Category Archives: my childhood

How to become fresh and youthful.

The Paschal season of the Church is preceded by the season of Great Lent, which is also preceded by its own liturgical preparation. The first sign of the approach of Great Lent comes five Sundays before its beginning. On this Sunday the Gospel reading is about Zacchaeus the tax-collector. It tells how Christ brought salvation to the sinful man, and how his life was changed simply because he “sought to see who Jesus was” (Luke 19:3). The desire and effort to see Jesus begins the entire movement through Lent towards Pascha. It is the first movement of salvation.

This excerpt from our church bulletin explains why this date on the church calendar is a good one for someone to become a catechumen, as two people did on Sunday in my parish, and as I did seven years ago. It was not my first introduction to life in Christ, but it was definitely the time when I climbed up to the best vantage point to see Christ and His Church in all its fullness.

When I was a little child in Sunday School I learned some details of the story by way of a song:

Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.
And when the Savior passed that way He looked up in the tree;
And He said, ‘Zacchaeus, you come down, for I’m going to your house today.’

In his gospel homily Sunday our rector pointed out that the Lord also said, “Make haste.” In other words, “Get down here, man! Don’t be dilly-dallying about, but begin right now to mean business with God.” And this week St. Nikolai explains how this man and his experience are meaningful to each of us:

“Today, salvation has come to this house” (St. Luke 19:9).

Thus it was spoken by the One Whose word is life and joy and restoration of the righteous. Just as the bleak forest clothes itself into greenery and flowers from the breath of spring, so does every man, regardless of how arid and darkened by sin, become fresh and youthful from the nearness of Christ. For the nearness of Christ is as the nearness of some life-giving and fragrant balsam which restores health, increases life, give fragrance to the soul, to the thoughts and to the words of man. In other words, distance from Christ means decay and death and His nearness means salvation and life.
….
Draw near to us O Lord, draw near and bring to us Your eternal salvation.

Not a single place dark or unhappy.

We have been ill around our house, and could not get going on the Christmas tree project until this week. Now we managed to get it up and decorated.

I cut off our homemade wood-shaving angel in the picture so I’m showing a close-up in the next. Mr. Glad did nearly all the tree-trimming this time, after he went all by himself to get the tree, a Noble Fir grown in Oregon.

 

Anna wrote last week about various Advent and Christmas trees she has known, and it made me want to remember some trees of the past. Her post includes a photograph of a large and dramatic Christmas tree in Norway.

 

I don’t have anything that old, but at right is a picture of me in a red sweater in front of a 1950’s tree. And at the bottom of the page, a little tree that the sister in the photograph gave me more recently. I like best to have birds and fruit and pine cones on my tree, and I never did like tinsel.

The boy at left (now our Soldier) is posing by a tree from a minimalist era, when a friend let us cut from his property a wild and untamed specimen, on which we don’t appear to have strung lights. But how strange and exciting for young children to have a tree in the house for a while, even undecorated.

Below, this year’s tree before trimming, to go with a sweet poem e.e. cummings wrote.

little tree
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
“Noel Noel”

–e.e. cummings

Pacific in Pacific Grove

Seaside paintbrush

Counting my dear sons’ wives, which I very thankfully do, I now have five daughters. It’s sad to think how I spent several years complaining that I didn’t birth more children; during that time I never anticipated the familial wealth that in-laws can bring.

Point Lobos

In an effort to enjoy our family friendships we women spent a few months planning our first mother-daughter holiday. When continents stretch between, the grandchildren have pressing needs, and the young women pressing schedules, so it’s a tribute to our devotion that we even tried. In the end, only half of us, two daughters and I, were able to get together recently, on California’s Central Coast.

Seaside daisy

Pacific Grove was our home base. Every morning I woke with the feel of long-ago visits to my Aunt Margaret, whom I knew mostly in my teens. She lived in Carmel in a cream-colored house with white carpets, under a sky that was often white with fog or overcast, and the mood was so quiet. The sort of quiet that is filled with the sound of surf and the cry of sea gulls.

