Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"There is only one school of literature - that of talent."
~Vladimir Nabokov

To take a leaf out of one of the blogs I have recently begun reading (A Light Inside), I would like to begin remarking on the books I'm currently reading. I hope this will help me to become a more disciplined reader, and also, I hope it will interest others in discovering, or re-discovering those books.

Thanks to the abundance of Christmas, I have a fresh supply of books. I am currently re-absorbed in Nabokov's Lolita. It is a book so far from escapist fiction, uncomfortably close to a nightmare but so very rich in thoughts that I am tempted to follow it with Dostoyevsky, merely to continue the immersion in insanity that Lolita begins.

When I need a break from Nabokov, and I want to wake and see and think I turn to The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and Modern Oblivion. It is a fascinating study of the choice of painters to paint a human and fully exposed Christ, both in infancy and in death, the meaning behind this exposure and the mistake modern critics make in either ignoring this exposure or assuming in it a certain artistic disrespect. The images used are exceptional and the writing is fascinating.

In the evenings, when I would rather leave off both Lolita and artistic criticism, I turn to Rilke. I have a new collection of his God poems and, sitting in my new rocking chair, beside the warm wood-stove, I can think of nothing better than tea and Rilke to pass the night away.

Blessed and good reading to you all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Even when we don't desire it
God is ripening."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

I like to think of God ripening, like a late season plum or a blackberry, making Himself ideal in taste and texture, perfect for falling into waiting hands and being eaten in the sunlight. I like to think of the little God, ripening in Mary these last few days before His birth, waiting for His human body to grow to perfection. I like to imagine His wise-baby eyes waiting in the darkness for the time when light begins its triumphant return.

Today is the Winter Solstice. Tonight the night will triumph for the last time before the day begins again to ripen and grow. I feel the solstice more this year, without the distraction of electric lights and city nights. We can see the moon rise and set at night, and our lives are slower in this season of anticipation, despite the pressures of readying our home for the birth of Christ, who brings with Him the promise of spring. It is a time of reading, reflection, prayer and preparation.

Blessed Solstice to all.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

I like to think of the Creator and His riches - that the One who can see in the meanest soul, a happy image of His own abundant love; can also, in the deepest poverty call forth the riches of beauty. I think of it especially in the Christ Child, who, being both Christ and a little child, can relish life in a way that we His people can only strive to imitate.

I've seen in many striving writers a tendency to discard their own lives. To write as other writers have written instead of writing from life. But if we merely imitate the experiences of other writers, we doom our writing. It is no longer honest, it is no longer ours. This is not to discount myth, or fantasy, which can still be drawn from the richness of our own daily life. It is those who strive to imitate without discovering their own voice, and the experience and wisdom that comes from each individual life who fail to infuse their writing with soul.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."
~Albert Camus

On the eve of the Immaculate Conception I can't help but be distracted by Mary's Otherness. To be born sinless in a world where man is united by sin and death, to be always on the outside - looking in on the about-to-be-redeemed. It has the unshakeable feel of Solitude.

For many years, I felt as though Mary was too Other for me. Too much a saint, no sinner at all to attract me with past misdeeds. I had trouble with her western images, sweet-faced and sappy, no hard edges at all. Only the Perpetual Help icon seemed alive to me, and she was frightening because her eyes seemed to see too deeply. It is the Icon Mary I have grown to love now, her deep-seeing eyes that follow me, her wise sorrow that knows too much of the loss of mankind. I surround myself with her: Perpetual Help, Burning Bush, Theotokos. It is her Otherness that draws me now as much as anything, her creative solitude which allowed her to produce Christ, and I rejoice in the images that show her clothed in quiet power.

Tomorrow, on her feast, I would like to make of our little nest a great rejoicing. I would like flowers, baked brie, and bright candles to make the Immaculate laugh and enter more deeply into our blessed home.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers."
~T.S. Eliot

We went back to my hometown for Thanksgiving. My siblings and I took to discussing writing at our favorite coffee house - not our own writing, but writing in general, and the process of writing well. Our youngest brother is planning his senior thesis and the rest of us gave abundant advice. It's a conversation we repeat yearly, whenever we are all together, with a few variations: writing, advice, encouragement, and enthusiasm, but the conversation is always fresh. There is always some new bit of information to be examined, encouraged, or rejected.

Because I have been especially focused on the question of what does make writing, or a writer Good, I took special interest in a recommendation of my sisters: to put together a Poetics, an examination of my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the things I read, the things I write, and my relationship to writing itself. The exercise is amazing. I've only just begun but I feel in it the ability to grasp my own purpose in writing in a deep and personal way. A way that not only enables growth, but insists on it.

Blessed Advent to all, enjoy the richness of new beginnings.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, they that edit it and read it are old women over their tea."
~Henry David Thoreau

News is brutal. It clamors against my head, seeking entrance. I close my eyes and feel it pressing agianst my eyelids, in and out, in and out as it tumbles down around me. To turn off the radio would do little good at this point - the news is still there, waiting, lurking; it will rise up out of memory when the moon is bright, to be turned over in my mind until the stars have crossed the sky.

The news itself - individual stories - are largely unimportant, it is News altogether that continues on: an unending procession of wonder, worry, and inanity. Today I am told of Archbishop Dolan, of the President - who gives many speeches, of healthcare and international implications. I'm lost in news as I boil eggs for my salad and watch evening change the light.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"No one but Night, with tears on her dark face, watches beside me in this windy place."
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

The wind has been bitter these past nights. It waits for the darkness to begin, then gathers it's power and pounds against the door. The wind brings to mind dreams from the summer, of ghosts who haunt our land, gathering under the birches and watching us as we set down roots.

