Tag Archives: organization

We prune and purge.

I had a wonderful day, though it was very odd at the beginning. Instead of my usual slow and contemplative morning pace, I had to go downstairs early to phone my auto insurance company as soon as their business hours began, in hopes of asking a simple question of A Real Person, as we say. I had begun to wonder, over the previous several days, if there were any of those on duty. It worked, and I made progress; but I’ll have to do the same thing on Monday.

The contemplative part of the day got postponed and shortened a bit, but it was rich and thought-provoking, as usual. I can’t go into detail about all of that, because most of the day was given to housework, of the purging/organizing sort that I’m making a priority this year. To top it off, the gardener came late in the afternoon, and pruned more trees and bushes. When he is here I usually also work in the garden or tidy up the garage.

It was lovely to be in the garden and not get wet. Eleven days of the last two weeks were rainy; I was reminded today that January in my area is the month with the most rainfall, and that was a blessing in several ways. When it rains, we are rarely forbidden to burn wood, so my house has been cozy from all the fires I’ve been able to keep going, and the wood stove often keeps putting out heat until the afternoon of the next day. That means that when I wake up I am not so cold I threaten to go into dormancy, and I can put my mind to ideas and projects other than going back to bed or making multiple mugs of hot cocoa.

First Alejandro leveled the fountain. I don’t know why it gets wonky so easily, causing all the water to fall off one side of the upper tier. I am not very skillful at evening it out by myself.

The lemon tree, strawberry tree, and at least one pomegranate bush got trimmed and shaped, and much more order was restored to the garage and garden. Recently I mentioned about how the lemon tree was gangly and out of control, and my helper did have confidence about what to do now, and what we’ll do a little later. It looks much better after we removed several branches. I am always surprised at how good my lemon tree smells. I brought in a few of the trimmings and put them in a vase so that every time I come into the room I will get a whiff of that delicious scent.

In-between December days.

The first half of the week was a flurry of activity: First a Santa Lucia Eve procession that I was invited to, with a few families I have been getting to know because of my involvement in a homeschool group. With the eldest girl wearing a wreath studded with candles, we processed through the neighborhood singing “Santa Lucia” in Italian — I admit I was only humming the tune because I haven’t become that involved to have learned the words in Italian or even English. Then back at the house, we added “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) in the original German. Tea and Santa Lucia buns in their delicious quintessential selves finished out the evening’s simple program. I took the picture three days later so the greenery is a bit dried out.

The next night our women’s book group at church got together. Originally that meeting was to be a soup dinner for 10 at my house, but the time and place got changed because of a funeral; it was a big relief for me, because as soon as December arrived, I couldn’t imagine getting ready for a party at the same time I was getting ready for a trip, which this year is the case: I’m headed to Soldier and Joy’s for Christmas.

At the first part of the funeral, in the evening.

I made split pea soup, and we had a very festive group and evening, eating fish chowder, pumpkin soup and lentil tomato soups as well — plus accompaniments. Of course, cookies and vegan brownies, too! I don’t think I mentioned before what books we have been reading this time. They were Strength in Weakness by Archbishop Irenei Steenberg, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I’d been wanting to gather my thoughts on The Secret Garden for about five years, so this was the impetus I needed to buckle down. I’ll share more about my resulting amateur analysis in the new year.

By Julia Morgan

Thursday I attended a tea party of about a dozen ladies and girls, several of whom I was meeting for the first time. Many of them are very accomplished, cultured and educated, and there was lots of fascinating conversation about our personal histories, world events, information about our local towns and the architecture of particular houses that were built by a relation of the woman sitting next to me. She was the only one there who is older than I, and she has been involved in our town’s history from way back, and continuing.

It was while this talk was flowing around me that the name of Julia Morgan, architect, made me pay closer attention; a bit more information about the time frame in which she worked, and I began to wonder if my grandfather was one of the contractors that she worked with in the San Francisco Bay Area; she designed more than 700 houses in California. I will be doing more research on that, but in the meantime I show you these photos of the Berkeley City Women’s Club building, in which my grandmother (on the other side of the family) was very active, and where she took us swimming when we visited her. That building has been called a “little Hearst Castle,” referring to the real (huge) Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, the estate that Morgan designed with William Randolph Hearst.

Since the tea party I have switched gears and stayed home, slowly working on wrapping presents, packing bags and organizing my thoughts in preparation for my departure. One by one little things that need to be done come to mind and I do them, or write them down. It is not very systematic, and the whole process seems to require frequent attention to everyday tasks like building the fire and tending the frozen fountain. I guess it’s because I’m not systematic that I require banks of time for the creative flow to happen. As I am fond of quoting G.K. Chesterton:

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind
that makes me unaware of everything else.”

Even things I’ve been procrastinating on for months must be put off no longer, whether or not they have anything to do with the trip — like making a phone call. My daughter Kate says everyone does the same at the end of the year, finally sending in reports or contacting loved ones, I guess because they don’t want to come back from Christmas break with “old business,” whether it’s work or family related, dutiful or joyful.

