Thursday, July 20, 2017

the gladness of every day

I've been very slowly reading some of Charlotte Mason's work - she is revered by many homeschoolers and I find much about human nature and even myself that I didn't think about before.

Anyway, why do some turns of phrase grab the attention so forcefully? At the book's end - the book is Home Education -  her final thoughts are on helping the child to learn about God in a good way, as a father, "...from whom comes all the gladness of every day".  And even though I didn't sleep well and got up too late, I did have gladness today. I didn't rush, went about my work peacefully and was able to do many things.

Yogi came by and I managed to get the camera - gracious, he does not keep still!  But hopefully you can see why I'm so enamored of him. Of course, handsome is as handsome does, and he actually tried to nip me more than once! I think he was over-excited. If he ever got into the house, I know that mayhem would ensue.


These cats have multiplied, and so much so
That they are double the celestial Bears. 
Cats that disport themselves in all-white furs,
Cats that are black and even calico,

And cats with tails and cats quite disentailed.
What I would gladly see (now wouldn't you?)
Is one cat with a hump or curlicue
Like some vain harridan discreetly veiled.

Let laboring mountains cease from all their toil,
For if a mouse were born, poor little brat,
It could not hope to flee so many a cat.

Good housewife, I admonish you to peel
Your eyes and watch the pot about to boil:
Run, look, a cat is carrying off the veal!

Here I must add my bob and wheel.
My sonnet will not have what praise entails
Unless it's like those cats that come with tails.

                                            -  Torquato Tasso (trans. by Lowry Nelson, Jr.)

Monday, July 17, 2017

books and such

I couldn't sleep the other night, and somehow got to thinking about what's in my bookcase. I've weeded, but the desire to pare down doesn't stay satisfied.

I got the idea I should be well acquainted with all the books on my shelf, and that they should be useful to me. I turned on a light and grabbed two: Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, and a poetry book, all sonnets.

The Ann Voskamp I have read twice. The question is - do I need to keep it? I probably need to read it again before deciding.  What is she trying to say? And should I keep the book around in order to be reminded of it? Or let it go to the next person?

As for the sonnets, I began reading them right away, in the middle of the night. I started penciling marks near the ones I liked, and finished it off at the dentist's this afternoon. I guess I should keep it, at least for a while. I've just never been one for poetry. But here's one:

 Dipped in detergent, dish and chandelier retrieve
their glister, sopped, kitchen floor reflowers, knife
rubbed with cork unrusts, colors of carpetweave
cuffed with shampooer and vacuum will reblush,
prints sprayed and scrubbed no longer peer but stare,
buffed, silver burns, brushed, plaster will gush
hue at you, tops soothed with cloth will clear.

Cleansing the cloud from windows, I let the world win.
It comes in, and its light and heat heave the house,
discolour, dim, darken my surfaces. Then once again,
as for forty years, my fingers must make them rouse.

Round rooms of surfaces I move, round board, books, bed.
Men carve, dig, break, plunge as I smooth, shine, spread.

Caring for Surfaces,  by Mona Van Duyn

Friday, July 14, 2017

trees as social beings

"...why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent social climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age. Regular fatalities would result in many large gaps in the tree canopy, which would make it easier for storms to get inside the forest and uproot more trees. The heat of summer would reach the forest floor and dry it out. Every tree would suffer.

Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way round, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance. When thick silver-gray beeches behave like this, they remind me of a herd of elephants. Like the herd, they, too, look after their own, and they help their sick and weak back up onto their feet. They are even reluctant to abandon their dead."

                                                     -  The Hidden Life of Trees,  Peter Wohlleben

Monday, July 10, 2017

it's a miracle

Well, I think it is.

Dolly in the picture window.  It's close to a year since our Dolly has sat there in peace.

Dolly in a chair in the front doorway.

It was one year July 2nd when we took Sweetie in. They have not gotten along. Many's the time I thought of posting about it, but my heart wasn't in it.  It has been very hard to see Dolly keeping to herself at the other end of the house (her house!) because she wanted to avoid Sweetie.  A year is a long. time, especially in the short life of a cat.

Sweetie was very well named but Diane warned me "she hisses at other cats - she doesn't like them". She comes from a houseful of cats and people and never really liked it. She's gotten used to Henry by now, but he's totally non-threatening anyway.  After an initial period of Dolly trying to make nice with Sweetie, it didn't work, she just gave up, and overreacted, hissing and running off whenever she appeared. We've wondered if she wasn't confusing Sweetie with Tootsie, who's also a tortie, and is terribly aggressive. But Dolly never acted like this with her - could it be that she was just fed up? (Who understands cats, anyway?)

Up on the shelf between kitchen and living room! All these (not very good, I know) pictures taken the same day!

