Friday, December 23, 2011

Vilija is what we call our dinner Christmas Eve. This year it’s a small affair, just the three of us, Luba, and Christ. I will have fought the good fight to keep the house clean, boiled and fried the pierogies, made kutia and fish on the stove. We will watch for the first star to rise, a second or two later than the night before. Vilija can be opulent or simple, this year we revel in the simplicity, the smallness, turning our eyes inward, toward the silence that welcomes the tiny Christ to nestle his head.

Blessed Nativity to all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Discussion: Ritual Silence

..with Jenna & Mr. Pond

Daily Ritual*

4am: Lamplight, coffee, writing
5:30am: Breakfast, coffee, nursing
6am: Angelus
7:30am: Housekeeping, check for eggs
Late morning: Attempt a nap, hope to write, coffee
Noon: Angelus, attempted lunch
Afternoon: Randomness, attempt a nap, sunlight fades, lamps are lit, soups and sauces simmer
Evening & Night: Tea, dinner, music, candles, baby to bed, vodka, writing

*days ritual is attempted: 5; days ritual is lived fully: 0

Like Jenna, a good day for me requires looking good, unlike Jenna, it doesn't usually include a shower. It does include make-up, clothing I like, and some coffee or tea. On draining days, very little in my rite is successful, on thrilling days, most is. Often the fault is mine. I love the rhythm of well lived days, I love refreshing myself with ritual time, but I have trouble with commitment. Too often I attempt a complete overhaul of my time, I spend a whole day at the cafe, I lounge in bed late into the morning, I let the coffee cool and the papers pile up. Ritual that doesn't arise naturally is a hinderance, I tell myself, and wait lazily for inspiration to strike.

But even with my daily failure to fully live the ideal, the ritual of the day my natural rhythm, given discipline, encouragement, and a good deal of patience. That is the necessity, I think, remembering to view time with a sense of humor, to remember that attempting to shape the day into beauty is a slow work of love.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reflections on Motherhood II: Solitude

“ I am too alone in the world
But not alone enough
To make each hour holy.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Solitude is enriching. My life here is rich in solitude, rich in the pursuit and nourishment of beauty, but when our daughter arrive this past summer, I realized that the time of aloneness I enjoyed while my husband worked would never be mine again, the silence of the trees is interrupted now by the happy chatter, and not-so-happy wailing of Petka, who eats up attention as quickly as she can get it, always hungry for more. With her around, I need to hunt for a purer solitude, finding it in late nights or early mornings, while she and my husband sleep, or days when I can disappear for a few hours. I find myself more appreciative of the time I do manage to carve out for silence and reflection, and I find myself loving the imperfect solitude, the inner silence in the face of the daily sounds.

I thought recently of the many desert fathers who, longing for a life alone with Christ, retreated to the wilderness only to find they’d been followed by scores of enthusiastic young monks in need of a spiritual father. No vocation is entirely as we imagine it to be. This morning I’m up at four, listening to the rain pounding and to the wind. It’s December, and I’m grateful that we still have rain instead of snow. I like to spend these early mornings letting the solitude wash over me, watching the gold on the icons flicker in the lamp-light, preparing to do something great with the coming day. Today, it will be dishes and shoring up the road if the rain lets up.

With Petka, there is still a partial solitude to the days. She’s here, present and demanding, but she isn’t an adult, her demands are different. She and I live the day together. I write, while she grabs at my pen. I sweep while she grips the broom handle, determined to help. We walk the land together, laughing at Luba’s antics, at the birds in the sky, at the wind in the trees. She reminds me to really see the world around me, as she sees everything for the first time - studying it all with her upper lip stuck out and her eyes wide. My times of true solitude are richer for it. My daughter, the student of life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Magic III

Christmas Eve is the night to remember dreams. Rosemary under your head and you will certainly dream of coming love, basil and you will see the path to take in the new year. But even herbless, the dreams of Christmas Eve foretell the year’s blessings and sorrows.

We live too far to walk to mass, but if you can walk any bit of the way to midnight mass, and are still waiting for love, listen for bells. Wherever they sound, bells foretell love to come, the closer they are the sooner your love will arrive. Faraway ringing could have you waiting another year or more. New clothes to Christmas Liturgy encourages prosperity, but take care your clothes aren't too nicely made, too perfect and well arranged, least you tempt death to take you before the new year starts.
Of all the days in the year, Christmas Eve tells the most of the year to come. Most of the signs are for unmarried girls, who can cut apples in half to count the seeds - five mean you will wait a bit longer, four and the wedding will come soon, but we all walk softly this day, to guiding the year as we would have it go and hoping God goes with us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sacred Circle

A discussion with Jenna and Mr. Pond

Jenna's post from this Monday could almost have been my own. Like her, my sacred space is my home, the little round hut in the woods where I spend my days sweeping and re sweeping the dirt that never stays outdoors. My home is a place without dark corners for little devils to hide; a place where the sun makes bright circles on the floor, where the rain drowns out all other sounds.

