All posts by GretchenJoanna

About GretchenJoanna

Orthodox Christian, widowed in 2015; mother, grandmother. Love to read, garden, cook, write letters and a hundred other home-making activities.

What I was given on my Home Day.

Today was my Slow/Stay at Home/R&R/Catch up Day. That sounds like a lot to expect of one day, especially when you stay up writing until the hands of the clock are telling you it has already become that day, and therefore you will start out short on sleep.

But what a blessing it turned out to be! The first gift was a phone call from my grandson and his wife, the parents of my great-granddaughter, and that was heartwarming. I loved talking about maternity care — what she got as well as cultural trends — with Izzie, who is bouncing back with the resilience of youth and those hormones a woman gets a good dose of in childbirth. The whole family and her mom were walking at a park when Roger decided to phone me and we had our satisfying visit.

And then a spell of plant identification. 🙂 Yes, and I didn’t even have to go out and discover the plant myself. My farmer friend from whom I buy lamb every year had posted a picture of flowers on Instagram, glad to see them in the pasture before the sheep ate them. She didn’t say their name so I assumed she didn’t know, but they were so pretty, I wanted to find out.

I asked Pippin’s help, but she didn’t know them, either, so I looked in the Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest guide, even though the authors don’t try to include my area of California in their book; I might still find a clue. And I did see one very similar, which was enough to take to the Internet and search with. I’m pasting the Wikipedia photo here, almost identical to the farmer’s, of downingia concolor or calicoflower, which is in the Campanulaceae Family. Aren’t they darling? I wonder if the sheep have eaten them by now…

Kasha, or roasted buckwheat groats, is one of my favorite things to eat on fast days. I like to cook a potful so that I have several servings on hand, but I had run out of that a couple of weeks ago. This package that was given to me by a friend is nearly used up now; it cooks up the way I like it and has the best flavor, so I think I will try to get this type from now on. I got to eat kasha for lunch, and stashed three containers in the fridge and freezer.

I had told myself that I would not read or write blogs today, since I did just do that last night, and because I wanted to catch up on one or two of the many other things that I’m behind on. Lately it’s become R&R just to wash the dishes, and when I was washing up my kasha pot I just kept going, and ended up spending a couple of hours on the kitchen. What took the longest was giving my stove top and range hood a thorough cleaning of the sort is hasn’t had for ages. After that experience, my hands told me they needed a manicure.

The sun came out — but not until 6:00 p.m. But after bending over my housework all that time, and feeling not rushed, the sunshine was all the encouragement I needed to get outside. I would just take the easiest stroll, no hurry.

Once I was in the neighborhood where I took pictures for my “Roses on My Path” series a long time ago that doesn’t feel that long ago (before my husband was even sick), I remembered that I wanted to go back to the house I called the Rose House back then, to find whether anything had changed.

I found it, and the display was more opulent than ever. This is the house where the roses do not appear to be cared for, though I continue to think they must be getting water from somewhere to make it through our rainless summers. All the roses on this post are from that house, and a link to the previous post might show up as one of the “related” posts below.

They still have the mailbox with stylistic roses painted on it, but now it is hidden deep under a broad spray of blooms hanging down. I think maybe that bush seems twice as tall as before because it has climbed into a tree behind it.

The profusion of flowers is probably a result of the rain of the last two years. The species are very special. I can’t tell you much about them, except that I find them exquisite, but many of my readers will know things just by looking. This time I noticed an identifying tag at the base of one bush that has the trunk of a tree. It was grown from a cutting taken in 2001; how long, I wonder, was the rose bush cared for before it was allowed to grow wild?

I feasted my eyes and my nose for quite a while, walking and gawking up and down and wishing I were in an official rose garden with a proper bench. I wanted to sit for a while to gaze at their loveliness, bursting out through the tangled canes and deadwood. Eventually there was nothing to do but go home. I felt thoroughly loved through those roses.

But when I got here I had to write after all, while it is yet today.
It’s one way I have of thanking God for all His wonderful gifts
that pour down even on — or is it especially on? — a slow day.

The grump showed up with snowballs.

From the ascent with our Savior through Holy Week, through the Crucifixion, to the peak of Paschal joy – from there the only direction for the emotions is down. The sun went away right after the high holy days, also, and the thermometer dropped as fast as our mood.

But we came to the second Tuesday after Pascha nevertheless, the day when I always love to go to one cemetery after another with my snowball (viburnum) flower petals and sing “Christ is risen” along with varying numbers of other Orthodox who keep this tradition around here. And today I thought I might just go to the first one on the route, where my husband is buried. It was another cloudy and cold morning, and for reasons I probably don’t even know the half of, I just wanted to stay in bed.

One reason I came after all was that this year, finally, we were invited in writing, in the bulletin or in an email or both, to bring a picnic and to eat together at the third cemetery when we had completed our rounds of the graves and prayers. I had planned what I would cook this morning and bring, and I didn’t want to miss being able to hang around the cemetery longer. (Is there an “afterglow” among the graves? Oh, yes!) Though I did wonder, “Why this year, for a picnic? This is not picnic weather!!” I looked at the forecast and they did say the sun might come out by noon…. Please, Lord!

