Thursday, October 29, 2009

"He who practices hospitality entertains God Himself."
Hospitality is still on my mind. Perhaps its the weather. In autumn and in winter, when the air is cold and the wind is blowing, guests, comfort, and a welcoming home become more important to me. Today our zakuska has only ciabatta, oranges, and tea. I am not expecting anyone to stop by, but how many times have we heard the story of the Unexpected Guest, who is Christ. How sad if Christ came and found no welcome!
There is another Russian tradition that I love relating to hospitality. It is a city tradition, and if we lived in a more walkable city I would practice it: when families were home at night, and welcoming guests in Moscow, they would leave a candle burning in a prominent window so that any friends passing by could see that they were welcome within. It was an informal invitation to share the evening with friends. Now that our society spends so little time walking around towns and cities, it is an impractical tradition to ressurrect, but I love the openness and the generosity of that sort of attitude towards guests. Who knows who might stop by, perhaps even Christ!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible."
T.E. Lawrence
Tonight we are resting. There are some evenings that call us to retreat a while into the haven we've created, rest from the world amidst our icons, art, and home comforts. I think everyone is called, some evening or another to these retreats. They are the times that prepare us to venture out again into the world - refreshed by the beauty and love that belong in a special way to our homes.
Our apartment is excellent for dreaming. In the daytime I dream in bright yellow, blue, green and red, with sunlight and sandlewood in the air. At night the shadows and the smell of hot food turn my dreams warm and sleepy, or else silvery-grey and restless; on those nights I wander the rooms, throw, and watch the sky. A beautiful home is a blessing in that it enables us to dream awake as well as asleep.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"A guest should be permitted to graze, as it were, in the pastures of his hosts kindness, left ever to his own devices, like a rational being, and handsomely neglected."
-Louise Imogen Guiney

I am full of thoughts on hospitality today. I was raised in a generous and hospitable family, and am now married to a generous and hospitable man. I am looking back now on the times when I have been a guest -those times when I was most comfortable as a guest, as opposed to those times when I've been least comfortable. The visits I've enjoyed most of all are the one where I am welcomed joyfully and allowed to fully enter into the life of my hosts.

As a hostess myself I love to provide an abundance of good food, good music, and good conversation for my guests, as well as good books and time alone to explore. I especially appreciate the Russian concept of having a zakuska - a table that is a permanent fixture, constantly replenished, always avaliable. I try to keep this custom in my own small way. Currently our table offers garlic bread with dipping oil, Russian teacakes, and small slices of banana-nut bread, as well as tea and coffee. Our little zakuska makes me happy. I know that any guest, no matter how unexpected, will at least be able to nibble away at his appetite while I make a true meal. I also enjoy the constant table - it gives me an opportunity to display food, reminds us to break for tea, and gives the whole house an atmosphere of hospitality.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"You came when you were needed
I could not ask for more,
then to turn and find you walking
through the kitchen door."
Kate Wolf

I'm listening to the album Gold in California, sipping green tea, and thinking about friendship. Last night over tea and chocolate at a friends we started discussing the nature of friendship, and particularly, whether or not a person can truly be friends with his parents. What is a friend, and is friendship so distinct from filial love that the latter supersedes it? Friendship is such a misunderstood form of love - real friendships are rare and hard to come by, but our culture has replaced it with social obligations, acquaintances, filial love, and affection.

Think about it a bit. What is friendship? Who can you enter into a friendship with? What is required?

"Friends should be only like dance and music. One should never come to them deliberately, but always out of some spontaneous need. Friends should be outcomes; on the way they are hindrances." - Rainer Maria Rilke

"Friends do not ward off our loneliness, they only set bounds to our solitude." - Rainer Maria Rilke

"if it weren't for kitchen songs and mornings spent with friends
we all might lose the things we love the best." - Kate Wolf

I love to think over all my good friends, scattered now across the country living their different lives. So many of these friendship grew up around steaming mugs or cold beers, at kitchen tables heavy with conversation. It is always easiest to discuss over coffee or tea - the strongest disagreements are soothed by the steam, and each sips warms and calms us.

"Somehow in that warm room with coffee on the stove
our hearts were really most at home." - Kate Wolf

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower."

Albert Camus

October is a month when anything and everything can be done with love. I have so much energy and so much interest in the world when the leaves are red and gold and the water is wild and cold. Water is so much more watery in autumn: its last dance before winter makes ice of it all. We've passed lakes, all dark blue and white capped with autumn energy, and I can feel the water calling to me - looking deliciously deep - inviting one last swim.

