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.

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