Our gathering of last week was a quiet group, too, in spite of our much talking, which I imagine was still on the low end of charts that might be made of all-women excursions, as we often stood in silent wonderment over our surroundings.

In our Keen boots — really, no one one had coordinated our foot attire, contrary to all appearances — we walked a lot, up and down the hills of Pacific Grove and Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. And we looked at flowers and trees and birds and tried to identify them all.

Flower is California hedge nettle
ceanothus in Pacific Grove

On Point Lobos especially the sweet smell of ceanothus blooms was filling the air, along with the buzzing of bees who were crazy over it. We liked the challenge of photographing busy bees. They liked how the pollen was offering itself to them on vast fields of stamens.

Carrying great loads of pollen

 

Protea behind Cannery Row
Lucky for us that Mrs. Bread showed us a Protea in her garden our first afternoon, so that we could guess their identities when we kept seeing them everywhere from then on. The genus includes a huge variety of forms that are really striking. I came home to find that our bottlebrush tree is not a Protea, however. Proteas seem to have come originally from the southern hemisphere, but they definitely like growing on this patch of the globe.

Behind Cannery Row murals have been painted along the bike path, evoking the culture and history that John Steinbeck depicted in his books. I liked browsing this lane better than the touristy shops which carry, as Doll pointed out, all the same stuff from China that touristy shops all over the nation carry.

Oh, except maybe the otter dolls. I was expending so much mental energy drumming up buyer’s resistance that I didn’t even think about how I could have taken a picture of one. There were three stuffed toy versions of the captivating creatures that we watched lolling and playing in Monterey Bay, and I can’t find one online that is as cute, to post here.

fava plant in bloom
While in Monterey it was quite fun to revisit the Cooper-Molera House so soon after our last visit, but long enough that the plants were further along in spring, as this fava bean plant with its black-and-white blossoms. There were even little bean pods forming lower on the plant.
Another Protea
cistus
Pacific Grove is called Butterfly Town, because of the Monarch butterflies that migrate there every year. I’ve long had a vicarious and romantic attachment to the place thanks to the book by Leo Politi, and now it has become a direct relationship with the same feelings.
Updated adobe cottage in Pacific Grove

The weather we experienced was surprisingly mild in spite of frequent short showers of drizzle or light rain — but I might find it difficult to stay long where the sun doesn’t show itself often enough to keep the spirits up.

Flowers seem to glow more vividly under grey skies, though, and that makes up for the drear a little bit. People paint their houses in cheerful colors. And peace and quiet count for a lot.

The Pacific Ocean is not always peaceful, but it was fairly calm this week. The tsunami from Japan didn’t make a big wave here. You can’t see them, but two otters are playing in this picture. And peace and serenity and love were all playing some quiet music in our hearts.

Clean Money

My grandmother had grown up on a farm where she was probably comfortable with animals and “good clean dirt.” But when we knew her she had lived in the city for a long time (not The City of San Francisco, though) and was comfortable with us washing our hands quite frequently, especially if we had handled “dirty money,” i.e., all money. She wore gloves quite a bit, for different purposes. It’s very easy for me to pull up the image of her holding her soft leather driving gloves that she had just removed, which kept the fragrance of her warm and soft hands.

When my sisters and I visited her from our farm in the Central Valley she would take us across The Bay Bridge to The City. We dressed up in our finest and made a day of it, though I have no memory of just what we did there. Today I was made to wonder if she took us to the Saint Francis Hotel for lunch, because she would have liked the fact that they keep their money clean.

As a proper housewife I appreciate the use of soap and water and the impulse to keep things fresh and sanitary for the health of my family. Probably even the saint for whom the hotel is named wouldn’t have turned down a gift of soap. Or money, whether clean or dirty.