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.

Some men never think of it.










Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong. The shop was closed. Or you had doubts –
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers. It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

-Wendy Cope

Rocking then and now.

“Americans have a taste for…rocking-chairs. A flippant critic might suggest that they select rocking-chairs so that, even when they are sitting down, they need not be sitting still. Something of this restlessness in the race may really be involved in the matter; but I think the deeper significance of the rocking-chair may still be found in the deeper symbolism of the rocking-horse. I think there is behind all this fresh and facile use of wood a certain spirit that is childish in the good sense of the word; something that is innocent, and easily pleased.”

-G.K. Chesterton in What I Saw in America, 1922

This is the rocking chair I love best, because it is mine, and I have a lot of history with it. Before I was even engaged to be married, I visited the summer cabin of my boyfriend’s family, where this chair sat against one wall of the living room of “La Casita.” Only a big teddy bear sat in it back then, perched on the dome of the cushion whose springs had long ago sprung out of any human’s comfort zone.

And so it remained for decades, until the cabin was sold and we acquired the chair for this house, and had it refurbished. I just ran across a remnant of the upholstery fabric we chose, quite bright compared to the faded seat that still wears it.

I’ve owned three other rocking chairs over the years, and none was as satisfactory as the current one. The first was a platform rocker that had belonged to another grandma of my husband; the whole chair was too big for me. I nursed all my babies in that chair, and spent quite a lot of time in it over many years, filling in the extra space and propping up my arms with pillows.

Another rocker came from one of the grandmas. It had a nice feel but was unbearably and incurably squeaky. And then there was the one found in the neighborhood with a “FREE” tag on it. How could I not bring it home? But it didn’t fit in with our decor, however you would describe that, and had too big a rocking-footprint for any room in the house. Out it went again.

I’ve realized by this time that on my own I am not much of a rocker, no matter how romantic I feel about the chairs that help one do it. Even though in many pictures of me opening Christmas presents, I am sitting in one.

As I recall, some babies like being rocked, and some don’t. I wonder if a liking for rocking as an infant is predictive of certain personality traits later in life? I don’t know if my mother rocked me, but my father built this rocking horse for us, which I have no memory of. Maybe I wasn’t into rocking on it, either! It looks like it might have required some skill to ride and shoot at the same time.

I wonder if people who use rocking chairs when they are restless,
or to rock away their worries,
are doing more rocking these days?

2021 – The Year of Dostoevsky

Today Nun Cornelia has kindly given us a reading recommendation in her article, “Time to Read (or Reread) Dostoevsky.” Her reason for putting forth the idea at this time is partly that today is the 140th anniversary of the death of Feodor Dostoevsky. And not only that, but 2021 marks 200 years since his birth in 1821.

Even if you haven’t read his works, you are likely to recognize his name as a writer, whose skill Sister Cornelia describes: “The details of all his characters, their mannerisms, their actions, their thoughts and words, even their names, all paint individual pictures of the human condition in relation to God and the devil—pictures that don’t fade with time, and are applicable in any culture.”

In a short essay she gives details about his childhood and temperament as described by his parents (hot-headed and cheeky), and his “morose” youth, during which he spent time in military service and then began to study literature.

“His compassion for humanity led him to socialist circles, which, as he would eventually understand, were in fact seething with anti-humanity. These attempts at social reform would also end in failure for him, and he nearly lost his life in front of a firing squad. His sentence was commuted at the last minute, and he was sent to Siberia for prison and then exile. In prison he was respected by all, but at the same time considered a dangerous revolutionary and kept in shackles and manacles for his entire sentence.”

The upbringing he was given, and the era he was given to live and suffer in, certainly contributed to his great soul; and because his writing “could not be separated in any way from his own deep convictions, his books lead us in a mysterious way to those deep convictions.”

Sister Cornelia details some of the many ways that Dostoevsky suffered, and the way his wife suffered with him for his sins and weaknesses. She ends with thanks for all his works that she hopes we will read, and read again.

“But neither can we forget that an underlying quality present in him from childhood was also key to producing the literary heritage that we have today: stubbornness. Through all his failures—and apparently, he took critical failure very hard as his epileptic fits were brought on by them—he never gave up his calling and forged ahead with novels that change people’s lives.”

At the bottom of the article are links to several others on Feodor Dostoevsky. You can find it all here.

The usual blessed everydayness.

