Tag Archives: Eugene Vodolazkin

The usual blessed everydayness.

My beach visits are challenging my writing skills, no doubt about that! The seashore and its constant change, my being on The Edge of such a vast expanse of water and sky, caressed or buffeted by forces of wind and waves… it’s thrilling. I could write that sentence every time I go, but it would convey sameness, when there is nothing the same, ever.

I was excited yesterday to be going when it was a minus tide, a term I hadn’t even heard until a month ago. These events seem to happen mostly at night; I hope to learn more about why that is, when I get the books I ordered online and from the library, about waves, tides, beaches and seashores.

Yesterday’s minus tide was at about 3:00 p.m. I was surprised at all of the puddles and pools in various places on the beach, not just at the north end where the rocks hide creatures. The receded tide revealed a wide expanse of flat beach that shone like glass.

Great heaps of every kind of sea plant, vegetable, and kelp had been left in swaths on the shore. I wished I had someone with me who knew the names of everything! And if I had thought of it, I could have taken home enough to make a giant kettle of seaweed soup.

One specimen of Flustrellidra was floating in a tidepool. I found that name while searching last night for the name of a seaweed that I did eat when I got home.

Floating Flustrellidra

In those rocky pools I didn’t see any hermit crabs or sea stars; only a few mussels clinging under rocks. My foot slipped a bit when I was looking down into the water — I think that was when I was still wearing my sandals, because I thought I would be steadier with them on — and when I shifted my gaze to the surface of the rocks on which I stood, I realized that they were all green, that is, where they weren’t covered with black seaweed hanging down like greasy hair. So everything I might grasp with hand or foot was slimy. I soon left that area.

One thing always fun is the way the texture of the sand underfoot changes every few yards. Where it was gravelly I sank down mid-calf; a short distance beyond, the surface was firm. My feet standing on that hard and flat “patio” were red and seemingly shrunken from their chilly bath.

It was when I was walking back from the rocks that the happiness peaked. I thought of my late husband and wished we could be walking in the waves together. Maybe I thought of him because I had been listening to The Aviator on the drive out, thinking with Innokenty about his finally having lost the only one who had shared the era and experiences of his previous life, who also remembered the important things. And there was this:

“Now, as life is settling into a routine little by little, happiness shows through everything, through the most common everydayness, no matter what I do. Everydayness is essentially happiness… finally, to simply live.”

As I was splashing through the shallow water it occurred to me that my husband does actually share this happiness with me. There is one happiness that is a gift from God. It is the same reality that “shows through” whenever and wherever it happens, and reveals itself as being unbounded by time. A gift of spiritual sunshine that warms the soul in such a way that it’s obvious nothing is lacking. Mere existence is huge and blessed, the moment fills everything, and all the happinesses that have ever been are in that fullness.

I found several things on the beach. First, two big sand dollars. The first one was almost perfect. It had only a little chip on the edge, and I put it carefully in my bag. Later, just after passing a very young family with a preschooler, who were playing in the sand, I found another dollar, truly pristine, and I offered it to them. From the looks on their faces, they had never seen one before.

A beautiful, snack sized piece of seaweed fell out of a wave on to the sand, and I put it in my bag, too. You can see it further down.

And then — I found this dolly.

“She actually likes being tossed in the waves,” I thought, when I saw the expression on her face. She is some surfer girl! I dropped her in my bag, too, without the slightest doubt that it was the right thing to do. I would take her home and clean the sand out of her hair….

I haven’t managed to clean her hair thoroughly; I don’t know if the plants are attached to her or just tangled in her tresses. After seeing how integrated with marine life she has become, I began to wonder if she belongs to the sea now. Is the missing half of her hair currently in suspension with the other microparticles of plastic that live there?

She seems a kindred spirit, and for the time being she sits on  my computer table reminding me of our common love for the ocean waves. I need to give her a name. Any ideas?

