Tag Archives: remodeling

The wren sings and insists.

ebird.org

The song of a Bewick’s Wren came through my bedroom window as I was waking to the morning. I’ve never heard one of these birds carrying on so long.

If you are not familiar with it you can listen here: Bewick’s Wren

What busyness in my life all at once. June warmth makes my blood to move faster, and days fill up and empty themselves, as the thermometer on my patio rises and falls. A few of the many things:

**Half the plants in the garden need trimming already! I severely pruned the plum trees, trying to keep them small, as per Grow a Little Fruit Tree. Santa Barbara daisies, wallflower, helianthemum, gazanias, bush lupine and salvias, all needed a midsummer shearing. Then there were all those one-gallon salvias and such for which spots must be found in the ever more crowded landscape. I’ve been gardening for hours every day.

**Still seeing butterflies and wasps that I don’t know, and which I can sometimes identify. These wasps that my Seek app says are paper wasps ignore the sunflowers that are open, and hang out on the fat buds. I wonder what they are doing…

**Rats seem to be eating my garden as they did in 2016. Then it was tomatoes. This time is was the single collard plant that came up from some old seeds. After it grew back for a few days they ate it again. Then they tried the unripe Painted Lady runner beans but evidently didn’t like them. I’ve planted fresher collard seeds and am trying to figure out how to protect them when they sprout. Rats spurn Swiss chard, and all the other current offerings, though they did nibble on snow peas back in April.

So as not to attract rodents unnecessarily, I’ve been bringing the bird feeders into the garage at night. At first light finches and mourning doves and even crows are waiting for the sunflower seeds to reappear.

View from my bedroom window.

This morning, as I often do, I pulled on my robe and went out to hang their “chapel” feeder on its hook above the patio, and then I looked up into the redwood tree, because I could tell that the wren was broadcasting from there at that moment. But I couldn’t see him. A junco and titmice and a hummingbird flew back and forth from that tree, to and fro across the yard from tree to rooftop to tree; but the wren followed his routine of staying out of sight while visiting in turn every tall tree in the neighborhood, making sure he communicated to each household, insisting on joy.

**I’ve been cooking a lot. I love having fresh tarragon with which to make the Tarragon-Parsley Salsa Verde. This time I used walnut oil instead of olive oil and it’s great. The yellow in the picture above  is lemon zest.

I took all the remaining Painted Lady beans I’d stored and soaked them together. The older they get, the more they turn dark and red and shiny. The older beans took longer to soak, and longer to cook to tender.

**My computer comes and goes with my Computer Guy, and while he’s always interesting to talk to on almost any topic, the other day when he came merely to pick up the PC he wanted to talk for an hour before he even unplugged it. He has lots of ideas for how to improve the state of the nation. I told him he’d need to be king so he could make unilateral decisions.

new shower curtain

**The construction workers came back! The new bathroom is perfectly usable now, though it has a couple of details unfinished. I soaked in its tub the night after my most strenuous day of pruning. Lovely. My master bedroom walk-in closet is almost done — maybe tomorrow I will be able to start moving into it, after more than a year of shifting my belongings from one room to another. This was the closet that I basically wanted to get unextravagantly spiffed up before the major remodeling was begun. And it has been the biggest inconvenience. That is sometimes most aggravating to think about, but on days like today, the wren makes me laugh aloud.

**I pulled this weed out of the germander and was impressed by the little black seeds. I think it is Black Medick.

**Yesterday morning I was surprised by daughter Pippin appearing in my front garden and calling “Mama!” up to me where I sat by a sunny open window. Such a familiar voice and word… ❤ How she happened to be here is too long a story, but we enjoyed the best hug ever — well, at least since I saw them in March. And then we sat in the garden and chatted and it was so good for our mother-daughter hearts. She and I are not phone-talkers at all; we really need to be together in person to be fully satisfied.

Violas surviving in the shade of asparagus.

**I don’t like to write much here about things that are expected to happen in the future, because they aren’t real yet. But the excitement I feel is terribly real, over the imminent arrival of Kate and her family; they will stay with me for several weeks! She is my youngest, whom I went to India to see, and whose two babies I was blessed to see come into the world, one in India and one in DC last summer. Her family actually contracted the coronavirus and got over it while cooped up in their DC apartment; otherwise they would have been leery of coming to California to see all the grandparents before they go abroad again.

