Tag Archives: Greece

Shucking beans with women friends.

I have been so busy with many things inward and outward, and I’ve wanted to write about all of it! Experiences of hiking or reading, or discovering connections between the people I meet on the street and those in my books; learning how the wrong ideas of a thousand years ago have brought us to the society we have today, and about how the small and strong actions of good people likewise have a long trajectory…. When I can’t gather my thoughts about even one part of it, and put them into a tidy or untidy blog post, I remain unsettled and confused at some level. The experience lacks a certain completeness.

Lots of bloggers I know seem to be writing fewer posts lately; I wonder if they feel the way I do. I think that after a period of upheaval or change or busyness, after reading and participating in family or church feast days, or traveling — one needs a time of quiet and retreat when not much is going on, in order to process what happened. But during most of this year, there are new loose ends — discoveries or disasters or directives — every day or even more often. When I start to organize a few thoughts, suddenly another one pops up and throws my mind into disorder again.

But today — maybe I could write about today, its beautiful and specific concrete things especially, with my apologies for those two whole paragraphs above which I devoted to vague intangibles. I shucked beans this afternoon, at the invitation of Cathy, who wanted some company to shell the harvest of what she and her husband had raised this year. He is Mr. Greenjeans whom I’ve mentioned several times, but I don’t think Mrs. Greenjeans is the right name for her.

Anyway, this is exactly the kind of activity, or one of the kinds, that I have been wanting to do more of. It was the perfect opportunity to get some work done and chat at the same time. In order to get us away from the category of current events that cause our heart rates to rise, I told her about two of the books that I have been enjoying lately that are in a category together. Here I want to mention only one of them, Greek to Me, by Mary Norris.

Mary Norris

The first coincidence having to do with that book was this morning when I returned from errands and saw a strange couple walking their dog on the sidewalk opposite my driveway. We got to talking and introduced ourselves from that distance, and they told me the dog’s name was Athena. The man noted that often they remember dog names better than human names, and I said that I would probably remember “Athena,” having just been listening to stories about Greek gods two minutes before.

Aphrodite

Mary Norris’s book is not only about Greek gods. It’s about her love affair with everything Greek, and her study of modern and ancient Greek language. She narrates her own book on Audible, and I do love her voice, both her writer’s voice and her physical voice. I first encountered it listening to her first book, Between You and Me, which she also narrated. She tells very personal and often amusing stories all through, about her Catholic childhood and emancipation and her various adventures in language learning over the decades.

Psychotherapy helped her to deal with childhood trauma, but so did immersing herself in stories of Mount Olympus. One of several pilgrimages culminated in her skinny dipping on Cyprus, off Aphrodite’s Beach, as she believed it to be, in hopes that seemed not entirely self-mocking, that she might become more beautiful in those mythical waters.

As Cathy and I shelled black, cranberry, tan and white beans into bowls, I played a little bit of Mary for her from my phone. Cathy told me fascinating stories of her own months-long stay in Greece way back when, about the time that I also was a wandering baby boomer. But my travels were not so deep or wide. And not in Greece.

Cathy tried to describe the sunlight in that land, in words very similar to those Mary Norris had used in trying to express its unique softness. Mary wrote that she wasn’t sure that she herself was changed by Aphrodite’s waters, but she saw everything from then on as though more clear and sparkling. Both of those women renewed my own desire to travel in Greece; some of you might remember that my late husband and I had booked travel to Crete when he became ill, and we weren’t able to go.

I might not be any more likely to get to Tennessee, but if I do, I want to visit the replica of the Parthenon that is there, which Mary Norris tells about in her book. The story of its statue of Athena, the long process of collecting funds for it, then figuring out what it should look like, details about the sculptor and model and why certain design decisions were made — all of that was fascinating to me. I didn’t know this replica existed, and I haven’t researched anything about it since this morning when it came up near the end of the book. Have any of you seen it? Please tell me what you thought.

There. I’ve managed to tell you about one book, one part of a day, and one fun activity I engaged in, with a few women companions. Yes, there was at least one more at that table with Cathy, Mary and me. She’s part of the story I hope to tell another day.

