Monthly Archives: July 2016

Doing the prep work for being utterly useless.

our lake

I’m going to the mountains next week. My daughter Pearl and granddaughter Maggie and I are driving up to our cabin at the lake, where we will have multi-generational Girl Time and Mountain Time. We’re off the grid up there in the High Sierra, and away from stores, so we have to bring everything we need…

I have never been the one to load a car rack before, and now I need to know how. So I’ve been watching YouTube videos and practicing tying knots, both on a contraption I rigged up with chairs and boxes next to the computer, and on my car itself. I think I am prepared… I know I am pleased with myself that I could learn this knot, because beyond knowing my right from my left pretty well, I am not gifted or intuitive when it comes to visualizing and remembering spatial arrangements.

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guys using knots at the cabin in 2013

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One thing that added to the fun aspect of my project was running across this music video that doesn’t purport to teach the knot that the singer and I both required, but does capture the emotional tone of my own efforts and made me laugh out loud — and want to dance.

The other fun thing was that after my practice sessions with the old rope, my hands smelled as though I had been camping. 🙂

I have so much to do to get ready, I don’t really have the time to write a blog post about it, but I can’t help myself – and now you know why I’ll be away from Blogland, gone to a place where time will be in abundance. I will probably write, but on paper in notebooks. And we will all sit on the deck reading, I’m sure of that. So I’ll just leave you with a nice quote from Philip Connors, and hope to see you here again next week.

“The greatest gift of life on the mountain is time. Time to think or not think, read or not read, scribble or not scribble — to sleep and cook and walk in the woods, to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills. I produce nothing but words; I consume nothing but food, a little propane, a little firewood. By being utterly useless in the calculations of the culture at large I become useful, at last, to myself.”


I taste morsels of all that He is.

This morning I was able to attend Divine Liturgy for a special parish commemoration. Everything about the service spoke of Christ, gave us Christ, but what I heard in the homily in particular is pertinent to what I had already wanted to write here today.christ good shepherd lg

Our human nature is good, our rector reminded us, but we have a virus called sin and death that has made us all very sick. Christ in His love took on our human nature in the Incarnation, and walked among us showing us what human life was intended to be, teaching us about the Father, and about Himself.

Then He “became sin” and defeated death, and gives us His own Life to live by. Those are the bare and necessarily dry bones of that part of the homily, and of the living Word Who was lovingly expressed in hymns and prayers and communed in bread and wine.

At home, I’ve been reading the Gospel of John. It might as well be for the first time, I am that surprised by the immediacy of it. I felt that in my heart and psyche I became the Samaritan woman, rejoicing with tears when she caught on to Who was talking to her, and her life was transformed. She had encountered God, and left behind not only her water pot, but all that was rotten and decaying of her old life.

When He Who holds the cosmos together was mocked and spat upon, I was aghast. As I read the words of Jesus clearly explaining how He had come from the Father and was the Bread of Life, I couldn’t see how anyone could read this book and not come to faith. But of course — we all have that virus, to a greater or lesser degree. It causes blindness, it makes us distracted, and dull of mind or heart. I have read these words of Christ many times and I assented in my mind, I have clung to the truth of the Gospel, but was never struck so deeply before. Certainly I hadn’t done anything to make this happen; it was a gift.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,  (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. -John 1:14

At the same time I am reading On the Invocation of the Name of Jesus, by Lev Gillet, on prayer, and have been greatly helped by the author’s gentle exhortations. It is all about God With Us. Because Jesus wasn’t only here on earth for three years, changing the lives of people He met face-to-face, but by the Holy Spirit He is present with anyone who prays. Here is an excerpt:

Jesus Himself is the supreme satisfaction of all men’s needs. And He is that now, as we pray. Let us not regard our prayer in relation to fulfillment in the future, but in relation to fulfillment in Jesus now. He is more than the giver of what we and others need. He is also the gift. He is both giver and gift, containing in Himself all good things.christ pantokrator st catherines 16th cent

If I hunger he is my food. If am cold he is my warmth. If I am ill he is my health. If I am persecuted he is my deliverance. If I am impure he becomes my purity. He “is made unto us…righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.” (I Cor. 1:30) This is quite another thing than if he had merely given them to us. Now we may find in his name all that he is. Therefore the Name of Jesus, in so far as it links us with Jesus Himself, is already a mystery of salvation.

Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. -Romans 10:13

Amen, Lord Jesus!

cool panna cotta with blueberries

I’ve made the Italian pudding called panna cotta several times now. It is a wonderfully refreshing and easy dessert for summer especially, so clean and cool — especially if you include yogurt or buttermilk, and not too much sweetening. If you haven’t made it before, this page, Why Panna Cotta is the Perfect Dessert, is a good place to start; the author shows how versatile it can be, how you can even make it dairy-free and vegan, though the traditional recipe calls for milk or cream, and gelatin.

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My good friend Ruth came for lunch yesterday and I made panna cotta for our dessert, the Rosewater Panna Cotta with Blueberries from the same site. I doubled the amount of rose water and blueberries. (Unfortunately I took the picture before I put the sprig of mint on the puddings.) If you are interested in the other recipe I made in the past, with buttermilk and an apricot compote with candied fennel seeds ! , it is from Bon Appetit. It was yummy, too, but of course the toppings took much longer to prepare than rinsing some blueberries. I remember thinking that the buttermilk panna cotta all by itself was perfect and needed no dressing up anyway.

I had been hoping that Ruth and I could eat in the garden, with olive trees and yarrow waving in the breeze by our table…. but it was 97° out there, so we opted for the house, almost 20 degrees cooler. We let the sound of the fountain come in through the screen door; I think the birds were having their siesta. The heat crept in, too, but not too fast, and just enough for us to appreciate our lightweight dessert, perfect for an otherwise wilting afternoon.

If you have ever made panna cotta, will you share your favorite recipe with me?

Sunflowers shine on my garden.

gl dragonfly 2 by JR 5-31-16

So many flowers are growing in my garden that I haven’t ever grown before, or not for a long time. The Kangaroo Paws are ever-changing and fascinating.  One of the three plants sent up a flower stalk months ago, and the blooms are opening now. I didn’t know that these little rising-sun flowers that have popped out were even part of the deal.

In May Mrs. Bread took this photo of a dragonfly who flew right to that plant that matched his own color. He knew, even though the buds were small then. >>>gl P1040891 k paws 7-25-16gl P1040891 k paws closegl P1040894 k paws





When I was in Monterey, on California’s Central Coast, I saw lots of Kangaroo Paws in different colors. Some plants were seven feet high.

Maybe next year all three of mine will bloom at the same time!


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I bought a bale of rice straw with which to mulch the vegetables and strawberries, and I did get the job done just before the heat wave rolled in. While I was pulling hay out of the bale I was swept back to my childhood when we used to play in the hay barns at the neighbor’s horse ranch. I had completely forgotten about what was a fairly brief, but special year or two of my life, but that hay smell….

My everbearing type of strawberry plants are producing their second crop, and I’m getting more than in their first fruiting. Every other day or so I pick a few to eat in the garden. I’m enjoying them more than I expected, now that they are responding to the summer weather and being healthier.

gl berries P1040889While most plants are growing taller, the fennel is getting fat. I’m growing the bulbs to roast as vegetables. It must be time to pick them, because flowers are beginning to form on the feathery tops.

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Chamomile flowers are cute little skirted pom-poms. This is the German variety, which is said to grow to 2 ft., but mine is 27″ high 🙂 The short Roman kind is on the other side of the garden, covered now with tiny yellow buttons, and no skirts.






When I bought plants in the spring, for some reason I thought I was getting an orangey-brown variety of sunflower, but my giant specimens are lemon-yellow, and I do love them. They are nearly 8 ft. tall, and would be all of that, if they held their heads up just a tad straighter. But then they wouldn’t look quite right.

The goldfinches have been hanging around a lot. This morning six goldfinches and one house finch were having a drinking party at my fountain, and taking baths, too, while I sat in the garden eating breakfast. Later on I surprised one that was pecking at a sunflower leaf, and last week as I was walking around in the evening I came upon a goldfinch perched quietly on a bachelor’s button, enjoying the air a bit before retiring.

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I wonder if it was birds who ate my green beans…. Well, I consider everything experimental this year. It will be interesting to see which things want to come back next spring. In the meantime, I have learned how not to plant tomatoes in a box, and that if aphids show up on my kale, I better wash them off quickly. The sunflowers are trying to convince me — and so far it’s working — that they are a P1040874

If we would all break out into such glory when the summer sun shines!