Our apartment is still not warm, though I've fired today and raised the temperature ten degrees - from cold to chilly. I gave our icons new candles to 'keep them warm,' or at least assure them they are not neglected in the cooler months. I've always thought of our icons as very present, living things in our home - watching out with their wide eyes for us, helping with their good, God-magic - their saintly interference; so its important to us to respond to that, in our little way, with flowers and candles and kisses - just as we respond to God, little things He doesn't really need in return for all His good gifts. That's not to say I see my icons as little gods - they're not, but they do connect me to Christ, and to the Church Triumphant, like little windows letting in the warmth of His light.

Its difficult explain my relation to icons sometimes, without sounding pagan. Our little corner of the world has absorbed too much that is either puritan or else materialistic to be comfortable with mystery. I remember Busha used to say 'don't point at holy pictures' (usually when we pointed at her) and I always remember it when I look at my icons and in my mind I link the two: Busha and the little living prayers on my wall. Both so far from the way the world sees truth today and so very close to the way Truth sees Himself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"There is something in October set the gypsy blood astir,
We must rise and follow her;
When from every hill of flame,
She calls and calls each vagabond by name."

William Bliss Carman

Today is grey and wet and dark. I'm watching the rain drip steadily outside my window and I am inspired. Only a few hours into the day I feel as though this day is destined for good. I am throwing many little things: bud vases, ornaments, dipping bowls, espresso mugs, and ashtrays to sell and it is so pleasant to see them lined up on the shelves, their wet, earthy sides glistening - looking so touchably soft, like the mud piles of childhood.

Beside me I have my tea, to keep away the chill in the air; there is pumpkin soup on the stove for lunch, and very likely for tea as well. My indoor herbs are thriving, Chopin is playing on the radio. There is beauty all around. I danced through my cleaning up this morning all across the cool honey wood of the floor. My eyes are dark, with soft greens and browns like the leaves outside that are turning, but not yet turned.

I'm longing to take the beauty of my home with me on a trip down the road, wandering with my opulent little life on my back and the loveliness of the world all around me. These photos I've found only encourage me.

here, of course is my ideal home, cozy, lovely, excessive.

...and more clothing inspirations.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Some people feel the rain, others just get wet."

Bob Dylan

This weekend has been entirely restful - up to today. Friday night I made battered fish with roasted vegetables, served them with bread and white wine, and ate in the incensey front room while the rain dripped against the windows. The rain started in the afternoon and kept us company throughout the night. It put me into planning mode - I want to have a good stock of pots for the winter, in the hopes that I'll sell quite a few Christmas presents.

Saturday was bright, windy, and cool. We picked apples and wandered through tall grass while the wind blew my little braids all around. Inside again, I worked on a yellow skirt, layered and beaded and made from the lovely silk my father brought back from India for me. I've had it for years and never cut it out of fear I would ruin its perfection. I've had the fabric draped on tables and hung against walls, but now it's cut and partially sewn, I think I'll like the final product.

I'm putting together a little book of clothing ideas, cut from catalogs and sketched from online, to give direction to my style choices. Some clothes are saved for the fabric, others for the style, others for a vague sense I get of the attitude behind the style, which appeals to me. Here is one photo from a site I discovered online called "Gypsy Moon". The clothes themselves are way beyond my price range, but the styles are lovely and they are what encouraged me to pull out my scissors and begin.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"When the first-rate author wants an exquisite heroine or a lovely morning, he finds that all the superlatives have been worn shoddy by his inferiors. It should be a rule that bad writers must start with plain heroines and ordinary mornings, and, if they are able, work up to something better. "
F. Scott Fitzgerald

The clouds are all over today, in grey clumps with bursts of sun between them. Right now, the sky outside my window is dark. I'm in green and brown, which feels autumny because I can see outside green bits of grass growing up through the fallen leaves, green mint still growing in the cold air, and brown, brown earth below it all. I've realized that I love making-up my eyes again - like an artist - with colors and with black kohl. Today I made my eyes and my home a new work of art. My eyes are black-lined, with soft grey and white and earthy greens; my house is all adjusted for the colder months when we live in the warm front rooms. I've changed it all around so that the table is in the yellow room and the couch in the blue, plants are at the windows and our desk is as well. We are very cozy now.

I recently bought filo dough again and tonight I've used it. We're having spanikopita for dinner, with filo-chicken pie, fresh bread, and brie wrapped in filo with a layer of jam inside. I hope the chicken-pie comes out well, I made up the recipe because I couldn't find what I wanted. For dessert, muhallabia massawa - a cardamom pudding - rich, decadent, and ideal with coffee. We're having friends over for dinner, and I'm excited to show off my new arrangement.