Category Archives: love

We’ll make fire our business.

This morning Liam and I squeezed in one game of Bananagrams, while his parents were making the rounds of all the rooms to find stray items not to leave behind. The grandchildren also stuffed their backpacks, and found space for last-minute offerings I made: their choice of a matchbox car and a book from my toy area/children’s library.

Liam chose one of the two remaining Sugar Creek Gang paperbacks, and Laddie combed through shelves and baskets looking for the hardcover Velveteen Rabbit, which he and I had enjoyed together last week; he finally did locate it. Brodie debated between The Little Fur Family and another book about a small animal, but after I encouraged him to take the classic, he happily went home with that superior and more traditional story. Clara finally settled on The Fox Jumped Up One Winter’s Night, after which you could hear young and old voices singing the story upstairs and down as she packed it into her bag.

Having watched Clara managing all the stuffies and several baby dolls over the last ten days, I was pretty sure she might like to take one home. I offered her the bear she had named Gingerbread. Their relationship hadn’t started well: she showed him to me twice early on and told me that he was “mean.” Laddie thought she might have had that response because of the placement of his eyes, closer together than other bears we compared him to. A few days ago he and I decided to put a blue ribbon around Gingerbread’s neck, and after that he became a favorite of Clara.

She was overjoyed when I told her she might take him home and keep him.

This afternoon my dear children departed for their home in Colorado, leaving the house strangely quiet and a little sad. I ate lunch and took a walk. The air was crisp and cold, and I began to cheer up right away. But maybe I was wearing the “wrong” shoes, because my feet began to hurt, and I returned home.

Soldier and Joy and the two older kids had been organizing, tidying and cleaning since yesterday, and before they left they got the dishwasher running — and the bathroom floors cleaned! There was nothing urgent for me to do, so I relaxed and caught up on blog-reading, as the furnace blew noisily trying to heat up this barn of a space. The idea of building a fire did cross my mind, and then it doubled back and crossed by again…

But I was beginning to feel the delayed fatigue of the last two weeks, and I didn’t want to pay attention to that thought. Until I read on an unfamiliar blog:

If the world is cold, make it your business to build fires.
~Horace Traubel

Ha! Well, okay. I left this frigid computer corner to bring in a few logs, and as I spied the stack of kindling next to the stove, I recalled the time last week when I was surprised to find Liam all by himself in the garage, splitting sticks with the little hatchet, a big pile accumulating in front of him. I will be appreciating his efforts for a while to come.

Now it’s nearly my bedtime, and I have got the house cozied up. I’m thinking of lots of little ways that multitudes of people around me have been making it their business to “build fires.” It might just be sparks of kindness here and there, seemingly timid flames and ineffective; but so easily they can ignite a bonfire that will warm a whole village, and lessen the gloom of winter. Here’s to love!

The joy of St. Porphyrios.

I was blessed to attend Vespers tonight, on the feast day of St. Porphyrios. The service was in our little church with mostly candles for light. That building is 85 years old and the wood is infused with incense from all those decades of its being a house of worship. I love to be in there and soak up the unique atmosphere.

Another good scent associated with our Orthodox worship is beeswax; did you know that St. Porphyrios has been venerated by bees?

“In the region of Kapandriti near Athens, a wonderful thing happens. Ten years ago, a devout beekeeper named Isidoros Ţiminis thought to place in one of his hives an icon of the Crucifixion of the Lord. Soon thereafter, when he opened the hive, he was amazed that the bees showed respect and devotion to the icon, having “embroidered” it in wax, yet leaving uncovered the face and body of the Lord. Since then, every spring, he puts into the hives icons of the Savior, the Virgin Mary and the Saints, and the result is always the same. He placed a photograph of Elder Porphyrios (before he was canonized) in the hive, and the bees showed the same respect and veneration as towards other saints.” [See photo below.] (Mystagogy Resource Center)

I’m focusing here on a few paragraphs from the collection of his sayings in the book Wounded by Love. To me St. Porphyrios is the patron saint of joy, because it flows out of him like a river of Life, and I pray that some of that grace rubs off on me:

“Christ is joy, the true light, happiness. Christ is our hope. Our relation to Christ is love, eros, passion, enthusiasm, longing for the divine. Christ is everything. He is our love. He is the object of our desire. This passionate longing for Christ is a love that cannot be taken away. This is where joy flows from.

