Tag Archives: ribes

Patience, with pebbles and a saint.

I have very much enjoyed reading about St. Raphael of Brooklyn whom we commemorate today on the anniversary of his repose in 1915. He was born in Beirut where his parents had fled, because of persecution of Christians in their home city of Damascus, and he spent most of his life going where he was most needed, mostly Russia and America. It is astounding how much he accomplished in his zeal to care for his flock. He was the first Orthodox bishop to be ordained in America, in 1904, and Tsar Nicholas II gifted the new bishop’s vestments.

In those days all the Orthodox in America were together under one heirarch: “There were no parallel jurisdictions based on nationality. The Church united those of diverse backgrounds under the omophorion of the Russian Archbishop. This was the norm until the Russian Revolution disrupted church life in Russia, and also in America.” oca.org

Today is the first day since I returned from India that I feel normal again. While the traveling itself felt easy enough in the 33 hours of moments, the recovery has been a process requiring patience! It took me a week to get to church, and it was a joy to be back there. My goddaughter Mary seems to have grown a lot in two months, in size and maturity. She hadn’t forgotten me. 🙂 And I had one of those experiences I’ve described before, where for about ten minutes the sun shines through a window of the dome at the perfect angle to warm my face and head, and blind me to everything but the candles before the altar, which shine like stars in my momentary darkness.

Saturday I got to see both Pippin and Soldier!! That comforted my heart that was in mourning from the separation from Kate and her family, to whom I had grown so attached in all those weeks of living with them. Some of us spent happy hours on a windy beach that was perfect for the weather because instead of sand it was composed of little pebbles that did not blow into your eyes or stick to your food or skin. We examined hundreds of of the tiniest stones, pieces of white shell or green sea glass, and whole grey-blue mussel shells.

Ivy loves climbing the way her mother also has done from a young age, and these rocks were perfect for scrambling up, and then jumping down into the sand.

It feels cold here in sunny California, compared to winter in smoggy Bombay. I guess I didn’t stay long enough for winter to pass me by altogether; I’m glad I have a woodstove. I did go out in the garden a couple of times and see that in the midst of the chilling wind and dormant gray and brown, many little things are budding and even blooming. Quite a few of them are pink, like the native currants:

If Winter will bring rain, as it’s done today, I’ll welcome it to stay months longer. But perhaps Spring could bring some rain, and let Winter say good-bye?

I map the topography of love.

Yarrow blooming in front garden.

March is the month that my husband fell asleep in the Lord, two years ago now. My experience of bereavement is all over the map, following the topography of the seasons and the holidays and whatever physical ailments fall on me.

Most of the time I am happily swamped by a myriad of plans and activities, and tasks I’m behind on. But sometimes the absence of my husband when I lie down and when I rise up, when I go from room to room or when I come home from a walk, is like a huge and strange presence.

March always features Lent, which is a mercy, because that is an opportunity to focus on prayer, which keeps me in the present, where my husband and I are both living in the Kingdom of God. I can put our marriage in historical perspective and in the context of eternity.

This year once again I cooked for 100 people, with the help of several dear friends, an agape meal after last Sunday’s Divine Liturgy, as a memorial for my husband. I made the same menu as last year. We had so much fun cooking on Saturday that I completely forgot to take pictures.

But the night before, I had been soaking 20# of Great Northern beans to make the Greek Beans , and I took pictures of them soaked and being dried off on a tablecloth. They have to be dried off a bit so you can sauté them in olive oil before stewing them. Neither of the photos shows the whole 20#.

I also borrowed some pictures from last year that are pretty much identical to the scene from last week.

garlic and bay leaves
Preparing tarragon for cabbage salad.

Partly because of Lent, March is always very busy. Not all Orthodox churches are able to celebrate a full calendar of services, partly because many parishes have only one priest, and he might also have another job. But God has arranged for me to be where I can be nourished and helped a great deal by praying in church and receiving Communion several times a week during Lent. We have so many services that no one can attend all of them.

Yellow freesias starting to bloom in the distance.

 

March is when the garden takes off. If I didn’t have my garden, what would my life be like? Would I keep a tidier house? Pray more? Probably neither. I am always happy in the garden – and it’s a good place to pray, without a doubt. Better to have a garden that is somewhat neglected than to have no garden.

I started thinning the lamb’s ears with the help of a kneeling bench
that my cousin Renée gave me.

I used to not like Euphorbia (above),
but now that it is falling over my own garden wall I find I am quite fond of it.

lovely lithodora

The native currant bushes (ribes) aren’t very bushy,
but they are three times as tall as last year.

Bay tree (Laurus nobilis) in a pot.

