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.

Our gaze is submarine.

O LIGHT INVISIBLE

O Light Invisible, we praise Thee!
Too bright for mortal vision.

O Greater Light, we praise Thee for the less;
We thank Thee for the light that we have kindled,
The light of altar and of sanctuary;
Small lights of those who meditate at midnight
And lights directed through the coloured panes of windows
And light reflected from the polished stone,
The gilded carven wood, the coloured fresco.
Our gaze is submarine, our eyes look upward
And see the light that fractures through unquiet water.
We see the light but see not whence it comes.
O Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!

In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light. We are glad when the day ends, when the play ends; and ecstasy is too much pain.
We are children quickly tired: children who are up in the night and fall asleep as the rocket is fired; and the day is long for work or play.
We tire of distraction or concentration, we sleep and are glad to sleep,
Controlled by the rhythm of blood and the day and the night and the seasons.
And we must extinguish the candle, put out the light and relight it;
Forever must quench, forever relight the flame.
Therefore we thank Thee for our little light, that is dappled with shadow.
We thank Thee who hast moved us to building, to finding, to forming at the ends of our fingers and beams of our eyes.
And when we have built an altar to the Invisible Light, we may set thereon the little lights for which our bodily vision is made.
And we thank Thee that darkness reminds us of light.
O Light Invisible, we give Thee thanks for Thy great glory!

-T.S. Eliot, from The Rock

(You may hear the poet himself reading here.)

A warming winter sunshine.

When I first sat down at the computer to begin this post, I checked the weather also and the temperature was 79°! I had surprising good sense then, to know that I must postpone writing, and hurry back out into the sunshine. The house was cold, though it was a little warmer than usual because I had stoked the wood fire before going to bed last night.

I dragged the tarp off the woodpile and brought armloads of logs into the garage and the house. Tomorrow the more typical weather will return, and I’ll build fires again.

On my walks this week I was surprised to see the pussy willows out! Today I walked on the golf course for a hundred feet or so trying to get back to the creek path, and I saw lots of English daisies that had escaped someone’s yard and were well established, growing in the turf.

NOT pyracantha, but cotoneaster

I’ve been complaining about February and saying that I want to be in Hawaii next winter, which is silly when I live in such a mild climate. I know I’ve been grumpier than usual partly because of various inconveniences of the remodeling. Experienced altogether over a year’s time they feel like afflictions.

I never thought the disruption — of my solitude, my routine, and my “nest” — would last over a year. At least two of the important persons will tell me things such as, that they are coming “in the next two hours,” so I wait around and don’t take a walk or run errands, but then they don’t come at all. If I run the errands at night, I get to bed late, but the workers might arrive at 7:30 the next morning. I’m sort of stuck here a lot, but with not much I can do of my usual housework. (That’s why I’ve been able to write more blog posts lately.)

But “Richard the Wonderful” is the main carpenter, and he is always my friend. 🙂 Today he was finishing the prep work for the bathroom tile, including this Valentine pink stinky waterproofing stuff that had to be painted around the tub/shower.

I was glad the day was so warm, because it gave me a chance to make use of another improvement in my upstairs arrangement. The new passageway between my bedroom and the sewing room also allows for a cross breeze from the front of the house to the back, and I opened those windows to let the smell out. This option will make a big difference during the rare heat wave, to be able to get that draft going as soon as the sun goes down and cool off my bedroom so I can sleep.

In my garden, the asparagus spears are emerging!

The east side/front of my house only gets a good amount of morning sun in the upstairs rooms, of which my new sewing room is one. Long ago we used to do our homeschooling in that big room (now divided into two) because on clear winter days it was by far the warmest place in the house. As soon as possible I’m planning to get a cozy chair in which I can sit by the window and bask on chilly mornings. I expect to look something like this lady when I do.

But now, my feet are already cold, so I’ll go tuck them under some blankets!

(painting “Morning Sun” by Harold Knight)

Nancy was glowing.

Cousin Rosamund is a more difficult read than the first two books in the Aubrey Trilogy (also known as The Saga of the Century), in ways I might tell about later. But this passage in which the Aubreys’ friend Nancy shares her expectant-mother thoughts sweetened the mood:

“You see, the thing isn’t a bit reasonable,” Nancy went on. “Oswald keeps on telling me how it happens, ovulation and all that, but it doesn’t explain anything. It’s not logical that two little things without any sense can get together and make a third thing, that suddenly gets sense and thinks and feels for itself and gets born and has a will of its own, and is a person. How can there be a person, suddenly, when there wasn’t before?”

“It’s a mystery,” agreed Aunt Milly.

“Yes, put it like that, it’s against nature,” said Aunt Lily.

“And think of it happening all the time,” Nancy went on. “And all these people that come into the world in this extraordinary way clinging on the earth, which is just a star like any other, and nobody knows how the stars come to exist. It’s all so odd that anything should be here.”

“I never thought of it before, but it would be more natural if there wasn’t anything at all,” said Aunt Milly.

“Yes, it’s all so unnatural that there must be a meaning to it,” said Nancy, glowing. “They always say so in church but you only half-believe it, but having a baby, it’s more extraordinary than anything they tell you in church. I don’t know what it all means,” she proclaimed, “but I feel that I might know any minute now.”

-Rebecca West in Cousin Rosamund

How knitting is like dying.

This month our parish women’s book club is reading Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.” I finished it this morning, in an old anthology from 1947 that I had kept from our homeschooling years, when twice my late husband and I taught a short story course to our children. That collection is A Treasury of Short Stories edited by Bernardine Kielty. When I closed that volume I opened The Norton Reader, Seventh Edition, to see if it included any Tolstoy stories, but when I saw the title “From Journal of a Solitude,” I continued reading the first few excerpts taken from the book by May Sarton.

Her musings in the first paragraphs were on topics that were also among those so powerfully treated in the story of Ivan Ilyich: depression, dying; the perceived absence or presence of God, both “too frightening.” I don’t have any comments on those themes, but I would very much recommend Tolstoy’s story to your own reading. I thought I had read it before, but maybe I only started once. It is powerful.

I don’t know anything about May Sarton except what I read just this morning, but I appreciated the thoughts below; these came just down the page, after she’d moved on from writing about her dying friend. They are not so obviously linked to the Tolstoy story, except perhaps by their highlighting the need for patience in every stage and situation in life, not least at its end. “By your patient endurance you will gain your souls.” (Luke 21:19)

“In the mail a letter from a twelve-year-old child, enclosing poems, her mother having pushed her to ask my opinion. The child does really look at things, and I can write something helpful, I think. But it is troubling how many people expect applause, recognition, when they have not even begun to learn an art or a craft. Instant success is the order of the day; ‘I want it now!’ I wonder whether this is not part of our corruption by machines. Machines do things very quickly and outside the natural rhythm of life, and we are indignant if a car doesn’t start on the first try. So the few things that we still do, such as cooking (though there are TV dinners!), knitting, gardening, anything at all that cannot be hurried, have a very particular value.”

-May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude