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Monday, December 19, 2005

The Cultivation of Christmas Trees

The Cultivation of Christmas Trees

There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish -- which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.
The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,
So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or in the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to the children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St. Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):
So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By 'eightieth' meaning whichever is the last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.

T.S. Eliot

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Time for more Ruskin -- earthy stuff

A lovely passage for any geology fans out there. . .

But there are three kinds of earth which, in mixed mass and prevalent quantity, form the world. Those are, in common language, the earths of clay, of lime, and of flint. Many other elements are mingled with these in sparing quantities, but the great frame and substance of the earth is made of these three, so that wherever you stand on solid ground, in any country of the globe, the thing that is mainly under your feet will be either clay, limestone, or some condition of the earth of flint, mingled with both.

Nature seems to have set herself to make these three substances as interesting to us, and as beautiful for us, as she can. The clay, being a soft and changeable substance, she doesn't take much pains about, as we have seen, until it is baked; she brings colour into it only when it receives permanent form. But the limestone and flint she paints, in her own way, in their native state: and her object in painting them seems to be much the same as in her painting of flowers; to draw us, careless and idle human creatures, to watch her a little, and see what she is about -- that being on the whole good for us, -- her children. For Nature is always carrying on very strange work with this limestone and flint of hers: laying down beds of them on the bottom of the sea; building islands out of the sea; filling chinks and veins in mountains with curious treasures; petrifying mosses, and trees, and shells; in fact, carrying on all sorts of business, subterranean or submarine, which it would be highly desirable for us, who profit and live by it, to notice as it goes on. And apparently to lead us to do this, she makes picture-books for us of limestone and flint; and tempts us, like foolish children as we are, to read her books by the pretty colours in them. The pretty colours in her limestone books form those variegated marbles which all mankind have taken delight to polish and build with from the beginning of time; and the pretty colours in her flint-books form those agates, jaspers, cornelians, bloodstones, onyxes, cairngorms, chrysophrases, which men have in like manner taken delight to cut, and polish, and make ornaments of, from the beginning of time; and yet so much babies are they, and so fond of looking at pictures instead of reading the book, that I question whether, after six thousand years of cutting and polishing, there are above two or three people out of any given hundred who know, or care to know, how a bit of agate or a bit of marble, was made, or painted.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Perusing a little book we have called Honey for something to post, I guess because honey is on my mind and currently in my tea. It's a sweet, meditative little book (by Isha Mellor). It's all lovely, but for some reason I will excerpt the section entitled Mead:

There's the clip clop of horses on the sunhoneyed
cobbles of the humming streets.
Under Milk Wood
Dylan Thomas

Mead has been brewed worldwide since very early ages, and was probably the tipple of Dionysius or Bacchus before the cultivation of the vine. The various mythological connections of bees with the immortals would have caused beverages made from honey to be important, even sacred, to be used in offerings and libations to the gods.

In Ancient Greece the mead drink was known as Hydromel , and it had the happy property of being able to disperse anger, sadness, and afflictions of the mind. Other honey beverages were known as Ompacomel, which was made with fermented grape juice and honey; Oenomel, from pure grape juice and honey, Conditum, which was honey mixed with wine and pepper, and the famous Oxymel, made from honey, vinegar, sea salt and rainwater. The main ailments these were used to alleviate were those of a rheumatic nature. The well-known honey vine of Ancient Rome was Muslum, and Russia was famous for its Lipez. [I have absolutely no idea what that last sentence means -ed.]

Chaucer's mead was called Piment or Clarre, a mixture of honey, wine and spices. Piment was popular with kings and nobles. Morat was another liquor of this type, and it contained mulberry juice. Mead in the 16th and 17th centuries in England was a beautiful pale gold colour and it sparkled like champagne.

The name for mead seems to vary little throughout the world. In Germany it is called meth, in Greece methu, in India madhu, and in Lithuania medus. In Old Irish it used to be called mid.

[Actually this means the word and the substance it represents are old indeed; the reason they are so similar is that the word goes all the way back to Indo-European, a hypothetical language that existed before it split into the most ancient forms of Sanskrit, Greek, Celtic, Germanic, etc, producing cognates like mead,meth, methu, madhu, medus, mid, etc. Wow! --ed]

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Here come the men in black!

Ooh! Who are those cool guys? Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

er -- can't think of one (a title that is -- why do they have to stress you out with these little requirements?)

A really cool photo (from an article in the Georgia Strait a couple of years ago) of my beloved brother, the actor, comedian, writer and generally Good Thing, Dylan. Hi bro. Posted by Picasa

Oh by the way

Isn't this a great photo of Vladika Seraphim? How come I've never seen that kickin' red mantia? Huh? Posted by Picasa

More comic goodness from 1066: this time a test

Test Paper I
Up to the End of 1066

1) Which do you consider to be the more alike, Caesar or Pompey, or vice versa? (Be brief.)

2) Discuss, in latin or gothic (but not both), whether the Northumbrian Bishops were more schismatical than Cumbrian Abbots. (Be bright.)

3) Which came first, A.D. or B.C. ? (Be careful.)

4) Has it never occurred to you that the Romans counted backwards? (Be honest.)

5 How angry would you be if it was suggested
(1) That the XI th Chap. of the Consolations of Boethius was an interpolated palimpsest?
(2) That an eisteddfod was an argricultural implement?

6) How would you have attempted to deal with
(a) The Venomous Bead?
(b) A Mabinogion of a Wapentake? (Be quick.)

7) What would have happened if (a) Boadicea had been the daughter of Edward the Confessor? (b) Canute had succeeded in sitting on the waves?
Does it matter?

8) Have you the faintest recollection of
(1) Ethelbreth?
(2) Athelthral?
(3) Thruthelthroth?

9) What have you the faintest recollection of?

10) Estimate the average age of
(1) The Ancient Britons.
(2) Ealdormen.
(3) Old King Cole

11) Why do you know nothing at all about
(a) The Laws of Infangthief and Egg-seisin?
(b) Saint Pancras?

12)Would you say that Ethelread the Unready was directly responsible for the French Revolution? If so, what would you say?

N.B -- Do not attempt to answer more than one question at a time.

Monday, November 28, 2005


I didn't take this photo, but I like it. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Elizabethan age -- from a delightfully demented source

Chapter 33


ALTHOUGH this memorable queen was a man, she was constantly addressed by her courtiers by various affectionate female nicknames, such as Auroraborealis, Ruritania, Black Beauty (or Bete Noire), and Brown Bess. She also very graciously walked on Sir Walter Raleigh's overcoat whenever he dropped it in the mud and was, in fact, in every respect a good and romantic queen.

Wave of Beards

One of the most romantic aspects of the Elizabethan age was the wave of beards which suddenly
swept across History and settled upon all the great men of the period. The most memorable of these beards was the cause of the outstanding event of the reign, which occurred in the following way.

The Great Armadillo

The Spaniards complained that Captain F. Drake, the memorable bowlsman, had singed the King of Spain's beard (or Spanish Mane, as it was called) one day when it was in Cadiz Harbour. Drake replied that he was in his hammock at the time and a thousand miles away. The King of Spain, however, insisted that the beard had been spoilt and sent the Great Spanish Armadillo to ravish the shores of England.

The crisis was boldly faced in England, especially by Big Bess herself, who instantly put on an enormous quantity of clothing and rode to and fro on a white horse at Tilbury -- a courageous act which was warmly appluded by the English sailors.

In this striking and romantic manner the English were once more victorious.

The Queen of Hearts

A great nuisance in this reign was the memorable Scottish queen, known as Mary Queen of Hearts on account of the large number of husbands she obtained, eg. Cardinale Ritzio, Boswell, and the King of France: most of these she easily blew up at Holywood. Unfortunately for Mary, Scotland was now suddenly overrun by a wave of synods led by Sir John Nox, the memorable Scottish Saturday Knight. Unable to believe, on account of the number of her husbands, that Mary was a single person, the Knight accused her of being a 'monstrous regiment of women', and after this brave remark had her imprisoned in Loch Lomond. Mary, however, escaped and fled to England, where Elizabeth immediately put her in quarantine on the top of an enormous Height called Wutheringay.

As Mary had already been Queen of France and Queen of Scotland many people thought it would be unfair if she were not made Queen of England as well. Various plots, such as the Paddington Plot, the Threadneedle Conspiracy and the Adelfi plot, were therefore hatched to bring this about. Elizabeth, however, learning that in addition to all this Mary was good-looking and could play on the virginals, recognized that Mary was too romantic not to be executed, and accordingly had that done.


(exerpted from 1066 and All That by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman)

Next post: a quiz.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I found this photo in my files today and I have to say I love it. Van, coffee cup, lovely facial expression -- pretty much sums me up! The location: Stanley park. Posted by Picasa

Fr Tom on education

I love this passage from the first section of Fr Hopko's recent book Speaking the Truth in Love:

Men and women who are truly theologically and spiritually educated reveal a boldness born of humility, a confidence tempered by tentativeness, a speech generated by silence, an apology inspired by charity. They resist premature closure of complex issues and superficial answers to complicated questions. They know how to live with ambiguity as they give, with meekness and gentleness, an account for the hope that is in them. They speak the truth in love with an enlightened zeal that prevents them from replacing God's righteousness with a righteousness of their own. They evangelize without seeking to convert . They witness without seeking to win. They teach without desiring to dominate. They testify to truths in which they delight and find life, whatever the cost of their convictions, because they simply cannot do otherwise. And they have infinite respect for everyone and everything.

Monday, November 21, 2005


I meant to post this poem for Remembrance Day but I was so busy around that time that I didn't get to it. It's Stephen Spender's "I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great". The title is a poem in itself and good advice for us Orthodox re the saints. . .

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Icon course II

Puddlepuddlepuddle Posted by Picasa


Okay I couldn't resist this fun shot of the girls at Ella's school Hallowe'en party. The fish don't seem impressed. . . Posted by Picasa

Go Seraphim!

Abba Paaaaaaaaaam-bo
Abba Paaaaaaaaaam-bo
Abba Paaaaaaaaaam-bo Posted by Picasa

another angle

 Posted by Picasa

pics from the coffee house

coffee house decor -- the theme was of course autumn, but also 'asymmetrical' Posted by Picasa

a pumpkin with an agenda

 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

back fence

A night picture of some messing about with chalk I did on the garden fence, fixed up by the miracle of technology (snort). Kind of a neato image. . .the quote is from Dylan Thomas' 'Poem in October'. Posted by Picasa

hey there

Just a quick note to let my friends I am still alive!
We have been soooo busy with the Icon Workshop II and then the coffee house in rapid succession -- at least it seemed rapid. Great fun though -- here is a really nifty shot (by Christian, I believe) of decorating for the coffee house. The ping pong room has never looked so hip, that's for sure. I will post other pics of the night when I get the chance, but I am off tomorrow for a few days on the Mainland. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Traherne again

I'm becoming a Traherne junkie. I can't believe this guy -- I'm actually speechless. I'm not even sure what to say here. Just read this. Then read it again. Oh, my.

TO LOVE one person with a private love, is poor and miserable: to love all is glorious. To love all persons in all ages, all angels, all kings and all peasants, and every person in all worlds with a natural intimate familiar love, as if Him alone, is blessed.

This makes a man effectually blessed in all worlds, a delightful lord of all things, a glorious friend to all persons, a concerned person in all transactions, and ever present with all affairs. So that he must ever be filled with company, even in the midst of nations, ever joyful, and ever blessed.

The greatness of this man's love no man can measure; it is stable like the sun, it endureth forever as the moon, it is a faithful witness in Heaven. It is stranger and more great than all private affections. It representeth every person in the light of eternity and loveth him with the love of all worlds. With a love conformable to God's, guided to the same ends and founded upon the same causes. Which however lofty and divine it is, is ready to humble itself into the dust to save the person beloved. And by how much the more glorious and sublime it is, is so much the more sweet and truly delightful. Majesty and pleasure occuring together.

The Fourth 'Century', number 69


I mean -- !!!!!!!
And there's a ton more where that came from. But I have to sleep at some point. Goodnight.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Okay, friends, this night I have discovered Thomas Traherne, and you should too. His "Centuries, Poems and Thanksgivings" (two volumes) have been on our shelves since December 1996 (this I know from the inscription, as the books were given to us by our dear friend Anastassy Brandon Gallaher, to whom hello if he should read this, and thank you!) Amazing what you can find if only you look with fresh eyes at your own bookshelves. Anyway, enjoy these excerpts from the "Centuries" (since I have only been an ardent lover of Traherne for about 45 minutes, I have yet to discover why these little writings are called 'centuries', but it sounds cool anyway) -- I have modernized the spelling from its 17thc form in order for that distraction to be removed (tons of capital letters all over the place; that kind of thing) and the angelic writing to shine through:

This is very strange that God should want, for in him is the fulness of all blessedness: he overfloweth eternally. . .it is incredible, but very plain: Want is the fountain of all his fulness. Want in God is a treasure to us. For had there been no Need he would not have created the world, nor made us, nor manifested his wisdom, nor exercised his power, nor beautified eternity, nor prepared the joys of heaven. But he wanted angels and men, images, companions. And these he had from all eternity.
(First Century, #42)

The brightness and magnificence of the world, which by reason of its height and greatness is hidden from men, is divine and wonderful. It addeth much to the glory of that temple in which we live. Yet it is the cause why men understand it not. They think it too great and wide to be enjoyed. But since it is all filled with the majesty of his glory who dwells in it: and the goodness of the Lord filleth the world, and his wisdom shineth everywhere within and about it. . .we need nothing but open eyes to be ravished like the cherubim.
(First Century, #37)

They are deep instructions that are taken out of hell, and heavenly documents that are taken from above. Upon earth we learn nothing but vanity. Where people dream, and loiter, and wander, and disquiet themselves in vain. . .but do not profit becase they prize not the blessings they have received. To prize what we have is a deep and heavenly instruction. It will make us righteous and serious, wise and holy, divine and blessed. It will make us escape hell and attain heaven.
(First Century, #50)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

From that wonderful, strange little book, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Perhaps you will ask me, "Why are there no other drawings in this book as magnificent and impressive as this drawing of the baobabs?" The reply is simple. I have tried. But with the others I have not been successful. When I made the drawing of the baobabs I was carried beyond myself by the inspiring force of urgent necessity.
"Children", I say plainly, "Watch out for the baobabs!"

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings.
W.H. Auden

Monday, September 19, 2005

Young existentialist girls

Have you been in the bookstore and wondered whether the Ladies' Detective Agency books (Kalahari Typing School for Men, Tears of the Giraffe, etc) by Alexander McCall Smith are any good? Well, they are. Here's a brilliant passage from the third in the series, Morality for Beautiful Girls. If you are short on time or have a weevilesque attention span, just read the last terrifically tongue-in-cheek paragraph on 'existentialism':

Mma Ramotswe knew that there was a great deal of debate about morality, but in her view it was quite simple. In the first place, there was the old Botswana morality, which was simply right. If a person stuck to this, then he would be doing the right thing and need not worry about it. There were other moralities, of course; there were the Ten Commandments, which she had learned by heart at Sunday school in Mochudi all those years ago; these were also right in the same, absolute way. These codes of morality were like the Botswana penal code; they had to be obeyed to the letter. It was no good pretending you were the High Court of Botswana and deciding which parts you were going to observe and wich you were not. Moral codes were not designed to be selective, nor indeed were they designed to be questioned. You could not say that you would observe this prohibition but not that. I shall not commit theft -- certainly not -- but adultery is another matter: wrong for other people, but not for me.

Most morality, thought Mma Ramotswe, was about doing the right thing because it had been identified as such by a long process of acceptance and observance. You simply could not create your own morality because your experience would never be enough to do so. What gives you the right to say that you know better than your ancestors? Morality is for everybody, and this means that the views of more than one person are needed to create it. That was what made the modern morality, with its emphasis on individuals and the working out of an individual position, so weak. If you gave people the chance to work out their morality, then they would work out the version which was easiest for them and which allowed them to do what suited them for as much of the time as possible. That, in Mma Ramotswe's view, was simple selfishness, whatever grand name one gave to it.

Mma Ramotswe had listened to a World Service broadcast on her radio one day which had simply taken her breath away. It was about philosophers who called themselves existentialists and who, as far as Mma Ramotswe could ascertain, lived in France. These French people said that you should live in a way which made you feel real, and that the real thing to do was the right thing too. Mma Ramotswe had listened in astonishment. You did not have to go to France to meet existentialists, she reflected; there were many existentialists right here in Botswana. Note Mokoti, for example. She had been married to an existentialist herslf, without even knowing it. Note, that selfish man who never once put himself out for another -- not even for his wife -- would have approved of existentialists, and they of him. It was very existentialist, perhaps, to go out to bars every night while your pregnant wife stayed home, and even more existentialist to go off with girls -- young existentialist girls -- you met in bars. It was a good life being an existentialist, although not too good for all the other, nonexistentialist people around one.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Ella took this one

Another pic from Butchart

Friday, September 16, 2005

malcandrian foliage?

frog heaven

An artist is never poor.
--Babette's Feast

Monday, September 12, 2005

Purdy flowers. We were in Butchart Gardens on Saturday -- what a place. Worth every shocking penny.

Another studio picture -- this one is kind of ambient and I like the little piece of garden outside. If you could see the true state of it (the garden) you would be dismayed. Not enough hours in the day!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Malacandra excerpt for language lovers

Then something happened which completely altered his state of mind. The creature [. . .] was talking. It had language. If you are not yourself a philologist I am afraid you will have to take it on trust the prodigious emotional consequences of this realization in Ransom's mind. A new world he had already seen -- but a new, an extra-terrrestrial, a non-human language was a different matter. Somehow he had not thought of this [. . .] now, it flashed upon him like a revelation. The love of knowledge is a kind of madness. In the fraction of a second which it took to decide that the creature was really taking, while he still knew that he might be facing certain death, his imagination had leaped over every fear and hope and probability of his situation to follow the dazzling project of making a Malacandrian grammar. An Introduction to the Malacandrian language -- The lunar verb--A concise Martian-English Dictionary. . .the titles flitted through his mind [. . .] Unconsciously he raised himself on his elbow and stared at the black beast. It became silent. The huge bullet head swung round and lustrous amber eyes fixed him. There was no wind on the lake or in the wood. Minute after minute in utter silence the representatives of two so far-divided species stared each into the other's face.

From: Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

Monday, September 05, 2005

Bobrinskoy's The Compassion of the Father

An amazing book. I finally finished it last night after stalling (!) near the end a few weeks ago. I did the same with Return of the King about a decade ago-- read the whole trilogy except stalled halfway through Mordor and didn't finish it for a couple of years. That was an extreme case. Anyway! Here is some gold from Bobrinskoy:

In Orthodoxy, the Tradition is alive. It is a permanent miracle in which the Church does not pretend to possess the truth, but rather is possessed by it.


