Monthly Archives: November 2013

Beauty and Function – Rugs

On a day when some people are shopping early and late, we went to the countryside to celebrate our oldest grandson’s nineteenth birthday. Didn’t enter a store all day! But I do have a shopping story all ready to tell you:

The home-decorating saga of unhandy people continues.

Mr. Glad and I have more time lately, for home-improvement projects of all kinds, but we aren’t the sort to relish this sort of activity. I’d rather rummage through my sewing room clutter, or read blogs. My husband likes to practice on his drums. And when more responsible homeowners might be painting or sawing to improve their surroundings, we might be taking a walk to Starbucks to sip our caffeine and read poems for an hour.

But on the way home my mind might race ahead and arrive before us, to contemplate the physical realities of our house, and the danger that our procrastinations pose to our guests.

This monochromatic photograph may remind some of you of a time two years ago when I asked you dear readers for help with our entryway floor safety problem. I am embarrassed to say that we have taken this long to solve it, though not for not trying somewhat faintheartedly again and again.

We researched Amanda’s rug idea. We contacted several people about Mark’s wood inlay idea. I borrowed a dozen books from the library thinking I might stencil the floor myself. I lay in bed thinking how some lights such as Celeste suggested could be installed under the lip – thinking how at Christmastime it would be fun to switch them for colored lights!

All this time guests went on stumbling and occasionally going all the way down, as we envisioned broken legs or noggins and how ashamed we would be of our negligence if that happened. Recently, when we were waiting for one of the contractors to tell us exactly when he was coming to do the job that it turned out was too small for him to even use his good manners on, I applied zig-zags of thin red masking tape. We were expecting first-time guests and feared for their safety. The tape aged and cured while we came to realize that Something Else must be done.

Now we have a rug. I photographed it without vacuuming it first because my husband was watching a movie and I didn’t want to disturb him with the noise.

It’s not the most stylish rug, but it is the narrowest one we could find in a workable color. Perhaps someday someone will like to do something more artistic and permanent to this step, but for now we are just relieved to not have to think on it any longer.

[Update: I didn’t stop thinking about it after all, but kept noticing how that chocolate brown runner was too dark a mass of color drawing unnecessary and conscious attention to itself, so I bought a red version and am happier now. This picture including the red-toned rug next to the wood stove shows how things have become more coordinated.]

For some reason I put the most ho-humly functional rug at the beginning. The other solved-by-rugs situations include more beauty.

An expanse of wall that has been needing something for three years now has a rug to make the toy area of the living room more cozy. This is my view from the kitchen, of a wallscape that has warmed up considerably.

While I was rug shopping I decided to update and brighten up our entry with a new rug for the front door. I had to open the door to get enough light on my subject; that is a little piece of its blue exterior lower right.




Rugs are my new favorite artistic indulgence, and I’m enjoying all the time that has been freed up now that I’m not perusing decorating websites anymore. It’s a beautiful life.

We shake the monastery olives.

The nuns at a nearby monastery needed some help with their yard work. We didn’t know anything more specific, or that there would be some sadness involved, when Mr. Glad and I signed up to be on the crew for a Saturday work session. I had gardened here one spring day a couple of years ago and was looking forward to another chance to visit, this time doing fallish tasks.

What a bright and shining day it was, too, as we drove over the hill. Recent rains had washed all the earth and air, and high winds pretty much shook them out to dry. The humidity was only 10%.

When the head gardener Sister Xenia led our team of five to the clump of olive trees we saw that they were loaded with black fruit.

Then came the bad news: All of this harvest could not be used in any way, because it was infested with Mediterranean fruit flies. The trees needed to be stripped of olives, and the fruit that had fallen on the ground must be raked and swept up, and all of it taken to the dump.

In a month or two an arborist will prune the trees and some kind of spray will be used to inhibit the growth the the flies next spring. Whether there is hope of them being controlled in one year’s time I don’t know.

The olives were no good, not even the fat and shiny ones that were hanging on these lovely silvery trees with the light shimmering through.

So the men shook the trees and brought showers of fruit down on our heads. Mr. Glad climbed on the roof of a little house to reach higher branches of one tree, and then he climbed into the tree itself.

You can see olives on the ground in the shade.

Rosebushes that had grown leggy in the shade were snagging the guys when they were stretching up to shake and pick, so I ended up spending the first hour pruning the canes out of the way.