Birches are haunting trees. In the daylight they dance like happy ghosts, or naked spirits, cold in the wind, but laughing. I like to put my hand on their white bodies and feel a piece of the joy. But they are too pale, to cold to be anything but specters in the night - white hands reaching out to touch, dancing terribly under the moon. I imagine my dream-ghosts wandering the birch paths at night, some with malice, others with kindness.

We've been missing the moon for over a week now. The days are dark and grey, the nights are darker, with no moon to light the sky, and no stars to smile at. I am hoping that todays clear sky will stretch into tomorrow, and through the weekend. We need time to dry out, and I would love a night of peaceful sleep, without the howl of wind and the pounding, icy rain on the roof.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I have nothing written, but I thought I'd share some photos, taken by my husband. I hope you enjoy them.

Our tacky Kitchen Madonna, in an old crate we found.

The lovely woodstove and the sticks we're currently using, while we chop
more appropriately sized firewood.

My earrings. They are actually in my ears, though you can't really see
anything of me.

Soon I will have something written to post. Until then, enjoy the lovely autumn weather!

Monday, October 11, 2010

"The man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has despaired of life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening way."
~Henry David Thoreau

I walked down this moring, to the post box to leave my letters and retrieve what had been left. The sun was rising above the trees - not quite clearing the tall pines - the clouds were small, scattered pink strips of cotton, the red and yellow leaves glowed with life. My boots sounded so loud on the road. It was a glorious walk.

I like walking in the early morning. I like seeing the moon in its last moments above the horizen, I like the clean air scent, and the early chill. I like the feeling of being alone and yet not alone as I walk down the road.

These past few nights I've been waking up often at night, to build up the fire, to watch the stars, to feel the cold night air on my skin. If this keeps up, I may add night prayer to my routine, I might as well, being awake already. We begin the day with the Angelus now, and it's such a joyful way to greet the dawn, perhaps I should join the stars as well, they are such lovely companions at night. I feel so lost without them, there is nothing like looking up to see Orion hovering above the pine, or the Big Dipper scooping up the darkness.

Moja siostra asked a while ago if I would describe a certain popular author as a non-artist or a bad artist. It took me a bit of thought, but I would describe him as a non-artist. I would put him in this catagory because I think that to be a "bad artist," one must first be an artist, with the potential to be a good artist. A "bad artist" has corrupted his gifts, but a non-artists has no gifts to corrupt. In this case the author seems to fully believe that he is an artist, and tries desperately to pass off his writing as clever literature. The fact that some people have fallen into his mistake is a sad testimony to the current state of Art.

Bad art falls under a similar definition. Bad art must first be art - it is art that falls short in some essential way, of goodness and Truth. A very few of Picasso's works fit this discription, as do some of Joyce's stories. Picasso and Joyce are artists: they make beauty, occassionally they fall short, especially when they abandon art in favour of a message: "art is wholly concerned with the good of that which is made; it has no utilitarian end. If you do manage to use it successfully for social, religious, or other purposes, it is because you made it art first..." (Flannery O' Connor).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"these dark nights hold me..
and I lie without a lover"

The rain last night was steady, it kept up for hours a soft drumming on the roof. The sort of rain that is comforting to watch and smell and feel. I sat up listening late into the night, curled next to the woodstove, reading, drinking tea and letting the rainfall make a soft, cottony pillow round my mind.

Outside, the darkness was absolute, there were no stars, no moon, none of the comforting lights I've grown accustomed to. I will never fully accept these starless nights, part of me is always looking for light. The darkness is too full, too alive, too easy to lose myself in. Outside in the rain, I half-hopefully looked for Orion, there was only the blackness, like velvet, with no holes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"There is nothing too small, I can still find its charm
and paint it in gold and quite big,
I hold it up high without even knowing
whose soul will be fed by it..."

Yesterday belonged to Paraskeva, the dark-eyed saint of women and the earth. In her icon she is often dressed in red with a scroll in one hand and a cross in the other. It seems fitting on her feastday, October 28th, to see her this way, guiding us, instructing in holiness, clean and sanctified; but on Paraskeva Griaznikha, Paraskeva the Dirty, I prefer my small icon of her holding a jar. On this day she is the household Paraskeva, working at a large spinning wheel, spinning out blessings, small helps to make daily tasks into blessings.

Paraskeva is still half-pagan in her role - a saint from a time when distinctions were less harsh, when Catholics knew as well as anyone that the world was alive with the magic of God. She silently helps in our unfinished tasks, punishes the indifferent, and guides us to our proper futures. She is the saint of anticipation, of autumn and of Lent; a saint at home in muddy days, fallen leaves, and the haunting rustles of dying trees agains the bright sky.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"I pray
to Mary Magdalene, who kept seven
one for each day of the week.
How practical; how womanly."
~Kathleen Norris

I love the icon of Mary Magdalene - hair past her feet and ragged as the Baptist's. She wears it wrapped around her, her only clothing - did she ever wash it after wiping Christ's feet? I think not. It is easy to see that she is one who might have kept seven demons - a woman who does nothing by halves.

I like to think of Mary Magdalene annointing the feet of Christ and wiping them down with her magnificent hair. She knows that there is nothing so restful as having one's feet cared for, and attention must be paid to the beauty of the Body of Christ.

