Category Archives: friends

Feasting in weather and among friends.

My son Pathfinder told me that Oregon — at least the western part — is a place trees really like to grow. When I traveled north from his house the trees filled my vision and my heart. I didn’t have time to pull over at every turnout and go hug one of them, but that is what seemed the reasonable thing to do.

My days were full of trees, ocean, rivers — and weather. I walked on this beach, four days in a row, and listened to the rain clattering on the metal roof at night, and the wind howling.

My trusty raincoat was necessary attire, but while I was at the coast there were daily breaks in the rain long enough for a good outing. But the weather could change so fast! These next pictures were taken within a couple of minutes of each other:

As long as I was on the coast I didn’t feel the cold, and the weather was only exciting. I had worried just before setting out, about the prudence of traveling to a colder and wetter climate in this month of the year when one wants to start hibernating. But I never regretted going.

When I left the coast and drove inland it was to Corvallis, new-old home of my former housemate Kit, who had been with me the last two years. She took me to one of her favorite eateries in that college town, the Yummi Café, where they make their signature Yumm Sauce that I have come to love because of her.

And she showed me her favorite tree on the Oregon State campus, a beautiful and comforting sight out the window of one of her classes the first autumn she was a student there. You can see why she would love it:

My first night with Kit we slept at the farm where she had lived for several years before moving to California. Several generations and families live here in Philomath, and they all work at chores such as keeping the forest floor clean by burning downed wood and trimmings.

As the sun was already lowering when we arrived, Kit suggested we take a walk around the property to see the animals such as Soay sheep, and also down the road to Marys River and the covered bridge.

I was really glad for my other new coat, a warm winter parka, because now the temperature was near freezing, and the air damp from the daily rain. Our walk was brisk in every way, and the children among us bump-splashed their bicycles through a string of potholes filled with rainwater.

As the sky grew dimmer the burn piles shone brighter, and their wood smoke scented the wintry air. I remembered in my body the cold fog of my childhood winters, but this was a cheerier feeling, like being in a Little House book, or a Currier and Ives video…?

I was thoroughly charmed, as well as humbled and warmed by the farm family welcoming me so heartily — and feeding me heartily, and giving me a spacious and cozy bedroom all to myself.

In the morning this was our view, the clouds hanging out between the ridges and in the little valleys of the wooded hills. And we all — about eleven of us — drove into town for Divine Liturgy.

I spent another night with Kit and her parents in Eugene, where I was also treated royally. I began to wonder if all my hosts were conspiring to see how much fattening up of me they could accomplish in a mere two weeks. All in love, of course!

Most of my driving was not in the rain, until the last day, and then I drove in and out of clouds so frequently that I was captivated by the times when I emerged from a downpour to see the white drifts hanging out prettily nearby.

Then suddenly I was back in northern California…

…and in another day or so was home again. Just in time for Thanksgiving! I’m oh so grateful for a fun expedition and vacation, but even more glad to be in my own bed and kitchen. When I came in the front door it was to a bright wood fire that housemate Susan had got going, the most welcome sight.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends!

Cinders, saints, and a pillow.

Before I returned home from my travels,
a little rain had washed the ashes off much of my garden.

lemon balm with echeveria (hens & chicks)

I had turned off the fountain before my departure, and the rainwater that was left in the bowl had cinders at the bottom. It occurred to me that they might be bits of my goddaughter’s house that burned to the ground and released some of itself into the wind during the incineration.

Thank God, almost all of the northern California fires are contained. We no longer have smoke burning our eyes and lungs, and roads and neighborhoods have opened up daily, but thousands of people lost their homes and/or jobs and businesses and many are still looking for a place to live.

When we talk to our friends or even strangers, we start by finding out how they were affected. Everyone has stories of that morning of October 9th, and every day still I think of someone new that I need to check on with an email or text message.

 

dwarf pomegranate fruit

 

 

In the whole of California, a thousand firefighters are still on task, and at the peak of the season 11,000 were fighting. They came from as far away as New York, Florida and Australia, bless their souls. We’ve had 6400 fires in the state this season, which burned 556,000 acres, much more than last year.

But my neighborhood did not burn, and I haven’t seen the destruction close-up yet. I’m walking my creek paths as before.

I’ve also jumped back into parish life:

Last weekend I cooked our Sunday Agape Meal for 100 people. You might remember that I did this twice before as a memorial for my husband; this time it was not for any special occasion. It consisted of 10 gallons of meaty chili with lots of vegetables, served over squares of creamy polenta, with tossed green salad on the side; sour cream and fresh cilantro for garnish.

I had a few helpers to do prep work for me on Saturday, and a few others to help me serve Sunday after the service. This combination was a hit, so maybe I will do it again. Each time I’ve cooked like this has been a little easier, so maybe I can start doing it more often.

Sunday evening we held a Celebration of the Saints party for which children could dress up and tell the stories of the saint they were representing. We had crafts and a soup dinner and it was so low-key and relaxing, with none of the hype and over-stimulation that always makes me wince on behalf of the little ones. I was privileged to help a little boy named Marcus work out his idea for a needle-felted pumpkin with fried-egg eyes that morphed into even thicker stars.

