Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quiet Days

The storm has kept us all home while we wait it out and clean up. Tomorrow, my husband will likely go back to work, and I will settle back into the winter routine. But these couple days are a delightful break in stride..for me anyway, Seth has had to split wood and snowblow yet again. But we are all making pretty project - fabric birds for a baby-shower, a cover for the down comforter from my old silk-skirts, and crayon sketches of ‘pretty’ and ‘wow’ to be admired by all.

Life is good and glad, and joyful, despite a quiets sense of mourning for our beloved Pope, who retreats to well earned quiet today. Our tiny church sends out prayers for him and his successor.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


“Desires are the memories from our future”


         I am a careless recorder of days, and I hold it against myself. I love to think that this journal will be the ideal, the perfect, messy-yet-delightful, and consistent record of this time in my life. Instead it is a collection of to-do lists, half-finished poems, and Yarrow’s own writing that can entirely obscure what I’ve put under it. But I do love my journals, even as they disappoint me. Journaling is an art, and not one I’m particularly good at, but one I love.

Seth would probably like you to know that this is NOT his photo
         I usually burn my journals two or three years after I’ve abandoned them. I shouldn’t, but they do pile up. I pull out the good parts - poems that might grow someday, pictures and thoughts I love, but the majority - the ‘to-dos’ and ramblings, the half-finished letters and the unimportant dreams I burn. Even so, journals are essential to me. I don’t write in them daily, but they ground me and give me a chance to see my thoughts, to shape them and form them into something better. To pray with my pen in the evenings, when life is quiet.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Letters & Longings

I have three letters going out today! Letter-writing is an art I am always flirting with and then forgetting. But Lent, the season of slow living is giving me moments of remembrance. While Petka slept away in the late morning sunlight, I sat at the table with my good pen and all the un-altered-by-Yarrow paper could find to send out little bits of love to my far-flung friends. I’ve discovered I need prettier envelopes. I’ve discovered my favorite pen bleeds though my favorite paper. I’ve discovered that I love the look of addressed envelopes stacked beside coffee (actually, I knew that already, I stacked them there just for that look.) Once again I’m committing myself to a life of texture and reality.

The funny thing is, I know my life is full of the tangible, real things. The wood in the stove, the splinters in my fingers, the heavy mugs of my early throwing days and the better ones more recently made. Books, tea, snow, wind, chickens pecking at the door. All these things are mine and yet they’re never enough. I want everything that is real and beautiful. I want to gather it all up like my daughter wants to gather up the moon and hug it to her in love. There are some longings that cannot be filled with a thousand letters.

"Longings don't want to be quenched
with a drink from some dull, mundane glass;
they want to be your objects portrait
and your desire's equipoise-"

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fourth Friday Prompt From Spinning Straw into Gold

Martine Johanna, website

Christie has her Fairy-Tale prompt up again! It runs through this Friday, and then another will begin. 

There is a lot I like in this poem, and a lot I feel very uncertain about (the whole second stanza is especially subject to moodiness and editing). The prompt Christie gave (Martine Johanna's image on the right) is fascinating, and I just fell into a tiny part of the overall picture.  

Advice, edits, critiques, and comments are always appreciated, even if you write something like "Oh Masha, oh, no, no..".  

 Where Dreams Wait

Night builds her stars
     from heartache,
  and all the tears lonely women lose
       holding arms too full of longing.

Under the half-moon
     rising; she gathers in
long fingers full of silver, to burn-
   votive, against the dark sky-song,

until all hang waiting
    for that moment 
when, falling they call 
  all our dreams to life.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Social Media and Sanity

I read an article recently that looked at the ways social media can distance us from the tangible things in life. How the distractions of ‘friending’, ‘un-friending’, and arguing ad nauseum with strangers online can chip away at the real and beautiful things in life: our relationships, the sound of the wind against the windows, that first cup of coffee in the silence of a new day. The author’s words are coming back to me today. For the first time, I’ve ‘un-friended’ someone on facebook that I know, that I haven’t ‘just fallen out of touch with’. I did it because her updates became something completely other than what I wanted my online experience to be.

I don’t go on social media to push an agenda, to argue forever about politics and religion. I don’t want my time online to take me away from those I love or to hover in my mind throughout the day and getting between me and the real moments in life. That doesn’t mean I want to agree with everyone, it does mean I want to continue to respect everyone I chose to interact with though. And I want to be treated with respect by them as well.

I pursue this attitude toward media imperfectly, but intentionally, by:

~ Only friending people on Facebook that I’ve either met in person, or in a few exceptions (Jenna! Christie!) people I feel I know well enough and want desperately to meet in person. This is because I do consider my account to be like a giant party, and I’d rather invite the people I trust to visit me there and watch my life lived out in pictures and snatches of conversation.

~ Only being Facebook friends with people I am actually on friendly terms with. That way I avoid the temptation to excessive voyeurism and avoid arguing with people who’s feelings I don’t care to protect.

~ Avoiding toxic relationships. Obviously this is just as applicable to the real-world, but I think, for me at least, it’s easier to allow a toxic relationship to grow and fester online, because you can just turn off the computer..and then turn it back on again five minutes later..and then talk about it for hours with your husband while the dog takes advantage of your distraction..

What do you do to keep your online social life sane?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Today, the sun is bright and warm, the chickens are out pecking, and we are diving into the Lenten routine. I am trying to fill the day with activity - to distract from fasting, trying to teach my soul to breathe peacefully in prayer.

One discipline is daily writing - something I often ‘cheat’ at with quick edits and half-hearted attempts. Today, with my cup of blackest coffee beside me, I’m committed - drafting poems that are half prayers and editing long - abandoned articles for freelance submission.

I’m keeping Christ before me in this season. On the table, on the wall, and within my mind. I’m trying to focus through the noisy moments and grow in all aspects of my vocation - each nourishing the other in this season of retreat.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Winter Habits

It’s snowing again. The weathermen promise freezing rain along the coast, but we are not-quite-coastal enough, I think.

Everything I’ve planned for the day - except walking to collect the mail, which is looking unlikely at this point, is done. I’m enjoying the peace of winter quiet. Seth and Yarrow enjoy the quiet as well. She's been inside pretty consistently, though we did bundle up to sand the driveway before the snow began. Seth has been sketching and starting up a tumblr page: The Beauty Project. He's uncertain about tumblr so far.  I've been reading a bit of Michael Pollen's In Defense of Food, drinking tea, and wasting time on pinterest. Yarrow's bushia visited on the weekend of the storm, and managed to sneak in some quality time before and after the blizzard. Yarrow was grateful for the attention, she's a severely neglected child.

And while it’s quite, I’d like to request prayers for our dear Pope Benedict XVI, who has decided to step down at the end of February. I’ll miss seeing his delightful smile and resting in his calm leadership, but I’m glad he will have the chance to retire to a life of peace and prayer. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Snow Day

Today, with the snow piling up outside and the wind blowing, I’m doing a lot of nothing with my time.

My husband spent the day at home with us, and the weathermen are tossing around newly-minted words like ‘snowmagedon’ and ‘ulti-blizzard’. It isn’t really, just another storm around here. But we may have about a foot so far. I can hear it wooshing off the roof, and I can see the tracks of the chickens from the coop to the warmth below the yurt. My husband is sketching, Yarrow is sleeping in her tiny bed, and I’m beyond counting cups of coffee with too much cream. Lent is on the way, and I’d like to be sick of coffee-with-cream for at least the first week, it makes the switch so much easier.

Libraries are such a blessing. I’m working my way through a small stack of books. I recently finished Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold . A fascinating, magical tale of the effects of an honor-killing in a town. Darkish, lonely, but rich and humid-feeling - a very textured story, making me long for summer’s hot days. 

And now we're going to ignore winter for a while, with popcorn, beer, and a couple episodes of Firefly..Blessed weekend!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Beauty, Bodies, and the Artist

“The Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot.”
~ St. Augustine

 Artists tend to obsess over physical beauty. They live in one extreme or the other, setting up physical perfection as a tiny god or rejecting it utterly and filling their lives with ‘meaningful ugliness’ - pushing out the beauty in search of relevance. I lean toward the former. Beauty, physical and otherwise mix themselves up in my mind until I have trouble distinguishing between the levels. I feel holier when I look good (I know, that I’m not really holier, don't worry), but I do focus better on the liturgy when I’m wrapped in beauty. It’s the way God inspired me to start covering my head in church, I’d felt a call to begin covering, but I had trouble convincing myself to do so at less attractive (meaning, for me, non-Byzantine) liturgies until I felt that refusing to pursue personal beauty at a less attractive mass was an insult to God.  I do have to work hard to avoid making physical beauty an idol - reminding myself that so many of the Saints were not beautiful people in the physical sense, and some were unpleasant people to be around as well. 
Beauty itself is an aspect of God - the visible form of the Good - but physical beauty is truly the least of beauties, it is not a virtue to possess, though it can bring joy when shared by displaying to the world to brilliance of the creator. But physical beauty isn’t limited to the young and whole, there is a rich physical beauty in weathered skin, gnarled hands, and the nobility that well-worn age brings to the body. There is beauty in Rubenesque women and in the darkness long sorrow leaves on the face. Beauty is simple, but not simplistic. Beauty leads us closer to Christ, and when Christ has taught our eyes to see, physical beauty can be seen even in the ugliest form, not because we pretend -as so many in the culture do- that physical flaws are non-existent, but because we don’t see the parts so much as the whole - formed in love and raised up by the breath of God to show yet another aspect of His face.

It is this aspect of the artist’s obsession with beauty that brings him closest to Christ - this aspect that allows him to paint, lovingly, the broken people..or write them, with all sympathy and understanding, as Tolstoy does: showing clearly the flaws and failings, but showing them with a love that allows us to see the person.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Wednesday of last week I caught the flu and lost the ability to do anything but feel miserable. I was lucky in that my husband was staying home that week - he had no work to do in the cold, cold winter days and too much work to do fighting the negative temperatures at night. When I recovered, he succumbed and I spent the next few days nurturing both him and Yarrow, who has picked up a bad cough. The weather is strange, last week we barely got out of the negatives, this week we almost hit 50. Most of the snow is melted and now temperatures are dropping again. I miss normal winter weather - snow storms without rain to follow and deep drifts. But at least we’re all well again. And blogging should return soon!