Tag Archives: Hagia Sophia

Elegant Surprises

Over the years I’ve had happy surprises in the garden, and disappointing surprises. Today I have a composite. My initial puzzlement began when I saw this view from my kitchen window; back in the corner by the fence I could see two whitish flower stalks:

gl P1040703 foxglove view

I was confused, because they were of a kind I had not planted, so I went out to get a closer look, and it didn’t take many steps in that direction before I saw that yes, thegl P1040708 foxglove behind ribes 6-16y were lovely foxgloves!

I haven’t grown foxgloves for a good while, I did not save any foxgloves plants from my old garden, and in the past when I did grow them it was far from this area of the garden. However, close to this spot I had planted one of the Indigo Woodland Sage plants that I had carefully saved for months in an old watertrough. It was there a couple of months ago, and now it is  nowhere. Did a bit of foxglove come with the mulch, as I assume was the case with my surprise horsetail grass on the other side of the garden?

You may also be confused, seeing a decidedly not-foxglove leaf form here.  That’s because the foxglove is emerging from behind a currant bush and hiding all its own leaves back there.

I’m sadly surprised that the salvia didn’t make it. It was a vigorous grower under what I considered less favorable conditions in the past; perhaps it didn’t like the shade from the snowball bush, nor the pushy calla lilies. But I know where to get another one if I want to try it somewhere else in the garden.

gl P1040717 3 sagesIn the meantime, across the way I have three salvias growing in a sort of triangle: Indigo Spires is huge, the Clary Sage is growing very close to the ground so far, and a little culinary sage plant lives modestly.

Today is windy and cool. I was wearing my flannel nightgown last night and I was still cold. The morning was overcast, though, and not so windy, and that’s perfect for picture-taking. I got a good photo of my acanthus.

gl acanthus 6-2015
acanthus mollis

 

 

 

“My acanthus” sounds odd, because I haven’t wanted to take ownership of that element of my new landscape that was suggested by the designer. When I had met acanthus in the past I always thought it scraggly and too like a thistle; one I particularly remember by someone’s front door was huge and full of spiderwebs and litter besides. But a year ago I greatly lacked confidence and creativity, so I didn’t know what to suggest otherwise. I let several plants go in and thought without energy about what I might replace them with next fall.

My attitude began to change when a friend told me that acanthus leaves as a decorative form were common in ancient Roman architecture. Before that I was trying think of the plant as a representative of a Scottish thistle, which is also not beautiful to me, but it is meaningful historically, in several ways. Soldier and Joy featured purple thistle flowers as boutineers at their wedding. But honestly, that wasn’t doing it for me.

When the acanthus began to send up its elegant flower stalks, I softened. This morning after I took the picture, I looked on Wikipedia and found that the leaf form is ubiquitous in ancient architecture and popular in more modern art such as William Morris’s wallpaper designs.

And not only the Romans, but Byzantines and Greeks liked to use it.  Here is an example from the Hagia Sophia:

by Gryffindor, on Wikipedia Commons

gl Iceland poppy June 14 2016

 

So, I am surprised that I have changed my mind about acanthus. I’m glad I wasn’t in too big of a hurry to switch it out. I’m very pleased with my whole garden, actually, and I no longer feel that it belongs to someone else.

It doesn’t seem that most of it is taking three years to “leap,” and it really is full of delights every day. Those Iceland Poppies are certainly a wonder, how they keep blooming here in the middle of June! It’s strange to have the poppies right alongside echinacea; those two normally aren’t normally seen together.

gl P1040713 erigeron fleabane
erigeron

gl P1040712 bindweed on ribes

 

To my consternation, the bindweed is more prolific than ever. I seem to be constantly pulling it out, but it sneaked past me and climbed to the top of a currant branch before I noticed. Very inelegant behavior, that.