Bright orange fruit hung from the nearly bare branches of a Fuyu persimmon tree, the variety that is crunchy when ripe, and never puckery. At least this tree was healthy, and that was some consolation for the olive disaster.

We picked and pruned that tree, and Sister Xenia encouraged us to take some persimmons home, so I tucked a few into my gardening tote and am planning to use them like apples in baking.

Before we knew it, our work party was coming to an end, and we had been invited to eat the midday meal with the sisters.

Dining room all ready

But first there were prayers of the Sixth Hour, in the monastery chapel, and a few minutes of leisure for walking around the grounds.

I had been anticipating seeing the elegant koi again, and they did not disappoint. We found them gliding soundlessly in their long deep pond, swimming close for a few moments when I leaned over with my camera, until they sensed they weren’t getting any food from us. A father and son were visiting them too, and happily chatting in Russian.

The monastery has a nice set of bells under a shake roof, with benches to sit on when the bells aren’t being rung. They were used to announce the hour of prayer, but for the call to dinner Sister Marguerite walked all around the property shaking a little hand bell to ring a daintier and less commanding message.

The small amount of work we did seemed a puny offering considering all that we received by spending a few hours at the monastery. We were well fed with the most delicious fasting meal I’ve ever had, and we went home with armfuls of persimmons, having soaked up quite a lot of love and peace.

Of course I want to go back soon.

delicious autumn recipe

The air was still cool, but the sun was already drawing the smells out of all the plants along the bike path when I walked along the creeks this morning. We had rain the last couple of days, so the leaves and grasses that have been drying to a crisp got washed and mixed into a good kind of stew.

My first impression, though, was auditory, the sound of ducks, and crows, and Canada geese, all commenting on the morning. Then a flash of silent white against the golden brown background, an egret, not squawking about anything, a quiet fisherman.

The paths are littered with piles of leaves, mostly brown now, like the live oak, which I was glad not to be sweeping off a patio. Their thorn-rimmed cups turn upside down and hold on to concrete surfaces for dear life. That last phrase will be my mnemonic from now on helping me to remember the name of at least one oak.

Mr. Glad wondered at my bringing home a redwood branch, when the tree behind us is dropping similar ones into our yard and pool every day and making hours of work for him to collect the prickly things. When you know you will have to retrieve each one from the bottom of the pool or the decking, it seems that the rich brown sprays are falling constantly, but the trees remain evergreen.

The little redwood cones is darling, isn’t it? Less than an inch.

I leaned over a bridge and breathed in the essences of a thousand bits of living things, carried in the air still moist from the rains, and stirred together by the breeze. The dominant herb in the mix was the wild fennel, fallen down heavy with water, dried brown and mildewed black, and in a tumbled mess with blackberry brambles and grasses and everything I don’t know the name of. The beauty that used to be visual is now distilled into heady scents.

It was reminiscent of an anisekuchen I have made at Christmastime, but the recipe for this nourishing treat includes a multitude of mysterious and essential ingredients. As I was whiffing my fill it seemed I would never want another bite of white-sugary anise cake or any kind of cake again — can’t I just run down to this creek bed and breathe? Oh, but it’s a seasonal dish, and you never know just how long it will be served. But come back tomorrow and something nice will be on the menu for sure!

Asian pear

Warm us up!

“Come unto Him and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed.” This line from a hymn at the close of Divine Liturgy this morning was being sung at the same time sunshine beaming through the window reflected off the floor and shined on me, blinding me for a few moments.

It was lovely to have a sunny morning for the beginning of our Nativity fast, and I was blessed to be free to participate. There weren’t many of us, so we fit easily into our little church, and the two women who were surprised to compose the whole choir did valiantly.

Our priest exhorted us to join together in zealousness, as the epistle reading from Colossians also conveyed to us the apostle’s prayer, that our hearts might “be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

And he reminded us that just as the body cannot exist without the head, nor the head without the body, so Christ and His Church always go together, and in this Advent period we are helped by our joint efforts in making use of the gifts of fasting and prayer, to prepare our hearts to receive, in about 40 days, the mystery of God With Us.

I want to remember, I want to live by the reality of the light of Christ shining in my soul. When the light from the created sun is so thin that it doesn’t have much effect on my earthly body, it’s still an encouraging sight and teaches me about intangible realities. Dear God, warm us all up!