While the weather was of the wintry-spring sort, cold and rainy, we had a typical Memorial Day in several ways. There was barbecued meat and watermelon served on a red checkered tablecloth, and more importantly, a visit to the cemetery.
None of our friends or family are buried nearby, but not far away in Colorado Springs is the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery, which was the perfect place to visit today. The rain had stopped and it was only cloudy. We walked through the wet grass to read the markers on many graves, and we prayed.
As Liam and Laddie and I were straggling behind along the row of freshest graves, some from as recent as this month, we met a smiling woman leading a poodle, who asked us if we had seen the grave marker remembering an Air Force wife for being a “worrier.” Hmm…. no, we hadn’t! Was the worrier her relative? She said no. I quickly picked up on the fact that she was headed toward a different one of those recent graves, that of her husband who passed last year.
She began to tear up, and apologized for it. I asked if I could give her a hug, and learned that they had been married for 53 years. It was a sweet widows’ embrace that warmed us both on that drizzly morning.
While we had been wandering among the graves, we’d seen a soldier in camo going from grave to grave saluting smartly. After a time he began to play a pennywhistle, and to run through one battle or marching song after another. As we were leaving we sang along with his little flute, “God Bless America.”
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!
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
I no longer decorate a big cut tree in the house, with its spicy needles scenting the room. But I love this poem still; parts of it apply very nicely to a tree I bought this year (before the live conifer I mentioned a couple of days ago), a little tree for sure, only two feet high, and bare-branched. I will wait to show you either of my current trees, until I can decorate them with versions of spangles and rings.
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
The highlight of our Thanksgiving season was a visit from Kate and family, including that baby I met back in January, who came from India this month for various family get-togethers and his baptism. Glory to God!
He and Kate and Tom did land first in Colorado to meet our newly relocated clan family, a few days after I’d come back here. So I wasn’t present when Raj encountered snow.
Two days after my return, my part of the state was inundated with smoke and ash from the Butte County Camp Fire far to the north, and the day of Raj’s baptism far to the south I was not physically present. My friend and I were here in what looked for a few days like a thrift store, organizing donations to the fire victims. Myriah did not lose her house, but she did certainly lose her home.
As soon as Myriah drove on to the disaster area with lots of sweaters and socks and new coats, the Glad Group began trickling in, starting with Pearl’s family from Wisconsin and San Diego, and continuing with Raj and his parents, then Pippin’s people from northern California. Everyone wanted to meet Raj! And of course, to see his parents whom they’d been missing for a year and a half.
Until Wednesday, the smoky and cold air had continued to hang over our county oppressively. Then RAIN, glorious and cleansing, fell from the skies, and overnight the Air Quality Index fell from the 160’s (similar to what I experienced in Mumbai last winter) to below 20. All day Pearl and I baked pies, and yams in orange sauce, and prepped the turkey dressing. With the rain came milder temperatures overall, so we had to leave the door and windows open at times to vent all the oven and stovetop heat, and for two days we had the comforting background music of steady pattering and drumming. Pearl took lambs’ ears and dodonea from my garden to add to spider mums from Costco and created table decorations for the feast.
I had braved the smoke one day, wanting so much to get Pippin apples for pies, and drove a half hour to our favorite apple ranch where they still had stock of four varieties. I brought home Pippins, Romes, and Pink Ladies. It is still a sadly nostalgic thing for me to go there alone, but I am trying to embrace the joy of having such a rare and wonderful farm to go to, where I can find two or three dozen different varieties of apples over the course of the season. It makes me want to embrace and cherish apples more actively, too!
I looked and looked online to find a recipe for pumpkin-chocolate-chip muffins, the hankering for which had come over me when thinking of how to get ready for my crowd. I discovered just in time that I had my own “best” recipe right here on my blog. It made a generous batch, enough for everyone to enjoy while waiting for the primary offerings of the feast.
When the rain stopped briefly we looked at the newly-washed and radiant garden, and breathed in those scents that are like an autumn feast in themselves. A whole flock of bluebirds visited the fountain for baths and we wondered if they were washing off soot. My fava beans that sprouted when I was in Colorado are doing great. I cut a butternut squash down from the trellis to roast for soup, and Ivy found giant fruits on the arbutus (Strawberry Tree).
After everyone had arrived, the “usual” fun began. This time, I think the unique circumstances of my recent sojourn in Colorado, followed by the fire and smoke, followed by the rain that kept me from walking, all contributed to lack of sleep, so that I felt alternately flat and in a hole — maybe in a flat-bottomed hole? — for days. But I did manage to take a few pictures, so now in recovery I have the vision to see them as a cohesive expression of a moment in our Glad cultural history.
The Usual included wrestling and snuggling and staying-up-too-late-talking with brothers, daughters, aunts and uncles, and all the assorted kinfolk that one only sees once or twice a year anymore. Oh, it is hard being scattered over the continent and globe!
I didn’t have it in me to go with everyone to San Francisco, the aquarium etc. at the Academy of Sciences on Saturday, and to Fort Point, so the smiling picture of Raj I also stole. But Sunday after church Kate’s and Pippin’s families and I did go to the redwoods! It was a dreamy time to go, almost winter and after several steady downpours had removed every trace of dust from the big trees, and both Pippin and the Professor helped me in my ongoing botanical studies.
I learned that the lichens that hang from the trees like tresses are lichen fruticose, and that the needles in the tops of the coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) resemble those of their cousins the giant redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum) that grow naturally in the Sierra Nevada. Big leaf maple and hazelnut trees made splashes of light and color in the groves that were dark in midday, the close canopy blocking the light from way up there. We made little impact on the deep quiet of the woods, strolling on the duffy paths — but that atmosphere was broken by a big crash and boom, the sound of a tree falling somewhere in the park. If everything hadn’t been thoroughly wet, we’d surely have seen some dust raised by that event.
When Raj was carried into my house last week and met the third or fourth new crowd of relatives in a fortnight, he did respond to my face and voice with a sweet smile. Perhaps the FaceTime sessions truly did help him to remember my voice, adding to whatever deeper memories were embedded from those newborn lullaby sessions with me nine months ago.
Now Pearl’s and Pippin’s families have departed, but Tom, Kate, and Baby Raj will be with me for a few more special days. A good rest and a forest walk have perked me up quite a bit, so I have hope of making the most of the rest of this week and entering into the joyful work and celebrations ahead.
I will close with a few lines [surprised to see that out of all the many stanzas we used, I chose the same lines three years ago to share here] from the “Akathist of Thanksgiving” that we read together on Thanksgiving evening, and which express my mood right now:
I was born a weak, defenseless child,
but Thine angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me.
From birth until now Thy love has illumined my path,
and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity;
from birth until now the generous gifts of Thy providence
have been marvelously showered upon me.
I give Thee thanks, with all who have come to know Thee,
who call upon Thy name.
Thou hast brought me into life as into an enchanted paradise.
We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue,
where in the azure heights the birds are singing.
We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest
and the melodious music of the streams.
We have tasted fruit of vine and the sweet-scented honey.
We can live very well on Thine earth.
It is a pleasure to be Thy guest.