You can kill us, but…

Saint Justin the Philosopher and Martyr (AD 100-165; celeb. June 1st)

Justin is known in the Orthodox Church as Martyr Justin the Philosopher. In his youth he was unsatisfied with the philosophies of the day, and after becoming a Christian he opened a school of Christian philosophy. He refused to offer sacrifice to pagan gods and was beheaded along with the martyrs Justin, Chariton, Euelpistus, Hierax, Peonus, Valerian, Justus and Charito in 165. They are all commemorated on June 1.

You can kill us but you cannot do us any real harm.
-Saint Justin Martyr

The following gives the context of the above quote and is from his first apology in 150 A.D., which he wrote to the emperor Antoninus Pius in defense of innocent Christians:

“Reason dictates that persons who are truly noble and who love wisdom will honor and love only what is true. They will refuse to follow traditional viewpoints if those viewpoints are worthless…Instead, a person who genuinely loves truth must choose to do and speak what is true, even if he is threatened with death…I have not come to flatter you by this written petition, nor to impress you by my words. I have come to simply beg that you do not pass judgment until you have made an accurate and thorough investigation. Your investigation must be free of prejudice, hearsay, and any desire to please the superstitious crowds. As for us, we are convinced that you can inflict no lasting evil on us. We can only do it to ourselves by proving to be wicked people. You can kill us—but you cannot harm us.”

We remember together.

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.”

Amen.

We meet Mary and other May flowers.

Virginia Spring Beauty (Claytonia)

Here I am in Colorado, with my son “Soldier’s” family. It’s quite different from my last visit to the state, which was in the fall of 2018 when Clara was a newborn. The sky is blue and the grass green, the trees that were bare and brown back then are leafing out and the conifers have tender needle tips.

One day while Soldier was at work the rest of us walked at Monument Rock, through forests of gambel oaks to a monolith of sandstone. Other people on the path smiled to see all the children bending over one wildflower after another as we tried to find their names in my Seek app. “Which ones have you seen?” they asked. “The bluebells? And the Spring Beauties?”

Yes, we had. And many others: Crossflower, Nuttal’s Larkspur, Fringed Sagebrush, Tall Western Groundsel, Leafy Spurge, and Field Pennycress.

Bluebells
Slender Phlox

We were charmed to make the acquaintance of a tiny flower that Laddie was first to notice, a soft blue blur low to the ground at the side of the trail. We identified it as Small-flowered Blue-eyed Mary (collinsia). “Pleased to meet you, Mary!” the boys said, and carefully shook delicate stems. 

Along the trail we also stopped to peer at small fish in a pond, and I collected sand for my collection at the base of Monument Rock. The sun gets hot here, at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, and it felt good to me to be in that dry, slow oven. Seeing Joy and Clara on the sandstone path made me think of that book I love, Along Sandy Trails. One of the boys reminded me that the girl in that book did not wear pigtails.

At home later, we zoomed in on the picture of the Mary flowers to admire their fine lines and clear colors. And we walked around the house to compare the Bittercress there with the Field Pennycress we’d seen on our outing. May appears to be the perfect time for a wildflower lover like me to visit Colorado and join with my grandboys to make new flower friends. And we met a grasshopper, too!

Women talking about books.

reading
Arthur Lismer – My Wife at Sackville River

What I love about our women’s book group at church is how, over the course of the year, so many different women participate, and yet, each gathering is a totally different mix of women; the literary conversation is unique and fascinating in its range of genres, and even more so in the literary lives of each woman present. Those who met this week wear a variety of “hats” in their daily life, including those of mom, wife, schoolteacher, iconographer, farmer, marriage and family counselor, librarian, and screenwriter.

Our recent meeting — our first in-person meeting in over a year! — was after a non-reading break for Pascha, and it was a short get-together solely for the purpose of picking our next book. We were all supposed to bring an idea, and then we would vote. At the end of Lent when we met on Zoom, we had planned to return to the group’s original focus on women authors, and we also hoped to read something “summery” next, not in the “spiritual reading” category.

But of the six women at the table in the church hall Sunday afternoon, half weren’t aware of those parameters. The books that were suggested were:

1 – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

2 – The Italian by Ann Radcliffe

3 – The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

4 – My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

5 – Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives by Elder Thaddeus

6 – The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

Each of us told a little something about the book she was nominating, and then the informal and public voting began. Several of us lobbied for someone else’s suggestion. We had to choose a date for our discussion, also, which was harder, because for sure someone will have to miss that fun. People go on vacation.

Which book would YOU choose? Would you want to read a few, as we wanted? I came home and perused book covers to display here, and it was not easy to decide even among them.  If I were a graphic artist, I would think it the loveliest thing to do book covers.

I will tell you later what books we agreed upon, if I manage to read one or both of them. In the meantime, please tell me if any of these pique your interest or reaction for any reason. And I hope your own summer reading is satisfying in the best ways.

by Katie Harnett