Tag Archives: stars

Twelve Days wrapped up.

web photo

This evening I was reminded of one snowy night last week up at my daughter’s: I walked outdoors and crunched through the snow, far enough from the house that the fairy lights were hidden behind a tall spruce tree, and I looked up – oh my! The stars were brilliant, and I immediately saw two constellations I hadn’t noticed the last time I was in the mountains, in October. It is evidently the season for Orion and the Pleiades. I always think of the Pleiades as the Seven Sisters, because when I first met that group I was in Turkey, and my friends there called them that.

Tonight I took a bowl of kitchen scraps out to the trash, and saw those same constellations shining right above my house in lowland suburbia. A cloudless sky seems strange, after days and days of clouds and rain. But there it was. I was carrying out all the rind and seeds of this giant Rouge vif D’Etampes pumpkin, which I bought in the fall and which has been sitting on my front walk until today, when a black spot revealed a bit of rot setting in.

I cut out that bit of flesh and then roasted the two halves one at a time, because they were too large to do otherwise… unless I had cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces, but I wasn’t smart enough to think of that idea until later…

(Those are Asian yams baking at the same time.)

…maybe because I brought a cold home with me from the northlands, and my brain may still be affected, though I feel very well today. Another more pleasant gift was a jar of our Glad-type of peppernuts ! that Pippin baked for Christmas. I took this picture in my car before I had eaten too many, and I’m proud to say I have continued with restraint. They are the sort of treat we can’t seem to produce every year. Maybe next year I will bake some myself; on the way home I bought one of the ingredients that is often not easily found except at truck stops.

I didn’t bake half of the cookies I’d planned this Christmas. Instead of baking, I had my little road trip, and then a couple of days of lying around under the weather. I figure if I haven’t done my baking by the Twelfth Day it will have to wait until next year.

Speaking of the Twelfth Day, here is one last image of Theophany, from my dear friend May’s parish, and her arrangement of the festal surround.

My red berries from the bike path cotoneaster bushes dried out before Theophany, and I had to wander the garden a bit to find something to extend the season for my kitchen windowsill. In January it’s succulents and olives.

I’m slowly putting away the decorations and burning down some of the candles, beginning to settle into what looks to be a quiet month of guilt-free homebodiness. I have a good stack of firewood, and enough housework and reading to keep me busy for a year of Januarys. And more than five quarts of pumpkin now in the freezer to make sustaining soups and puddings for the rest of winter and beyond.

Live your life while you have it. Life is a splendid gift.
There is nothing small in it.

-Florence Nightingale

Down to the lake to be alone.

THE COUNTRY WIFE

She makes her way through the dark trees
Down to the lake to be alone.
Following their voices on the breeze,
She makes her way. Through the dark trees
The distant stars are all she sees.
They cannot light the way she’s gone.
She makes her way through the dark trees
Down to the lake to be alone.

The night reflected on the lake,
The fire of stars changed into water.
She cannot see the winds that break
The night reflected on the lake
But knows they motion for her sake.
These are the choices they have brought her:
The night reflected on the lake,
The fire of stars changed into water.

-Dana Gioia

I spent quite a while looking for a nice piece of art, or one of my photos, to accompany the story of this woman’s walk. The trying had the effect of making me love the poem even more; I began to think that only Gioia himself might be capable of creating a visual graphic that wouldn’t actually detract from what he’s already given us in words. There are voices and movement and one thing changing to another….

All the pictures I looked at were still pictures, of course. And none of them could carry half of the feeling of even one material element as expressed by these lines, such as the woods in the dark, or the stars, the water. When there is a stop in the middle of the fourth line, I see her pausing to push aside fir branches. The whole is an elegant interplay of the forces of beings.

Those beings are not only material. For example, the heart and mind of the woman any of us might imagine. It’s a wondrous thing to be able to go with her down to the lake, and yet, not invade her privacy. To have the vicarious experience of being her.  I follow the music, arrive at the lake, and find a solitude as full as the universe.

Lifting the eyes without horror.

In White Road, Olga Ilyin writes her memoirs of the years 1919-1923 in Russia. I am not very far into the book, but I want to share a short passage describing one Siberian winter morning as she was fleeing eastward with the White Army and some members of their families. Each night they would billet with sympathetic peasants, and move on the next day.

“It was one of those windless mornings…when the air is frozen to the crispness of glass and every sound engraves itself on the darkness with such precision that you can trace its outline with a pencil.

“I had just come on the porch of our cottage. I loved to be the first one to come outside with Bibik [her baby] to steal a moment of quiet before the noise and movement of departing troops, to gaze at the stars overhead, and listen to my footsteps on hard-packed snow fall into silence like notes of music.

“And yet, how could I? For these were the same stars I had watched with horrified eyes on the night when I fled from home; the same stars at which my father had looked from an open truck just a week later when a firing squad drove him to where he was shot. Never again, I had felt, could I lift my eyes without horror to this unyielding gulf between God and man, hammered in by myriads of frightful metallic nails. So, why should I come out to catch a moment to be alone with them? How was it possible that again the stars should reassure me of the wonder of life, telling me that nothing great could really be broken or vanquished? At least within us.”

Barely touching the morning star.

Until I read the article below, I didn’t know that anyone considered the Bethlehem star to be something other than a “dead astronomical body.” I copied here a rich kind of Advent food, from our recent church bulletin, a meditation on light and stars.

variable star

One of the pictures I found was of a “variable star,” which I had also not heard of before. That name got me thinking about how constant our Light of the World is by contrast, and never waning.

Though the stars we see in our skies are only dead shadows of the living realities, they too have their glory, which is only faintly conveyed by these pictures, though they do decorate this post nicely. We often hear that God is the True Light; this is not theoretical or a mere intellectual fact. Fr. Artemy exhorts us to know a taste of that Reality even in this life, in prayer:

The closer we come to the end of the [Nativity] fast, the brighter the wondrous Bethlehem star is enkindled above our heads, proclaiming to the Magi the time of the Infant’s birth, and the place where He lay…The rays of this rational star (according to the holy fathers, this star was actually an angelic power, and not a dead astronomical body) illumine with their incorruptible, unfading light the twilight in the Cave — the rib cage encasing each of our hearts…

The rays of this star bring the soul, which has but scarcely touched it, to inexplicable trembling and joy, the likes of which we shall not find here on this sinful world with its sensuous, quickly passing pleasures, disappearing like smoke.

I am…the bright and morning star (Rev. 22:16), testifies the Lord. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give…the morning star. He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelations 2:26, 28-29).

Ye do well, repeats the Apostle Peter, that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19). The morning star is hidden prayer of the heart! It is made not with lips or fingers, but with the mind and heart; it turns all of man’s existence to the Lord, and places the disciple before the most radiant face of his Teacher…

Illumined by the unwaning light of the Nativity star, let us pass…under the canopy of the very cave in Bethlehem…There He is, the Angel of Great Counsel, the King of the world, the Father of the age to come, as the “Old Testament Evangelist,” the Holy Prophet Isaiah, exclaimed in prophetic, sober inebriation. There He is, the Yearning of the nations, the Expectation of all peoples, the Great Light that has come into the world to enlighten those sitting in darkness! Already celebrating the Forefeast of the Nativity night that is bright as day, let us sing…with the whole Church, “Christ is born, give ye glory…Christ is on earth, let us be exalted. Sing unto the Lord all the earth…” [Nativity hymn].

–Father Artemy Vladimirov