My aunt passed away, and the funeral was Friday. We came home and everything was changed. There was Dolly: on the kitchen table, in the kitchen window, on the shelf, in the living room window, lying on the rug. As calm as could be. She will still hiss at Sweetie, but she isn't afraid of her anymore. The anxiety is almost gone.  What happened, so suddenly?

Is it due to all my prayers? (you can bet I prayed - what else was there to do? Who can reason with a cat? Anyway, it was breaking my heart that Dolly was apart from us much of the time.) Did she suddenly realize that Sweetie, like herself, doesn't really want trouble? I'm guessing that Sweetie figured out early on that hissing worked in a houseful of cats, but the vet commented that for an outdoor cat she seems to have kept out of trouble, because there aren't scars and marks on her. And I give her credit that she has never encroached on the area that Dolly was keeping to - it's funny that now she can sometimes be found in the spare room, but Dolly isn't interested in going there anymore.

I don't know what happened so suddenly to give Dolly this peace, but Thank God For It.

I'm flabbergasted. And so grateful.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"the antithesis of narcissism"

"But monastic fidelity to the liturgy is the antithesis of narcissism. ...somewhere, as I write this, as you read it, people are singing Psalms and praying for us all. Knowing that most of us won't notice or care, they are making us a gift of their very lives."
                                                       -  Dakota, Kathleen Norris

Friday, July 7, 2017

wouldn't want to make a monk scream

"...Often it's hard for monks to understand that people coming in from the noise of the world are so impressed by the relative quiet of the monastery that they see a paradise where there is none, and imagine monks to be more angelic than not. Monks are symbols of such a deep human longing that, paradoxically, others often have trouble seeing them as human beings. This is a complaint monks will make to anyone who will listen. 'If another person says, It's so peaceful here, I'll scream', one monk said to me."

                                                                - Dakota,  Kathleen Norris

(Well, I'm glad I only told you and not them!)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

fast food

It was in an issue of Food Network magazine, I believe. Somebody mentioned "Heirloom Tomato, Corn and Basil Salad", and I made a note of it. Not the recipe, which I didn't bother to look at, but the idea.

So I made it up yesterday, and again today because it's so easy to just cut up some good-tasting tomatoes in a bowl with lots of basil, and some frozen corn which you rinse under water until it isn't cold anymore. Then, a little touch of vinaigrette and some feta which needed to move along. Speed is of the essence in a summer recipe.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Knickerbocker Glory on the Fourth

It all began with Rhonda's weekly links of interest. This Mary Berry thing caught my eye. I never heard of this lady, obviously well known in Britain. It's a very delightful program, tempting recipes and this cute old lady with a twinkle in her bright eyes. I watched a few videos. And then saw this one where she goes to the seaside to have what she called a "Knickerbocker Glory" - an ice cream sundae with fruit and a raspberry sauce.

My first thought was that it wouldn't have tempted me as a child because it's totally without chocolate. But it seemed like a nice holiday-ish dessert for the Fourth of July.

I didn't try her ice cream recipe because I wanted chocolate, but I put the mango and the blueberries in it, and I made the raspberry coulis. What a tasty treat! It was melting too fast to get a good "before" photo - sorry! But I am very pleased that on this of all holidays I found an English dessert to enjoy.

a little prayer of hope

For millions still in darkness
within this land of light,
for those who've wandered blindly
from God and home and right
and those who ne'er have seen thee
thou God of love and might,
we earnestly beseech thee
may they receive their sight.

-      from Magnificat, July 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

don't do what I didn't do

I didn't check to see if it was unplugged.

Today I started a batch of fermented cranberry soda. I don't care for sugary soda (well, some Italian stuff now and then in summer) but this soda isn't supposed to be sweet. I had to find a way to use up two bags of cranberries which couldn't fit in the freezer and I wasn't interested in baking them into anything. I am terribly excited about this! I hope the jars don't explode.

Lately the refrigerator in the basement hadn't seemed as cold as the upstairs one; I've turned it up colder but suspected it was going. It is old so I didn't think much of it. Tuesday evening I went down there to get the leftover chili for supper and everything was getting warm inside. I then spent quite a while bringing it all up to the kitchen fridge and packing it all in there like a puzzle.

My brother thought we should call the repairman, who's quite a handy fellow - rather old school, who has seen too many appliances in the dump when they could have been fixed. Well, it didn't take him long to discover the problem. The plug had gotten loose.

I think this is on a par with my cake disaster story. Pitiful, but still much cheaper than the price of a new one!  As Mr. Bennet said, "It has been my own doing, and I ought to feel it."  Ahem.

But I do look forward to my fermented soda!  A silver lining, let's hope.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

bondage and freedom

"At its Latin root, the word religion is linked to the words ligature and ligament, words having both negative and positive connotations, offering both bondage and freedom of movement."

                                                                  -  Dakota, Kathleen Norris

These two things are what fascinates me about the Benedictine way of life, and I can't stop thinking about it since we went to the monastery. In their "bondage" - which isn't really that, but a fixed dedication to keeping to their scheduled times of prayer and work throughout the day -  but within that structured framework, they have their freedom of movement, as she says.

Monday, June 26, 2017

peace and beauty

We took a little trip to a monastery open house.

They make beer there. We toured the plant - so much shiny stainless steel!

But, the grounds.

They have a very large property, and the whole feeling is one of peace. And beauty.

Every tree, every thing, seems just where it ought to be and it's all perfection.

How do they do that? 

I recently felt like going through all the Brother Cadfael mysteries again, and just finished "A Morbid Taste for Bones". I could picture him here.

This is where they have chapter.  I want my house to look like this. 

Nearby is the chapel and we went in. A small, dark area, someone playing the organ. Just four or five pews, not more than fifteen feet long. I sat in the back one - near the blue blue windows, looking out on the green green summer day.

Everything about the place was just sublime to me.

The Lord said to Abram, Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you. 
                                                           -  Genesis 12:1

We're in the middle of a cyclone, said the old monk as I watched him and most of the community at dusk, as sheet upon sheet of rain marched toward the refectory windows...All became heavy and still. Lightning took out the monastery phones. (A blessing, said one monk. Peace at last.)

                                                                 -  Dakota,  Kathleen Norris

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

a visit from Yogi and a new bedskirt

I desperately needed a decent dust ruffle, and I found a used one on ebay. A Laura Ashley, supposedly one hundred percent cotton.

The tag clearly says half cotton and half poly. Anyway, I adjusted it for my daybed and it looks nice.

Dolly and I sat out again today for an hour. About halfway into it, a catbird started fussing up above us; I could see him clearly as he chucked at us, and just when he began his meowing, which sounded exactly like this,  (I guess it isn't really meowing, but does seem like a cat-ish noise.) I turned and there was Yogi right next to me. So the little catbird wasn't concerned about Dolly's presence, but he took a different view of Yogi.

He let me pet him! I offered him some of Dolly's food and water (he sniffed and then declined), and he stayed nearby for a little while. Oh, why didn't I think to bring the camera out? He is a beautiful cat.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

living breezes and invisible worlds

After some very unJune-like weather, hot and excessively humid, today was much drier, sunny and breezy. But I thought the ground must be wet after last night's rainstorms, and maybe not so nice to sit out. Until I came into the house after tossing something in the trash, and Dolly ran out. I chased after her in my bare feet (she stopped near the fence under a tree, thank God!) and grabbed her. And it wasn't wet after all! So, out we went.

For two hours, on a quilt under a tree; and I thought of the words in the morning's hymn:

The glories of earth, sea and sky
Thy pow'r and wisdom magnify;
The roseate dawn, the living breeze,
The flow'r decked fields, the surging seas,
All sing in wordless song to thee,
To whom exist all things that be.

It was the words living breeze that got me for some reason. We both enjoyed that breeze today.

Of course, sitting under a tree you occasionally feel a crawly something on your neck or whatever, and these little yellow spiders kept appearing, along with tiny ants and even a daddy long legs who was suddenly in my basket! I chased him out.

Here's a bright red bug of some sort. There was so much busyness on this tiny level!

If you don't pay attention, you'd never realize what's going on out there. And I usually don't.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017


O Christ, the healer, we have come
to pray for health, to plead for friends.
How can we fail to be restored
when reached by love that never ends?

From every ailment flesh endures
our bodies clamor to be freed;
yet in our hearts we would confess
that wholeness is our deepest need.

How strong, O Lord, are our desires,
how weak our knowledge of ourselves!
Release in us those healing truths
unconscious pride resists or shelves.

-  from Magnificat, June 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017

another weed

This wild rose - it took over the forsythia that used to be there and there are patches of it elsewhere in the yard, but I don't care - the sweet scent is everywhere these June days.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

a graduation

My favorite pillowcases, now serving as cleaning cloths for the bathroom.  Well, I don't want to call it a demotion!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

side garden

The garden on the side of the house near the back door, with a gray stone border.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


"We live the given life, not the planned."

                         - Wendell Berry

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

what is a weed?

I can't believe how well these wildflowers are holding up - I shouldn't say "holding up", because they look exactly as perky as when I picked them.

My brother referred to them as weeds when I was marveling. And even though I also use the term occasionally, I suddenly saw there is no such thing as a weed. A "weed" is just a plant you can't identify that's in a place you don't want it to be. That's a weed. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

soda bottle with buttercups

Lately I'm looking at empty food jars and bottles with a new eye

and am liking them as well as any vase.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

always dishes

It seems I always have dishes needing to be washed, and sometimes it's tiresome.

