Cinders, saints, and a pillow.

Before I returned home from my travels,
a little rain had washed the ashes off much of my garden.

lemon balm with echeveria (hens & chicks)

I had turned off the fountain before my departure, and the rainwater that was left in the bowl had cinders at the bottom. It occurred to me that they might be bits of my goddaughter’s house that burned to the ground and released some of itself into the wind during the incineration.

Thank God, almost all of the northern California fires are contained. We no longer have smoke burning our eyes and lungs, and roads and neighborhoods have opened up daily, but thousands of people lost their homes and/or jobs and businesses and many are still looking for a place to live.

When we talk to our friends or even strangers, we start by finding out how they were affected. Everyone has stories of that morning of October 9th, and every day still I think of someone new that I need to check on with an email or text message.

 

dwarf pomegranate fruit

 

 

In the whole of California, a thousand firefighters are still on task, and at the peak of the season 11,000 were fighting. They came from as far away as New York, Florida and Australia, bless their souls. We’ve had 6400 fires in the state this season, which burned 556,000 acres, much more than last year.

But my neighborhood did not burn, and I haven’t seen the destruction close-up yet. I’m walking my creek paths as before.

I’ve also jumped back into parish life:

Last weekend I cooked our Sunday Agape Meal for 100 people. You might remember that I did this twice before as a memorial for my husband; this time it was not for any special occasion. It consisted of 10 gallons of meaty chili with lots of vegetables, served over squares of creamy polenta, with tossed green salad on the side; sour cream and fresh cilantro for garnish.

I had a few helpers to do prep work for me on Saturday, and a few others to help me serve Sunday after the service. This combination was a hit, so maybe I will do it again. Each time I’ve cooked like this has been a little easier, so maybe I can start doing it more often.

Sunday evening we held a Celebration of the Saints party for which children could dress up and tell the stories of the saint they were representing. We had crafts and a soup dinner and it was so low-key and relaxing, with none of the hype and over-stimulation that always makes me wince on behalf of the little ones. I was privileged to help a little boy named Marcus work out his idea for a needle-felted pumpkin with fried-egg eyes that morphed into even thicker stars.

When we communion bread bakers showed up for duty on Tuesday morning we soon realized it was the feast day of our patron saints! Saints Spryidon and Nikodim are communion bread bakers from way back who watch over our baking from their icon each week, but I don’t think I’ve ever had the honor of baking prosphora, the bread of offering, on their day. It was very special, and we arranged an informal photo-shoot for the occasion.

Icons and saints graced my day today, also, thanks to my housemate Kit. I think I told you she is moving back to Oregon from where she came two years ago to live with me and be a blessing. Before she takes her final load of stuff north in a few days she wanted to visit San Francisco once more, and invited me.

St. John

We visited Holy Virgin Cathedral and the relics of St. John Maximovitch, and also walked to the chapel and house where he lived, where one can sit in a little room with the icons and desk and chair that were his own, where he prayed. That my young friend and I could share this last holy experience together is just one more cord that binds us in the Holy Spirit.

We enjoyed just being in the city and not trying to accomplish too much. Visited the Wells Fargo History Museum which is wonderfully free and fascinating. Craned our necks to see the sky when walking downtown; and ate dim sum for the first time, with exquisite fried mochi sesame buns.

Driving in traffic to and in San Francisco is normally a trial, but today’s outing was relaxing and soul-nourishing. I drove and Kit navigated, and we were compatible sight-seers in every way. The next week will be just as busy as the last one has been, so I’ll be glad to sleep soon on the pillow of peace.

8 thoughts on “Cinders, saints, and a pillow.

  1. What a full spectrum post! Your return home, your garden, your thoughts and report on the people of the county, the baking and celebrating, and your journey with the lass from Oregon, each has its own fullness.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so glad the fires are contained, but so sorry for all the destruction they caused, and disruption of people’s lives…I have many friends in California and a sister and brother in law in San Francisco. Cooking a meal for 100 people is quite an undertaking, but such a worthwhile one. Does this happen often in your church, that one person is making the meal for so many? I am sure it makes your community feel very united!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was introduced to dim sum in San Francisco, too, and the memory of the little pork buns — Char Siu Bao — may tempt me into Houston’s Chinatown sooner rather than later.

    I read on the website of the Holy Virgin Cathedral that a collection was taken for St. Vladimir Church here in Houston, as well as victims of other disasters. So we help one another: some of my town’s volunteer fire department also traveled to California to help with your fires.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. GJ, this post was wonderful to read. In spite of the awful events of late, you seem to have deep peace and real joy in returning to your church and friends there. The description of the meal you shared with your church family – wonderful! I’d love to eat that! It’s so very important for the body of Christ to eat together, to cook for each other and give to each other in this way. With our modern American obsession with food ( very negative attitude, I think), it’s hard to get people to understand how precious an experience this is. Glad you are HOME. Sleep in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

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