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.

The Thracian Filly

by Ivy

My direct experience with horses was mostly long ago when some of my childhood friends owned them and I rode a few times. My late husband and I might have gone on a ride once, too. 95% of what I know about the animals intellectually I learned learned just a few months ago, from the Flicka series of books by Mary O’Hara. I’d wanted to read them for more than thirty years, as I saw my children enjoying them one by one. Finally I was in the mood and our well-worn paperback copies were still on the shelf —  just the right size, too, for reading in bed at night until my eyes would begin to close.

Mary O’Hara

I’ve never read anything like them; I kept wondering who was O’Hara’s intended audience. I used to think they were young adult novels, but now I realize they aren’t. They feature plot threads of coming-of-age, and the young love between one boy and a girl who also loves horses was very sweet and believable. But the adults’ perspective on their children, and the drama of their marriage, seemed to me to be beyond the scope of what a young person would be interested in.

I was surprised at how much the books were about the animals, the wild horses that are the main business of the Wyoming ranch where the family lives and where the boys are expected to participate in the work and bear serious responsibility to a degree that is rare these days. When I read this ancient poem it took me back to O’Hara’s stories, and especially the intimate knowledge of horse behavior that she seems to have.

In the books, not all of the wild horses that the horse tamers deal with are ultimately harnessed and saddled like the one in Ivy’s drawing, and everyone in the ranch family appreciates and respects their free and spirited friskiness and is careful not to entirely kill it.

THE THRACIAN FILLY

Ah tell me why you turn and fly,
My little Thracian filly shy?
Why turn askance
That cruel glance,
And think that such a dunce am I?

O I am blest with ample wit
To fix the bridle and the bit,
And make thee bend
Each turning-end
In harness all the course of it.

But now ’tis yet the meadow free
And frisking it with merry glee;
The master yet
Has not been met
To mount the car and manage thee.

-Anakreon (582 – 485 BC) Greece
Translated by Walter Headlam

They tell me to be…

THEY TELL ME TO BE…

They tell me to be a star, shining brightly for everyone to see.
I tell them I am a brick in a wall, not easily spotted.
They tell me to be a written book, everything in life predictable.
I tell them I am blank pages, my life story always changing.
They tell me to be Atlas, holding the weight of the world on my shoulders.
I tell them I am an ant, strong but meager.
They tell me to be a bottle, holding in every emotion.
I tell them I am a door, opening only to those with my key.

-Thomas Robert Hamilton-Bruce (1846–1899)

Durham Castle – Pippin photo

 

Madonnas and their tears.

Icons of Mary with Christ seated on her lap are venerated in the sacramental churches of East and West, Orthodox and Catholic, and have their commemoration days just as saints do. I’m most familiar with the Orthodox tradition, and how these days are scattered liberally throughout our liturgical calendar. Today I was at Divine Liturgy in the morning, but we were remembering various other saints and events in my parish, and I didn’t notice until I was home again that today we also commemorate the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God.

I would never have foreseen, fifteen years ago, that I would have favorites among icons of this subject, but it happens; this version is possibly my favorite of all because for ten years or more it was the only one I had in my house. My humble print resembles this one:

Icon Reader tells us that “It is known as “directress” (in Greek Hodigitria) because the Mother of God is shown directing our gaze to Jesus Christ with her hand. This style predates the Smolensk icon, and is one of the original ‘types’ traced back in Church tradition to St Luke.”

The tradition is that the first icon thus depicting Mary and Jesus originated in Antioch, and went from there to Jerusalem, then Constantinople, where it remained until, “In 1046, Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos gave his daughter, Anna, in marriage to Prince Vsevolod Yaroslavich, the son of Yaroslav the Wise. He used this icon to bless her on her journey.” And there it stayed in Kievan Rus’.

Many, many versions have been painted based on this style, and even the Black Madonna of Czestochowa in Poland, in its less innovative versions, can be seen to contain the same elements:

It seems that Orthodox Christians in Ukraine and Belarus are also fond of the Black Madonna version of this icon, as well as sharing a love with Russians of the style generally. One of the icons in this article from 2014 is a Smolensk icon of Mary: “Weeping Icons of Ukraine and Russia.”

While Icon Reader has reservations about the meaning of these tears, he was able to affirm one clear word from the news reports that surely still stands:

“What is certain is [the] tears of the Mother of God
speak directly to the heart of every Orthodox believer,
calling all to repentance, amendment of life and return
to Orthodox faith and tradition in their fullness.”

A song from the suds.

A SONG FROM THE SUDS

Queen of my tub, I merrily sing,
While the white foam rises high,
And sturdily wash, and rinse, and wring,
And fasten the clothes to dry;
Then out in the free fresh air they swing,
Under the sunny sky.

I wish we could wash from our hearts and our souls
The stains of the week away,
And let water and air by their magic make
Ourselves as pure as they;
Then on the earth there would be indeed
A glorious washing day!

Along the path of a useful life
Will heart’s-ease ever bloom;
The busy mind has no time to think
Of sorrow, or care, or gloom;
And anxious thoughts may be swept away
As we busily wield a broom.

I am glad a task to me is given
To labor at day by day;
For it brings me health, and strength, and hope,
And I cheerfully learn to say-
“Head, you may think; heart, you may feel;
But hand, you shall work always!”

-Louisa May Alcott