But then I remember that this is a working kitchen, not a "show" kitchen, so of course there will always be dishes. And I feel better.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memorial Day, anyway

The sunrise was so pretty that I thought the weatherman must be wrong, but he wasn't. It was another one of many gloomy and rainy days lately, and rather cool, too.

But inside we had company, and peanut butter cookies.

Monday, May 29, 2017

tomatoes from the old country

A friend stopped by and brought us three tomato plants: a Polish one like we had last year, and two Italian. From Italy - his grandfather's tomatoes, the seeds saved every year by his family! 

That's exciting.

Friday, May 26, 2017

hoping for hummingbirds

For a change, I bought a yellow hanging plant at the sale; it's lantana - something that's only an annual here. They said it should attract hummingbirds.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

neat and organized

This is how it looks when my brother does the garden.  I'm glad he's found time for it again.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

the second thing

"...the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often...So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life...Well, there we have the first thing I said we need. Quality, texture of information."

"And the second?"


                                                -  Fahrenheit 451,  Ray Bradbury

Thursday, May 18, 2017

coy peas

Today it was plenty over ninety, but I reveled in it - we've had so much chilly, rainy gloominess; it felt great! I made this favorite pasta salad.

And if you make it with pipette, the peas try to hide in them.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

it isn't perfectionism

"It is not doing perfectly this or that particular work or exercising a particular profession perfectly that grafts us into union with the Church; it is being so driven by Christ, wherever we are, that this small action of ours in the world is truly his.

It is not because we can organize the world that we will be grafted in marriage to the Church, but it is in carrying within us each person in the world, each person that we meet; it is not in organizing their lives for them but in giving them the right to live in our life; in sharing with them everything that we are, all that is ours, from our bread to God's grace."

-   Madeleine Delbrel,  from  Magnificat, May 2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Light Exists in Spring

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period -
When March is scarcely here.

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope, you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay -

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

-  Emily Dickinson

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"like a jewel from the bottom of the sea"

"The object of salvation is that which is unique, irreplaceable, incommunicable - that which is myself alone. This true inner self must be drawn up like a jewel from the bottom of the sea, rescued from confusion, from indistinction, from immersion in the common, the nondescript, the trivial, the sordid, the evanescent.

We must be saved from immersion in the sea of lies and passions which is called 'the world'. And we must be saved above all from that abyss of confusion and absurdity which is our own worldly self. The person must be rescued from the individual. The free son of God must be saved from the conformist slave of fantasy, passion, and convention. The creative and mysterious inner self must be delivered from the wasteful, hedonistic, and destructive ego that seeks only to cover itself with disguises.

To be 'lost' is to be left to the arbitrariness and pretenses of the contingent ego, the smoke-self that must inevitable vanish. To be 'saved' is to return to one's inviolate and eternal reality and to live in God."

                                        -  Thomas Merton, from Magnificat, May 2017

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

clouds of white

I had to put up this photograph of a local crabapple tree. Fabulous.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

let us rise

Let us rise in early morning,
And, instead of ointments, bring
Hymns of praises to our Master,
And his Resurrection sing:
We shall see the Sun of Justice
Ris'n with healing on his wing.

Go ye forth, his saints, to meet him!
Go with lamps in every hand!
From the sepulcher he riseth:
Ready for the Bridegroom stand:
And the Pascha of salvation
Hail, with his triumphant band.

-  from Magnificat, May 2017

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

When I bought this skillet last summer, I did wonder if I wasn't being greedy. After all, I had one very similar at home, one with the same heavy bottom and the same diameter on top.

This Calphalon is narrower at the base and a bit deeper, different enough for all kinds of cooking. and cleans up like a dream. I'm not feeling greedy anymore - I'm glad I bought it!

Monday, May 1, 2017

more from Mother Goose

There's been a chickadee flapping against our front windows yesterday and again today. I heard a tapping in the spare room and saw him trying to get in. It was so cloudy, it can't be that he was seeing his reflection; still, I headed over to pull down the shade but Dolly was there before me, leaping onto the sill and trying to get him through the glass. I think that scared him off.

Once I saw a little bird
Come hop, hop, hop;
So I cried, "Little bird,
Will you stop, stop, stop?"

And was going to the window
To say, "How do you do?"
But he shook his little tail,
And far away he flew.

-  from Mother Goose

Saturday, April 29, 2017

the valiant cherry tree

Our dear little cherry tree is blooming hard.

There's a dead branch which needs to be removed, but the rest of it is adapting as best it can to its injured state

and doing a darn good job of it.

It's like a fairy thing.