The piece of “lettuce” I collected, I washed very well at home, and thought I had identified it. I ate it raw in the evening — it was rubbery and fairly tasteless — and then searched in vain online for a name for it. I think it’s probably a red or brown algae. One article I found last week said that all the seaweeds are edible, and last night I read some people saying that you should be careful not to eat too much of any kind. Not too much danger of that in my case!

When I have published this post, I plan to add it to my new Page tabbed at the top of my site, titled Sea Log. I’m glad for the virtual companionship of any of you who would like to share in my seashore explorations. May they long continue, Please God.

If peas could talk.

In this era, I keep an eye on the coastal weather forecast more than the local, trying to plan well ahead so as to increase my chances of getting out there to the edge of the Pacific — aiming for several times a month.

Last week about this time I noticed that there was going to be rain nearly every day upcoming, except for one, so I penciled in my outing for Monday. I did notice that it was forecast to be windy, and I researched a little bit about just how 20-24 mph winds feel. I couldn’t remember the stats on what I’d experienced in the past. It didn’t sound too foreboding, so I dressed in layers with a windbreaker, and off I went.

Did I tell you I have been reading The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin? I have the audio as well as the print format. The possibility of sinking into that book makes me look forward to any longer drive to anywhere. I can’t concentrate on a book, lecture, etc. while doing anything else at home; even while driving, I can only attend well while following a familiar route. I make frequent use of the rewind button (Is there another word for that now that there is no actual winding involved?), including at times when I have to concentrate more, as at an intersection, and briefly lose the thread of the story.

The weather at the beach was a blast. The clumps of grass on the dunes were beautiful, the way they waved in the wind. But, “This is not fun,” was the phrase that popped into my mind about three minutes after I reached the water’s edge, where the sand at least was not flying; my head had began to pound, and my eyes were burning, but I pushed against that blast toward the tidepools that I knew would have been exposed.

The wind was helping the waves up the beach, where they were allowed to break, but not to recede. The wind whipped them to make them lie on the sand a few more seconds than was their natural will; I could tell they were not happy about it, because they weren’t lying there quietly. Gusts attacked them over and over,  yanking pieces of foam off their edges and blowing them off. The puffs scattered wildly, like sudden orphans. Their wails couldn’t be heard above those of their abuser. The sun shone brightly.

I had purposely chosen mid-afternoon for my visit, because there was going to be a minus tide, and I’ve noticed those seem to occur mostly in the middle of the night. This week there were three of them that would happen before dark.

But I was beginning to foresee that stumbling around the rocks looking for anemones, in my quickly cooling bare feet, would also not be that much fun. I turned around, and my time on the beach was shorter than usual, but I was glad I had tried the experiment.

I have been reading so many books lately that include elements of great hardship and suffering, it would not feel right if I did not push myself at least a little, and endure some amount of discomfort. Not only do I have my literary characters as examples in this, but I have fellow blogger Mags who is snow-swimming this month, in the seas of Northern Ireland! This kind of effort, when you do it voluntarily, with the knowledge that you can be home and cozy soon afterward, can be exhilarating. The experience of a Soviet labor camp, on the other hand, one doesn’t volunteer for. Just today I read more of The Aviator‘s protagonist Innokenty’s musings on it, years later:

“Well, what kind of description can convey round-the-clock coldness? Or hunger? Any story implies a completed event but there is a dreadful eternity here. You cannot warm up for an hour, or two or three or ten. It is impossible, after all, to accustom oneself to either hunger or cold.”

My garden suffered what may be the worst cold it will have to endure this winter, just two days ago. I know it was several degrees of frost — and this area has had a winter or two in the last decades without even one freeze; it rarely gets down to 20 degrees. By the time that morning’s weather test occurred, I had been doing my own trials of the new greenhouse equipment, necessitating a few emergency visits in my nightgown at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., to adjust the thermostat. So everything was okay in there. And you know, collards get sweeter by suffering frost.