The first week of Lent I started out grumpy. But Lent is a good cure for that. I have since been given wonderful gifts of thankfulness. God has let me see how all through my life He has abundantly provided for me, and He continues to do this every day. When I think of the love that has been given me in my childhood, my marriage, my children and my friends – and now the Holy Orthodox Church that is “the fullness of Him that fills all in all,” my cup runs over.

No doubt I will lapse into grumbling and self-pity before long, and have to repent again (That’s what life is for!) but the view of my widow’s world from this mountain on which I stand at the moment is quite beautiful, and it’s a Happy Spring.

I began this post yesterday, and then went out to pull weeds and deadhead flowers. I was kneeling in the mulch by the yarrow when the florist delivery girl walked up with an elegant vase for “Gretchen.” Lilies, roses, carnations, blue flowers, sweet smells… Before I could get it into the house I started weeping, not being able to guess who would do this – it could be anyone, in God’s world that is full of miracles, and seemingly brimming with people who care about me. But it was my children and their spouses, with an early remembrance of their parents’ wedding anniversary:

“Mama, these are sent in celebration of you and Papa, and with love for you,
from your children.”  See what I mean about that landscape?

bees, butternuts, and ribes

GL 10 IMG_0791I just came in from working in the yard where if one is digging, toting and harvesting under the sun, it is hot.  My last sweaty session of gardening was in the mid-afternoon, this week when the temperature has been in the 90’s; that workout made me resolve to take the first morning available and head outdoors early to get my seedlings into the ground.

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baby collards

 

 

Of the seven packages of old seeds I tested, three have sprouted up thickly: collards, kale and parsley.

 

 

GLY bee on mum 10-15

I’ve been intending to plant them for over a week, but every time I get started I enGL 10 P1020110 sunflowersd up doing something else, only occasionally preparatory. This morning I spent a while trying to take pictures of the bees drinking from the mums. Last week I accidentally included a bee on a sunflower.

A gardener friend gave me sunflower seeds in the spring, and I bought some plants at the same time. The varieties planted from seed were mostly eaten by birds when they were little, but I do like the few that survived, better than the tall plants that bloomed earlier in the summer.

Lacking a back yard to garden in this summer, I had tucked the sunflowers and some vegetables into the borders of the dead lawn, where the irrigation emitters oversprayed anyway. In the middle of the lawn where this doesn’t happen,  big cracks have opened up in several places. I poked a yardstick into one and it went down 30″ easily. That’s a crevasse measuring 36″L x 4″W x 30″D.

I didn’t figure out the volume, but I started filling it with whatever organic material I could find, including flour left over from Y2K, old coffee beans, and a pile of dirt that had been sent over by my Landscape Lady from another installation. I topped it off with some old planting mix, and am thinking of planting some Rainbow Chard seeds in a jagged row.

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Rainbow Chard bed in foreground.

Another task I’ve worked on out front is harvesting my butternut squashes. These are the ones I picked last week, on the patio table where I had been transplanting things into and among pots. The total weight on those was 15#.P1020149

(In the blue bowl is a sunflower head from which I will save the seeds.)

Today I picked the remainder of thGLYP1020148e fruits, and brought them in when I was too hot to work any longer. That’s never happened to me before noon before! I set them on the counter and then pushed them aside to make a smoothie with frozen blueberries to help me cool down.

This second picking yielded 22#. The prize-winner weighed 7 1/2 pounds. This was my best butternut crop ever.

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Last week I found a fountain for the back yard, and yesterday when she came with the installer to talk about organizing the upcoming transformation, my Landscape Lady brought along a few plants that she had bought, with apologies for me having to babysit them; they are California natives that she had to get a little early before they sell out. I don’t mind babysitting at all — I am jazzed to have these promises of good things to come, right here on site.

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Ribes and Festuca

 

We discussed the most efficient sequence of the various steps, preparing beds, laying paths and irrigation, planting; who will build the vegetable boxes and how to prepare the greenhouse floor — Did you even know that I am planning for a greenhouse??

The two months during which I have been staring out at a sea of dirt seem like two years, but luckily I have had plenty of other work and fun to occupy my mind while I’m waiting. Now things are starting to happen.

 

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This Yerba Buena grows in the wild in our area, and will like the soil and shade under my pine tree where it can trail around. It’s edible and minty and good for making tea if I want. Lots of things in my new back yard will be edible, including the ribes, also known as Pink Flowering Currant. The Native Americans used to harvest the berries to eat, but I read that they are not that tasty to modern humans, so I plan to enjoy watching the birds feast on them while I relax on the bench nearby. As soon as it is sittable, I hope you will come and watch with me.

IMG_0364 s.f. a.m.