We're Off!

A few hints as to our destination...I cannot wait!


"Come ye, receive the Light, that is never overtaken by the night. Come, glorify the Christ, risen from the dead." These are the words we thrill to hear sung when the priest comes into the entirely darkened sanctuary with a sole lit candle, the flame of which is then spread from candle to candle among the congregants, their magical glow slowly filling the room. This is the joyous, triumphant conclusion to many weeks of fasting and spiritual examination as we prepare to celebrate the reason for our Faith. It truly is the most joyful day of the year. Our celebration begins at church at 10 p.m. on Saturday night, followed by a huge potluck into the wee hours of the morning.

A blessed Pascha to my fellow Orthodox friends!



At first glance, this photo of frozen onion rings certainly appears to have nothing in common with Holy Week (the Eastern Orthodox church uses a different calendar than the western church, so our Easter is a month later this year.) While laying the onion rings out to bake the other day, I was oddly struck by the strong circular pattern they made on the cookie sheet – struck enough to pull out the camera. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about the pattern and repetition of certain events throughout my life, both good and bad. It was nine years ago that we attended our very first Holy Thursday service back in Northern California at an Arab Christian church, one of the most profound and moving experiences of my life. This first Holy Thursday service remains, in my mind, the touchstone of my subsequent Holy Week services. Remembering it, commemorating it, provides a rhythm to keep me connected to the glimpses of mystery and grace in life, however tenuous they may seem at times. The pattern of grace helps so much to balance out the counter pattern of less positive events and struggles.


Nectar into Honey

My purple salvia attract several kinds of bees, including the giant black ones that are always so striking. Watching this one as she busily gathered nectar in the garden in this weekend, I wondered where her hive is and what the honey will taste like from the salvia nectar. And I wondered: What do we do with the ‘nectar' that we gather on our souls as we go through life, brushing up against relationships and choices, buzzing from one point in life to another? As we collect experience, as our souls are coated with it as a bee’s legs are coated as she works, can we transform it into something sweet? Is it sweeter when pooled with the offerings that other people bring, just as bees in a hive work together to gather enough nectar to make the sweet honey? And how long does it take for the sweetness to take hold? And what about the pollen that is gathered extraneously along with the nectar? Do we pass it along to those we come into contact with, sharing with them its benefits?



Grabbing tightly at the base, I pull upwards and yank last winter's snapdragons out of the ground, freeing them from the dirt that has embraced their roots, and that their roots have embraced in turn, as they grew from November through April. I do so with regret: for the most part, they are still rather vibrant; their stems and leaves turgid with life; fresh blossoms still lemon yellow. Perhaps with more water they would survive a bit longer into the hot season. But their season is ending; new flowers wait to take their place in the bed.

This spring's gardening seems unusually poignant; my breath catches as I tear the live plants from the ground. But by uprooting them, I am making room for something new. It was also Lazarus Saturday as I was digging in the ground, tearing out dying things to make way for new life. Lazarus Saturday marks what it implies: the raising of Lazarus from the tomb; prefiguring Orthodox Easter (Pascha) that will occur this year on April 27. The significance of this made me pause and wonder; made me catch my breath as I imagined the possibility of new beginnings that stretch beyond the mere scope of my flower bed.


Sneak Peek of Archangel Gabriel

For the past 18 months I've been slowly learning the ancient art of Byzantine iconography. It is truly a slow and hard process. We make our own paint from egg yolks and ground mineral pigments; use real gold leaf to gild the background of the icons; use panels that are carefully gessoed with a mix of rabbit skin glue, chalk powder, and marble dust (I haven't learned how to make panels yet!) After 18 months, I'm still very much a beginner. Gabriel is almost finished, though!


Peas and Sunshine

Playing with my food! Isn't the sun lovely on the bright green peas?


Baby Quilt

In the spirit of full disclosure, sewing is not something that I really enjoy very much. In fact, my hubby usually lies pretty low when I'm sewing because it tends to put me in a pretty bad mood! But, I love fabric, and I love to be able to make cute gifts for people, curtains for the house, etc. And the more I sew, the more I learn. I also have a new machine which has made it easier than using my lovely old 1970s Kenmore, which was starting to have issues.

This is a quilt and burp rags for our new goddaughter. I used the Hugs & Kisses pattern from Strawberry Patches. The green stripes are dotted minkee and the back is a lovely soft, pink flannel.

Many more projects in mind, just have to find the time!


Waves on My Feet

The Gulf Coast isn't terribly far away, and although it's not the world's prettiest beach by any stretch of the imagination, it does fit the bill when one has had a long week and just wants to relax along the shore for a few hours. This photo is from last November. It is too easy to forget the simple things that restore us - after an hour walking on the sand, getting my cropped pants wet up to the knee from the waves, enjoying the sun's warmth (even though my fair skin typically keeps me out of the sun) - I was thoroughly refreshed. What a blissful day!

What simple things refresh you?


National Poetry Month

The English major in me just can't help but share the news that it's National Poetry Month. Poetry was a bigger part of my life during high school and undergrad years than it is now, sadly. It wasn't much talked about in my master's program, either. But this great website is inspiring and makes me want to bring poetry back into my life more often.