It’s pathetic how long I argued with the day and with myself. I got up late, but in time to cook sausages and load a basket with bread and butter. In the garden I cut a bagful of snowballs and remembered to bring in some fresh little flowers for the icon that essentially shows the Incarnation of the One who has destroyed death by death. I was humming the resurrectional verses about that as I went about my work, and all these activities showed me that I was indeed alive, and not even half crippled.

Last week I read Earthly Possessions by Anne Tyler, which a friend had recommended and lent to me. You might say it’s about half-crippled, dysfunctional and alienated people. It reminded me of Flannery O’Connor except that the characters weren’t real or strange enough to convey their lostness. On the other hand, there was no hope of their finding or being found by God. Descriptions of scenes or people always included details of ugliness or brokenness, but never beauty on any level, outer or inner.

I thought a lot about the novel at the cemeteries today. The narrator Charlotte would have found lots of tackiness to describe, had she been with us. The old parts of the cemeteries are not kept up. I found pictures just now that I had taken of these resting places in the past, including the most neglected one, where Nina is buried.

Five years ago she sat in her wheelchair at the concrete curb that surrounds the graves of her husband and son while we were singing. Now her dear body has been in the ground next to them for three years, and the plastic flowers hanging on her makeshift grave marker have lost all their beauty. Some artificial flowers are truly lovely, but please! If you decorate a grave with them, don’t expect them to live forever.

When I was on my way to the third cemetery, the sun came out!

Below is another scene from five years ago: the rockrose at Father D’s grave in its glory. He founded a monastery in our town, and the nuns who live there always like to visit this spot in particular. Now the bush is quite dead, and I wonder if anyone will replace it….

I saw many things that Tyler’s Charlotte would not have told you about: poppies, and beautiful children, and  elderly people who came hobbling with their walkers and canes and patience to sing to the departed, those we know are included in that company of whom we are told, in St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians:

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

What a mystery! We know so little about those who have passed from this life. We entrust them to God, and we don’t stop loving them… I shared my bag of blossoms with the children in our group, some of whom are newly baptized and had never been to a cemetery before. I told them it was okay to scatter the petals on any of the graves; we may not know the souls who sleep there, but we can still honor them.

The little guy on the left is five years older than when I took this picture on a Radonitsa in the past, and today he was one of the children who helped toss white petals and red eggshells on the graves. Those decorations look very pretty together, by the way.

We enjoyed our picnic. I remembered the butter but forgot my loaf of bread on the kitchen counter. Several people had contributed to the feast that it turned out to be. It seems likely that from now on we will keep this tradition, and I will plan to bring chairs or a waterproof picnic cloth so more people can sit around longer. But our priest and deacon didn’t linger; they were headed to two more cemeteries!

I came home via the paint store, where I picked up several color swatches to help me with my remodeling. My inadequacy in the realms of color and design is probably one of the things getting me down lately. The man at the store said that if I bring in a flooring sample they can tell me what paint colors look good with it. That was very encouraging, but I still brought home a few paint colors to help me at the flooring store. Don’t worry – I know all of these don’t go together!

It’s easier for me in the garden; there, if the tones clash, you can remove a plant much more easily than repainting a whole room. My husband used to claim that all the colors of flowers look good with all the other colors. I don’t agree, so I guess I am not entirely lacking in color confidence.

Two of the blues that I like are called World Peace and Sacrifice. (Seems like that could be the beginning of a poem.) I don’t understand how it is that one of them supposedly complements the rust color named Copper Creek but the other one doesn’t. That’s just one of the things I’ll ask the nice man at the Kelly-Moore store next week.

When I finally came home I saw an article in my blog feed: “Ninety Percent of Orthodoxy is Just Showing Up.” That was very timely for me; I realized that blessing the graves required me showing up there at the cemetery. My mood didn’t matter at all, and I’m sure it would not have improved by not going. But tomorrow my plan is to stay home and do only homey things. I won’t argue with myself about that!

Miracles

Well — can you guess who this is?

This child brand-new to the world is my great-granddaughter.
Yes, you read that right, my great-granddaughter.

Bearing and raising children has been the sweetest part of my of my whole life. Frequently after you raise them they beget children, and typically one receives grandchildren and the joy of them without doing anything to accomplish it or deserve it. Now, one more remove from there, and suddenly I “have” a great-grandchild. That I should be able to say that she is in some sense mine is very humbling. It’s just a wonder.

Rolled up like a cat.

DON’T ALLOW THE LUCID MOMENT TO DISSOLVE

Don’t allow the lucid moment to dissolve
Let the radiant thought last in stillness
though the page is almost filled and the flame flickers
We haven’t risen yet to the level of ourselves
Knowledge grows slowly like a wisdom tooth
The stature of a man is still notched
high up on a white door
From far off, the joyful voice of a trumpet
and of a song rolled up like a cat
What passes doesn’t fall into a void
A stoker is still feeding coal into the fire
Don’t allow the lucid moment to dissolve
On a hard dry substance
you have to engrave the truth

-Adam Zagajewski
From Without End: New and Selected Poems.
Copyright © 2002

Translated by Renata Gorczynski