I remember her and her abundant hair when I wash down at the stream, or when I haul water up along the path so I can sit on my doorstep and wash my own feet. Washing here can be a bit of a production. We are still in search of a cast-iron tub, and hope to have one before the cold weather sets in. When we do, heating the water will be easy enough, though hauling it will still be an exercise. Thankfully, early September is still warm enough to bathe at the stream; the lonely trees and tall grasses that surround our bathing spot are enough to remind us of the sanctity of washing - it's nearness to baptism. Mary Magdalene cleansed the feet of Christ, He in turn, cleansed her of each of her week-day demons. I imagine them leaving one-by-one, making each day so free as to to require a bit of the Holy Ghost to come, take up residence, and put her days to order.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"A recipe has so many different hands and minds in its history - I cannot recall who taught me what, and what parts I invented. That's the bounderyless pleasure of cooking; no one authorship. What counts is the final taste."
~Ketu H. Katrak

My old boss used to say that cooking was an art, but baking was a science, and she had never understood science. I thought, but never said, that she was being silly, and drawing distinctions where none existed. Both baking and cooking are arts, and like all arts, they take a good deal of natural aptitude, a good deal of dedication, and an eye for beauty. There are many who cook (and bake) well, but without the passion and artisty that would make their final product a work of art. That is the difference between a "competent cook" and a chef.

Food is an especially interesting form of art, because it is so living and so obviously essential for life. Recipes live and change with every person who puts a hand to them. I'm grateful to know that my pierogis taste like busha's, though I know I don't make them exactly as she did. I love forming them into little half moons and crimping the edges down, I love the feeling of connection with the generations before me and the opportunity to bring them to life in my meals. The beauty of that continuity; the beauty of the deeper link, between our little meals at home and the great Meal offered at Liturgy, as well as the beauty of the wholesome and lovingly craft of making good food, can raise up what we do around the kitchen to artistry.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My tattoo. At last we can load photos again!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Like all dreamers, I confused disenchantment with Truth."
~John-Paul Sartre

Moving has thrown me out of my easy circle of friends, those who know me deeply and share, in some way, my passions. It has forced me to see beyond myself in many ways. Here, our aquaintances are mostly of a different sort and the adjustment has been somewhat trying for me. I realize I've been traveling in a world of my own creation, always amongst those who pursue answers to the same questions. Even those whose answers differ, believe in the importance of those questions. I have never needed to defend my devotion to Beauty before, and I am doing so on two sides now. It's difficult, and lonely, to swim against a sea of ideas that are so opposite my own.

For moj brat the dismissal of Beauty, I think, is a part of an assumed disenchantment. It is a rejection of objectivity more than of Beauty, and a desire to seperate himself from those things: Beauty, Truth, and Goodness in their objective expressions which may draw him out of easy speculation and into the demands of understanding. Beause of this, I don't think I can answer him in such a way as to make him truly consider my position - "where the mind is perhaps rather unwilling to be convinced, it will always find something to support its doubts." (Jane Austen). I'm not a philosopher, I don't argue well, I'm too easily distracted by other thoughts. I would rather pass joy around to all, like cups of vodka; how can one not see Beauty if one has joy?

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up."
~Cyprian Norwid

I've been putting off writing my promised articles on Beauty and Art because I've been having trouble putting my thoughts together, and I'd much rather put out a delayed response to moj brat than a bad response. I'm realizing as I try to write that I really have no common ground with the point of view which places Beauty outside the realm of Truth, and because he often speaks from this point of view, I find myself at a loss. It's interesting, and sobering to recognize that the same childhood that nourished in me a passionate attachment to Beauty and to Art, has not done the same for him. At the same time, it is comforting to see in him, at least a notion of the importance of Art, and that notion is what allows us to have conversation. Too many people will easily discount Art as "stupid," "over-rated," or even "boring," and with those people there can be no conversation, because there is no shared language and no shared understanding. When this happens within the Church, or within the family, it can be devestating.

Fortunately, moj brat and I are not so utterly severed in our language. As I understand him, he does recognize in Beauty a means of introduction to truth, though, as I understand him, it is truth rather than Truth, as he disapproves of objectivity in general. Because of this similarity of opinion, and because there is a family connection as well, which unites us not only in shared memories, but also in shared blood, our conversation, I hope, will be worthwhile.

What is Beauty?
We began our discussion because this blog is devoted to Beauty, my brother wanted my definition of Beauty, and wanted to know why it was worth so much attention. I answered him as well as a late night, surprise, and a few drinks can answer; here I hope to answer more fully. Beauty is "the visible form of the Good, just as the Good is the metaphysical condition of Beauty" (John Paul II, Letter to Artists). This makes Beauty much more meaningful than mere attractiveness, and much more objective, as Goodness is not a subjective state. Obviously, there are different levels of Beauty, just as there are different levels of Goodness, but they all aspire to the ultimate: Pure Beauty, or Pure Goodness. The Greek word kalokagathia (beauty-goodness) expresses this understanding of Beauty as the natural home of Goodness.

These articles are going to take me longer than I'd expected. I am trying to understand, trying to relate to a way of thinking that is unnatural to me. I'm not speaking simply of the "post-modern" mindset decried by the majority in the Church, but to a more unpleasant and wide-ranging loss of mystery, which destroys the aethetic sense both within the Church and outside of it. I'm wondering where this mindset comes from, and why is thrives in some, and cannot abide in others.