But the next day, it was the wind that hit here, and this morning I found that it had grabbed the 4-foot snow pea vines off their trellises and thrown them to the ground, to be pelted by rain. I won’t expose their humiliation in pictures. The collapsed garden umbrella was torn off its vanes, too, the wind getting hold at the top where the sun had weakened the canvas in the last five years, to make a big hole there for starters.

It looks like we will have a few more days of rain, but no high winds are in the forecast. I am almost always comfortable, having warm clothes and fire and a gas furnace. My life is easy, for sure. If peas could talk, their story would doubtless be different.

Lenten love and lettuces.

For the letter “L”, Lent is a natural choice of subject, considering the season we Orthodox are in. This year Pascha or “Greek Easter” is five weeks after Western Easter, so we are still in preparation. Everything that we experience or do is placed in the context of our efforts to draw close to Christ and to be ready for the glorious celebration of His Resurrection. If I don’t see that connection on my own, someone around me is sure to say, upon hearing that I’m sick, or my car broke down, or about any number of news items, failings or challenges, “Ah, well, it’s Lent!”P1030845(2)

Sloughing off the unnecessary, becoming more like Mary than Martha, letting go, focusing on the eternal things and soaking up the encouragement of our mother the Church through the heart-sustaining services of this period of the calendar — these are some of the things we try to work on.

When on April Fool’s Day my computer’s hard drive failed, I lost several months’ worth of data and many hours of work that I have to do over, including hundreds of photos and I don’t know what else, because somehow my backup program had also failed since December. My Computer Guy was more distressed than I was; I realized deep down that this loss was of nothing essential to my life. I said something like that to him, mentioning Lent, and he remarked lightly that my attitude inspired him to consider what sort of sacrifices he himself ought to be making. “Oh, no,” I wanted to say, “It’s not about making sacrifices!” But exactly what it is about, I wasn’t prepared to expound. I do know that I did not choose to give up a big chunk of visual and literary records.Christ washing feet of disciples

What Lent is about can be summed up in this prayer that we pray hundreds of times throughout the weeks and the services. It doesn’t say anything about sacrifice or even about food.

The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian

 O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness,
lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility,
patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother;

for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

And though to be truthful, there is mention of sacrifice when we come together, it’s in the moving hymn we sing on our knees at one of the Lenten services:

Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense,
And the lifting up of my hands

As an evening sacrifice.

I happen to be reading a book that seems very Lenten in its mood and themes. This novel by Eugene Vodolazkin, Laurus, is filling my mind so much the last few weeks, I originally planned to dedicate the whole of “L” to it, even though I’m still in the middle of the book. It’s about the Middle Ages, a holy fool, and kairos. The main character demonstrates the kind of self-emptying that results in making space for God.Image result for laurus

His motivation for asceticism is love for someone for whom he wants to pray, and he does not want to be distracted by being too comfortable. Eventually he comes to feel out of touch with his body, almost insensible to its condition, and free. You might think that such a person would also be oblivious to the natural world around him, but Arseny seems to be more intimate with the creation and appreciative of its beauty than the average person. Perhaps the Holy Spirit allows him to see and interact with things more directly and clearly than we who only have our natural senses.gl lettuce IMG_2014

Speaking of Nature, I am trying to cooperate with her and grow some vegetables. On Friday I set out some little lettuces and also some kale and leeks. The lettuce is of two varieties of Romaine: Forellenschluss (which I probably bought for its name that is so fun to say) is the speckled kind on the left in the photo; it’s an heirloom variety from Austria. The plain green is a heat-resistant lettuce from Israel and is named Jericho.

That Lenten prayer is useful all through the day, and everywhere we go. I feel the spirit of love in regard to my garden, but I need the spirit of patience. I pray the Lord takes from me the lust of power, but I don’t expect it will happen as quickly as I lost all those digital photos.

Did you know that “the English word Lent is a shortened form of the Old English word len(c)ten, meaning ‘spring season'”? Whatever hemisphere we live in, we can with God’s help tend our hearts, and make this season the springtime of our soul.