We’ll see what kind of blogging communications I will be able to accomplish in the next while — maybe it will be the little boy voices that wake me morning by morning to the important realities of this particular summer season. That will also be music to my ears.

“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the universe.”
-Psalm 19:4

Beautiful life project, with heavy books.

After a brief introduction to Japanese literature and culture for a few months of 2019, when I joined a Japanese Literature Challenge, I decided to leave behind the aesthetic vision of Japan, so to speak, and explore the reality and idea of Beauty in a less specific and encultured way.

My remodeling project and accompanying disorder are the reason, I believe, that I haven’t been able to concentrate on this extended philosophical reading project. It could be also that the topic is just too out-of-sync with the situation in my (indoor) living space. The chaos results from having none of the planned-for storage finished — that’s closets and cabinets in six or seven rooms — and that situation is abetted by the pandemic shutdowns of various sorts. The pandemic itself taxes the mind and emotions, and lately I’ve been reading more children’s books than anything.

But, the planned exploration looms large in the background, and its bulk has increased in a physical way, by means of big books. (I consider The Book of Tea to be about beauty, and it was by contrast such a slim and elegant item!) I’m not going to tell you about all of my Beauty books yet. Goodness, I haven’t begun anything in earnest. But the last one that came into the house was only recently published, and I may be most excited of all about it.

It’s The Ethics of Beauty by Timothy G. Patitsas, and it “weighs in” at over 700 pages. Professor Patitsas explains in the first sentence of his Preface what he is about: “…to recover a lost way of doing Ethics, one in which love for Beauty played the central and the leading role.” He shows how the definition of contemporary ethics, when seen in terms of Socrates’ three transcendentals of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth (ethics being the study of Goodness), is biased against Beauty. A little more from the Preface:

“The central text about Orthodox Christian prayer life, The Philokalia, itself means ‘the love of the beautiful.’ The Ethics of Beauty is best conceived as a prose companion to that spiritual collection — certainly not on the same level as that classic text, but hopefully recognizably in the same family. Where The Philokalia is an aid to the pursuit of the Beautiful Way in prayer, The Ethics of Beauty is a discussion of why the Beauty-first Way is preferable, and an examination of the Way within as many areas of life as possible.”

“I would never have set out upon the journey that led me to The Ethics of Beauty had I not read Jonathan Shay’s observation in his Achilles in Vietnam that contemporary analytical psychotherapy has been largely unable to heal the suffering of the soldiers afflicted most severely with post-traumatic stress disorder. I have slowly come to see that… the initial focus of soul-healing must be on Beauty rather than on truth, on a living vision of a loving and crucified God, rather than on an autopsy of the broken self.”

Hmmm… I wouldn’t be surprised if Dee Pennock talks about this healing effect of Beauty in her book that I recently mentioned.

But, going back to the beginning of my vague plan, about a year ago I brought a fat book about Beauty and Truth into the house. The priest who lent it to me said he’d been unable to penetrate it. I knew it would likely be as heavy for me intellectually as it was in poundage, but it seemed a work I should at least have at hand when I began my study of Beauty.

This one is The Beauty of the Infinite, by David Bentley Hart; I had never yet opened it to read a line, but it’s been sitting on my mobile bookshelf in the kitchen/family room. When the Patitsas book arrived, I took Hart’s book off the shelf behind me and set it on the table so that the two could meet. And a few days later, avoiding some work, I’m sure, I opened Hart randomly in the middle, and my eyes landed here:

“…theology owes Nietzsche a debt: I intend nothing facetious in saying that Nietzsche has bequeathed Christian thought a most beautiful gift, a needed anamnesis of itself — of its strangeness. His critique is a great camera obscura that brings into vivid and concentrated focus the aesthetic scandal of Christianity’s origins, the great offense this new faith gave the gods of antiquity, and everything about it that pagan wisdom could neither comprehend nor abide: a God who goes about in the dust of exodus for love of a race intransigent in its particularity; who apparels himself in common human nature, in the form of a servant; who brings good news to those who suffer and victory to those who are as nothing; who dies like a slave and outcast without resistance; who penetrates to the very depths of hell in pursuit of those he loves and who persists even after death not as a hero lifted up to Olympian glories, but in the company of peasants, breaking bread with them and offering them the solace of his wounds. In recalling theology to the ungainliness of the gospel, Nietzsche retrieved the gospel from the soporific complacency of modernity….