Many Blessings.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelieveable shrieking into the heart of the night."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

This August is already in early autumn. The trees in the watery places are bright red, the fields are gold and green, the sky is opening up today in a cool autumn rain. There is such a wholesome naturalness in the world around us. I am begining to feel that the more we connect with our land, the more natural our lives become. My dreams have been alive, and I can't help but take them seriously. There is something about candlelight that brings dreams to life.

My parents came up, with my brothers recently, and one of them attempted a discussion on art. The discussion itself progressed badly, with a tendency on his side to monologue, and on my part to snippancy. In atonement, and in hope that he will read and consider, I am planning this week to post a few articles defining and defending Art and Beauty. I hope they will be worth reading for more than just moj brat.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Beauty will save the world."
~Fyodor Dostoyevsky

My newest tattoo is such a joy to me. It's wonderful to have a tattoo that I can see easily and it serves as a reminder to me as I go through my day that I am striving towards a Beauty that saves, and that this striving, the artistic vocation, is a path to holiness. It is especially helpful to have this reminder in the community that I find myself in: one that generally considers Art "stupid" and unnecessary; one that sees Beauty as little more than vanity.

Seeing my lovely tattoo throughout the day, designed by my dear husband, is an ecouragement, whether I'm gardening, throwing, baking, cleaning, or dancing, to strive toward the Supremely Beautiful, Who is Christ.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"We must not only cease our present desire for the growth of the state, but we must desire it's decrease, it's weakening."

~Leo Tolstoy

Whenever I fall back into Tolstoy, real-life takes on the too-defined, unnatural color of a dream, and I forget to wake-up completely. Tolstoy turns my mind inward, and when I do look around, my view is always accompanied by a sense of astonishment and unease, as though I can't really be certain that what I see is in fact, reality.

Living in the woods has confirmed and strengthened my distrust for the state. It is difficult to remember, while tending my garden, building, chopping down, and in general improving my little world - that the world of politics is an actual force, having an actual, and lasting effect on the world around me; that it may at one point, even touch on my little haven.

One of the many reasons we moved out of the city was to escape some of the over-bearing concern that the state deals out in ever-increasing amounts to those in easy reach. We wanted to be somewhat beyond that reach, and we've certainly found a lovely spot. Our rural town reminds me of much of Michigan's Upper Penninsula, where I'd always noticed a pleasant disregard for the rules and regulations that flow from the capital. I don't want to paint too rosy a picture, there are inconveniences: our town hall is rarely open, all officials seem to be on a very part-time basis, and so we've had an awful time obtaining an address. But I'd gladly take the difficulties of a small town with it's tiny government in exchange for the freedom to do as I like on my land.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"When you go to bed, don't leave bread or milk
on the table: it attracts the dead."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

These past few weeks have been so full of undesireable tasks that take us out from our land, and run us 'round in traffic and crowds. I have a longing to quit my job and cloister myself away in my woods, where I can hear the rain on the roof and light footfalls in the trees.

There is something about the roundness of our yurt that gives the building an sense of pagan sanctity. As though the spiritual edges blur a bit in this space, and things that would generally be driven into the dark corners of a modern home can come out into the open. I feel as though I ought to leave bread and milk out for them: the fairies and the dead, to welcome them in under the wide eyes of our Icons, baptize them and give them a space to be.

My dreams have been vivid since moving. I recently dreamt I met the "dead I feared," they laughed at my fears and befriended me. Primarily, a young dark-haired man who hovered in covered spaces, where low branches made an overhang. Strange dreams for strange, moonless nights, I'm grateful to our dear Maty Bozha for her watchful eyes that see even in the darkness.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still."
Henry David Thoreau

I have been neglectful. But I have excuses, primarily The Great Move, from apartment to yurt, city to country, electricity to primative. We have taken our giant step off the grid and onto our own piece of earth. The move has made us busy with many projects, and these projects are essential. We have a road to improve, an outhouse to cover, a library to build, and a garden to grow. But our projects are easy: we are in love with our new life, and love gives everything a rosy glow - even the horse-flies are a rose-colored nuisance.

One of the great blessings of this new life is a renewal of the sense of poetry in daily life. We were being drained by apartment living, and the move to the woods has reconnected us with the magic of the natural world. It is a blessing to be in the quiet.

Friday, June 11, 2010

"If a man settles in a certain place and does not bring forth the fruit of that place, the place itself casts him out"

Our landlord has been cast out by the little lot he's purchased. In the year since his arrival, we've watched the lilacs wither away, the apple tree - whose blossoms once overwhelmed the side-yard - has barely any flowers, and the roses rot on the bush. Since his arrival, the domovoi has taken the throwing things and run up and down the stairs. He sets of smoke-detectors and flings clothes from the landlord's line.

I wonder if, in part, the house has cast him out because it knows it is onnly his second choice. The house he wanted sits across the street, still for sale, and priced just out of reach. How miserable it must be to be a second-best!

I'm looking forward to leaving, and I wonder if our blessing of the lower level will carry one after we leave. Do blessings of space linger forever, or do they fade? I think and hope it will linger, the new couple moving in are sweet, I'd hate for them to have to deal with a frustrated spirit full on.

It amazes me how many Catholics don't believe in spirits, or ghosts, or hauntings of any kind. How can we not? We who see the magic of creation. How can we put a limit on God's magic and imagination?

