Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quotidian Mystic: Sacred Time

continuing the discussion with Jenna and Mr. Pond

"Abba Poeman said concerning Abba Pior that everyday he made a new beginning."
    ~monastic saying

Early mornings are my favorite. When I’ve slept well, I like to be up before the sun, before my husband, before my daughter. I like to put the water on for coffee and the oatmeal on the stove, light a lamp, and write. In the daylight, writing is hard. I see the work around me - floors to sweep, dishes to wash and I am pulled away into the tasks of the day; predawn I see nothing but my work, and Our Lady under her glittering scarf, watching her candle while her Child prepares to suffer. These dark morning times of silence give the hours that follow a sacred taste.  Surrounding myself with true silence in the early hours, I am better able to carry with me an interior cloister in the busyness of the day - a reminder that all these mundane tasks - repeated again and again - weave around me the sacredness of time given in love.

When the silent morning is lost for some reason - when I can’t wake up or when Yashynka wakes with me full of need, I have to push to create the inner cloister, to walk in the quotidian with reverence. To see my sacred time in the ritual of cleaning, cooking, keeping the fire, and loving. Perhaps the afternoon will bring me my silence, and my ritual can live in hot tea and shortbread while Yarrow naps and clouds gather above. Perhaps, though, I will have to wait until the night comes, and write while my husband reads or sleeps, with a cup of vodka and the coyotes making my silence shudder from time to time. Perhaps there will be no outer silence and my sacred time will be simply the joy of a basket of eggs, a new-made bed, or my husband’s guitar in the soft-lit night.

As Jenna writes, sacred time for artists, for housewives, for each of us, involves an attempt to make each hour holy, and like her, my hours often fall short. I'm continually reminding myself that the sacred is often found in the mistakes and imperfections that make the hours our own. And, like Kathleen Norris, I often forget when faced with dirty dishes or muddy floors that "God is inviting me to play" with my time.  This Advent our discussions explore sacred time: solemn and playful; as we count the days till the Nativity.

Friday, November 25, 2011

St. Andrew's Eve

The feast of St. Andrew on the 30th usually marks the end of the Catholic year, and Andrzejki, or St. Andrew's Eve, is the night to peer forward into that new year, discovering what will be. On Andrzejki, unmarried girls can drip hot wax into a bowl of water and interpret the shapes to discover who they'll marry.  Any sort of divination, especially using water, are supposed to be more accurate on this night. I like to imagine St. Andrew sighing with resignation and maybe playing around a bit, to confuse the results and remind the eager fortune-tellers that life is not so easily plotted and planned.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Amulets and Talismans

Last November I  began to wrap myself in blessing whenever I stepped outside, keeping the evil eye away from my tiny daughter. I had never worried before, never thought much about the piercing power of evil intentions, but her hidden little body, her tiny helpless fists and blind little eyes brought to my mind the many ways for hurt to touch her.

Many people forget the evil-eye, ignore it, or assume for comforts-sake that it's merely an invention of older days - times when men feared the thunder and burned hunger in effigy. But the evil-eye - a glance of malevolence; a cursing glance - is just as common among a culture full of frustrated and isolated individuals, people who forget that the thoughts and wishes within them do affect the outer-world. Aware of the danger, I kept Christ close to me in the months before I met my daughter. Red on the wrist to distract the eye, peacock earrings to stare it down, and a small, hidden agnus dei as a final barrier. The agnus dei is an almost forgotten blessing: a lamb formed from blessed wax and wrapped in foil. A physical prayer, working it's magic slowly, and with love.

Is it superstition, my god-magic, or is it living faith: seeing the dangers and asking to be spared? I think a bit of both. We can rarely walk the line perfectly, often I fall on the superstitious side instead of the secular one, unwilling to ignore the shadows of life, for fear they'll thrive on neglect.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Christmas is coming...

....$2,200.00 at Anthropologie.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rain God

It's raining again tonight. The pattering against the roof has become too familiar - still soothing, but not pleasantly, more like a drug, making my mind dull and unresponsive. I would love for the next week to be bright and clear, and I'm tempted to fight for it.  Our house is full of blessed palms from the Triumphal Entry, collecting dust behind the icons, or woven into the lattice walls. I just need a few for the fire to drive away the storms; light a palm let it burn like incense up to heaven, to St. Elijah, whose firey chariot rides across the the sky, driving in the weather, and chasing it away.

When I light one, I will smell the dust burning, worn out prayers from the years gone by; the smoke curls, filling the with hope, while I listen to the falling rain. Tomorrow, I know, will be a bright new day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mythos: The Discussion

Mr Pond is right in calling me out for a tendency to absorb a variety of myths, blending them to create my own, personal mythos. I do this on a regular basis, we all do. Part of the nature of living myth is a certain fluidity, an ability to stretch and absorb similar surrounding myths. Does this mean we can make belief into a sample-platter of accepted and rejected beliefs? Not at all, mythology is still, as Mr. Pond so nicely put it, something which "grabs us round the throat and tells us the way the world is." Mythology's ability to alter, absorb, grow, and change is precisely why it can survive in a world that has, for the most part, turned it's back on the mysteries of daily life. Modern mythology may not feel as exciting, as fascinatingly other to us as the mythologies of old, but it does live and grow strong in our modern imaginations, woven in with the myths of old that have lasting power. All this blending is not the result of conscious picking and choosing on the part of the individual, but the of the individual being grabbed again and again by myths which meet each other, blend, and create a complete, living mythos.

This week, Jenna continues our slow, spiraling discussion, bringing our definitions gradually into sharper focus. Mythos is like mythology, only more so. She refers to it primarily as "the overarching story or stories that define and shape a culture." I like this definition - it defines, but with breathing room.  Here and now we are not a unified culture, and the stories that define and shape us vary wildly. What stories define and shape our cultures? What stories unify? I know that when I meet someone who knows my stories: the dangers lurking in the dark, the mysteries we play with, the reasons we bless our home, leave some vegetables in the garden, and keep at least one apple on the tree, I greet him as a long-lost friend - we share the same stories, dream the same dreams.

Jenna is right, our mythoi give us depth, they give meaning even to the lattes and long workdays, they give hope for the future and a sense of belonging in the present, without which we would all drown in the shallow things.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thoughts and Plans

My posting has been a bit sporadic recently. Yashynka has been much more interactive at the cafes, and has discovered the mouse, which makes everything difficult. But I'm working around it by typing at home and then just transferring posts when I'm online, which should free up more time for actual editing, something I'm never good at, even in the best circumstances. Looking forward, I'm planning a discussion post on mythos for Wednesday. Jenna has given a lovely, well-thought out response to Mr. Pond's reminder that mythology is not something to play with and sample, but something to fall into - something that demands from us a wholehearted response. On Friday I'm looking forward to delving into sacramental "magic", or the folk practices, superstitions, and daily magic that are attached to common sacramentals. I love these little mysteries, the practices that continually remind me that "with God all things are possible".

Also coming soon, I'm editing and re-editing my reflections on Motherhood, in the hopes of posting as a three-part series thoughts on birth, solitude, and boundaries.

Blessings to all & thanks for your patience,

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.