, like any choice based only on feeling, it stagnates the reader and damages the reader's ability to grow through what is read. I'm not accusing Jenna of using reading to produce an emotional high, but her pursuit of "moving, encouraging, pleasant" books could lead to avoiding "otherwise beneficial" books that are not so moving or pleasant. I'm not arguing here for darkness and despair, which I know Jenna doesn't need or want, but books of substance that don't seem so pleasant at first.

But Jenna, I know is continually pursuing goodness and beauty in all its forms. She longs to be uplifted, and strengthened, as we all do. I'm thrilled to share and discuss with her - to learn from her and (hopefully) encourage her as we both attempt beauty in our lives and work.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Now it seems the truest words I ever heard from you
Were said at kitchen tables we have known
'Cause somehow in that warm room with coffee on the stove
Our hearts were really most at home."
   ~Kate Wolf


One of my greatest pleasures is a weekend morning with my husband: waking late with sunshine from the dome on the bed; a french-press of fresh coffee with lovely cups; fruit; and time to spend together while he plays his guitar or we talk about all manner of things.  When I picture these times, I am always wearing my painted silk kimono, earrings, and last-night's eyeliner (the smudginess of day-old make-up is a favorite 'look' of mine), the house is always clean-but-disorganized, with abandoned wine-glasses scattered artfully, and incense buring beneath the icons. Reality is generally somewhat different, with the addition of a sneaky dog, dust, and sometimes a desperate seach for food to go with the morning's coffee, but the experience is as lovely, and better still for being a real, rich moment in life, one that I can rest in when the busy days distract me from the simple joys of living.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Art and Entertainment

I'm reading Tolstoy and feeling at peace with the world.  Tolstoy makes me want to pour coffee into lovely cups, set out an ashtray and enter into live discussion with my fellow bloggers. The internet has its limits - there is no space for "..and then..this too!" There are no expressions to read. I feel the limitations especially now, and they frustrate me.

Jenna has trouble with the distinction between art and entertainment, and despite her explination, I'm still at a loss as to why. I like distinctions, they give clarity, and they give an opportunity for excellence that one large grouping cannot allow - a children's abridged production of the Tempest can be very entertaining, but it can't help but fail when compared artistically to a well-prepared, nuanced, professional production. That doesn't make it a bad production, in it's own sphere, it could be excellent, but only if we don't force it to compare itself to something its not.

So I'm not really going to respond, so much as question: (Jenna, I hope this doesn't put you too much on the spot.)
     I would like to know why a distinction between art assumes passivity on the part of the audience; why it
     seems to place importance on the outward instead of the substance (I would have thought the opposite).

     I would like to know what it is about acclaimed works that make you feel they are offering very little.

    And I would like to encourage you to delve into the despairing works, which so often offer more than   they seem to. I remember reading and rejecting some books that seemed to strip me down, only to realize that it is only by "dying down to the roots" that I can regrow again in strength and certainty.

I hope this doesn't look like an indifferent response, in our commitment to mutual understanding, which I enjoy a lot, I want to be certain I'm not taking things the wrong way and responding in misunderstanding. I want to know and understand. I think that coffee and conversation would help a good deal, and I wish I could pour both you and Mr. Pond a cup.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them."
   ~Lev Tolstoy

I've been reading Tolstoy again. Tolstoy, since college, has been linked in my mind with lazy, hot summers, alcohol, and a restless desire for change. This summer he is making me dissatisfied with the arrangement of my home. I want to pull out everything, pile it all in the center of the house, purge and re-order. I'm not doing it because my kitchen is unfinished, and I have no place to put the kitchen things except where they are, until it is done.

I have a huge desire to store all the unattractive things away somewhere - avaliable, but unnoticed, and replace them with loveliness. We don't have a lot of unattractive things, but those that we have are essentials, I can't donate them or throw them away. They peek out from beneath the bed or beside the screen.

I want desperately to be helpful in accomplishing our summer tasks, but Tolstoy's infectious restlessness makes it hard to stick to a task. I'm distracted by the number of projects that await me, by the hugeness of my goals, so instead I nurse my baby slowly, moving from the tales in Divine and Human, to Anna, to Pierre and Natasha. I plan a good deal, drink vodka with limes and anticipate the changes I will make someday soon. Life is good.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"This life I lead, setting pictures straight, squaring rugs up with the room - it suggests an ultimate symmetry toward which I strive and strain. Yet I doubt that I am any nearer my goal than I was last year, or ten years ago, even granted that this untidy world is ready for such orderliness."
   ~E.B. White

I like to re-evaluate. I love looking around my little house and altering it in my mind - adding, subtracting, and adjusting in a continual pursuit of domestic beauty. I like standing before the Icons in the early morning and re-evaluating my spiritual state. I like to make grand plans and form dreams of perfection. I like them most for being unattainable - for being dreams I can and will discard at a moment's notice for new and better dreams and aspirations. I like them because they shape my life without dominating it, they help me strive for a living beauty, one that belongs in everyday life, with all it's dirt, dusty shelves, and spiderwebs I haven't the heart to take down.

I do dust my shelves, and sweep my floor, but the life we live is one that doesn't allow for perfection. We track in dirt, we're visited by spiders, and some choose to stay. I don't like houses that are too clean though, they make me worry I might damage something. So I dust my shelves and sweep my floor, but my flowers sit too long in their little vases and I let the spiders that are not too big live up among the herbs on the ceiling. But I'm always in pursuit of my own version of perfection: domestic beauty that lives, thrives, and changes with the seasons.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beauty is Not..

"Beauty is not caused. It is."
    ~Emily Dickenson

I'm not writing in negatives again to be difficult. Jenna has called us to discuss "what beauty is not," so here I go. Jenna writes that beauty is not evil, and I agree whole-heartedly. She's right that evil sometimes tries to hide in beauty, or to make itself appear beautiful, but it's like the grocery-store peaches that look fantastic on the outside but already smell slightly of rotting when you hold them to your nose - something gives it away if you're aware enough to look for it.

Beauty is never evil, and never banal. But it can be small, and it can be simple. It can be grand and it can be dark and terrifying. It is often unsettling in some way, like the angels who greet us with "Fear not" - it overwhelms us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

St. Paraskeva


I know next to nothing about the personal history of St. Paraskeva - who she was in life and how she came to be counted amoung the saints, I only know the folk stories, and the meaning her name gives her. Paraskeva is the woman's saint: the saint of the home, of domesticity, and of the fields and gardens. Her feast in October was originally in the midst of the time of year when women were preparing for winter: spinning, weaving, marrying, and cleaning. She is a patroness of all these activities, as well as of the times of anticipation. Paraskeva is associated with Friday, and so she waits with us during those times of anticipation, the Fridays in our lives when we are awaiting the Resurrection. There used to be a practice of devoting certain Fridays of the year to Paraskeva by fasting, or abstaining from household tasks, I try to follow this custom on the Fridays of Lent, though I think October's Fridays would be appropriate as well. Especially this year, in thanksgiving for the blessing of our own little Paraskeva.