These aren't rhetorical questions - I really do hope someone answers!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"A good painting has always been to me like a friend. It keeps me company, comforts, and inspires."
~Hedy Lamarr

My life had for a while fallen out of it's creative stride. The days became repetitive: work, pack, plan, work.. and my art fell off, gathering dust amongst the boxes of things to be brought or left. Change, at least permanent change has always been something that throws me off-balance. I love travelling and wandering, I'm comfortable in wandering and uncertainties, but permanence is distressing. If I were less in love with our new land, I would balk at it all, as it is, I'm so wrapped up in planning that I manage to get very little done.

Tonight I refreshed my motivation. It's a rainy night and we listened to the wet outdoors while pouring over plans for things that must be done this weekend. Things that my husband is already accomplishing. We had roses blossoming beneath the Blessed Virgin again, and incense burning, and good white wine. Tomorrow I have a truck to test - drive, and books to pack away, pots to throw, and I'm thrilled to jump back into certainty again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of it's inconcievable mystery."
~Joseph Conrad

This week I began packing for our move out of the apartment. I am only packing a little, we still have two months of living there, and I know from previous experience that I have a tendency to pack early and then unpack, messily, the many things I forgot to leave out. I do have 5 boxes of books packed for the move, and 1 box of books that will not be making the move with us. Some of the latter are duplicates, most are disappointments. Their box sits on the bookshelf that will also not be moving with us, looking lonely and rejected.

Our apartment spirit seems to be feeling the rejection as well, his antics have increased somewhat. I'm excited to leave him behind as well this summer, with the ugly bookshelf, the old washer, and the disappointing books. The apartment spirit is weak - though he seems more competent outside in the hallways and the upper levels of the house. He came with the new landlord and keeps the whole house about 10 - 20 degrees cooler than the outside. Occasionally he throws things in the bathroom, hides keys, lighters, and cameras, and recently he's taken to harassing the hallway fire-alarm.

Fortunately for us, my husband and I had the apartment blessed when we moved in, and our apartment has stood up reasonable well to our little demon's attachment. We've had only one, brief experience of feeling a "presence" in a distinct and disturbing way; though I wonder if our unhappy spirit may be contributing to the landlord's nervous condition, maybe he's had more encounters.

I'm not really certain whether our spirit is a discontent Domowoj, expressing his dissatisfaction with the new homeowner, or a demon who has attached himself to either our new landlord or the house, but I will be happy to leave him and his tricks behind us at the end of June.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"It is the responsibility of writers to listen to gossip and pass it on. It is the way all storytellers learn about life."
~Grace Paley

One of the benefits of working a side job as a writer is the constant exposure to people and their stories. My co-workers are people I'm not likely to meet outside of work, our lives run in such different directions, and business is so slow, that the workplace has become a "safe place" for many of them to gossip, share stories, and complain in ways that might be awkward among friends.

It's interesting how comforting distance can be. I've met people on buses, at shops, and at work who will gladly unburden their souls to a complete stranger - relationship advice is the most common. I've had older business women confess to affairs, a college-aged co-worker admit to a sudden, and short-lived marriage, a drug-dealer gush about his beloved pet rabbit, and a bus driver discuss his neighbor's infidelities. When we don't know the person personally, it's easy to view them as we view the priest in the confessional: symbolic, representational, standing in for the people we really need to speak to.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Coffee and tobacco are complete repose." -Turkish Proverb

There is something so deliciously indulgent about sitting down to sip coffee in the morning. Tea has a similar effect, but only in the late afternoon, and it's less indulgent - more contemplative. Morning coffee is indulgent. I'm sipping at a tiny cafe. The coffee is not so good as my home cup, but the novelty is more than enough to improve it. I'm sitting in front of a big window, watching the street. It's not a pretty view, but I can see across the street to where a man is smoking in a downstairs apartment - he looks as relaxed and comfortable as I feel, chatting with a woman on a wooden chair and taking long, slow drags. It's an ugly, grey apartment building, his porch is sloping dangerously away from the door, but I think my happy man has found his little bit of paradise. I wish him all the best.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"I find myself in a world where everybody has his compartment, puts you in yours, shuts the door and departs."

~Flannery O' Connor

I'm always surprised when people I know begin to describe my husband to me: "He's such a hippie." "He's so conservative." "So clever!" "Oh, he's just a laborer." Each time, it reminds me how very comfortable we all are with compartmentalizing the people around us, and how limiting those compartments are. When folks meet him at Liturgy, they often assume that he is an extreme traditionalists, because we attend the Old Latin Mass instead of the Novus Ordo. But when they discover that we chose not to support Wal-mart, and other companies that fail to respect the dignity of the person there is confusion: liberals do that, but liberals don't go to Latin Mass.

Compatmentalizing people causes problems. Sometimes when people discover that my husband and I are not what they thought, they distance themselves. They realize that we don't fit in the compartments they've made for us, because we're people who strive to live in imitation of Christ, not in imitation of the common image of "American Catholic," and then the walls come up. In can be frustrating and it can be isolating at times, but it's something that everyone must do at times if they are ever to be truly themselves. Nobody can fit and grow and thrive when they are have been put in a compartment and the door has been shut.

Begining to understand the attitude behind this compartmentalizing has helped me to recognize when I do the same thing to other people. Without intending to, I make assumptions without allowing myself to know the true person. Part of truly living, though is realizing and actively correcting this habit, which I'm only able to do when I allow myself to see people as they are and as they strive to be.

Blessings and joy to all.

Prawdziwie zmartwychwstal!

