Wednesday, February 28, 2007

John Donne

Have I mentioned that I love John Donne? Well, now I have. I love John Donne. Wonderful poet. We read him for my English class today. We read but didn't talk about my absolute favorite poem of his, "Death Be Not Proud." We did talk about "A Hymn to God the Father," which I decided to share.

Well, I typed it up with the nice little line spacing and such and then Blogger wouldn't do it right. So here is the link to the poem at Bartleby, since Blogger is evidently stupid. Sorry.

And yes, that is a pun on his name in the refrain of the poem. My professor told us that while we consider puns to be the lowest kind of jokes the Elizabethans thought they were quite distinguished.

The man himself.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


A poem by moi.


Picking red currants in the
Hot June sun;
Plucking these hard
Ruby gloves
Whose clear beauty belie
Their clear tartness
Which I have tasted knowingly
Yet craving
The burst of liquid
In my mouth,
I feel that nothing can mar
This perfect moment.

June 27, 2006

Saturday, February 24, 2007


This is not a political blog by choice, for several reasons. But this post will border on the political.

I am not an expert on what has occured in Kosovo for the last ten years. I can only say what I know. But I feel that I have to say what it is I can say.

I do not defend Slobodan Milosevic or his troops. I do not deny that his regime was opressive or that he and his army committed acts which are not Christian and should never have occurred. But what happened in retaliation has affected people who were innocent. It has resulted in the destruction of thousand-year old monasteries, in murder of 81-year old women--and that is only a small portion of what has happened.

I can remember when the NATO bombing of Serbia took place. I was 11. I can remember the American sailors standing on their ship, far from any harm, and cheering as the bombs fell. I don't blame the sailors. They were fed the same biased information that almost everyone else in America was given. I remember how on Pascha (Easter), the holiest and most joyful day of all the year for any Orthodox Chrstian the Serbian government asked for a cease-fire. For this one day, the Day of all Days, the day of Christ's Resurrection. We refused. I can remember exactly how I felt when I heard this on the radio. I was 11 and I did not want to be American. I was Orthodox, and there was no room in my heart for those who could kill people who believed and worshipped as I did. I do not blame the American people except in that we did not take action. I blame our leaders and the media who sat in their pocket and presented such a limited view of an extremely complex situation that anyone who did not know otherwise would be forced to conclude exactly what most people did conclude.

Now it is eight years later. Hilary Clinton, the wife of the president at the time, is running for president. It is Lent. We are coming once again to Pascha, that day of joy. And the Albanian separatists who have been running a regime of fear, torture, and destruction, want independence.

For a much better informed and more complete view of what has happened in Kosovo since 1999 see It has specific pages for crimes and abuses, ruined churches, desecrated icons, the real story of the Albanian KLA, and much more, including text from interviews and speeches given by Bishop Artemije of Kosovo. Be aware that some of the images are extremely disturbing and are not appropriate for children.

Here is a petition asking the House of Representatives to decide against House Resolution 36 which would endorse the independence bid. (As a side note, here's one of the best reasons: "We do not support the United States position that Kosovo-Metohija, 15% of Serbia's territory should be taken away from her to appease Muslim insurgents who support Al-Qaeda and a thriving criminal element that imports illegal drugs and which also engages in human trafficking." If we're going to be against Al-Qaeda, let's do it consistently and rescue the Serbian people, who already suffered from Muslim rule for 500 years, from further oppression.)

Here is an article about Bishop Artemije, which includes this potent paragraph:

In the final years of the Milosevic regime Bishop Artemije was accused of "treason" and had no access to government-controlled media because of his opposition to violence and condemnation of any crime, regardless of the culprit’s ethnicity. This earned him no friends across Kosovo’s ethnic divide, however. After the KLA took over the province under NATO's occupation in June 1999 and started blowing up Serbian churches and monasteries by the dozen, his life was in danger.

Here is an address by Bishop Artemije on why Kosovo's independence would be a terrible idea for the West.

Bishop Artemije's response to the current proposal for independence.