When we communion bread bakers showed up for duty on Tuesday morning we soon realized it was the feast day of our patron saints! Saints Spryidon and Nikodim are communion bread bakers from way back who watch over our baking from their icon each week, but I don’t think I’ve ever had the honor of baking prosphora, the bread of offering, on their day. It was very special, and we arranged an informal photo-shoot for the occasion.

Icons and saints graced my day today, also, thanks to my housemate Kit. I think I told you she is moving back to Oregon from where she came two years ago to live with me and be a blessing. Before she takes her final load of stuff north in a few days she wanted to visit San Francisco once more, and invited me.

St. John

We visited Holy Virgin Cathedral and the relics of St. John Maximovitch, and also walked to the chapel and house where he lived, where one can sit in a little room with the icons and desk and chair that were his own, where he prayed. That my young friend and I could share this last holy experience together is just one more cord that binds us in the Holy Spirit.

We enjoyed just being in the city and not trying to accomplish too much. Visited the Wells Fargo History Museum which is wonderfully free and fascinating. Craned our necks to see the sky when walking downtown; and ate dim sum for the first time, with exquisite fried mochi sesame buns.

Driving in traffic to and in San Francisco is normally a trial, but today’s outing was relaxing and soul-nourishing. I drove and Kit navigated, and we were compatible sight-seers in every way. The next week will be just as busy as the last one has been, so I’ll be glad to sleep soon on the pillow of peace.

I eat bread and take naps.

Last week I took a nap three days in a row, something I’m sure I hadn’t done since I was three years old! What it was about my condition or the environment that facilitated that, I am still pondering….

I’d flown from my daughter’s new home in Wisconsin to Tucson, Arizona, to visit friends Martin and Mabel. Those are nicknames, of course. If I didn’t care about preserving their privacy I’d use their real names, which are more beautiful and carry for me some of the flavor of who they are. These people are dear to me because of what we have shared over several decades: joys and sorrows and homeschooling, food and gardens, chickens and laughing and lots of babies. And over all and in all, the love of God.

Mabel confessed to me once that she just wanted “to make bread and babies,” and I always wished I had thought to say that first. But no one could hope to match her turns of phrase, songs that spring up from her good heart ready to bless and teach, and her amazing metaphors. On this visit she described Martin and herself as being a heavy stone on the end of a string, keeping a helium balloon with a happy face on it from floating away. I don’t remember who was symbolized by the balloon (It wasn’t me!)

The temperature was mostly in the 80’s while I was there, maybe the low 90’s, but as their house is about 2500′ elevation and the desert air is so dry, I never felt uncomfortably warm. Their spirit was peaceful, no air conditioning spoiled the mild October atmosphere, Mabel and Martin both cooked healthy food for me, and the bed was firm. I took the cure.

We talked and talked, drank tea, and walked a little  –  then I strolled alone Sunday morning in the cool air, and admired the mesquite trees, ocotillos, purple cactuses and palo verde trees. I attended Divine Liturgy at the elegant and evidently new Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church.

Mabel has not stopped making bread, and she fed me two kinds — first a hearty no-knead oatmeal stout bread baked during my visit. Then sourdough rye from a Tassajara Bread Book recipe; she sliced a good portion of that loaf into a ziploc for me to take on my journey home. I can’t remember ever eating anything like that bread, each fat slice sustaining enough to the body and soul that a single one would have done for a meal — but orange zest, caraway and other seeds combined in a flavor whirl that made me unwilling to wait for the next meal to have that experience again.

I think God knew that it would be hard to come back home where the fires were still burning, to a ravaged land full of sad stories, so He provided these friends to remind me of and lavish on me His everlasting Love, to shore me up beforehand. And He surprised me with naps!

I hadn’t cracked open my own copy of the Tassajara Bread Book in a very long time — my book that I bought because of Mabel in the first place. But I came home determined to revive once again my old sourdough habits, at least long enough to bake up a batch of that Sourdough Rye. It’s not as easy to turn out a homey metaphor or proverb that pleases, or to make pizza dough like Martin does, but I guess that just means I’ll have to visit again soon.

 

 

From the disaster zone…

Smoke thickened after I took this photo and is worse today.

I live in the area where high winds whipped up 60 different fires in a few hours early Monday (yesterday) morning. My neighborhood was on alert to evacuate, but that never became necessary. In this part of Northern California just north of San Francisco Bay, scores of my friends are among the 20,000 people who have been evacuated, and the homes of at least two families dear to me have burned to the ground.

Many hundreds of structures were destroyed yesterday, but fires are still burning and uncontained and it’s impossible to know at this point what the full extent of the damage will be, or how many lives will have been lost. Though we are all in shock at the speed and extent of this destruction all around us, everyone I know is thankful for the love and support, and continued existence, of their friends and family. I wanted you all to know that I am okay.