My own philosophy and theology were settled already on this source of Beauty: the Holy Trinity, the relationship of love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A few years ago Jonathan Edwards put me in mind of it in his thoughtful way, and maybe I should go back and read the extensive quotes I transcribed on the subject. But if I never get around to reading all these pages of words that are waiting for me in books, it’s okay. My heart knows the story.

Meditations in the Morning Room.

During the Great Fast, Orthodox Lent, we read a lot from the Old Testament, especially from Isaiah, Genesis, and Proverbs. Today we heard the day’s readings during the streamed Morning Prayers that I have been trying to tune into at 8:00.

Some of the verses from Proverbs 16 and 17 I am including in this post. They may not seem directly applicable to the context in which I place them, but they remind me to keep the right perspective.

For the last week I’ve been using my laptop in this room, which I showed you the Before picture of last week. That very day I cleaned it up and took the picture above before I ever sat down. I also cleaned up the Guest Room, mostly by tearing off the carpet protection, which took a great effort. I hadn’t figured out what chair to sit in by the window, where I imagined I would quiet my soul in contemplation. Here’s the Before:

…and a few more showing the process into After-but-not-Final:

Maybe you would like a refresher about what used to be here? Some pictures are just too painful to post, but I hunted these down, and they are a good refresher for me, too, for what I have been through, and why I might need an uncluttered spot in a light-filled room for a few months of recovery.

A patient man is better than a strong man,
And he who controls his temper is better than he who captures a city.

Also, it’s good to look behind at all that has been completed, tedious as it was, and to be thankful that all of that construction chaos is over!! The only things left to do are fairly clean and tidy tasks. Thank you, Lord.

I always knew I wanted one of the new rooms to be a place for sewing, because I’ve never found another in this house that really works. There are no windows on the sides of the house, until I had some put into this new room, and I think that was part of the problem.

Still, it’s been so long since I could even access my sewing machine, or settle down long enough between trips and big events to think of using it, I was starting to say about this room, “I don’t know if I ever will sew in it….” I knew I could not spread out into the space and figure out where to put the furniture and rugs and pictures until it would be fully mine, with no strangers coming and going. I don’t want to have the beautiful fabric I bought in India sitting exposed on the shelves of the cabinet when carpenters are finally putting doors on it.

A man wise in his deeds is a discoverer of good things,
But he who trusts in God is the most blessed.

It doesn’t seem smart to invest in a new chair that I’m not able to try out first, so I was glad to remember one that was given to me a few months ago by the same friend whose living room gave me the color for this room that has been known for two years as the Sewing Room — first in my imagination, then on the drawings, and as it is referred to by all the workers from painters to carpet installers, from age unto age.

That black table was my grandma’s breakfast table truly for ages, when it was the color of the chair in the top picture. I began last week to use it for my laptop, and then to write letters to my friends. I am better at letters than phone calls, but just as likely to procrastinate about either.

Considering the continuing upheaval, in my psyche if not in my daily life, it’s surprising even to me how happy it makes me just to be in this room, especially in the mornings soon after I get dressed. Whether the morning is cloudy or sunny, plenty of light pours in, and just the emptiness of it is peaceful; by contrast, my bedroom is always dark in the mornings, and still bears more than its share of clutter and mess.

The abodes of wisdom are more to be chosen than gold,
And the abodes of discernment are more to be chosen than silver.

What it is, is a Morning Room. Of course! I wasn’t trying to come up with a better name, but the room somehow revealed its own self and natural name, which plays itself like a song in my mind. It will be fitting for a long time, I think. More items have been coming in, even my sewing basket and mending pile. Who knows what might happen….

It’s taking me longer than I expected to find a routine and a rhythm that fits Lent and the Coronavirus Confinement and my own unique situation. Every day seems to be a new chapter in the story God is trying to write, and I often feel out of sync with the plot. But it is the most lovely thing to find that in this chapter of my story there is a Morning Room.

 

As silver and gold are tested in a furnace,
So are chosen hearts before the Lord.

Daily Sustenance

It’s been cold here this week, and hailed for a few minutes yesterday. I hope my plum blossoms were not damaged! Maybe some that were hiding under leaves will be able to become plums.