Now that I’ve procrastinated enough to get another unnecessary thing done, the writing of this post, I will have to hustle a little bit and fold the clothes I laundered, to figure out what to take with me. Before I know it, these in-between days will have ended and I’ll be boarding an airplane and on my way to a happy reunion with several of my dear family. I hope that on Christmas Eve we will sing “Stille Nacht.”

Savoring the togetherness.

Deer on a coastal rock.

I hope you have people to love, and those who love you. Every conversation with a neighbor or hug from a grandchild feels more precious to me as the days go by; before November winds all the way down I want to share a few scenes and moments that have been to me infusions of grace and joy in the midst of “interesting times” in the world.

It was almost a month ago that my neighbor Kim had a dinner party for several couples and one widow (yours truly) on our block. It was a very restorative and healing time, I think for all of us. Several of these people I had hardly seen for two years, though they live just a few doors down. Half of them had known my late husband.

After we were seated around a long dining table, our host gave a surprising toast to “The first of many more post-covid neighborhood parties!” All cups were raised, and the general tone of the ensuing comments, and the whole evening, was of holding on to our humanity and neighborliness as much as possible, no matter what comes. No one went home early that night; we sat around the gas firepit, or stood in the kitchen, chatting and sipping and savoring the togetherness, acting out the toast for a few blessed hours.

Closer to Thanksgiving, I returned to the beach with a former housemate who accompanied me three years ago just before she moved to New York. Our time there was refreshing and sweet; instead of the scores of seals we’d seen that time, gulls by the hundreds were swooping and gliding back and forth where a river empties into the sea.

We watched them, and the waves, while sitting on a log. When it was time to go, we climbed up a sand dune and tromped back to the parking lot, weaving through clumps of grass in our bare feet.

A few days later, who should arrive but my dear daughter Pippin and her family. They came in stages; when only three of them had got here, we went for a walk in the hills. It was the first time I’d been with Pippin in that particular park since the day Jamie was born, lo these many years ago, the  day after my husband’s funeral. So Jamie had been along, too, and maybe the jostling of that walk in springtime had prompted him to start his journey into the outer world.

This day, he was climbing trees with Ivy. First they climbed a Valley Oak, then a Buckeye (horse chestnut), and finally a Bay (Laurel) tree. Pippin joined them up in the bay.

We noticed many little trees and shrubs that were fenced in by wire cylinders, presumably against nibbling by deer. From a sign, here is a list of species that have been planted in the last ten years:

Later we worked on pies for our feast, and the children had the idea of making gluten-free pie-crust cookies for Uncle Steve, for whose sake Pippin was making such a dough for a pumpkin pie. I assembled the fourth version of my famous Grapefruit Gelatin Salad, which after ten years I am still refining to accommodate the changing ingredients available in the stores, and the loss of my favorite, odd-sized dish I always used for it. I’ll pass the recipe along when I fix it so that it fits in one 9×12 pan.

Our long weekend was very full, starting with Divine Liturgy on Thanksgiving morning, and including two (food) feasts, the little hike; and a busy afternoon, when Pippin and the Professor helped me to sort through old camping equipment, put hardware cloth over my planter boxes where the birds have been pecking, and hang fairy lights in the living room.

This little report covers only a small fraction of the loving friends and family who have made me feel the solace of God and the blessedness of the world. I reconnected with old friends and drank tea with many others. It has been a good month in important ways. May God keep our hearts during the next one and bring us with joy to the Feast of the Nativity of Christ.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” I John 4

Little Church Planner

I wanted to share this organizing tool in January, but I never got around to it; now that I’ve used it for most of the year I am even more pleased and thankful that a couple of homeschooling mothers designed such a resource for the Orthodox homemaker.

It is a large spiral calendar/planner with plenty of space for writing in each day’s box, plus sidebar spaces for menus, intercessions, and notes. The creators have a more specialized homeschool planner as well.

Each week, month, and fasting period has a double-page spread, as does Holy Week. Even the whole year, with the Twelve Great Feasts on the sidebar, has its two-page spread, “2020 at a Glance.” Fasting days are listed, many saints’ days, readings according to the new calendar, and quotes pertaining to the Christian life.

I remember when the first planners like Day Runner were popular — was that in the 90’s? I had seven people to organize, feed, and keep track of, and I tried to use various systems, all of which required shrinking my handwriting down to fit on small pages. In those years I eventually learned about myself that I can’t think if I am writing small. One thing I love about this planner is the size, and the way I can get a wide analog view of a week or a larger period of time.

In the last year or two I’ve also used my phone to help me remember things, and I will often type things into one or another app when I am away from home, but then I have to copy the name or date, etc on to paper soon, if it is going to do me any good.

This planner will perhaps appeal to very few of my readers, and probably those have already seen it. But to the theoretical Someone: The publisher is Parousia, and this would be a good time to consider it for 2021. You can see pictures of the creators of this resource on the website. A big THANK YOU! to Natalia and Maria!