Category Archives: friends

In the fourth week of Lent…

Lithodora

…in the fourth week of Lent I was busy:

1) I cooked seedy crackers, vegan tapioca pudding, and pans and pans of roasted vegetables, including my own asparagus. I boiled a few quarts of ginger tea and tried out another vegan lemon cake recipe that I probably won’t make again. I’m done with cakes for a while. It makes sense to make cakes when one can use eggs and butter.

2) I baked communion bread at church. For a year we haven’t been using the little prosphora loaves that get sent into the altar along with our prayer requests, but we are starting that tradition again; four of us made 200 prosphora. What we call lambs, the larger loaves that we didn’t bake this week, are cut up and consecrated along with wine for Holy Communion. This photo is from the past.

3) I worked in the garden and the greenhouse. Most days now, when the sun shines, I open the door and vent of the greenhouse so that the seedlings don’t swelter. Then I close them up at night to shut out the cold marine breeze. Soon I’ll need to put a shade cloth on one side of the roof as well. The first butternut squash seed took an entire month to sprout; the next several were even later. Nothing like the pumpkins which were the first of all to emerge. I’ve moved most of the plants to larger pots so they can spread their roots in the next few weeks.

4) I shopped at a farmers market with Bella. We ate breakfast there and bought a few vegetables. How long had it been since I’d been to one of those? The sun shone and everyone was cheery. Then we went across town to her community garden plot, because she had a few potatoes that really needed to get into the dirt. I wandered around dreamily while she dug. Besides us, only a very quiet father and little daughter were working their plot, in which they had strawberries in process.

Bella sent me home with some horsetail which she told me to make tea out of, but it is still waiting in the refrigerator.

5) I went to church several times, and did a little housework, and got my taxes paid. I prepared for my church school class by reading more of The Screwtape Letters, and for the women’s book group by reading some of First Fruits of Prayer, which we discussed on ZOOM this afternoon. I ended up not enjoying that book very much. The Canon was not “itself,” plucked out of its normal context of Compline, extracted as a text to read, with explanatory notes but without the usual accompanying music, prostrations, and other tactile and sensory aspects, not to mention the fellow worshipers in the services in which we pray it, divided into four parts for the first week of Lent. This week we will do the whole Canon again, all in one morning.

6) I attended a doubly belated birthday party with my friends with whom I have celebrated for 36 years now, ever since we learned that we were born in the same week of the same year. At that time we lived on the same block of our “village.” Last spring we couldn’t manage it, so this was our 35th luncheon. We ate on the patio at S.’s house and the sun was just warm enough to make it easy to sit and chat for several hours.

7) I found these eggs that my daughter-in-law Joy knitted for me a few years ago, but which were stashed away in a box during the remodel. I posed them among the flowers but then brought them in to brighten up the living room.

This will be another full week. It’s such a blessing to have many different things to do, but — can you tell how worn out I am? It’s a great gift that God gives us rest, too. It’s the 5th Week of Lent – Pascha is coming!

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!

Bullwhip kelp on the beach.

Another beach day! I took my friend Bella this time, as a co-breather of that medicinal air, a person I knew would ooh and ahh and thank God along with me. The sky was clear blue, and there was barely a breeze. The dry sand under our feet was warm.

As soon as we arrived at the shore and Bella set her eyes on the bull kelp, she made plans to take some home to eat, because she was pretty sure it was edible. But we left it lying on the sand because it was too heavy to lug up and down the beach. After walking and picking up shells for a while, we sat on a log and ate lunch, including some gingerbread I’d baked, and apples wedges washed in lemon juice.

Then back to the kelp, where as neither of us had any other tool, Bella used a stick of driftwood to hack the bulb and leaves from the “rope” of the sea vegetable, and we put the parts we wanted in a plastic bag. We stopped by my house to wash the sand off outdoors, after checking online about the edibility of it. This Nereocystis is also known as bullwhip kelp, ribbon kelp, and bladder wrack.

I kept a few leaves here, but they are waiting in water until tomorrow, because I ran out of time tonight to experiment with making soup. What took priority was writing here about my latest beach adventure!

