Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

At 12:47 tonight, the very nadir of midwinter darkness arrives...the sun at its weakest point.

The fire's lit and candles burn. The Yule log works its magic.

Sting's new album, "If On A Winter's Night..." casts a spell.
Winter's the time for reflection, he says.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Journey to Bethlehem

We have a long, long way to go.
So let us hasten along the road,
the road of human tenderness and generosity.
Groping, we may find one another's hands in the dark.

--Emily Greene Balch

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Breath of Heaven: Snow

Norwegian Mountains High Above a Fjord

The first fall of snow is not only an event, but it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up to find yourself in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment, then where is it to be found?

--J.B. Priestley, Apes and Angels (1928)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pine Cone Wonder

So that's how they do it!

OK, so I live such a secluded life that I never knew how pine cones get to be pine cones. But here they are--female pinaceae cones right in front of my camera lens--lifting overlapping scales (I googled Wikipedia) from a central axis. The scales open temporarily to receive pollen, then close during fertilization and maturation. At maturity, they re-open again to allow the seed to escape.

Just in time for Christmas wreaths and decorations, fire starters, bird feeders, and toys.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wild Horses

And wild horses couldn't drag me away
And wild horses couldn't drag me away.

Yes, they can.

I should be writing a story, getting on with the to-do list.

But Susan Boyle's lilting Scottish voice, singing Mick Jagger's "w..i..i.i..ld horses" takes me back to Iceland and the steeds corraled by the roadside, the cold wind blowing their manes and tails, tundra and mountain ranges in the distance. Impatiently, the horses wait for riders to release them from the enclosure. While they wait, they butt heads and push each other about. I'm a close-up witness to the wild power of pure-bred horses.

Can't get them (or the song) out of my head.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Table Grace: Earthly Goods

Potter's clay appeals to us as few substances can. Like mud for making pies or sand for building castles, it casts a magic spell when transformed into platters and plates.

Behind finished surfaces lie origins in rock-ribbed mother earth. From mountainous stones, the forces of sun and wind, rain, and frost extract the ingredients for clay--silicates of aluminum, flint, sand, and iron. Down the mountain torrent the elements are carried to stagnant backwaters on the plain where they settle into wide and oozy beds of mud. There they age for centuries until one day the clayey soil is retrieved and taken to the pottery.

For serene abbey-style souls, the rainbow ends in the pots of gold set on the table. Nuggets of sweet and red potatoes, roasted and spooned onto ceramic platters, stand out on white tablecloths like stones on the side of a snow-covered mountain. Freshly steamed ears of corn, cradled in earthenware, bring summer images of field and sun to the tabletop. Large, round loaves of bread wait on wooden slabs and lidded crockery invites the discovery of mouth-watering riches inside. It's the mother lode of earthly goods--pay dirt and clay pots filled with abundance.

The warmth of earthenware bowls and platters suggests rock-solid generosity and salt-of-the-earth hospitality--perfect for feeding the hungry flock during Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Secret Gardens: Nankung's Beau 'Playboy'

There are two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Albert Einstein

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Table Grace: The White Way

White dishes mark a table with perfection and purity, which is why most restaurants prefer them. White stands for pure, unblemished, and washed clean, giving those who eat from white plates a sense of pure and perfect food. Visually, too, the advantage of plain, whiteware dishes is clear--their smooth, polished edges frame food like a beautiful picture.

For me, the ritual of setting a table is as satisfying as eating a meal. Time is a luxury afforded the abbey table--time to arrange its dishes and flowers and time to enjoy the arrangement as a still life when it's not in use. I leave my table set on the chance that the disparate schedules at our house will converge and a common meal will actually happen.

In the meantime, my visual pleasures go uncounted while the sun's light shifts across my tranquil tabletop, kisses its porcelain and fabric surfaces, and casts translucent shadows on the walls of the room. Such a practice lifts my soul and relaxes my body; a ready table reassures me that all is well with the world.