Two speeches by Bishop Artemije. Here are a few quotes:
Kosovo was crucified, and five years later it still hangs upon the cross. The profound respect for the crucified victim forces everyone to remain silent in front of the cross. Even the Mother of God kept silent in front of her Son's Cross, but tears never ceased to speak.

It is by God's will that I am the spiritual leader of that people. That is why I find it difficult to speak of my own suffering and of the suffering of my people in cold, scientific, academic terms.

What is Kosovo for the Serbs and for Serbia? It is what Jerusalem is for the Jews. It is the heart of one's body, the hearth of one's home. Kosovo was, Kosovo is, the cradle of Serbian statehood, Serbian culture, Serbian spirituality. There lie our deepest national roots; there stand our most majestic Orthodox holy places

[Kosovo] is a symbol of spiritual values, of eternal Christian values which make life worth living and which are worth dying for.

Read the whole article--it is extremely moving.

Church of St. Basil of Ostrog at Ljubovo, Nov 2002

This post is not well organized. It is emotional and it is not rational. I don't apologize for any of that. These are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Kosovo is the place where Tsar Lazar of Serbia and his army sacrificed themselves as martyrs for the Lord. It is the heart of Serbian Orthodoxy, and to give it away would be as to give Jerusalem to Hamas. My heart bleeds for the Serbian people and yet we cannot become bitter or angry. We can only trust that the Lord is using this suffering to purify our faith. Glory be to Him in all things!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Assorted sundries

This week has been fairly busy for me. It's also the first week of Lent (as I've already said). These are my excuses for not posting since Tuesday. At any rate, I'm getting back on track. I'll be posting a poem I wrote later on today. And I hope to have some more quotes from various books I'm reading soon.

Given that it is Lent, I've been monitoring the music I listen to. I'm not saying so much "classical only" or "classical and folk only" but going more by individual song. Some music that I feel is completely appropriate and wonderful at any other time just doesn't cut it at the moment. Chopin's "Minute Waltz," for instance. The problem is that I listen to music pretty much continuously, especially while I'm on my computer. The solution? At the moment, Ancient Faith radio. They have some kind of cheesy "inspirational moments" (my name for them, not theirs) but they also have some beautiful Orthodox music, both Slavonic and Byzantine. It's free, it's Orthodox, and it keeps me happy.

Interesting post on tea over at YLCF. I like tea. It keeps me happy. I like mine strong and sweet. Either black or herbal. I'm not so big on green and I haven't tried anything else.

And finally, if you have any interest whatsoever in costumes/old fashioned clothes, check out this book and volume two. I got them out from my school library and I don't want to give them back.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Way of a Pilgrim

I'm reading this book as part of my Lenten discipline. It is the story of an anonymous Russian pilgrim who travels throughout Russia studying the use of the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Here is a small sampling of its wisdom:

"....secret prayer is found within the depths of each man is carried on in the soul of itself; and any man who knows how to listen hears the soul's call to outward prayer."

"The nature of things is judged by the inner attitude of the soul; that is, one infers and makes judgements from where he is. He in whom prayer and love are real does not see dichotomy i things; he does not separate the saint from the sinner but loves all equally as God does."

"Of course God does not need prayer from us sinners, but in His love for us He likes to see us pray. Not only is the highest form of prayer....pleasing to Him....but even small acts done in His name are pleasing in His sight--every thought and intention directed to His glory and our salvation."

"On the scales of justice one short minute of calling on the name of Jesus Christ outweighed many hours lost in slothfulness."

I'll be sharing a few more as I finish it up. I find the accessability of it inspiring; the idea that you don't have to be a great saint to pray but that prayer is within each of our grasp.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The beginning of Lent

I often have to explain Great Lent to people, especially this year when I am a college freshman with a whole new set of friends. None of them are Orthodox, several aren't religious, and even those who are mostly understand Lent from a Catholic background. Generally when I am finished they look at me in horror and say, "How do you do that? I could never do that!" I usually make a wry face while in the back of my mind I think, "Well I have to." Not exactly the best response but I suspect it's pretty common in the Orthodox world. Lent is something difficult and hard. We don't really want to do it but we know we have to. So we hold our nose and take the plunge hoping it will be over as soon as possible.

It's the natural response to Lent (although, as I said, not exactly the best one) so it took me aback when I noticed for the first time the Epistle reading for Cheesefare or Forgiveness Sunday: Romans 13:11-14:4. This reading includes two verses which I think sum up how we are supposed to think about Lent:

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of
sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off
the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Romans

You see? Lent is not some terrible burden that we slog through as best we can. No, it is the time when our salvation is near. It is in fact the day, not the night. It is a time to be sober, but it is not a time to be sorrowful. Let us each try to put on the armour of light and look at Lent a new way.

Friday, February 16, 2007

White Cake

This is from an old cookbook at Slate Run Living Historical Farm where I once volunteered. Unfortunately I evidently didn't remember to write down which cookbook, so you'll have to take my word for it. At any rate, it's a simple cake and delicious. I don't think you need any sort of frosting. The directions are minimal as directions from the time period often are.

White Cake

1 cup butter
3 cups sugar
1 cup milk
5 egg whites
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon soda (i.e., baking soda)

Mix together (I do it in order). Bake until done.

I know the recepie isn't terribly helpful, but I commonly use a 9-inch round cake pan and put the oven at about 350 degrees. I'm not sure how long it will take to be "done." The cake is still worth it.

Betsy Tacy

Heavens to Betsy! (Yes that was intentional). According to Melissa Wiley the Betsy-Tacy series is going out of print. I have the first, I don't know, five books I think. (They're currently in a box 100 miles away and I haven't seen them since early June. Give me a break.) I've read all of them. I love them. This means that soon unless you have your own copy "Everything Pudding" will mean nothing to you. And the pink clouds, and the jars of sand, and the Emira. This is sad. My faith in children's book publishers is rapidly disappearing. I would tell you to go do something to stop them going out of print except that I'm not sure what can be done.

EDIT: I just noticed Melissa's handy little list of all Maud Hart Lovelace's books. I have the first four.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I have skills (not for those who don't like blood)

I took a shower tonight. (I can hear the sighs of relief.) And I shaved my legs. Yup, so far, so good. Except that somehow or other I managed to nick my right big toe in the process. It didn't hurt at all, but it did start bleeding--and I do mean bleeding. I'd stick it under the water for a minute or so and the blood would all wash away and then I'd move and it wouldn't be under the water any more. In a few seconds my toe would look like it had a red ribbon tied around it. Gives a new meaning to the phrase "crimson tide."

It is now band-aded and not bleeding profusely and I'll live and my toe won't drop off. But this has not been a good week for my friends, what with Krista S.'s thumb and another friend's having one of those decorative pepper jars fall on her head at work and now my clumsiness with a razor. Oy vey!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Brambly Hedge

When I was but a tiny lass (with a hey, ho, the wind and the rain) I loved the Brambly Hedge books. For some reason I remembered them today and decided that I must share them with as many people as might stumble across this because there must be people out there who have never heard of them and that is a tragedy.

There are a number of stories, all about a number of field mice who live in Brambly Hedge. The orginal four stories (Summer Story, Autumn Story, Winter Story, and Spring Story) were followed by a number of continuations.

The illustrations are half of why I love them. They are so delicate and so precise. Jill Barklem, the author and illustrator, shows every detail of the mice's homes. Just look at one of the illustrations:

I also loved all the different foods the mice make. They use all sorts of natural ingredients to make the most interesting sounding food imaginable. Elderflower wine, nettle soup, the list goes on and on.

My childhood was rife with wonderful books--Barbara Cooney, Robert McCloskey, Just Plain Noodles, Drummer Hoff, Little House, and many others. I loved all of them, but Jill Barklem's imagination is remarkable for making her world come to life.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fear and Suffering

I was really moved by Natalie Nyquist's article on YLCF. She really helped me to crystalize some of the thoughts I've had floating around in my brain for awhile. This is essentially my response although I probably won't quote from her article at all.

There are really two different approaches to courtship* out there. One is centered around the thought of waiting and trusting in God. The other is centered around not getting your heart broken. The first approach, which I would say is probably more prevalent, is the one I agree with. I have three separate issues with the other approach.

First, it's selfish. The focus is on your heart, your needs. If someone goes into marriage thinking only about their heart and their needs it is going to be a difficult marriage. Courtship is not about you. Courtship is about your relationship with the Lord and the other person. You should guard your heart with the thought of the young man or woman who, God willing, will some day hold it for you.

Second, it is unrealistic. Sure, it sounds nice to say, "The heart of any father for their daughter is that they never know a broken heart and that they have a happy, healthy, and holy marriage" (Padgett), but we are human. God made us with desires and needs that don't turn off at the flick of a switch. That doesn't mean we should give in to them, but we must recognize that we will have them and that there is nothing wrong with that. We do not sin by thinking about food during church; we sin when we allow that thought to dwell and take root in our mind. In the same way, we do not sin when we think that the young man next to us is handsome; we sin when we wonder if he likes us and maybe he likes me and I wonder if he likes blue and what color could the curtains in our house be? Realizing that a young man is nice does not mean that you have failed to guard your heart. Thinking about him in terms of yourself does.

Finally, it is not really Godly. I know that's a strong statement and I am not trying to personally condemn those who teach or follow this approach. But it truly is not. God did not call us to a life of safety. The Lord did not say, "Come follow me." He said, "Come take up your cross and follow me." He suffered for us and we as Christians are called to emulate him. We fear suffering but as John Donne said, "[A]ffliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction." (Meditation XVII) If we wish to lead a safe and comfortable life we will not be following God. Is it truly holy to say, "I want to stay happy" or to say with the Theotokos (Mary) "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38)?

It is a hard and lonesome path and I certainly do not claim to have answers but I am convinced that only by allowing God to work as He wills in our life can we find the peace that passes all understanding.

*When I say courtship I also mean the period of waiting before one actually enters into a relationship

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A momentous day in literary history

Today is the birthday of both Charles Dickens (1812) and Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867). Truly a great day for literature, only surpassed by November 29, birthday of Madeline L'Engle, Louisa May Alcott, AND C.S. Lewis.


Dickens is certainly one of my favorite authors. His masterful use of setting and above all his characters have endeared him to me. If I had to, if I were forced to choose favorites among his books I would choose Our Mutual Friend, Bleak House, and A Tale of Two Cities. (If you know who I just paraphrased, virtual chocolate is yours.) There are a few of his books I'm not as keen on: Great Expectations because Estella annoys me more than I can possibly convey online and Oliver Twist just because. But most of his books are familiar friends. His verbosity is intimidating but when you move beyond that you find a word of enchantment open to you.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

My earliest memory of books is bound up with Little House in the Big Woods. I was about four. My father had tried to read Wind in the Willows to me but I was still a bit too young for it. (Unfortunately that early experience has left me cold where Wind in the Willows in concerned. I try to like it, I really do, but somehow it never quite works.) At any rate, he gave up on it and read Little House to me instead. And that I loved. Here was Laura, in some ways so like me (dark haired and little) and her adventures. I couldn't get enough of them. I read them voraciously for years and even after they stopped being my favorite books I would re-read them once in awhile. I haven't recently, partly because they are still boxed up from our move this summer, but I still remember them fondly.

Carrie, Mary and Laura. Not sure of the year.

Source for pictures: Wikipedia


As I've mentioned before my work study job is at the school library. It's work that I'm suited to and that I, for the most part, enjoy doing. But I'm a college student and, as everyone who has been around us for more than ten minutes knows, college students love to complain. The weather, the food, classes, homework, work. It's easy to get caught up in the moment and enter the complain-fest. But recently I've been evaluating that part of me. Granted sometimes complaints are warranted and justifiable. If there is something that needs to be addressed I shouldn't keep silent. But constant complaining about my life does nothing to help me and everything to harm me. It really creates an atmosphere of negativity. How can I serve God when I am so busy thinking about how much I hate shelving?

Now I am a worry-wort and a complainer so I will, I am sure, fall into this trap again. But for the moment I am resolved to try to stop the flow of complaints before it starts and think instead of what good God is doing in my life.