Monday, April 19, 2010

"The religious sense seems to be bred out of [modern people]...And it's bred out of them double quick now by religious substitutes for religion."
~Flannery O' Connor

I've just read that Maine ranked third for "most secular state" in a gallup poll on American religious views. It's something that isn't surprising in any way - though it is disappointing and sad. Yet at the same time the news is very hopeful.

It's hopeful because the practicing Catholics we meet here are often the least "Catholic" in their "religious sense." As far as theology goes, they can be more-or-less orthodox, but in their worldview, in their sense of mystery and sacramentality, many Catholics tend to be down-right secular; whereas the "secular", non-religious types are often more able to see the magic of God at work in the world. This, I'm certain, is in many ways the fault of a New England "puritan" approach to Catholicism that, for example, admires and studies the saints, without attempting to know them personnally. It's a business-style Catholicism that leaves those who are truly searching for an intimate relationship with the Creator feeling as though they don't belong.

While I don't understand how one can be Catholic without falling into the delightful world of mystery and magic, I do understand how one can immerse himself in mystery and still miss the Church - at least for a little while, and especially when the Church as he sees her represented lacks any awareness of her own powerful presence. I'm certain that when we Catholics in Maine stop thinking of the Church as a corporate and political entity and learn to live again as the Body of Christ, the beauty of the Catholic imagination will attract those who have learned elsewhere to see the world with eyes of wonder.
I am considering a new tattoo - though not the one shown below. My husband designed that for himself, though he hasn't decided whether or not to get it yet. The tattoo I'm considering would be words, on my arm, I think. And I am almost decided.

I like to see my body as a canvas, not to be covered over, and overwhelmed by artwork, but to be an artistic home for a few, well-chosen additions. I love thhe process of designing and reworking those designs, I love seeing the finished product and sharing it with those around me.

It's spring! And the whole world is bursting into bloom!
Enjoy the images - and my husband's photography - of beautiful green, growing things!

"Abstract Art: A product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled
to the utterly bewildered."
Albert Camus

This morning I was able to enjoy my breakfast in the sun-lit front room for the first time in days. The rainy, grey days have passed, and the air is warming up again. We've been going through our things and weeding out the excess, ugly, or broken things that have been clogging up our apartment. It's the first step of the moving process, and we're excited to begin.

On paper, and in our heads, we have already built and designed our yurt. It is thrilling to design and create a home that is pure art - a place of beauty surrounded by our own secluding trees, garden, and stream. It amazes me that more people don't long to live out of the cities and amoung the trees.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them."

Henry David Thoreau

I am very excited about our upcoming move to the country. We are now in the process of shopping for a yurt to put on our property. The yurt will be our home for at least a few years, while we slowly build our dream home from straw-bales and timber. Yurts are lovely round, cozy tents developed for the nomads of mongolia. While we will not be living the nomadic life, the style of our new home soothes me, and gives me a connection to that way of living - which is my ideal.

Thankfully, our new land is big enough, and full of trees, so that I can wander daily on my property and not feel hemmed in. Our property is surrounded by the undeveloped property of others, and on only one border can we see a neighbors house. It is a piece of land where I can feel free.

Friday, April 9, 2010

"People seldom do what they believe in.
They do what is convenient, then repent."

Bob Dylan

I've been frustrated with the disconnection we have (I include myself) between what we believe and how we live. We believe in Truth, in Beauty, in Goodness, but we live for lesser things and no amount of arguing will convince us otherwise.

I am very good a repentance, and no good at all at living out my convictions. At least not for long periods of time. There is just something about a To Do list of good intentions that inspires me to curl up in bed and sleep the day away.

Thankfully, there is repentance. I'm grateful for a good Lent, and now that Easter has arrived, and brought along Springtime, I'm slowly putting my house in order. We are preparing to move, and so many things are being discarded, projects are being completed, and soon we will pack up all our worldly goods and be on our way to a place where the nights are quieter and Mondays don't smell like old trash.

Wesolego Alleluja!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"How does it become a man to behave towards this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it."
~Henry David Thoreau

Mine is not a political blog, others follow the mood-swings of Washington far better than I, but I do want to write a bit on the recent historic decision to force health care onto the American people. "Forcing health care" itself doesn't sound so very bad. Health care is very good when someone is sick, and the "issue of health care" has been harrassing the nation for a long while. But forcing health care on the citizens of the state is like forcing vegetables on an adult - you may have the best intentions, but you are making an ass out of yourself and insulting you guest, who is quite capable of seeing to his own diet. The state goes beyond this insult, by not only insisting on health-care, but also insisting that the people pay for the health-care they don't want.

I'm not incredible informed politically, but I know enough to see that Washington is taking all my decisions out of my own hands, and I resent the intrusion. Washington insists I have health-care, whether I choose to or not. It will decide how best to keep me healthy and it will pay for it with money taken from me. Is there no where I can hide from the greedy arm of the state?

Our nation has lost it's regard for the individual. Looking at man it sees only a crowd of ingnorance with no individual dignity. The state treats man as a greedy child to be cared for, directed, and punished; and man allows himself to be degraded until he can't remember how to stand on his own two feet.

"I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose, if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen."
~Henry David Thoraeu

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Ready for godliness, O namesake of preparedness, thou didst inherit as a dwelling a faith worthy of thy name. O prize-winning Paraskeva, thou dost pour forth healing and art interceding for our souls."

