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Saturday, October 3, 2020

Fall Returns to the Mountain

Charles J Sharp / CC BY-SA 

I've recently spotted a couple of small cadres of enormous turkey vultures soaring over our mountain valley.  These sparse numbers are the early birds, signaling the arrival of fall on the mountain.  In the coming weeks, approximately 35,000 of them will make their way overhead to their autumnal destination.  They are thought of as ugly, but I think they are majestic as they glide low over our home and then ride the thermals impossibly high into the towering depths of the sky.  They are familiar, like decades-old friends.  Many of them, late evening arrivals, will spend nights in large groups in the trees throughout our small town, waking in the morning to continue on their way.  Their autumn migration south to Mexico signals cooling weather like clockwork every year.  Turkey vultures mean that it's time to think about planting the garlic.  And so, the cycle of the small markers of time continues on, unabated.

LoboStudio Hamburg lobostudiohamburg / CC0

My sweet granddaughter is toddling along, helping grandpa build a new vegetable planter box.  She is quite certain that the tiny block of wood she is carrying to the building spot is just as important as the long, heavy board that grandpa is wielding.  We all have an essential part to play.  As I look on, I wonder what her world be will be like, in the wake of such tumultuous times.  I pray she will hold on to faith, to help her meet the challenges her generation will face, and to keep her anchored in the important things.

Occasionally, she pauses to check the tomatoes.  She has learned the difference between green and red, and has become expert at determining when they are ready--- excitedly pulling at the ripe ones as she looks over her shoulder for approval.  She has no idea yet, in these early weeks past her first birthday, that we will be making tomato sauce with them soon.  She simply knows that red is red, and that red is an important marker in the world of tomatoes.

These days, as little one takes on the essential job of monitoring the tomatoes, I find myself stretching toward greater family self-reliance.  A brand new pressure canner gleams atop my counter, waiting for a permanent place to reside in our home.  I have no idea where I will store it. Nevertheless, I am suddenly less comfortable relying on the freezer to keep our winter stores fresh without fail.  I often find myself wishing I could call up my grandmother on the phone, and ask about the way things used to be done--when circumstances did not beguile us into believing that life is perpetually convenient and safe.  Why ever did we stop building root cellars?  I could use a few of my Mormon foremothers to sit down at my kitchen table and pass along some of the old pioneer skills --and wisdom-- that have been lost to the relentless passage of time.  Nevertheless, we find, as did they, our comfort and safety in God.  Still, I imagine that he expects us to chart the tides and then row the boat with the paddles that he gives us.

Such uncertain times press us forward to a new appraisal of what really matters, though, do they not?  When aspects of life and society that one has taken for granted for a lifetime, suddenly seem less certain to remain, one begins to prioritize more ardently.  And so, I take heart in the little patterns of wet, toddler-sized footprints stretching from garden to planter-box-in-the-making, and back.  God, family, and learning to love are what matters.  Let us never forget what matters.

User:Almonroth / CC BY-SA (

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. ~Deuteronomy 31:6

May our Lord bless you and keep you in these challenging times,

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Reading Glasses and Towering Pines on the Mountain

I patted the crown of my head this morning, looking for my glasses.  Unfortunately, the palm of my hand met only silver streaked hair, and bid me go looking for my glasses elsewhere.  I find myself doing this often now.  My eyes are firmly aged 50 these days.  My grandmother used to do this often - this crown of the head patting.  As a child, I found it infinitely amusing.  How could one not know whether one has glasses on ones head?  Honestly.  Time has a way of turning the joke upon the amused, and the clock ticks on.

Yesterday, my three year old went skating across the concrete, pulled via dog leash by a marvelously loyal old dog.  Today she left our little mountain cabin with her husband to make the trip into town by car to run some errands.  It was just yesterday, wasn't it -- the roller skating?  Perhaps not.  Time passes so quickly.  All I can offer is the time worn phrases:  'It all passes so quickly.  Don't miss it.  Don't fill it with worry. Enjoy it.  Life flies by.'  (If you are young, you'll dismiss them.  If you are older than young, you will nod in concert.) One day, I will stop flying along with time, leaving it for a timeless place, and time will go on without me --bearing only my fingerprints and whispers.

And yet, the generations will follow.  I've been raising them along these five decades.  Making my contribution to a long line of generation raising.  Each of us contributes to the collective memory and store of wisdom -- our many mistakes and our meager handful of successes tossed into the mix of the multigenerational family story, humbly. Mine more humble than most, I'm certain.

As I look out my window at the tall pines, I realize that it is difficult to see the mountain now.  The pines keep reaching higher toward Heaven, and only glimpses of old man mountain, through branches, remain.  One day,  each stately tree will fall, in its own time, having reached its full cycle of life.  It is a wonder-- a mystery-- that it is in the falling to soil that we finally reach Heaven.  This life is in the reaching, though. And, there is much living ahead to be done.

And so, things are purring along here, in our little mountain home.  The tea pot still rumbles and whistles, the sewing machine still hums along.  Laces line their places and needles glint.  The bears are finally sleeping their Winter sleep.  And, we pray for you, our dear ones.  It occurred to me this morning that I ought tell you that.  I've been so quiet.  Those of you who have been around these many years since the shop began, will remember that the blog used to be updated frequently.  Now, as my eyes and fingers age, as a wedding sits in recent memory, and life throws so many responsibilities my way, I've not been so active at the keyboard.  Still, you reside in our hearts and minds.  We are grateful for you.

With Lent upon us-- Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant alike-- as we embark upon our journey into the desert of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving-- we wish you godspeed.  May God go with you.  May He be your travel companion and your destination.  May you meet Him in prayer, self-denial, and quietude.  May you meet Him in your neighbor.  May He fill your heart and soul with Peace.

Pax Christi Dear Ones,
A good and holy Lenten season awaits,

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Friday, May 12, 2017

The Veil

Many veils have been made in our home--veils for weddings and veils for baptisms, veils for prayer and veils for mourning, veils for meeting our Lord in the Chalice.  Each is infused by the prayer of our hands, made with love and devotion to our Lord-- English net and Chantilly lace, resting like silken intercession over rituals for transition.  Sometimes I imagine them, scattered amongst little villages and large cities, overseas and across countries, on the heads of praying women.  Having passed through my hands, run gently through by my needle, they touch my heart.  But, this veil, --it is different.

"Keep their wedlock safe against every hostile scheme; give them of the dew from the Heavens above, and of the fatness of the earth. Fill their houses with bountiful food, and with every good thing, that they may have to give to them that are in need..."

This veil will grace the one who has lain in my arms, fed at my breast, played at my feet. This veil will --Lord willing--be touched by my grandchildren and, perhaps, by theirs.  This veil is trimmed in lace that will frame the hem of a christening gown on the solea of my own parish.  This veil will settle gently upon the fingertips of generations--Lord willing, Lord willing.

She sculpted it, this veil, me looking on.  It is her opus.  I steadied the trim as she placed it, gingerly, meticulously.  I sat, hands quiet, as she began the stitchingShe alone is making it--this one, her own bold creation. 

"Give to them fruit of the womb, fair children, concord of soul and body. Exalt them as the cedars of Lebanon, and as well‑cultured vine; bestow on them a rich store of sustenance, so that having a sufficiency of all things for themselves, they may abound in every good work that is good and acceptable before You. Let them behold their children's children as newly planted olive trees round about their table; and, being accepted before You, let them shine as stars in the Heavens, in You, our Lord, to Whom are due all Glory, honor, and worship as to Your eternal Father, and Your All‑Holy, Good, and Life‑creating Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages.

Join them together in oneness of mind; crown them with wedlock into one flesh; grant to them the fruit of the womb, and the gain of well favored children.

O Lord, our God, crown them with glory and honor..."

I watch it take shape as the days pass.  It is exquisite.  It is hers, and she will form it according to her values, hopes, and dreams.  She does not need me to guide her.  I have taught her and I have learned from her, already.  Years of preparation have passed, now come to promising fruition.

"Declare their marriage honorable. Preserve their bed undefiled. Grant that their life together be without spot of sin. And assure that they may be worthy to attain unto a ripe old age, keeping Your commandments in a pure heart..."

I watch her long awaited, long prayed for future begin to unfold, and I see it-- she is ready.  She is ready.

"...bless these Your servants, who, by Your Providence, are joined in the community of marriage. Bless their comings‑in and their goings‑out. Replenish their life with all good things. 
 Accept their crowns in Your Kingdom unsoiled and undefiled; and preserve them without offense to the ages of ages.*"

*All italicized portions are taken from The Service of Marriage; Liturgical Texts of the Orthodox Church.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Waiting on Change ~ Advent

Mother of God, Lovingkindness
As evenings grow darker, I find my thoughts traveling to the Advent wreath.  In years past, this is the weekend I would likely be panicking about the fact that I had, yet again, failed to order the candles on time.  As darkness falls on lengthening nights, I yearn to light that first tiny flame--a herald of the coming of our Savior.  But, I have traveled East, and Advent wreaths are not an Eastern Rite tradition.  So, I am tossed in a sea absent Western traditions and spilling over her banks with unfamiliar Eastern ones.  It is easier to fall into the familiar arms of traditions that you have grown up along side, than it is to immerse yourself in new ones--let me tell you.  So, I-- who have lived 49 years ordering my life by the rhythm of the Western Christian calendar--stand in Eastern icon corners and search my soul for the warm, familiar feelings of home.

Large Rectangular Veil in Brown w Pink Accents ~ RCVM6
I am sitting in a quiet house today.  My husband is sorting through mail and the dogs are snoring in the narrow ray of sun that the blinds let in.  Elyse is two hours' drive away.  She'll be home in a handful of days to sew and to don veils for new listing photos before Thanksgiving.  After Thanksgiving, I'll have two adult children at home for awhile.  Twice the love.  Twice the hope for a marvelous future.  Time flies by and change is both joy-giving, and ruthless. 

I know that she will leave us to make her own life, but will stay in the warm embrace of family as she grows into that life, and forms it.  Her life will be different from mine, yet will be shaped and influenced by her time in our home.  All who came before her have put their stamp on her being--on her living.  Just as an Advent wreath glows in the shadowy night corners of my heart, she will hear, in the distance, 1900s cattle lowing softly in the snowy night.  The scent of warm bread dough rising while tucked snuggly in the back of an 1800s covered wagon -- kneeded by the weary hands of a foremother looking west to Zion-- will waft gently on her nostrils.  She will startle-- gently, briefly-- as she places bare feet on the ground along those of her little ones, at the feel of the rich soil of the Tetons squeezing up between her toes.  And then, she will look down to see that it is not really there--in her vision, but is written on her heart.

And, she will remember.  She'll tell the ancestral stories to little ears.  Her children will appear as if they are not listening, but, their hearts will hear.  Their souls will record love of Christ and family--and stories of those who bequeathed these things to them.  And her children, too, will remember.

Liturgical Time : "..Because of the Angels"
So, then, life continues on mercilessly, and change bursts in to reveal that all the things that really matter stay the same.  I'll remember this as I pull my western Advent Wreath out of the sideboard this year and my youngest -- my only -- lights the first candle.  Because, the dust of trails traveled clings to us as we move forward, and then falls gently on newly discovered ground, to enrich it.

He's coming friends-- our Lord, putting on human flesh to become one of us and to grow strong and wise, to teach us, and to conquer death and the grave.  Are you making room?  Are you sweeping corners and wiping shelves and taking stock of your heart and your household?  Advent approaches, in the East and in the West--He is coming. Let us prepare ourselves and our homes, and make Him room.

Pax Christi, dear ones,

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The Dark Stretches Long ~ Advent

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Lilacs and French Lace...Spring is on the Air

It's lilac season at Liturgical Time.  We're celebrating with a flurry of French laces and Springtime prints.  The studio is humming with shipping activity. Into the midst of whirls of packaging ribbon and organza pouches filled with lace lovelies, Papa placed a vase of cut lilacs...and it brought to my mind an old post.  So, I've resurrected it, below, from the archives.

I pray your home is filled with sweet fragrance and strong endurance, and that we all emerge newly broken from our Lenten disciplines,and ready for growth, into this year's Paschal Spring.

Pax Christi, dear ones!

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” 

Lilacs, Shoe Throwers, and Endurance: Remembering Who is in Charge, and Being Still
A Repost from the 2012 Archives....

It's lilac season in the Central California mountains.

I love this time of year.  I hate this time of year.

 I woke up to a flurry of emails 
about typical end of the school year special education stresses.

 May is rough.

But the lilacs are lovely.  There are fields of them around here, and they adorn yards everywhere.  In the center of town, some of them are enormous, like trees.  I imagine they have been around longer than I have, probably much longer.

They have grown so large and sturdy and stately because they have endured.  Through times of plenty and times of rationing, they have soldiered on, simply standing still.  They have celebrated in the roaring twenties; buckled down and lived on less throughout the Great Depression.  I'm sure that they saw a thing or two in the sixties. They've seen grown little boys returning home from wars, and a few good sized California earthquakes.

All the while, they stood still, basked in sun when it was available, slept when it was time, and drank in the water and nutrients that they could.  And it shaped them into something magnificent.

I've had some stresses of my own, I suppose, as I look back over my four and a half decades of life.  As I contemplate the times that seemed debilitating, it was generally due to fear,....fear of loss, fear of change, fear of inadequacy,...and it generally has occurred during periods when I was operating under the delusion that I was in control.

We tend to develop big ideas for ourselves, we humans.  We tend to think that things are in our hands, and to forget Whom it is that hung the stars.

Maybe you don't, but I do.

I tend to think that I can keep everything going, straighten it out, repair it, make it right, and keep it that way.  Then, I begin to think that I must do these things.

Truth is, I'll be lucky if I can just get dinner on the table.

The machine is much bigger than we are, and we can only do our part.  The people who throw shoes in our works,... the people who pass judgment...they cannot see into our souls, and they do not care to.  They have their own agendas in mind.

Our Lord is the only one who can see the heart; he is the only one who has the full scoop.  He is the only one who will stand in final judgment...and...he is the one in charge.

I don't need to be.  You don't need to be.

We only need to stand still, bask in the sun when available, sleep when it is time, and drink in the water and nutrients that we can.

We only need to strive to have Christ in our hearts, and to be Christ to the world.  We only need to strive to provide the best Christlike service that we can in a broken world.

We only need to get dinner on the table, and be still.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  ~Proverbs 3: 5-6 

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Friday, March 25, 2016

On This Day of Bright Sorrow

I borrowed the Western calendar today, for a moment, and pondered.  As an Orthodox Christian, my Pacha, my Easter, will be May 1 this year.  Still, one cannot help but notice that for our Western brothers and sisters, today is Good Friday....a Good Friday that shares a calendar-square with the date in both traditons, of the Annunciation.   Bright sorrow, and melancholy joy, colliding.                                            
Skokloster Castle / Jens Mohr

Forty-one years ago, a baby was born in my home.  A little brother, unexpected, a gift.  I was no longer an only child; I had someone to walk through the decades with.  Nineteen years later, unexpectedly, he went home.  This time, it didn't feel like a gift.  I don't understand it.  The pain really cannot be described, and so, I will not try.  I can only trust that in God's wisdom, it was the better choice.  I can only trust that it was to save him, and us, greater pain.  

I don't talk about him much around those whom I do not trust with such raw, deep sorrow.  I mostly keep him hidden in my heart.  People often show interest in such stories for titillation.  They want to know something that sits deep within you, something that can drop you to the ground.  They want to be spectators to the sensational.  And so, I keep him in my hearts' embrace.

It must have been something like that for Mary? Imagine the depth of her pain, and the sensational response of the masses to her son's death. How she must have grieved; how she must have wanted to cover him with her own body, to shield him from the titillated and jeering crowds.  I am no Mary, but I can imagine a small piece of her experience,... perhaps.

The Virgin Mary Swooning over the Dead Body of Christ at the Foot of the Cross, by Pierre-Etienne Monnot, 1710
Still, she carried this devastating sorrow for the joy it ushered in.  Our salvation, and hers....a wonder. Trusting God, that in His wisdom, it was the better choice...the only way to save us greater pain.  And so, we trust.

Blessed Annunciation, dear ones, and a holy and blessed Good Friday to our precious friends who pray and wait at the foot of the cross, in the Western tradition,

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Shoes and Rain on a Dry Mountain

The face of the mountain is a cacophony of forest green and toasted brown. She is thirsty. My soul glints brown too; I cannot write, and I don't know why. You've not heard from me, because I haven't heard from myself.

Yet, the forest is a-flutter with birdsong. Perhaps in their DNA they know that these things pass and rain will soak the forest floor again, so they need not waste time grieving. Or, perhaps, they are crying out in choral prayer, for rain.

The kettle still hums and my husband still perches on couch's edge, strapping on shoes that prompt me to ask if he is leaving. For 26 years, his shoe donning behavior has confused me, striking uncertainty. In my house, we only put on shoes when we were leaving. In his, shoes went on every morning, regardless of plans. You'd think 26 years would be a teacher, and I'd no longer ask the well worn question, "are you going somewhere?" How many times have I heard the reply offered with a smile and a shake of his head, "just putting my shoes on"?

And so, I am assured and content as he settles back into his spot on the couch next to me, as he has done for two and half decades, wondering why I keep asking.

I pick up the daily reading:

Matthew 15:32-39, King James Version (KJV)

32 Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
33 And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?
34 And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
35 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
36 And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
37 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.
38 And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.
39 And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala. (KJV-Public Dolmain)

Thursday, there was rain. My Facebook feed filled up to overflowing, with photos of water rushing down mountain village roads. And yet, today, I gaze on glints of forest brown and despair, having forgotten. And so, I am gently reminded. It is not my job to wonder from whence the nourishment will come. It is my job to continue with Him daily, to settle in before the woodstove beside a husband who will not venture elsewhere, and to trust that the birdsong will remain.

Pax Christi Dear Ones,
May you always find childlike trust in our risen Lord,