My beach visits are challenging my writing skills, no doubt about that! The seashore and its constant change, my being on The Edge of such a vast expanse of water and sky, caressed or buffeted by forces of wind and waves… it’s thrilling. I could write that sentence every time I go, but it would convey sameness, when there is nothing the same, ever.

I was excited yesterday to be going when it was a minus tide, a term I hadn’t even heard until a month ago. These events seem to happen mostly at night; I hope to learn more about why that is, when I get the books I ordered online and from the library, about waves, tides, beaches and seashores.

Yesterday’s minus tide was at about 3:00 p.m. I was surprised at all of the puddles and pools in various places on the beach, not just at the north end where the rocks hide creatures. The receded tide revealed a wide expanse of flat beach that shone like glass.

Great heaps of every kind of sea plant, vegetable, and kelp had been left in swaths on the shore. I wished I had someone with me who knew the names of everything! And if I had thought of it, I could have taken home enough to make a giant kettle of seaweed soup.

One specimen of Flustrellidra was floating in a tidepool. I found that name while searching last night for the name of a seaweed that I did eat when I got home.

Floating Flustrellidra

In those rocky pools I didn’t see any hermit crabs or sea stars; only a few mussels clinging under rocks. My foot slipped a bit when I was looking down into the water — I think that was when I was still wearing my sandals, because I thought I would be steadier with them on — and when I shifted my gaze to the surface of the rocks on which I stood, I realized that they were all green, that is, where they weren’t covered with black seaweed hanging down like greasy hair. So everything I might grasp with hand or foot was slimy. I soon left that area.

One thing always fun is the way the texture of the sand underfoot changes every few yards. Where it was gravelly I sank down mid-calf; a short distance beyond, the surface was firm. My feet standing on that hard and flat “patio” were red and seemingly shrunken from their chilly bath.

It was when I was walking back from the rocks that the happiness peaked. I thought of my late husband and wished we could be walking in the waves together. Maybe I thought of him because I had been listening to The Aviator on the drive out, thinking with Innokenty about his finally having lost the only one who had shared the era and experiences of his previous life, who also remembered the important things. And there was this:

“Now, as life is settling into a routine little by little, happiness shows through everything, through the most common everydayness, no matter what I do. Everydayness is essentially happiness… finally, to simply live.”

As I was splashing through the shallow water it occurred to me that my husband does actually share this happiness with me. There is one happiness that is a gift from God. It is the same reality that “shows through” whenever and wherever it happens, and reveals itself as being unbounded by time. A gift of spiritual sunshine that warms the soul in such a way that it’s obvious nothing is lacking. Mere existence is huge and blessed, the moment fills everything, and all the happinesses that have ever been are in that fullness.

I found several things on the beach. First, two big sand dollars. The first one was almost perfect. It had only a little chip on the edge, and I put it carefully in my bag. Later, just after passing a very young family with a preschooler, who were playing in the sand, I found another dollar, truly pristine, and I offered it to them. From the looks on their faces, they had never seen one before.

A beautiful, snack sized piece of seaweed fell out of a wave on to the sand, and I put it in my bag, too. You can see it further down.

And then — I found this dolly.

“She actually likes being tossed in the waves,” I thought, when I saw the expression on her face. She is some surfer girl! I dropped her in my bag, too, without the slightest doubt that it was the right thing to do. I would take her home and clean the sand out of her hair….

I haven’t managed to clean her hair thoroughly; I don’t know if the plants are attached to her or just tangled in her tresses. After seeing how integrated with marine life she has become, I began to wonder if she belongs to the sea now. Is the missing half of her hair currently in suspension with the other microparticles of plastic that live there?

She seems a kindred spirit, and for the time being she sits on  my computer table reminding me of our common love for the ocean waves. I need to give her a name. Any ideas?

The piece of “lettuce” I collected, I washed very well at home, and thought I had identified it. I ate it raw in the evening — it was rubbery and fairly tasteless — and then searched in vain online for a name for it. I think it’s probably a red or brown algae. One article I found last week said that all the seaweeds are edible, and last night I read some people saying that you should be careful not to eat too much of any kind. Not too much danger of that in my case!

When I have published this post, I plan to add it to my new Page tabbed at the top of my site, titled Sea Log. I’m glad for the virtual companionship of any of you who would like to share in my seashore explorations. May they long continue, Please God.