~Troparion of St. Paraskeva, tone 1

Friday belongs to Paraskeva, whose name refers to that day - the day of Christ's death. She is a Lenten saint, one who reminds us to hold to the fast in preperation for the coming of the Lord.

In old Eastern Catholic tradition, she was the saint of women, and the home. It was said she blessed those who kept her day by fasting or by abstaining from common "women's work" such as spinning, sewing, and weaving. Those who did not honor her day were punish by the neglected "Mother Friday" with damaged eyes or swollen fingers, which kept them from working until they repented.

While I am not too concerned that she will come to afflict my recently perfected eyes, I do keep her day with fasting. I'm attracted to St. Paraskeva, the common women's saint, who aids in daily life and keeps us focused on the coming Christ. She is the saint who gives generously in little things, like my own busia, who would scrub the stove while visiting, or make a huge pot of soups just to have avaliable. She is decidedly female saint as well - Blessed Mary is the Mother of all, but Paraskeva belongs especially to the women, it is on them she lavishes her attention.

Tomorrow her day falls on the Feast of St. Joseph, whom I love, and I will have to balance the fasting and the feasting. There is an evening liturgy though, which we will attend, and until the end of the Liturgy, I will keep Paraskeva's fast; afterwards, we will celebrate St. Joseph, who I'm sure won't mind a late supper in his honor.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"The Lenten spring has come. The flower of repentance begins to open."
~the Tridion

The Lenten spring certainly has come - at least for the week! It is warm and windy this morning, the air feels like late April and the heavy clouds promise spring rain. Tomorrow, we have been warned, may give us a foot of snow, but today is springtime.

I have been reading through the Byzantine prayerbook and enjoying the Church's obvious enjoyment of the Lenten season. We are constantly reminded that Lent is a time of "joyful sadness" and "bright mourning." Throughout Lent we "fast with joy" with the knowledge that Easter is on it's way, Christ will rise again to save us from our sins. It has been an encouragement to me in these middle weeks of Lent, when the novelty of the fast has passed and only the difficulty remains. It also helps me decide on how to observe celebrations within the season.

Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated his brithday, which took some creativity on our part to keep within the fast, without loosing the "party" spirit. We managed well, I think. I bought purple tulips to decorate the tables and altars, fresh fruit and champagne (fortunately his birthday fell on a day which allowed wine), gifts, cards, and - after careful search of menus - out to dinner. We have our anniversary to celebrate this Lent as well, which will be difficult to plan: it falls on a Monday, a day we can have neither oil nor wine; but we are looking forward to the challenge.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The second Sunday of Lent. At this point I'm begining to waver in my resolve - it happens every year. The excesses of Carnival have been forgotten and I'm starting to think longingly of Easter feasting. The next week and a half are ideal times for me to plan my Easter meal, if I wait too much longer, I'm completely in Lenten mode, and my Easter planning begins to look decidely penitential - not exactly festive.

I love this time of Lent, because it is such a challenge. The scents of meats and cheeses are so much stronger, and I begin to appreciate aromas in a way that is impossible during the year. The scent of heaven in these weeks is meatier than it ought to be.

These days are ideal for projects which otherwise might be interupted by meals - throwing, sewing, writing, and of course, deep cleaning. During Lent, my writing and reading take a serious turn and I try to infuse my reading and writing time with ritual and beauty. Tea is essential, partially because it is warm, soothing, and has lovely steam rising from the cup, and partially because it is the only thing I can consume on every day of Lent. With my cup in hand, my icon around me, a good pen, a good book, and good music, I feel almost sensually indulgent - even fasting.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"I believe in nights."

~Rainer Maria Rilke

For some reason, I love roaming the house while my husband is sleeping. I like the dark quiet around me, I like sipping tea and reading, or writing. I like cleaning best of all. When I clean at night, I know it will last til morning. I know the empty sink will greet me and the swept floors will welcome my feet. I know the spider living up under the cupboards will welcome the fresh Verbena scent and weave it into her late-night web. The spider only comes down from her tucked-away home at night. She's delicate and lovely. She weaves her webs while I clean, and I am alway careful of her work. A single spider seems to belong in the kitchen - many spiders in the kitchen is problematic - but one spider, essential.

This night I am getting my week in order. Tomorrow is the last day of Carnival, and I have to prepare for Lent. I am making peirogi to store, cutting fabric to cover our statues and images. I am changing the sheets and the tablecloth to purple as well, baking bread, and starting krupnik so that it will be ready for Easter.

In the stores, Easter candy has just replaced Valentine's chocolates. It never ceases to amaze me at how quickly we switch from one holiday to another - with no interest at all in the times between celebrations. How can we truly rejoice at Easter if we skip over the darkness and denial of Lent? Lent for me is a time of reflection and cleansing of body, mind, and soul. I enjoy throwing myself into the fasting. I enjoy the time of reflection, and of course, I enjoy decorating, and dressing for Lent. But enjoyment is only a part of it; through my reflection and cleansing, through fasting, prayer, and even through the Lenten theme in my home and clothing, I come out of Lent renewed, refreshed, and closer to my Lord. The season that prepares me to live out the Easter season well and joyfully.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"What fields are fragrant as your hands?
You feel how external fragrance stands
upon your stronger resistance.
Stars stand in images above.
Give me your mouth to soften love;
ah, your hair is all in idleness."

~Rainer Maria Rilke

St. Valentine's Day is on its way! This year it is on Sunday, and outside of Lent, so we want to enjoy it fully. I am still without a gift for my beloved, but I am close to done choosing what to do for him, which is most of the struggle.

We have been missing out on the storms that have buried our neighbors to the south. I miss the snow, this not-quite springtime thaw is warm and bright, but it has none of the cozy winter feeling I like so much, and over all my enjoyment of the warmth is the constant threat of bitter cold coming again. It is only February after all.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Love's most intimate union
is through eating, tasting, and seeing interiorly"

Today is an absolutely lovely day. The sun is shining down and warming the whole world - at least, it feels that way. I am walking about with no coat on - only a sweater - and no hat. The sun comes in the windows of this little cafe I'm in and warms the table. I love the sun! This false February spring should have me longing for summer days and dreading the cold I know is coming, but I can't think beyond the warmth of today, I can't really think at all with this lovely light on my back.

I bought beautiful black boots today, thanks to my dear Matka, they are ideal. I did very little else but walk in the sun and smile, order glazes, and discuss with aquaintences whether or not eating ought to be seen as a spiritual act. It is, of course. Our Pope reminds us in "God with Us" that all our meals are "alive with the goodness of God;" that all meals point toward the supreme Meal, the Eucharist. That we are more than simply bodies in possession of souls, we are creatures of both worlds, and our spiritual life must exist in the physical aspects of day to day life, if it is to exist at all.

As Lent comes closer, I am thinking more and more on the relationship between our food and our spirituality. I always look forward to Lent, and each year I hope for the best possible Fast and preperation. We still have a couple weeks before it begins, I have no intention of "jumping the gun" but I do enjoy planning for the Fast. The Church does as well; this past Sunday, and the coming Sundays are for the purpose of preparation: Septuagesima, Sextuagesima, Quinquagesima Sundays ease us into the Lenten season. They remind me that now is the time for purple skirts and scarves at Mass, and now is the time to find purple and black fabric to drap over my statues. Now is the time to begin planning my fast.
Book List:
I'm reading Holy Feast and Holy Fast again, somewhat in preperation for Lent, there are so many beautiful bits of writing from Saints and mystics collected in that book! I'm also re-reading Rainer Maria Rilke in abundance. His poems never get old or dull for me. At Christmas I was given the book Dakota, by Kathleen Norris. I finished it on the plane home and have been returning to it often as well. Kathleen Norris "gets" the Catholic imagination in a way that has been lost to too many actual Catholics, I love her writing, her sense of beauty, and sense of the sacred, her love of the natural world and her respect and love for the cloister.

I'm not reading anything new at the moment, any recommendations?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"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 equipose-"

Our snow has melted - for the most part - in the recent rain. The whole world is soggy and grey. But in my little home, flowers are in bloom on the table, the walls are warm with books and colors, the Icons are keeping watch from their homes. I love the in-between days, when Christmas has gone and Lent is still on it's way.

I have been reading more in these days, and my reading has been so varied - the very good and the very bad, and the mediocre. I am bringing Feast of Faith to adoration to read with Christ, and enjoying it anew. So much of what I read there makes me love our pope even more, especially his dedication to beauty:

"The Church is to transform, improve, "humanize" the world - but how can she do that
if at the same time she turns her back on beauty, which is so closely allied to love?"

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've also read Wild at Heart. Which is awful, not only because of the writing style but also because of the silly man's ideas of God and man. My husband and I read much of this book aloud, laughing at the author's desperate attempts to project his own insecurities on all men, and even on God Himself, who is apparently, "a person who takes immense risks."

Now I am going to light incense for my saints, put handles on my mugs, and set some bread to rise...or maybe make muffins.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawm before the rest of the world."

Oscar Wilde

I feel as though I'm waking up. This past Christmas has overflowed into the common season in work and celebrations, snowstorms, and other distractions. I've fallen into the distractions, none of my time has been my own, except late at night - dreaming vividly.

But the days are slowing down now, all lives are falling back into their pattern and I am able too look around again and really see my neglected books, and pots, and floors, and writing.

Today I am lightly cleaning my home, making it pleasant, warm, and welcoming. Afterwards, I am creating my ritual in my days again. One that prepares for Lent in both the celebratory and the self-disciplinary way. It is still January - still the month of resolutions and new beginings. I am begining this new year awake and alive.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess."
~Oscar Wilde

We are starting the year out in a good direction: excessive enthusiasm.

I love the planning of things and the arranging of things, and this month we are planning and arranging to my hearts content. My primary focus this month will be cleansing; cleansing my home and my body, as well as the cleansing and arranging of our budget and my wardrobe. Cleansing is best done as a whole - because then life is not broken up, it is holistic, harmonious.

We began work on the house as soon as we returned from visiting my rodzina for Christmas. Christmas itself always encourages me to clean out the old things I've accumulated to make way for the new, and to greet the new season. We took boxes to Goodwill and boxes to the curb, we feel freer now, with less to tie us down.

Blessed Christmas!
"There is neither heaven nor earth, only snow falling incessantly."

We have been enjoying snow for at least three days, and expect to be enjoying more for at least another two days. It is ideal for midnight walks, sipping tea by the window, and lazy mornings in bed. It is an ideal excuse to stay home.
I love watching the snow cover over all the ugly city streets, with their mud and trash, and disappointed people. It feels like this new year has begun with fresh hope - making all things new and beautiful.
I like to walk in our neighborhood again, the people who were so cold are friendly now, they're laughing at the snow, and with me as I stumble along through the drifts.