There are other sacred spaces, places memory or magic have hallowed - there is the cafe in Michigan where I spent hours watching people walk by, writing in little notebooks and dreaming of the future. There is the parish in Pennsylvania where I found my spiritual home and the parish in Detroit where I married my husband. There is the house with the dogwood I remember from childhood, there is the stream I bathe in on hot summer days, and the hidden paths that lead to secret glades. But my home is primary, because I work to make it so. I fight disorder daily.

I try to make our home a sacred space, a retreat, a little domestic sanctuary where we can thrive despite the world around us. And where we can gather strength to improve the world around us - to touch it with the beauty we nurture here, which is the duty of any sacred space - to reach beyond itself and alter, improve. To place a fingerprint or two of love on the wider world.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Magic II

At midnight on Christmas Eve, while many are at Mass, greeting the first hours of Christ's new birth, the animals open their mouths to praise the Lord. I have a hard time picturing Luba speaking any words that aren't sarcastic and condesending, she spends most of her days acting like a spoiled teenager, but on Christmas Eve, when she is given the gift of speech, if we are far away, I know she will spend the time speaking blessings.

It's easier to imagine dogs and horses singing the praises of Christ than it is to picture chickens raising their little thoughts from food and petty fights to the nativity. But legend says the animals speak on Christmas Eve at midnight - that for a few moments, the whole earth blesses the new Child.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Silence and the Wilderness

A discussion with Jenna and Mr. Pond

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

    ~Henry David Thoreau

Silence is hard to find. Even in the woods I will often turn around and find my silence gone. Without television and neighbors nearby, I often discover that the greatest enemy to my silence is myself. I can blame my husband, my daughter, my dog, or the demands of our social calendar, but I know the truth. There is time enough for the silence I need, too often I fill that time with the noise I don't need, the noise that drives out all peace and reflection.

I went to the woods to live deliberately, but the determination to live deliberately, to cultivate the sacred, often struggles against the temptation to "rest" in distraction for a while. Our world offers so many distractions, so many little noises that can break the internal silence and bury the individual in a crowded mass.

But, as Jenna says, this is the road I have taken to silence, it isn't everyone's road. It isn't even the road most can or should take. We are all individuals, the silence that soothes me, might fall short for another. The woods is not a home for everyone. Silence is necessary, but silence can be found internally, even in the city.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reflections on Motherhood I: Becoming

The downward push of blood and bone…

Mud and new grass
Pushing up…

Beginning the long good-bye.”
~Kathleen Norris

I'm am thinking now of the quickly passing months of pregnancy, when my daughter grew like a poem within me, wiggling, forming, and finally bursting into dawn; while the clouds cleared and the summer sun rose before her. Pregnancy was the time to meet her, to know and love her before seeing her face and feeling her tiny hands grasp.

For the three of us, my husband, my daughter, myself,  labor was not an isolated experience so much as it was the expansion of a relationship: prior to her birth, Yarrow was the quiet, hidden one - the child within, growing, loving, and learning in secret ways. After, we could see her wide eyes taking in, we wanted to wrap her up in love in a new, richer way; a way that can grow and expand as she grows, a way that can continually see her.

Labor, I felt as a shared experience. I felt my husband’s presence so completely in labor that I have trouble seeing it as solely a feminine experience - it felt so completely ours. I forgot he was not feeling and doing everything I was. In pregnancy and in labor, my husband belonged so naturally. With him beside me I could loose myself completely in the experience, I could let the physicality of birth overwhelm my mind, and greet my daughter with strength and confidence, knowing my body would bring forth her small one with all the grace of a storming summer night.

I loved the immersion. I love the warm water all around me, loved the full caul covering my daughter’s face as she met the world. Loved the rainy night and the bright new day that followed. I remember most the sense of roundness: the roundness of my full womb in the water, the roundness of her head leaving me, the roundness of life cycling. I remember the joy of loving, and the triumph of the new day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Magic

Everything depends on Christmas Eve. I like to wake early that morning especially to make sure my house is clean. If the yurt is clean on Christmas Eve, cleaning will be easier all year long, dirt won't stick and dust won't take over in the hidden places. Last year, my house was only superficially clean, and it has remained so all year, despite my efforts. This year will be different - I say it every year, and mean it every year, but living it is difficult.

I clean deeply the days leading up to the Eve, and work hard all day to make sure that the cleanliness stays. I think dirt works harder to creep in on Christmas Eve, so to have a home all year. Discord is the same. I work to avoid even minor unpleasantness, to keep it from our lives in the months to come. Christmas Eve is a day to live as we would like the year to go, full of love and freshness.

I have all of Advent now to prepare for the magic of Christmas Eve,  make it a day of goodness, to banish laziness and delay. I've begun with the Altar, where all the Saints give encouragement, and with luck will move along the walls, making my home ready for Christmas to work it's magic.