“Christ Himself is joy. He is a joy that transforms you into a different person. It is a spiritual madness, but in Christ. This spiritual wine inebriates you like pure unadulterated wine. As David says, ‘Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and Thy cup which filleth me, how excellent it is!’ (Psalm 22:5/23:5) Spiritual wine is unmixed, unadulterated, exceedingly strong, and when you drink it, it makes you drunk. This divine intoxication is a gift of God that is given to the pure in heart.

“Fast as much as you can, make as many prostrations as you can, attend as many vigils as you like, but be joyful. Have Christ’s joy. It is the joy that lasts forever, that brings eternal happiness. It is the joy of our Lord that gives assured serenity, serene delight, and full happiness. All-joyful joy that surpasses every joy. Christ desires and delights in scattering joy, in enriching His faithful with joy. ‘I pray that your joy may be made full.'”

“Let us love Christ, and let our only hope and care be for Him. Let us love Christ for His sake only. Never for our sake. Let Him put us wherever He likes. Let Him give us whatever He wishes. Don’t let’s love Him for His gifts. It’s egotistical to say, ‘Christ will place me in a fine mansion which He has prepared…’ What we should say rather is, ‘My Christ, whatever Your love dictates; it is sufficient for me to live within Your love.’”

 -St. Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia

Savoring the togetherness.

Deer on a coastal rock.

I hope you have people to love, and those who love you. Every conversation with a neighbor or hug from a grandchild feels more precious to me as the days go by; before November winds all the way down I want to share a few scenes and moments that have been to me infusions of grace and joy in the midst of “interesting times” in the world.

It was almost a month ago that my neighbor Kim had a dinner party for several couples and one widow (yours truly) on our block. It was a very restorative and healing time, I think for all of us. Several of these people I had hardly seen for two years, though they live just a few doors down. Half of them had known my late husband.

After we were seated around a long dining table, our host gave a surprising toast to “The first of many more post-covid neighborhood parties!” All cups were raised, and the general tone of the ensuing comments, and the whole evening, was of holding on to our humanity and neighborliness as much as possible, no matter what comes. No one went home early that night; we sat around the gas firepit, or stood in the kitchen, chatting and sipping and savoring the togetherness, acting out the toast for a few blessed hours.

Closer to Thanksgiving, I returned to the beach with a former housemate who accompanied me three years ago just before she moved to New York. Our time there was refreshing and sweet; instead of the scores of seals we’d seen that time, gulls by the hundreds were swooping and gliding back and forth where a river empties into the sea.

We watched them, and the waves, while sitting on a log. When it was time to go, we climbed up a sand dune and tromped back to the parking lot, weaving through clumps of grass in our bare feet.

A few days later, who should arrive but my dear daughter Pippin and her family. They came in stages; when only three of them had got here, we went for a walk in the hills. It was the first time I’d been with Pippin in that particular park since the day Jamie was born, lo these many years ago, the  day after my husband’s funeral. So Jamie had been along, too, and maybe the jostling of that walk in springtime had prompted him to start his journey into the outer world.

This day, he was climbing trees with Ivy. First they climbed a Valley Oak, then a Buckeye (horse chestnut), and finally a Bay (Laurel) tree. Pippin joined them up in the bay.

We noticed many little trees and shrubs that were fenced in by wire cylinders, presumably against nibbling by deer. From a sign, here is a list of species that have been planted in the last ten years:

Later we worked on pies for our feast, and the children had the idea of making gluten-free pie-crust cookies for Uncle Steve, for whose sake Pippin was making such a dough for a pumpkin pie. I assembled the fourth version of my famous Grapefruit Gelatin Salad, which after ten years I am still refining to accommodate the changing ingredients available in the stores, and the loss of my favorite, odd-sized dish I always used for it. I’ll pass the recipe along when I fix it so that it fits in one 9×12 pan.

Our long weekend was very full, starting with Divine Liturgy on Thanksgiving morning, and including two (food) feasts, the little hike; and a busy afternoon, when Pippin and the Professor helped me to sort through old camping equipment, put hardware cloth over my planter boxes where the birds have been pecking, and hang fairy lights in the living room.

This little report covers only a small fraction of the loving friends and family who have made me feel the solace of God and the blessedness of the world. I reconnected with old friends and drank tea with many others. It has been a good month in important ways. May God keep our hearts during the next one and bring us with joy to the Feast of the Nativity of Christ.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” I John 4

How beloved are Thy dwellings.

How beloved are Thy dwellings, O Lord of hosts; my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.

My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God.

For the sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtledove a nest for herself where she may lay her young.

Even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house; unto ages of ages shall they praise Thee.

-From Psalm 83