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.

Listening in Poetry Month and beyond.

April is National Poetry Month, but also the whole month is full with Lent and Holy Week for us Orthodox. I have plans to combine poetry with repentance, but before I get into that here I want to share this podcast I recently became acquainted with, which might be a blessing to some of my readers. It comes from the CiRCE Institute, and David Kern reads the poems.

In the first few episodes I listened to, one of them was less than two minutes, during which time the selected poem was read three times. And two of the ones I heard were perfect for young children, if you have any of those around, or if you are a child at heart.

The Daily Poem

Easter around the world.

This weekend many of my friends all over the world are celebrating Easter. To help convey my own warmest greetings on the blessed Resurrection Day I’m passing on a message from fellow believers in Belarus, some of whom I met a few years ago when they visited our parish. (Like them, I will be celebrating May 2 this year.) The video they send, through a link in the last sentence, is so short and joyful, I wish it were longer. Happy Easter, Dear Friends!

Dear Friend,

If you are celebrating the Feast of all Feasts on the 4th of April, I and the Sisters of Saint Elisabeth Convent would like to wish you a happy and joyful Easter!

Here in the Belarussian Orthodox Church, we won’t celebrate Pascha until May 2nd, but our hearts are full of joy for all of our western friends who do celebrate in April! Even though there are still lockdowns and other types of covid restrictions in many countries of the world, nothing can take away the greatest joy that is Easter! Nothing can take away the Good News: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life! (Paschal Troparion)

The Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day after being crucified. This event proves all the prophets and fulfills God’s promises to mankind. What does this mean for us? It means that we too can have victory over death. It means that we have a chance to live in the Kingdom of God for eternity! We as Christians believe what Christ said Himself: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

If you do celebrate on the 4th of April, then once again, have the happiest Easter this year, and may God fill your heart with joy, especially during this season! With joy and love, 

Sr Anastasia and the Sisters of Saint Elisabeth Convent

PS – Click on this link to watch a video from a few years ago which shows beautiful shots of springtime and Easter at our Convent!

An eleven-book day.

Later in the spring, 2019.

The bookishness of today was out of the ordinary in my recent life; shall we say, the last 20 years of it? And it only slightly resembled former days when going to the library was a regular thing, and between the several children and me we’d I bring home bagfuls of books every few weeks, after browsing the shelves as long as we could manage.

This morning I visited our church library, looking for a specific book on the Psalms, but couldn’t find it. I did borrow two related books, though, and three more on other subjects.

On the way home I stopped at my town’s public library to pick up what I had placed on hold via the library’s website. They email you when your holds are ready, you drive to the library and phone them, and they bring your books out in a bag and put them on a table. I have formed a habit of going to the library every Friday, so that I can return books too; currently you can only do that on Fridays and Saturdays. I had four books ready to pick up, as it turned out.

When I pulled into my driveway a few minutes later, it was pleasantly warm in  my car, and I knew the house was chilly, so I sat there and looked over those four books, which were all children’s books. The three that were by the same author I left in the car, because I will just take them back; I didn’t like the particular theme that the author seemed to be stuck on.

The fourth book I had borrowed because I noticed this week that two Orthodox priests I follow on Goodreads had given it five stars, and it was a book I wasn’t familiar with. I began to read it and didn’t stop, just sat there behind the wheel for the next hour being charmed, by The 13 Clocks. I have over my life enjoyed many things James Thurber has written, so I’m not surprised. It was really fun, and I’d have liked to read it through again right then.

But I was getting ready to go back to church, this time for a service. My priest wrote me that he was sure he’d seen that book I wanted in a box of titles that hadn’t been shelved yet (lacking enough shelves), so I went back early and looked through not one but four boxes. There was a book with a similar title by the same author, Fr. Patrick Reardon, not about the Psalms, and which I already own. But I found two more books in those boxes that called to me, to take them home, one of them being Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, which I read a long time ago but don’t remember much of. So eleven books came home with me, and three stayed in the car. Here are the eight books that remain.

What is strange is to bring so many books into the house in one day, and not one of them did I buy! I can take them back to their places whenever I want, no remorse. These days there isn’t such pressure even with the public library system to return books promptly; they stopped charging overdue fines even before covid, and the books take a long time in process once you do drop them in the return slot, so they have to be lenient about everything.

Maybe I won’t have any of these very long, but for now, I have happily filled more crannies and nooks with more delicious books!

Flowers open on Maundy Thursday.

For us Orthodox Christians, Holy Thursday is still four weeks in the future. So when I woke I wasn’t immediately thinking about the events of that day that my western Christian friends and family are commemorating.

Rather, I thought to go open the greenhouse door so that it doesn’t get over 100 degrees in there today. On Monday, before I had realized the effect of the sun’s changing orientation in the sky, and how it has been shining on the winter-shaded greenhouse more minutes of every day, I glanced at my indoor-outdoor thermometer to see — 113°. Uh-oh, I don’t think any of my plants would like that for very long.

Look what was blooming this first day of April: a Christmas cactus. It is one of many I propagated from the large cactus I gave away, and you can see in the picture below another five that I’d like to give away. If any of my readers who lives within an hour’s drive of me would like one of these smaller plants, please let me know and I will bring it to you. Maybe they will bloom soon, too…?

More scenes from the greenhouse, where the newer Love-in-a-Mist seeds are outperforming the older ones. The Winter Luxury Pumpkin starts are getting their secondary leaves. This is a small heirloom pumpkin that I got from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds. It has a reputation for good flavor.

I also picked asparagus early this morning, because the stalks continue to emerge at record speed and in record numbers. Only half of the crowns that I originally planted survive, but those produce more every year, so I really have plenty….. though I do wonder if one can ever have too much asparagus.

I accidentally broke off one crisp spear in the middle, and it only took me a few seconds to decide to eat it right then and there. That made me think back to various discoveries over my gardening life, of the many vegetables that are pretty tasty when they come right off the plant and are eaten “alive.” Asparagus is one of those that is sweet and juicy at that moment, but it loses flavor and tenderness fast. I used also to eat green beans, sweet corn, and bell peppers before I ever got them into the house.

First volunteer Delta Sunflower

I know one can eat Brussels sprouts raw, but I don’t think I have. And I’ve never grown them successfully, either. But since vegetables are the topic at hand, here is my favorite way to cook that one. Now that I have a standard  recipe and can count on success, it’s easy to have a container in the fridge that I can snack on. They are like candy to me, but more satisfying, of course.

In the front yard, in ascending order of the day’s favorites:

Returning to the most beautiful remembrance of the day….

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

“As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

“This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

John Chapter 6