Tag Archives: olive trees

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.

Sweet and messy every time.

 

 

Eight years ago I introduced my blog with a photo of sweet peas from my garden. I’m growing those aromatic favorites again this year. I took the photo below right after I had cut almost all of the flowers I could reach for a bouquet. At this point the only other things in the vegetable beds are a few  basil plants, but pole beans are going in, any minute now.

Back in 2009, I didn’t own an olive tree. Now I have two, and they are blooming right now.

I also didn’t have a feijoa (which Jo reminded me is another name for pineapple guava) until my recent re-landscaping. My big bush is blooming much more than during its first spring here. I think it only had one flower last year.

If the fruit tastes as fancy as those blooms look, we are in for a treat!

I hear a voice, and have an adventure.

gl IMG_0929My husband didn’t speak to me from the grave, but I did get a pertinent message from him — and from myself, too — and it was delightful. You know how below each individual post on my blog there are three links to “related” posts from the past? At the bottom of yesterday’s was one titled “Walking in 2012.” As I was finishing my breakfast this morning and ready to leave for the gym I clicked on it to see what I had written about back then. (I have published almost 1000 posts and have forgotten many of them by now.)

It was about a brief conversation I had with my dear husband at the very beginning of the gl IMG_0923new year of 2012, and about a neighborhood walk I took as a result. Reading what he said, and what I said…I could hear us all over again and laugh at how we were. What I recounted of that walk and all that I learned, well, it was just what the doctor ordered. I thanked God and Mr. Glad, and I changed my plan and set off for a walk in the outdoors instead of driving to the gym.

Rain had fallen last night and early this morning, but the clouds had all blown away to the edges of the sky, and the sun was shining. I walked along the creek, and the sweet earthy smells emanating from all the plants and the ground were so delicious. I started thinking about the time my husband and I were walking in the rain forest. That was a pleasant and vivid memory.

I hadn’t brought anything but my cell phone, and I was glad to have it because very soon I began taking pictures of trees. So many of them seemed to look extra handsome with some dark gray clouds in the background.gl IMG_0928

One of the first I noticed was an olive tree (above) that seemed to fit very nicely in a front yard, and had been pruned so as to keep it looking the way an olive should. Some neighbors on my block have four or five olives in front of their house and they prune them like lollipops twice a year. I wanted to plant an olive in my new landscape but many people discouraged me, partly because they get so big. So I will keep two of mine that are in pots, and get them matching pots, and study the best way to prune them according to their natural bent.

This redwood tree I saw this morning must be the healthiest and best formed specimen in town. I could hardly believe it was a redwood, it is so thick and green, and standing all by itself, too! Coast redwoods much prefer to be in groups, where they can preserve moisture and coolness against dry weather. Most of them along the avenues here are not planted that way, and they have suffered terribly in the last few years.IMG_0933

One yard on my way had both a giant fig tree and a very tall persimmon tree. I was admiring them when the neighbor came out of his house and we said, “Good morning.” I remarked about the beauty of the persimmon tree and he said,

gl IMG_0931

“I guess… I get the trimmers out here all the time and try to keep it away from my gutters.” You can see how it is indeed very one-sided after that kind of pruning, but it looks as though it would still give the owners plenty of fruit, on top of what they get from the fig tree.

gl IMG_0943

 

I noticed then that even though the sun was shining warmly on me, tiny drops of rain were starting to fall, too. Oops — I wasn’t prepared for that, and only had a pocket of my flannel shirt in which to put my phone. But first, I had to snap another olive tree, this one an example of what you do not want your olive to look like. Those are lots of suckers growing at the base of the tree.

Hmmm…the rain was heavier, and I looked for a tree that might be close to the sidewalk and with a dry area underneath. I found it in this palm tree; here is my view from under its thick canopy, with the added interest of a fig tree growing out of its tidy trunk.gl IMG_0944

I stayed under that roof for a minute or two, but not knowing how long the shower might last, I was soon braving the wet again, after having wrapped my phone with two handkerchiefs I’d found in the other shirt pocket.

With it under cover, I had to pass by several more lovely tree specimens without taking note of them with the camera. I came upon a big redwood with lots of dry ground under it, so I paused again and took a picture of its underside, but I will spare you. That’s the first time I’ve preferred a palm to a redwood. Soon I was on my way, after picking up a big leaf. When I got it home I put my Waterlogue phone app to painting it. That tool is addictive, but I find that most of the pictures I take don’t convert very well.

That was my adventure, much more fun, I’m sure, than I’d have had at the gym. I didn’t even get very wet, though I had the joy of walking in the rain. I made new tree friends, and renewed the lessons I’d been taught almost four years ago, with the help of my late husband. I told you he wasn’t very far away.

gl Waterlogue-2015-11-09-13-46-18