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.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"I am too alone in the world
   yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy."
   ~Rainer Maria Rilke

The heat this July has been full and rich and heavy. I comes in the mid-morning and fills the day with the damp, sweaty scent of summer. We've been keeping out of it as best we can, and lounging with Japanese fans in the shade of the trees when we can't go anywhere else. I would like to say that I've been resting in solitude with my husband and our baby, but we've seen so much of others, it would be a lie. The visits have been wonderful: my family, our good friends, Yarrow's baptism and the party that followed - I wouldn't have passed them up, but I'm ready to retreat now; ready to curl myself away from others and refresh.

I'm not unsocial, I love people. I love visiting and talking - especially with tea or cold lemonade around a lovely table. I love seeing again the people I love who live far away. But I am refreshed and revived in solitude - either alone, or with my own tiny family. It's only there that I really feel I have the space to think, my mind quiets down and can begin to reflect.

The need for solitude is something I aways worry will be misunderstood. I think sometimes it comes across as a rejection when really it is a retreat: an chance to make myself into a person who is better able to greet each person in love and hospitality, because I have the richness of solitude within to sustain me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Beauty We See

"..out of all paintings
the angels follow me."
    ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Jenna gave us an easy start this week, out of respect for the busy real lives all three of us are enjoying at the moment. Life is ever-changing and we are all touching different aspects of that change. I am amazed at where the year has taken me, and I hope it will be equally generous to them as it continues. A year ago I would not have expected to be holding my daughter this summer, having enjoyed a long lesson in patience that made me better able, I hope, to appreciate the blessings I have been given, and the blessings still to come.

In her post, Jenna mentions the places she finds beauty, because we do share a search for beauty. I like this topic, I like to think of those places and see them again. I find beauty in the imagery of Rilke, and the colors of  Cezanne. I find it in oceans at night and at my stream on any afternoon. I find it most often at home, in the Icons and the tacky faux Van Gogh, in the scent of bread and in my many superstitions. I find it in the rituals I fill my life with. But I find it in these things because they touch something beyond themselves, and I love them for it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yarrow Paraskeva

Our long-awaited baby girl was born Saturday morning. In a quick, happy labor while light rain came down all around us and lightning flashed in the sky. The day that followed was full of sunshine, blue skies, and beautiful new-baby moments. We're happy, enjoying getting to know the little worm whose been squirming around within for the past nine months.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Towards Understanding

"Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now."
    ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Our blog discussion has been hitting some road blocks recently. I realized in looking over it that a good deal of them may come from it being merely an online discussion, without an opportunity to delve into the people behind the ideas, the "whys" and "hows" that form our thoughts. So we are reflecting, at least for this week, and perhaps for a few more. Already I'm feeling more on my feet in the discussion, more aware of the people this discussion has put me in relationship with, and that is decidedly helpful.

Jenna begins with an explination of striving, in which she says that she doesn't "know what it is not to strive" and that explains a good deal to me. She describes herself as a perfectionist, I am anything but. The resignation I fight against is primarily my own. I pursue beauty, wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, but I also live in a world of tomorrows, and I have to remind myself daily that life is meant to  be lived at each moment. My natural tendency is toward anticipation, not action, and if I'm not careful I'm sure to "pass life, and [myself] by" (Rilke).

Perhaps this is part of the reason we have so many disagreements, we see ourselves and respond to our own tendencies: she is ever-needing to remind herself to accept and I am ever-needed to encourage myself to attempt. Where does Mr. Pond fall on this spectrum, I wonder.

But Jenna is right, for both of us, the healing aspect is grace - which takes me from undirected wanderings to the ability to create, from being "an endless seeker/ with no past at my back" (Emerson) to someone rooted in life and following a course that begins and ends in Joy. Grace is that without which no beauty is possible, and I am blessed to recognize it abundantly in my life.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

and desire like crushed herbs in his heart..
dense and maddening fumes
passes away above"
    ~James Joyce

A priest friend of ours saves his church candle stubs for us. They're generally taller than votives, but too short for him to use. We're always grateful, they burn brightly, and they're blessed. We scatter them around - in front of Icons and on shelves; we tuck them into pieces of broken pottery sot he wax won't spill and at night the house is lit up with little blessings.

The candle scent is fantastic, it fills the house. We notice it more now that the woodstove is off and there isn't the continual scent of woodsmoke and simmering soup in the air. Our nights smell of beeswax and the green outside now, incense and coffee. It's lovely and it's summer.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The seedlings are in, and growing. The gardens look better than I'd
expected them to, and since moja Matka has come, we've been picking strawberries,
 canning jam, and widening the road into the property. I check the garden daily - loving it,
 and anticipating food.

We had some under, and over ripe strawberries which went
 to the chickens, who loved them almost as much as they love hiding
 underneath the truck. It's not a good habit for chickens to pick up - the hiding,
 and it makes Luba nervous, she likes to be able to watch them all the time.

This weekend my husband made a salve for the baby, Calendula blossoms soaked
in olive oil, and thickened with beeswax. It feels lovely, smells fantastic,
and ought to soothe soft skin well enough.

Luba has been chasing the sunlight all afternoon - both
inside and out. The yurt's dome makes a circle of light that
 moves across the floor asthe day goes by, and Luba loves the spotlight.
She finds it, poses for the camera
and then moves on.