Tag Archives: olive trees

Dear little things.

Sunday evening, and I’m quite worn out, from doing so little, seemingly – but the screens are getting to me. We only have two weeks left of church school on Zoom, for which I am glad. I love the children in my class, which is why it’s exhausting to try to be “with” them this way, and it must be difficult for them, too. In any case, half of them don’t seem to be present the way they were when we were together in the flesh. I think it’s because they are quiet personalities, and Zoom-ing takes a certain amount of assertiveness.

What I did today, not in order: I took a walk first thing in the morning, and another one this evening, just before it started raining. I listened to a story by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala; talked to my godmother on the phone; listened to four homilies on the Samaritan Woman, three of them from previous years and one given fresh this morning. It seems a whole book could be written about the history, psychology and Christology of this passage of scripture, Christ’s encounter with the woman at Jacob’s well. As with many of the lessons, the preparation I do is rich food for my own heart — but I often feel ill prepared to teach about it.

I sat in the garden a bit, and thought about small things that are lovable. Those olive flower buds I mentioned last week, and other tender new growth and flowers I’ve seen here and in the neighborhood. The landscape is already filling out, and it’s only May — which means the mass of foliage and living, breathing botany has yet to reach its summer peak of green-and-fruity.

My grandson Jamie is not little the same way, but he’s still not half-grown, and I have this cute picture. He’s one of the California grandchildren, of which there are only three, so I saw him in March when I was up there.

I bought a hanging pot of succulents last summer, and had to keep it in the greenhouse over winter. It’s kind of a scruffy jumble, but two of the three plants in it have flowers now, which is nice.

olive
succulents

mock orange

I was mistaken about the dear little things in the birdhouse: they are not bluebirds, but chickadees! It’s so obvious now, in this picture taken eight days after my last.

I’ve been busy like a bee in the garden. But if it rains tomorrow, maybe I will read more, and write about books…? Good night, Dear Readers! May God give us restful hearts. If we are sleeping, may it be deep and renewing; if we are awake, may our work make us tired with that good kind of fatigue that helps us go to sleep again, in peace. Amen.

Providence and Photography

Long ago in Fantasyland, I thought my remodeling project might be done before Lent 2019. And again this year I thought so, but I had less hope than last year. 🙂

I hate to take the time to tell you properly why it’s not done, and how it makes me feel. But I will say that at worst, I feel like a homeless woman who for a year has been camping in an increasingly disorganized storage unit, who must still be presentable at 7:30 every morning to welcome visitors who are working on the place, very close to my bed and bathroom.

But I do have the loveliest bed, plenty of food to eat, and I have a bathroom. My wonderful house has windows through which sun often shines. I have hope of my affliction coming to an end. Millions of people in the world would love to experience my problem. Besides, God knows what I need, doesn’t He? He does. The last fifteen months have not gone the way I expected, but I can’t help but see, even with my bad spiritual eyesight, much good coming out of “everything,” and I’m not talking about my closet makeover.

The providence of God was crystal clear this week, when it’s the first week of Lent, and precisely for the first three days of this special week my project stalled; it wasn’t the first occasion when I could appreciate the timeliness of delay. Unlike most truly homeless people I have a car and could drive to church! I love to attend Matins and other services that are at 8:00 a.m. during Lent, and it’s not difficult during this season of my life when I can’t sleep past 5 or 6. And as often happens, when we have said the last “Amen,” I’m not eager to leave.

Today I lingered to straighten some of the new purple cloths on the icon stands. On Sunday a dozen of them had been quickly exchanged with the previous cloths of Pre-Lenten color — was it gold? — right in the middle of  Forgiveness Vespers, and a few were a little wonky. Then I went out and wandered in the church garden with my camera. I had already taken a couple of pictures on arrival, when the sun was barely up.

I went into the kitchen where Herman and Maria were just unloading their shopping bags of vegetables and clams and yummy things with which to make soup for tonight. We will have the first Presanctified Liturgy of Lent, and on Wednesday evenings we eat together afterward, a simple soup-salad-bread meal together, which people take turns cooking. I’m planning to prepare one of these midweek soups in April.

Before I could leave the parking lot I got a phone call from the painting contractor saying that they will finish this week, tomorrow and Friday. I had been prepared to wait much longer than that, but this seems perfect. One never knows what a day will bring — that is one way of describing the uncertainty, lack of routine, and waiting that has often been crazy-making in this last year.

But If I don’t have to wait here at the house, and I am physically able to take walks or go to church while I’m waiting, it’s not hard to be content. A thousand flowers decided that March 1st was a good day to bloom; there’s no denying that spring has sprung!

Spring Zoë

When the sun was just rising above the groves I drove away from my sister’s house and about an hour north to visit the Monastery of the Theotokos the Life-Giving Spring, which is nestled in the foothills at about 2,000 ft. elevation. It was Sunday morning and I wanted to attend Divine Liturgy there; the service was starting at 8:30.

