It’s the “false spring” one day, and the next, not. When I was at church to bake communion bread, it was spring for sure. Of course the dough knew it, and behaved accordingly.
Yesterday, the wind and various other factors contributed to further thaw the bones of my soul. While I was in my own garden trimming the lemon tree, pomegranate bushes, lavender and a few other plants, a series of great gusts came up suddenly, and made a clattering of doors and toys and other blowing-around stuff in the neighborhood.
The poem below doesn’t originate in my area of the country, so it will never perfectly fit the weather here, but I love the spirit of it, and I’m sure it will please a few of you in more northerly parts of the world. If you tend to be impatient with poems, try reading this one out loud.
TO THE THAWING WIND
Come with rain, O loud Southwester! Bring the singer, bring the nester; Give the buried flower a dream; Make the settled snowbank steam; Find the brown beneath the white; But whate’er you do tonight, Bathe my window, make it flow, Melt it as the ice will go; Melt the glass and leave the sticks Like a hermit’s crucifix; Burst into my narrow stall; Swing the picture on the wall; Run the rattling pages o’er; Scatter poems on the floor; Turn the poet out of door.
Because we haven’t had any rain in several weeks — or has it turned into months? — I had to put the hose on potted plants that aren’t on the automatic drip system. Hidden behind one big pot, this little great-grandbaby of a cactus I started was in full baby bloom. I brought her indoors to brighten up my kitchen, still lit also by the fairy lights, which are there for the days when spring is clearly not. yet.
The newly opened plum blossoms are the sweetest thing this week:
In the house, the refurbished little half-bath downstairs and the all-new full bath upstairs saw major progress. The little one was torn apart last July when it was discovered that a drain had been leaking into the wall. The wall was replaced, and eventually everything else, but the painting hadn’t been done until this week, so I only now hung the mirror I’d bought many months ago. It’s such a small space I had a hard time taking a picture of that.
The mirror is a sort of champagne color and I was a little worried about it blending in with all the other tones. But nothing unlovely jumps out at me at this point. I want eventually to have towels in there that are bright and contrasting, maybe in the aqua realm?
I’ve made a couple batches of Sesame Flax Crackers that my former housemate Kit and I discovered a couple of years ago. They are so easy, I don’t understand why I couldn’t manage to make them again before now. But then, the last 15 months of demolition and construction have been pretty consuming of my mind’s juggling skills. I could read philosophical novels and sometimes write about them, but I couldn’t take the few steps to bake crackers.
When Mags and I met via our blogs many years ago (we have still not met otherwise), we were both interested in reading the philosopher/theologian Søren Kierkegaard. I am pretty sure I’ve never read a book by him before, even though I somehow managed to write a term paper in high school comparing him to Sartre. It seems laughable now — or is it? Just now I’m feeling thankful for the confluence of people and events that made it possible for me to even hear about existentialism in my little high school out in the sticks. I wrote much more about this in a previous blog post that was a pre-book review: here.
Anyway, I bring it up again because neither Mags nor I ever got around to reading Kierkegaard — until now! We are reading “together” The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air: Three Godly Discourses, which is short, and consists of what are essentially sermons, but because Kierkegaard was not an ordained minister he didn’t think it appropriate to call them that.
My friend with whom I co-taught the high school class at church for two years gave me other books by Kierkegaard and much encouragement in my philosophical readings. I read a lot more online about what would be good to start with, and chose this book because I was pretty confident that we could finish 90 pages, no matter how challenging, and maybe get some momentum going for more of Kierkegaard. You know I will update you!
Surprise – the freesias are opening. I never even noticed the buds. Two insects found this first flower before I did. And lastly, below, my dear, dear little azalea plant that was part of a flower gift when my husband died five years ago is blooming right now. It has never been so beautiful!
March is the month that my husband fell asleep in the Lord, two years ago now. My experience of bereavement is all over the map, following the topography of the seasons and the holidays and whatever physical ailments fall on me.
Most of the time I am happily swamped by a myriad of plans and activities, and tasks I’m behind on. But sometimes the absence of my husband when I lie down and when I rise up, when I go from room to room or when I come home from a walk, is like a huge and strange presence.
March always features Lent, which is a mercy, because that is an opportunity to focus on prayer, which keeps me in the present, where my husband and I are both living in the Kingdom of God. I can put our marriage in historical perspective and in the context of eternity.
This year once again I cooked for 100 people, with the help of several dear friends, an agape meal after last Sunday’s Divine Liturgy, as a memorial for my husband. I made the same menu as last year. We had so much fun cooking on Saturday that I completely forgot to take pictures.
But the night before, I had been soaking 20# of Great Northern beans to make the Greek Beans , and I took pictures of them soaked and being dried off on a tablecloth. They have to be dried off a bit so you can sauté them in olive oil before stewing them. Neither of the photos shows the whole 20#.
I also borrowed some pictures from last year that are pretty much identical to the scene from last week.
Partly because of Lent, March is always very busy. Not all Orthodox churches are able to celebrate a full calendar of services, partly because many parishes have only one priest, and he might also have another job. But God has arranged for me to be where I can be nourished and helped a great deal by praying in church and receiving Communion several times a week during Lent. We have so many services that no one can attend all of them.
March is when the garden takes off. If I didn’t have my garden, what would my life be like? Would I keep a tidier house? Pray more? Probably neither. I am always happy in the garden – and it’s a good place to pray, without a doubt. Better to have a garden that is somewhat neglected than to have no garden.
I started thinning the lamb’s ears with the help of a kneeling bench
that my cousin Renée gave me.
I used to not like Euphorbia (above),
but now that it is falling over my own garden wall I find I am quite fond of it.
The native currant bushes (ribes) aren’t very bushy,
but they are three times as tall as last year.
The first week of Lent I started out grumpy. But Lent is a good cure for that. I have since been given wonderful gifts of thankfulness. God has let me see how all through my life He has abundantly provided for me, and He continues to do this every day. When I think of the love that has been given me in my childhood, my marriage, my children and my friends – and now the Holy Orthodox Church that is “the fullness of Him that fills all in all,” my cup runs over.
No doubt I will lapse into grumbling and self-pity before long, and have to repent again (That’s what life is for!) but the view of my widow’s world from this mountain on which I stand at the moment is quite beautiful, and it’s a Happy Spring.
I began this post yesterday, and then went out to pull weeds and deadhead flowers. I was kneeling in the mulch by the yarrow when the florist delivery girl walked up with an elegant vase for “Gretchen.” Lilies, roses, carnations, blue flowers, sweet smells… Before I could get it into the house I started weeping, not being able to guess who would do this – it could be anyone, in God’s world that is full of miracles, and seemingly brimming with people who care about me. But it was my children and their spouses, with an early remembrance of their parents’ wedding anniversary:
“Mama, these are sent in celebration of you and Papa, and with love for you,
from your children.” See what I mean about that landscape?
At least, I was able to be home and in wonderful services at my home parish for the first few days of Lent. Now I am flying away to Pennsylvania for an aunt’s memorial service and to be reunited with some cousins after almost 50 years. Not the ideal time, but part of me is excited about the familiness. Daughter Kate is coming up on the train to be with us, too.
On the home front, recent rains brought out more flowers. These daffodils are always looking down at the ground where only the snails can enjoy their faces, so I cut a bunch and brought them indoors for us humans.
Only two ranunculus are coming up from a previous year’s huge planting.
But the freesias multiply year after year.
I’ll be back in a few days, maybe with a tiny travelogue. Good Lent!