Wedding shoes to the background.

When our oldest children were very young, our church was an often-outdoor meeting on top of a mountain and the children usually came home with quite a bit of dirt and scuffs. For that reason I dressed them in play clothes and we saved the fancier stuff for weddings. That’s how whatever little patent-leather Mary-Janes Pearl had in her closet came to be called Wedding Shoes. She was always very happy to have a reason to dress up in them.

In the last several years I have wanted to wear a special sort of shoe to weddings, specifically something with a bit of a heel when I have held the office of Mother of the Bride. In my daily life and for every other fancy event I normally require foot gear that keeps me closer to horizontal, and I’m not even very skilled at walking in the most moderately elevated pumps.

You are probably guessing that this is all an intro to the news that I am going to be Mother of the Bride again. Yes! Glory Hallelujah, Kate our youngest is getting married this summer, and the whole family will gather from East and West to celebrate.

Not just the shoes, but the dress, the jewelry, etc. etc. have been a major challenge for me this time around, which promises to be my last MOB event. Soon I’ll be moving on to Grandmother of the Bride, and I won’t feel the same kind of pressure. Grandmothers are allowed to be invisible or at least to go off and play with the children which is lots more fun.

P1100471

Anyway, wedding attire and other related and unrelated business have kept my mind occupied elsewhere than here in my beloved Blogland. After weeks of shopping, one of my least favorite activities, I have my Wedding Shoes and everything else for my person and I have breathed a sigh of relief and sunk into a chair — but I jumped up again pretty fast to start in on the housework that had piled up, and the garden.

My cousin came fromlavender 6-14 PA so in preparation I cleaned up the weeds and trimmed the dead flower heads and deadwood and swept the spiderwebs off the pool fence. I spent one whole week getting ready for her and my dear cousin-in-law and it was well worth it.

The other upcoming big event, for which I won’t need heels, is a trip to Greece and Turkey that Mr. Glad and I are taking after the wedding. We haven’t ever traveled abroad together, and neither of us knows any Greek — or at least, we didn’t know any until we started studying the Pimsleur Modern Greek (short) course. Now we are pretty good at saying “I don’t understand,” which we expect to use a lot, maybe exclusively if we don’t get on with listening to the remainder of the CD’s.

We’ll be spending most of our time on the island of Crete, so if any of my readers has any tips regarding that long and warm island, they would be most welcome.

The next couple of months will be busy with all these preparations for travel and celebrations, and they aren’t the kinds of things I usually cover in blog posts, but I wanted you to know what is going on in the background  that is actually the foreground. In my mind subjects will be playing Musical Chairs in a more chaotic fashion than usual, but I pray to keep them all gathered together serenely in my heart.

st. nicholas georgioupolis crete
Georgioupolis, Crete – St. Nicholas Chapel

Hans Christian Andersen on Greek Easter

Hans Christian Andersen’s travel memoirs from the 1840’s, when he witnessed both Roman and Greek Easter festivities. He did love the Greek way:

Day and night the church was filled with people. The King, the Queen, and the whole court were there on the midnight before Easter Day: the priests stood praying and mourning around the flower-filled coffin; the whole congregation prayed in silence. The clock struck twelve, and at the same moment the Bishop stepped forth, and said: “Christ is risen!”

“Christ is risen!” burst from every tongue. Kettle-drums and trumpets sent forth their strains; the music played the liveliest dances! The whole people fell on each other’s necks, kissed, and joyously cried, “Christ is risen !” Shot after shot was heard outside; rockets darted into the air, torches were lighted, men and young lads, each with a candle in his hand, danced in a long row through the city. The women kindled fires, slaughtered lambs, and roasted them in the streets. Little children, who had all got new fez and new red shoes, danced in their shirts around the fires, kissed each other, and exclaimed like their parents, “Christ is risen!” O, I could have pressed each of these children to my heart and exulted with them. “Christ is risen!” It was touching, elevating, and beautiful.

Read the whole thing here.

(In California, as the clock struck twelve.)