Christ’s mother Mary is called the Life-Giving Spring because of course Christ is Himself the Water of Life. Just as the name of our first mother Eve means life in Hebrew, Zoë means life in Greek. There is an icon associated with this name of the Theotokos, and a feast day on the Friday following Pascha.

It was a beautiful drive, especially as the road climbed very gradually into green hills scattered with large patches of lupines and poppies. This year California’s Central Valley received more rain than usual, and the landscape is still gentle and lush everywhere. Many of the plants that will eventually be stickers and thorns are still pretty wildflowers.

I had reserved a room for the night at St. Nicholas Ranch retreat center just next to the monastery, and I parked my car there and walked through the gates and up the hill to the monastery itself. I had never visited here before, and didn’t know that this little hike would right away give me the opportunity to take pictures of wildflowers. 🙂

Then I entered the courtyard of the church, through a hall lined with mural icons of saints, in process of being painted; once I saw two of the sisters painting when I passed through. The courtyard has four planters with walls on which one can sit. They are filled with many ornamentals, but especially palms and bugleweed, a species of ajuga, which right now is in full bloom, its blue spikes standing boldly up from the mat of green leaves.

On my drive to the monastery I am sorry to say I had wasted time in my too-frequent mental lament over the unsightly palm trees that dot the landscape in the warmer areas of the state. Of course in their essence they are not ugly, but the way they have been used makes them appear that way. I think sometimes it is because they aren’t incorporated into any symmetry; or they stick up in an ungainly way out of context of their setting (for example, in Northern California where I live, and where conifers naturally and more healthily grow), often as a solitary botanical oddity. The majority are also not maintained and many have more dead fronds than living ones.

Here at the monastery I was given a huge gift, in encountering palm trees in all their glory. Many species of palms have been incorporated into the landscaping, and someone obviously gave thought to how to arrange them in the most beautiful way. Gardeners care for them and trim the dead fronds. My feeling about them has forever been altered, now that I’ve seen palm trees as they certainly were meant to be.

On one side of the courtyard is the church, where I spent the next couple of hours settling my spirit that had been jangled by all the activity of getting there. What a magnificent temple! The nuns’ singing transported me to heaven, by way of Greece. The whole service was in Greek, though the Gospel was read in English also. At least 50 other visitors were there with me, including several families with young children; I heard that they come from all over the world, and I personally met people from British Columbia, and from various points in California that are several hours away. I had words with a monk who I think  was from Greece, judging from what he said to a question, “I don’t know, I don’t speak English,” and from how another person translated for him so he could answer me.

After the service we walked across the courtyard to the dining room where dozens of visitors ate lunch provided by the sisters. It was the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt, and the story of her life was read to us from a perch high on the wall above, as we ate in silence in the trapeza style of Orthodox monasteries. We filed back into church to complete our meal with prayers, and then thick and sweet Greek coffee was served in the courtyard.

After a little coffee and cookies and socializing, we were invited to another room to hear a talk from (Korean) Father Gregory on St. Mary of Egypt, in English. It was very encouraging! Her life and example of repentance illustrate spiritual truths that I have been hearing from every direction in the last couple of weeks, and which I hope to consider altogether and write about later.

I shopped in the bookstore and bought a little icon of St. Porphyrios, who has blessed me so much this Lent through the book I’ve mentioned here, Wounded by Love. And then I returned to my room for a rest before Vespers which was to be at 3:00. The next string of pictures starts with a view of the monastery from just outside the window of my room, and includes scenes from a stroll around the property that evening.

It was a deep and quiet sleep I fell into that night after spending the last Sunday of Lent at this special place. I skipped the morning service that was to be at 3:00, and walked up the hill again for for a lovely breakfast, which I shared with only two other women, as most of the visitors had departed the day before.

I want to tell you about the hearty breakfast menu: On the table waiting for us was a bowl of cut-up grapefruit; a dish of rice and white beans lightly flavored with tomato and other good tastes; oatmeal cooked with cashew milk and fruit – we thought dates and blueberries and maybe figs; cookies with molasses; good bread; peanut butter; and a bowl of walnuts in their shells.

Down the hill again, and I packed my car for the drive home, full to the brim of blessings from my oh so brief, introductory sort of pilgrimage to this holy place, and already imagining my return. But before I descended to the valley again I had one more stop to make, about which I will tell you in my next post.

Olive Trees

I drove over the hills yesterday to be with friends for the afternoon. It was the most glorious day for it; the pastures were green as green, with sheep or black cows grazing, or just full of mustard at its peak of brightness. Little yellow-green leaves decorated some of the oaks, and in the middle of a mixed forest of oak and bay I came upon this venerable and silent grove of olives.