Last Sunday our parish women’s book group was scheduled to meet at Ann’s house to discuss Father Arseny. I hadn’t planned to be there because Soldier and Liam were flying in from Colorado to celebrate my birthday with me; so I didn’t reread the book in preparation.

Of course my guests cancelled their plans, for everyone’s safety, and the women held a lively Zoom discussion which I “attended” along with eleven others. I sat in my garden at my laptop most of the time, until it got too chilly. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and decided to meet again in a week just to chat; we’ve been missing each other and don’t want to wait a whole month or more till we’ve read the next book.

Now we are reading At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald. This title is a good one for a few reasons:

1) Several of us love George MacDonald and his books have come up before in our list of possible group reads.
2) Even though physical libraries are closed, his works are easily found as free library digital editions, for 99 cents on Kindle and as audiobooks.
3) For families with more time together sheltering in place, it’s a good read-aloud.
4) I haven’t read it for a long time, but knowing MacDonald generally, it’s likely good nourishment for our souls that need extra sustenance right now.

 

Sustenance consists of those things we need for life and health. The opposite is deprivation or starvation. Often our souls are starving for spiritual food when our bodies are overfed.

I had the odd experience in the last week of several times being so busy socializing that I didn’t take time to eat. Because of the many anniversaries and birthdays in my extended family, in addition to dear friends phoning to talk about the pestilence, I was on the phone more hours that week than I had been in the previous six months. Because I’m generally overfed, that brief bodily deprivation had little effect. Since then I’ve also caught up on Alone Time.

And I’ve cooked some things. When my Painted Lady runner beans produced a bumper crop last fall I resolved to make soup with them during Lent. What I came up with was a vegetable soup rich with onions and garlic, and not too many beans. It’s sustaining for sure.

 

Over the decades I’ve discovered two sorts of (vegan) chocolate pudding that are great for breakfast, and I don’t see that I have shared the recipes here before. Well, I did share a link for this version of the chocolate chia seed pudding, and here it is again: Minimalist Baker.

But the one I’ve made many more times in various flavors is so simple and adaptable, I didn’t even measure yesterday when I made a batch.

SILKEN TOFU PUDDING

-an amount of silken tofu, say, 14 oz.
-cocoa powder, try 1/2 cup
-sweetening to taste: sugar, maple syrup, etc.
-cinnamon or vanilla or almond extract, etc.

Mix in food processor until smooth, divide into portions and eat or refrigerate. Of course you might top it with fruit or nuts or granola. The above amounts are what I used last night and I divided it into three containers. I think it’s a good breakfast food because it has protein and caffeine, and don’t we all like something easy for breakfast?

I have made it without chocolate at times, in the past. I think there was a lemon version, or a pumpkin spice, but as I remember, chocolate was the winner.

 

My remodel: It is not finished; some construction workers are willing and wanting to work at this uncertain time, and some are not, so I am preparing my mind for an indefinite prolonging of this mess. Three times over the last 16 months I’ve moved out of my walk-in closet, into a spare bedroom across the house that is even now serving as my dressing room, with my clothes stacked all over the bed, my laundry hamper squeezed in the corner, some of my hanging clothes squeezed into the wardrobe.

My goal now is to clear that room and somehow fit my clothes and shoes into my own bedroom, and use it as my dressing room. It has no closet currently, and is still full of storage, but I can move some of that stuff temporarily into the sewing room cabinet that is waiting for doors, as you can see in the photo above that I have already begun to do.

The workers’ clutter in the sewing room I hope I can stash in the garage or the unfinished closet, depending on whose it is, so I can clean up the sewing room, too. I am tired of waiting to wash the windows, and I want to be able to sit in there in the mornings. Do you think that as soon as I complete all this work, the construction guys will come back and make a mess again? If they do, I won’t complain. That’s the walk-in closet at right, which I can’t even shut the door to. It’s been the view from my bathroom for two months now, unchanged.

The new guest bathroom is usable except for things like the shower curtain rod and towel ring. There are six such accessories that a worker came to install one day weeks ago, and he completed two of them.

Outdoors, I myself have neglected the garden quite a bit, but it’s still a lovely place to stroll, and I’m cutting asparagus and waiting for snow peas to show on the tall vines. (You can see them at the back in the last picture below.) The Coast Bush Lupine I planted sometime last year is now covered with buds! Everything looked so pretty after the rain and hail, these recent mornings when the sun broke through.

There’s plenty of sustenance in my larders!