 

 

 

gl P1040699

The hydrangea I was gifted has nothing in common with this succulent except that they are both in pots on the patio.

gl P1040714 yarrow fields

There are yarrow fields, a variety of achillea called “terracotta.” Beyond it you can see that I have finally got the olives into their pots, and if one is not level it’s actually the one in the foreground — I guess that means the photo is not level. Anyway, the garden is in pretty good order now, and when you come for a tour you may be surprised to find, no thanks to me, patches of elegance.

A Thousand Years

Today is the 1,000-year commestvladimir-big halifaxmoration of the repose of St. Vladimir, Enlightener of Russia. He was the emperor whose decision to convert to Orthodox Byzantine Christianity transformed Russia and turned its history in a new direction, in about 988. I was lucky enough to attend Liturgy today, in a parish with Russian roots, and to hear a homily on St. Vladimir from a priest who had graduated from St. Vladimir’s Seminary. The Orthodox Church in America has posted online a long and rich story of the saint if you would like to read more of his exploits than I can tell here.

The most famous story among the faithful is an account found in the Primary Chronicle of Russia, written about this time, of how Vladimir, when he was still a confirmed pagan, sent emissaries to check out the churches and faiths of his neighboring lands.

They were completely unimpressed with the Muslim Bulgars, partly because of the ban on alcoholic beverages; of the German churches they reported, “We beheld no glory there.”

But in Constantinople at Hagia Sophia: “…they led us to the place where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or earth, for on earth there is no such vision nor beauty, and we do not know how to describe it; we only know that God dwells among men. We cannot forget that beauty.”

This has been the experience of so many of us converts to Orthodoxy, that we can well believe the story, which is not held to be as certain as the facts about the politics of the time and how Prince Vladimir made an arranged marriage with the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, and was baptized before the marriage. However it came about, his conversion was providential and has had tremendous ramifications for the last 1000+ years.

He ordered the baptism of all his subjects, who dutifully went down to the River Dneipr en masse the next morning. Here I want to quote from the OCA article about how this event resulted in the continuing celebration of another meaningful church feast day:

cross-procession-illarion-pryanishnikov

It is difficult to overestimate the deep spiritual transformation of the Russian people effected by the prayers of St Vladimir, in every aspect of its life and world-view. In the pure Kievan waters, as in a “bath of regeneration,” there was realized a sacramental transfiguration of the Russian spiritual element, the spiritual birth of the nation, called by God to unforeseen deeds of Christian service to mankind.

“Then did the darkness of the idols begin to lift from us, and the dawn of Orthodoxy appear, and the Sun of the Gospel illumined our land.” In memory of this sacred event, the regeneration of Rus by water and the Spirit, the Russian Church established the custom of an annual church procession “to the water” on August 1. Later, the Feast of the Procession of the Honorable Wood of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord, which Russia celebrated with the Greek Church, was combined with the Feast of the All-Merciful Savior and the Most Holy Theotokos (established by St Andrew Bogoliubsky in the year 1164). In this combination of feasts there is found a precise expression of the Russian theological consciousness, for which both Baptism and the Cross are inseparable.

Prince Vladimir soon started to destroy pagan idols, some of which he had commissioned himself, and began serious reforms that would create a new church of the Tithes 17th cent Deśatynna_cerkvaChristian culture. He built monasteries and many and magnificent churches; hospitals, schools and orphanages. The capital city during this era was Kiev, and these first years of Christianity in Russia were a time of growth and prosperity and art. The hundreds of churches in Kiev were renowned for their beauty, for example, the fascinating Church of the Tithes, which has been destroyed many times and whose rebuildingvladimir card from vladimir 1000 yrs is under discussion again at this time.

My own first experiences of Orthodox worship were not outwardly as splendorous as Hagia Sophia, but like those emissaries I felt the splendor of Heaven coming down on me. (Just this week I added to my page newly renamed “Orthodoxy and Me,” to tell much more of my story as a story and not just scattered parts.) In my parish we have a man who was born a Jew and took the name of Vladimir at his baptism somewhat late in life. This morning he joyfully passed out these little icon cards as gifts, and we were all glad that he was there so we could say, “Happy Name’s Day!”