Category Archives: friends

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.

The Appley Dapply-est day ever.

Mrs. Bread and I thought we might sit on her deck and chat… or, we might meet at the beach and walk. But in the end, she came to my garden in the afternoon, and brought me two perfect Fuji apples just picked from her tree.

She didn’t know I had baked an apple cake for us to eat with our tea, at the table in the back corner. Last week it would have been too hot there at that time of day, but today was mild. I had chopped Rome Beauty apples into the cake, because I think the Northern Spy keep a little better, so I will use the Romes up first. They are in the box at the bottom of the picture.

The whole of autumn so far has been the most appley of my life. I have dehydrated dozens of apples and eaten as many fresh and crisp out of hand. Last week two kind man-friends from church came over to help me peel Pippins for a couple of hours — after I gave them dinner and apple crisp, because it was that time of day — and when I had got about a gallon of applesauce into the fridge, I went to bed very late.

Now my freezer and pantry (My pantry is steel shelves in the garage.) are stocked up with sauce, dried apples, and leftover cake. I sent a wedge of cake home to Mr. Bread, and now must abstain for a bit, so I’ll be ready to test the other apple cake recipes that Mrs. Bread is going to send me. Below, you can also see the super-dehydrated banana slices in jars; they are addictive crunchy banana “candy.”

The Winter Banana apples I determined were best in their dried form. I probably don’t need to keep them in the freezer, but it looks appropriate to their name, doesn’t it?

My favorite apple ranch only has one more variety coming in this fall: Pink Lady. I might go back and get some of those — but maybe not 20 pounds — because I think they might dry nicely.

What else made today appley? This:  Several weeks ago I had admired Mrs. Bread’s mint plant that was at the end of its flowering. She promised to give me a cutting, but I had forgotten. Today she surprised  me with it, and it is an Apple Mint.

I wish you could smell how yummy it is!

As I was assembling my appley post this evening, what came into view on my computer but a picture from Pippin (Ha! It’s even the right nickname for today.) of Ivy who was evidently inspired by their harvest to read to her apples. I don’t know what variety they are, but their names I’m pretty sure are Appley, Dapply, and … I confess I don’t know the real names of the friends in the picture.

I hope that this fall finds you with plenty of appley friends and cakes.

Appley Dapply has little sharp eyes,
And Appley Dapply is so fond of pies.

Oh! I haven’t made a pie yet! I bet Northern Spy are good for that…

Send a healthful wind to blow…

Another “wildfire season,” another unexpected blessing. Often when there is hardship, stress, or suffering, there is an opportunity for people to come together in new ways, helping each other to navigate the interruptions and obstacles, to weather the storm, to walk the strange path that may present itself. During three of the last four dry, warm and windy autumn seasons of evacuations, I have had friends here briefly. Each time they were escaping from a different area and situation. But this fall no one needed me during the first wave of fires, and I was busy with family anyway.

Then, the wind changed, and what had been a fire for some other valley skipped a few miles in a different direction, and local people needed to leave their homes and get out of the way, in case. Two women who are both friends of mine evacuated here for two nights. Juliana has been close to our whole family for at least 40 years, but we hadn’t talked much for quite a while, and it was the greatest joy to have her in the house for what turned into an extended slumber party of chatter, catching up, and thanking God. I had loved her parents as well; they were dear to our children in a multitude of ways, and her presence made me long for them, too. But even that was somehow sweet.

The wind changed again, and they have departed. As soon as they left, I made another apple run, having used up my last box in various ways. This time I got Winter Bananas and Pippins. They say the “Bananas” are a dry variety to start with, and have long been a favorite for dehydrating, so I will surely preserve some of them that way. It took the fruit only a few hours in my garage to fill that space with a warm and harvesty aroma.

Then it was time to head to church for Vigil for our parish feast. I was able to be inside the church last night and this morning. Just splendid. Heaven came down, as always.

This morning when I arrived the sun was rising into the sky in that eerie, smoky way. The wind has started blowing the other direction and our area is in less danger, so I don’t understand why the smoke is so bad today.

At the end of the beautiful, beautiful service we prayed this prayer that has been on our lips many times in the last weeks:

A Prayer in Time of Wildfires

O Lord of all the earth, Who dost touch the mountains, and they smoke; Who dost send thine angels back and forth over the earth as ministers of thy providence and messengers of thy will; and Who dost thyself traverse thy creation on a throne of living creatures, while being thyself everywhere present in heaven, earth, and the lower regions: send now thy swift angels to minister to us who are afflicted by terrible wildfires, which threaten men’s lives and property, and also the lives of beasts and the well-being of the land. Through thy ministers who govern the elements, cause rains to fall to quench these flames. Then by thine angels who command the airs, send a healthful wind to blow, driving away the smog. Through the prayers of thy saints guard human life and well-being, and with thine own Right Hand bless and guide those who fight against this blaze, and preserve all in health from the smoke it sends up. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we beseech thee, O Father of worlds, Who dost reign eternally over all creation, together with Him and thine All-holy Spirit, the Life-giver and Paraclete. Amen.

Pure words and healing.

Current events had got me musing about words, silence, speech, and idle talk, even before my dear friend Myriah came to visit. She and I grant each other the exercise of free speech, even civil discourse, but I found that more than those are required by the law of  love. I hope to write further on these topics soon, though I feel woefully inadequate. Meanwhile…

After Myriah had gone home, she wrote to thank me, and to apologize for what she thought was her own “noise” as she “tried to make sense of everything.” She said, “I came home and planned to curl up and read the Bible.” But family demands prevented her. I realized that I had robbed her of what should have been a respite from confusion, talking as I had as though raging and clanging could be truly rational. Probably we should have spent some part of our two-day visit reading the Gospel together. (The garden did rescue us several times.)

These were my thoughts this Saturday morning, as I prepared to attend Divine Liturgy for the Leavetaking of Pentecost. I was present to receive Communion, but I had read the Gospel for the day at home. It washed over me as a healing balm, not because its subject matter or meaning are any more pertinent than they have ever been, but because I know the Speaker to be Truth and Love incarnate, and His speech is in stark contrast to the loudest human sounds that accost our ears and eyes. I remembered this verse:

The words of the LORD are pure words,
like silver refined in an earthen furnace,
purified seven times.
-Psalm 12:6

The Psalmist does not mean that God has to make seven rough drafts before He speaks, but that even our most refined and precious earthly things are only “something like” the Logos. These words of Christ from what is called “The Sermon on the Mount” were the Gospel reading for the day:

Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you. 

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they?

So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.