Category Archives: winter

Celebrating March with bread and blossoms.

Over the years since I planted two Elephant Heart plum trees in my back yard garden, I have begun to notice a pattern: In February or March the trees begin to put out their blooms, and in the same months we get hailstorms. Then I say something on my blog, like, “I worry about my plum blossoms!”

This is the eighth springtime that these trees have found themselves in my garden when they woke from dormancy. Every summer I get more fruit, so I guess things are pretty good. This particular first day of March is still very cold and windy, but the sun is shining in a blue sky, and it looks like we’ll have three days of sunshine before we welcome the rain again.

I’m almost out of firewood, and it doesn’t look like I’ll get any more for this season; but I have a good furnace, which I wouldn’t mind using even more than I do if it weren’t so noisy. When I get tired of its roar I turn down the thermostat and put on a coat. Today I have time to build a fire before going to a Lenten service in the evening, and it will be nice to come home to a cozy and quiet house.

What’s another cozy and homey thing? Baking bread! Even if it’s done in the big church kitchen. Three of us made that kitchen nice and comfortable yesterday when we made these loaves of Communion bread together.

My computer guy came yesterday afternoon to do a check-up on my desktop; he hadn’t been here for so long, we had a lot to catch up on. His happiest news was all the sourdough bread baking he has been doing for his family, of which he showed me photos of the sort they put on the covers of artisan bread cookbooks. He is going to leave a jar of his starter on my doorstep tomorrow! I have been thinking for a few months that I want to come out of my bread-baking retirement. It’s just too severe a cutting away of my former self, not baking bread, and I’m going to try to graft that branch back in.

One reason I gave it up was that so many people are eating gluten-free, and it seemed a challenge to find people to give my (mostly excess) bread to; I feel differently about that part now, for some reason. Yesterday we ended up with two little bits of dough left over, and made them into two “buns” that we baked along with the regular loaves. You can see the smaller one at the top left of the photo above. I took that one home and ate it for lunch, and it was the most delicious thing. Bread is a wonder.

Needles + ice = grapes.

What the weather did up at Pippin’s place (far northern California) where they recently had a great dumping of snow. I’ve been shivering in our very cold rain and hail, and we have snow on the low hills visible from here, but I have no exotic pictures of my own to display. Scout knew I would like this one and asked his mother to send it to me. ❤


The purples are out.

Cold weather has returned with the sunshine, and the fountain was frozen this morning. I have two little girls here all day making good use of my toys and the playhouse. It’s interesting to see the teamwork of these females in making a home of the playhouse. The typical use that my mostly boy grandchildren make of it revolves around “cooking” with whatever they can find, but my guests requested blankets and pillows and stuffies, and they created a cozy nest. It was cold enough that they needed their puffy jackets, but they asked to go barefoot.

Up at Pippin’s place where the temperatures were a little colder midday, 40 degrees, my grandchildren chose to eat lunch outdoors:

In my garden, the rain and sun combined to bring out — the flowers! Well, a few flowers… the purple, ground-hugging sort so far. But I see some taller iris buds. In February things will start to get exciting!

A quiet light to himself.

Donald Sheehan

Some years ago Donald Sheehan’s widow Xenia shared on social media an excerpt from his book The Grace of Incorruption, a passage in which he links Robert Frost with St. Dionysius. She published it on the saint’s feast day in October, along with his icon below, but for re-posting Sheehan’s thoughts I have chosen today’s date, on which Robert Frost breathed his last, an appropriately wintry day in 1963. Xenia Sheehan: 

This day the Orthodox Church celebrates St. Dionysius the Areopagite, 1st (or possibly 5th)-century poet of “Mystical Theology,” whom Donald Sheehan uniquely compares to American poet Robert Frost in his “deliberate turning out of all the lights of false knowing . . . in order to behold — in Dionysius’ astonishing words — ‘that darkness concealed from all the light among beings.'”

Don writes in The Grace of Incorruption that,

“…in order to know the personhood of another, we must unknow both the persona and the personality: we must let these lights go out. Again and again, in his finest poems, Robert Frost accomplishes precisely this unknowing, the deliberate extinguishing of all the false light, and a welcoming-in of the darkness in which true personhood can shine forth. And true personhood is, always, genuinely beautiful.

“I think what moves us so deeply about the poem ‘An Old Man’s Winter Night’ is Frost’s evocation of genuine personhood in the old man. The old man in Frost’s poem is not a persona nor a personality; he is, genuinely, a person. And as the lights go out in the poem, the more beautifully and movingly his personhood emerges. One vivid detail: when the log in the stove shifts with a jolt, we, too, are jolted into a deeper intimacy with the old man, an intimacy that gains in power because of the darkness.”

-Donald Sheehan

Text and icon from Donald’s widow Xenia Sheehan in 2018


All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him—at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping there, he scared it once again
In clomping off;—and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned to the moon,—such as she was,
So late-arising,—to the broken moon
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man—one man—can’t fill a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It’s thus he does it of a winter night.

-Robert Frost

Robert Frost