Off the top of my head, poets that have stayed with me are Denise Levertov, Joy Harjo, e.e. cummings, John Donne, and of course the Psalms, especially since becoming part of the Greek Orthodox Church. One of the most beautiful performances I have seen was a reading by Joy Harjo during my junior year at college. I can't forget the opening lines of her poem, Grace: 'I think of Wind and her wild ways and the year we had nothing to lose and lost it anyway in the cursed country of the fox.'

Who are your favorite poets? How do you incorporate poetry into your life?



Cottonwoods are another thing I associate strongly with life in the American West. They are sometimes scorned for being short-lived and quick to drop their hefty limbs in a windstorm, but to me, they are a hallmark symbol of the West. Seeing congregations of them clustered along small rivers in a Western meadow is a welcome sight to me; their leaves shimmer in the wind, catching flashes of sunlight. They are particularly beautiful in the autumn, when their leaves turn a vibrant yellow and provide much of what little fall color the West does have. And true to their name, they do release cottony seeds in the spring from pea-like pods, filling the air with what sometimes looks like downy snow. Their bark grows thick, rough, and cracked. An uplift of wind into the leaves of a cottonwood creates the most welcome rustling music, a sound forever linked in my mind to lazy summer afternoons, family picnics, and peaceful days.

What are your favorite trees?


Last Spring's Iris

Out of all the plant life I miss most from living up north, I believe that peonies, lilacs, and irises are probably my top three. A few gardeners seem to be able to coax irises to grow here in the South, but I haven’t even tried yet. Last spring we made the trek into town to visit the Japanese garden in bloom; I was truly delighted to find this lone, lush purple iris in the midst of skinnier yellow ones. A recent morning rain rendered it even more charming.

Of course, there are things that grow beautifully here that don’t do so well up north: azaleas, pink magnolias, and red buds to name a few. More posts to come about those lovelies!
What are your favorite flowers?


Late Afternoon Peace

I adore the cheering effects of the sun. There are only two south facing windows in our house, but I try to remember to catch the late afternoon sun when its calming rays make their appearance behind these windows. The light is so beautiful at this time of day; its effects so perfectly luminous. It also brings a small bit of peace when I see it, adding even more layers to my decades' worth of memories of the immense beauty of the late day sun.

Letting Go

Even in our large house, the piles of papers, letters, books, and magazines that I have saved over three decades threaten to overwhelm me. I love to keep things, to hang onto them, doubtless for many reasons. I like to think that perhaps it’s because of my years working as a library assistant in high school and college – maybe the organizing and protecting of public information ensured that I would feel just as compelled to save my the documentation of my own life.

But there is a downside, too: rooms that become storage rooms rather than having a useful purpose; serious problems when moving; guilt for letting everything become so cluttered; hesitation to show visitors around the house. Sentimentality scents many of these items with its seductive fragrance.

And so: I decide to plunge in, discarding letters from people I haven’t heard from in years, sorting through the magazines I love, purusing our files for documents that can go. It is a hard and long process, but also freeing.

How do you deal with your piles and clutter?

Pear Blossoms

It was already a month ago when, overnight, it seemed, blossoms appeared on our Bradford pears – beauty springing out of leafless branches. I don’t know why it surprised me, but it did. Their appearance brings a small bit of regret for winter’s passing and the impending arrival of another relentless Southern summer. But their appearance also brings wonder and curiosity; musings about growth and change. Without wanting to sound trite, the spectacle of blossoms emerging from bare branches is always astounding and inspiring to me. It is a sight of which I never tire.
What signs of the changing seasons inspire you?

Library Book Sale

Is there any shopping experience more exciting than a library book sale? I suppose there is for more fashion-minded people than myself, but it’s sheer exhilaration to arrive early to get in line, eyeing the other customers, wondering which ones will reach right in front of me to claim a title I have my eyes on, or mercifully decide to set it back down instead. It had been several years since I’d been to a library book sale, and never in my new town. I was pleasantly surprised by the selection of titles available, as well as the cheap rates. As usual, there was a bit of a mad crush in the room within minutes of the sale’s opening; I had to think on my toes and act quickly if I thought I was interested in something. I emerged triumphant with a large tote bag of books, 19 total for the same amount I’d pay for a brand new paperback. Quite an exciting morning. I vow to make it to more library book sales.

Meadowlark Days

So, why ‘Meadowlark Days’? To put it simply, the call of a Western meadowlark is one of the most joyful things I know. Their exuberant song echoing across a short grass prairie always grabs my heart and raises childhood memories of long days exploring outdoors, examining stones, flowers, and branches as I ambled in the fields near our house. The meadowlark’s song is a thing of beauty and inspiration; I hope to use this blog to prod myself to remember to notice the small bits of beauty, joy, and wonder around me and to remind myself to explore with as much abandon as when I was a young girl. A day when I hear a meadowlark’s call is a good day. I hope you will join me on this journey and share your explorations as well!