Category Archives: home

I sing of Christmas and comforts.

Correggio

If you have not already put away every thing pertaining to Christmas, perhaps you are like me in some way… I have various reasons, year by year, to leave up the lights around my kitchen window, or to be slow about putting away my basket of music CD’s about the Christ Child and the glorious message of God With Us. I just mailed the last of my Christmas cards this week.

My Orthodox parish celebrates the Nativity of Christ on the “new calendar,” December 25th, like most of you, but many of my friends only began on January 7th their feast both liturgical and dietary, and this year in particular I am grateful to continue my heart’s celebrations with them.

These monks in Ukraine gave a concert some years ago, and a full 15 minutes of their carol-singing is in this video, which I’ve been listening to over and over. Their joy infuses me, and I weep for being comforted. “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people…”

Comfort ye! Comfort ye, my people! Saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem,
and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplish’d,
that her iniquity is pardon’d.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted,
and every mountain and hill made low,
the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.
     -Isaiah 40

I don’t need to know a word of their language to hear the message: Christ is born!!!

If this is a little too much exultation for you at this time, because you celebrated plenty already, it might be you could benefit from reading Auntie Leila‘s encouraging words about how to wind down from the overstimulation of the Christmas season. I was greatly helped by her simple and homey ideas, with easy “action points,” in this article, “An Epiphany Thought.” She writes:

“We didn’t used to call it overstimulation back when I was young, but when I recently saw something about this idea for moms, I reflected on how, as a young woman definitely fighting through to a quieter situation, I developed some strategies to address just that issue, of needing to be calmer so that I could think!”

In many ways it was easier to keep a quiet sort of focus and household when I was a young mother maintaining a certain atmosphere in the home, for the sake of a large family who lived together. Now that I have only myself to keep in order, I don’t do such a good job, and I am grateful for reminders like this, of how to “mother” myself.

One factor in the overall mood of a home certainly is the weather outside, and many of you have asked me how we are faring in my area of northern California, with the storms, high winds and flooding. They haven’t been a big problem for anyone I have talked to, and though I’ve been out and about the last few days, I haven’t come across any flooded areas. We have had these wet winters before, and to me this one doesn’t seem unusual. But I am just one person.

In spite of unfortunate damages, I can’t help being very glad that we are getting so wet. It’s a perpetually arid land, and I’m afraid people will always be fighting water wars. When extra water is falling from the skies, it feels like showers of blessing from Heaven, and cause for at least a temporary cease-fire in those battles. I will go on ignoring the weather news and will try to pay closer attention to what’s happening in my garden — and in my heart and home.

Elizabeth rescued and blessed.

“I laughed on the way home, and I laughed again for sheer satisfaction when we reached the garden and drove between the quiet trees to the pretty old house; for when I went into the library, with its four windows open to the moonlight and the scent, and looked round at the familiar bookshelves, and could hear no sounds but sounds of peace, and knew that here I might read or dream or idle exactly as I chose with never a creature to disturb me, how grateful I felt to the kindly Fate that has brought me here and given me a heart to understand my own blessedness, and rescued me from a life like that I had just seen — a life spent with the odours of other people’s dinners in one’s nostrils, and the noise of their wrangling servants in one’s years, and parties and tattle for all amusement.”

― Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and Her German Garden

The kitchen table.

PERHAPS THE WORLD ENDS HERE

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

-Joy Harjo

Carl Larsson

The color of birds and flowers.

This morning I confirmed what we suspected: Bluebirds have hatched in the birdhouse! I peeked in, sort of, with my phone, because the angle into the little space doesn’t work for my big head, and there was a hefty earthworm lying on the nest, too. This family has somehow been planned since February, when the mating pair first started investigating my Bluebird House, as it is marketed. It’s the second time for bluebirds; chickadees used it several times, too.

My own house is getting a new roof, a blessing of an entirely different category probably not to be compared with baby birds, but both of those events of the week are happy and uncommon. One way they differ is in longevity. I am pretty sure that this roof will last 25 years, and far “outlive” those tender creatures who recently pecked themselves into the open air. The roofers are making loud clomping, thudding and banging noises, while the baby birds sweetly peep. Also, my new roof is not blue.

In the front garden, I have let the asparagus go to ferning, making food for next year. It looks like a big flyaway bush hiding my car, which I parked on the street so that the roofers could use the driveway:

In the back, I moved all the potted plants away from the house so that they don’t get little pieces of old roofing shingles dropped on them. That’s penstemon in the foreground:

Love-in-a-Mist is growing nicely where I scattered seeds last summer. It is known for self-sowing, so I’m hoping this will happen again and again. Hello, May Flowers!