Shucking beans with women friends.

I have been so busy with many things inward and outward, and I’ve wanted to write about all of it! Experiences of hiking or reading, or discovering connections between the people I meet on the street and those in my books; learning how the wrong ideas of a thousand years ago have brought us to the society we have today, and about how the small and strong actions of good people likewise have a long trajectory…. When I can’t gather my thoughts about even one part of it, and put them into a tidy or untidy blog post, I remain unsettled and confused at some level. The experience lacks a certain completeness.

Lots of bloggers I know seem to be writing fewer posts lately; I wonder if they feel the way I do. I think that after a period of upheaval or change or busyness, after reading and participating in family or church feast days, or traveling — one needs a time of quiet and retreat when not much is going on, in order to process what happened. But during most of this year, there are new loose ends — discoveries or disasters or directives — every day or even more often. When I start to organize a few thoughts, suddenly another one pops up and throws my mind into disorder again.

But today — maybe I could write about today, its beautiful and specific concrete things especially, with my apologies for those two whole paragraphs above which I devoted to vague intangibles. I shucked beans this afternoon, at the invitation of Cathy, who wanted some company to shell the harvest of what she and her husband had raised this year. He is Mr. Greenjeans whom I’ve mentioned several times, but I don’t think Mrs. Greenjeans is the right name for her.

Anyway, this is exactly the kind of activity, or one of the kinds, that I have been wanting to do more of. It was the perfect opportunity to get some work done and chat at the same time. In order to get us away from the category of current events that cause our heart rates to rise, I told her about two of the books that I have been enjoying lately that are in a category together. Here I want to mention only one of them, Greek to Me, by Mary Norris.

Mary Norris

The first coincidence having to do with that book was this morning when I returned from errands and saw a strange couple walking their dog on the sidewalk opposite my driveway. We got to talking and introduced ourselves from that distance, and they told me the dog’s name was Athena. The man noted that often they remember dog names better than human names, and I said that I would probably remember “Athena,” having just been listening to stories about Greek gods two minutes before.

Aphrodite

Mary Norris’s book is not only about Greek gods. It’s about her love affair with everything Greek, and her study of modern and ancient Greek language. She narrates her own book on Audible, and I do love her voice, both her writer’s voice and her physical voice. I first encountered it listening to her first book, Between You and Me, which she also narrated. She tells very personal and often amusing stories all through, about her Catholic childhood and emancipation and her various adventures in language learning over the decades.

Psychotherapy helped her to deal with childhood trauma, but so did immersing herself in stories of Mount Olympus. One of several pilgrimages culminated in her skinny dipping on Cyprus, off Aphrodite’s Beach, as she believed it to be, in hopes that seemed not entirely self-mocking, that she might become more beautiful in those mythical waters.

As Cathy and I shelled black, cranberry, tan and white beans into bowls, I played a little bit of Mary for her from my phone. Cathy told me fascinating stories of her own months-long stay in Greece way back when, about the time that I also was a wandering baby boomer. But my travels were not so deep or wide. And not in Greece.

Cathy tried to describe the sunlight in that land, in words very similar to those Mary Norris had used in trying to express its unique softness. Mary wrote that she wasn’t sure that she herself was changed by Aphrodite’s waters, but she saw everything from then on as though more clear and sparkling. Both of those women renewed my own desire to travel in Greece; some of you might remember that my late husband and I had booked travel to Crete when he became ill, and we weren’t able to go.

I might not be any more likely to get to Tennessee, but if I do, I want to visit the replica of the Parthenon that is there, which Mary Norris tells about in her book. The story of its statue of Athena, the long process of collecting funds for it, then figuring out what it should look like, details about the sculptor and model and why certain design decisions were made — all of that was fascinating to me. I didn’t know this replica existed, and I haven’t researched anything about it since this morning when it came up near the end of the book. Have any of you seen it? Please tell me what you thought.

There. I’ve managed to tell you about one book, one part of a day, and one fun activity I engaged in, with a few women companions. Yes, there was at least one more at that table with Cathy, Mary and me. She’s part of the story I hope to tell another day.