We should recall that in God -- and consequently in the depths of our being -- truth and life are but one, truth and love are but one, truth and holiness are but one, and lastly, truth and beauty are but one. Beauty is one of the most important aspects of the divine glory which sets the word ablaze. We discover it each flower, in each herb, in every living being -- animal or man. For God is at the same time one and three. The Trinity is one divinity and at the same time the infinite fullness of life, of the gift and of energy. In God all is one, in God all is fulness.

For we have the certainty that heaven, which opened three times in the unfolding of the mystery of salvation, remains henceforth open forever. Nothing and no one can recontruct the barrier that the sin of the first man erected between God and man. No one can excavate again the abyss which Jesus has filled between heaven and earth.

Another beginning -- St Barnabas. This stage is always agonizing -- if you like the drawing you are so afraid to mess it up, to lose the quality. You just have to take deep breaths and plow ahead. Fear has no place in our lives, and it is especially poisonous for artists!

Monastery fare. Mmmmmm. That cheese was mind-altering.

Okay! Proof I am still working. The beginning stages of my St Arseny icon. I have made quite a bit of progress since then. I like these messy desk scenes for photos but in truth I feel it's better to be very orderly when you work so that, in the words of Stephen Pressfield, "the muse may enter and not soil her gown".

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Eternity is in love with the creations of time.

Friday, August 12, 2005


Reading a profoundly good book recommended by a friend (thanks Matthew!), Peter Leithart's "Against Christianity". (It is a collection of essays: Against Christianity, Against Theology, Against Sacraments, Against Ethics, and For Constantine) If you are intrigued by the title, get it and read it. If you are intimidated by the title, or slightly unsettled, get it and read it. Etc. You get the idea. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Ritual is simultaneously conservative and revolutionary in the way carpentry is. Once you have mastered the technique of driving a nail, there is no reason to experiment with new ways of doing it; but you learn to drive nails because you want to build /new/ things. Far from yearning for a golden, changeless past "ritualists" are the most progressive of men, fearlessly facing the unknown future so long as they can take along their prayer books and water, their wafers and their wine.
(from Against Sacraments)

The psalms are also a textbook of prayer, frequently employing language that is unnerving in its vehemence. Psalms indicate that an overwhelming desire for justice should animate our prayers, that we should express our disappointment with honesty, that prayer is not "quiet time" but a time of wrestling and passion. Contemporary hymnology, by contrast, gives words for a small segment of our experience, the happy, fluffy, light experiences of life. If we are trained in prayer by contemporary praise choruses, when we face the pains and tests of life we will lack the vocabulary to name them.
(from Against Theology -- I think)

Jesus ate with the wrong /people/, thus establishing the theology of baptism.
Jesus /ate/with the wrong people, thus establishing the theology of the supper.
(Against Sacraments)

and finally for tonight:

Romans normally excluded children from the dinner table until the age of fifteen or sixteen, at which age boys received the /toga virilis/ that marked their entrance to manhood. Family dinner as we know it was a Christian invention, not some "natural" form of family life. The family dinner is a reflection of the eucharistic meal, the meal that welcomed all members of Christ to the table.
Opposition to communion of children is pagan and seeks to reverse th revolutionary table fellowship established by the Church. It is an attempt to return to Egypt.
(Against Sacraments)

Leithart's writing is so spare and muscular you could pull out just about any paragraph at ranndom and stand it up on its own, as I have done with a few above. Best of all: he only uses commas when /absolutely/ necessary; a practice I highly approve of. (As you can see I don't give a fig about the 'don't end a sentence with a preposition' thing. If you gotta, you gotta. As someone whose name escapes me now said, "Everyone regards everyone else's usage as pedantic or philistine except his own" -- it went something like that.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

oh dear

Two things went wrong with some nice folks who knocked on the door tonight. They were canvassing for the SPCA -- a worthy cause to be sure. Well, the young man rather /pounded/ on the door -- it was so loud it made me jump. I had been peacefully slicing peaches for a pie* and spacing out to Hildegard of Bingen. I swung the door open, feeling quite wrathful (we had /just/ put Heulwen down to sleep a couple of minutes earlier and I wasn't sure it had 'taken' yet) and unfortunately gave him a bit of an earful, about how he knocked too hard, how they should be more aware of things like kids going to bed at that time of the evening, etc etc. Well, they apologised sheepishly and tried to go ahead with their speech; I politely cut them off and explained that while I appreciated what they were doing we had our set charities that we give to, etc etc.

So the two things that went wrong: one, I was kinda mean (at first) and remembered afterward that we have ample evidence out front that we are Christians, including a fish on the van and a cross /on the front door/. And I didn't exactly embody the soul of compassion toward those poor innocent door-pounding animal lovers.

The second thing? After I got inside I realized I was wearing my old 'Rattlesnake Roundup at Wigham, Georgia' t-shirt, which commemorates an annual event where a bunch of -- rednecks, presumably -- chase all the snakes in the area into a big pit and then have their evil way with them. I believe barbequing is involved.

What can I say? It was one of the first things my husband ever gave me, sentimental fool.

*I love pie

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

is happening soon!

St John of Damascus on icons

. . . images are books for the illiterate and silent heralds of the honour of the saints, teaching those who see with a soundless voice and sanctifying the sight. . . I may not have many books, nor much time to read, but strangled with thoughts, as if with thorns, I come into the common surgery of the soul, the church; the luster of the painting draws me to vision and delights my sight like a meadow and imperceptibly introduces my soul of the glory of God. . .

Shall I not paint in words and in colours the martyrdom of the martyrs and embrace with eyes and lips "what is wonderful to angels and the whole creation, painful to the devil and fearful to demons", as the same beacon of the Church [St John Chrysostom] said? Or his words at the end of the homily in which he praises the Forty Martyrs:

O holy chorus, O sacred condition, O unbroken phalanx. . .most powerful ambassadors, stars of the inhabited world, flowers of the Church. . .the earth did not hide you, but heaven received you. The gates of paradise were opened to you, a sight worthy of the army of the angels, worthy of patriarchs, of prophets, of the just.

-- Treatise 1, On the Divine Images
trans. Andrew Louth

Monday, July 25, 2005

outside on the sidewalk now: an excerpt from Wind in the Willows

Breathless and transfixed, the mole stopped rowing as the liquid run of that glad piping broke on him like a wave, caught him up, and possessed him utterly. He saw the tears on his comrade's cheeks, and bowed his head and understood. For a space they hung there, brushed by the purple loosestrife that fringed the bank; then the clear imperious summons that marched hand-in-hand with the intoxicating melody imposed its will on Mole, and mechanically he bent to his oars again. And the light grew steadily stronger, but no birds sang as they were wont to do at the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenly music all was marvellously still.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hebrew vowel system (An update)

What have I started. Do I need this headache?

Seinfeld on the Airport

Do you think that the people at the airport that run the stores have any idea what the prices are every place else in the world? Or do you think they just feel they have their own little country out there and they can charge anything they want?

"Little hungry? You want a tuna sandwich? It's 28 dollars. If you don't like it, go back to your own country." I think the whole airport/airline complex is a huge scam just to sell the tuna sandwiches. I think that tuna profit is what's supporting the entire air travel industry. The planes could fly empty, they'd still make money. The terminals, the airplanes, the parking, the giftshops, it's all just to distract you so you don't notice the beating you're taking on the tuna.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Another thing

I lost an earlier version of that post about Hebrew, and in trying to reconstruct it I forgot to say that there are perfectly good historical reasons for the weirdness of the spelling system of English, and all the other idiosyncracies you may have noticed, which I won't tire anyone with here. No, really, I won't. But you have only to ask.

I love the language and would defend it "to the pain"( in the immortal words of Wesley in The Princess Bride), if not to the death. In no way should it be considered ridiculous, or silly, or randomly dorky, as do some writers of popular books/internet dross about "that crazy, mixed up English!" (yuk yuk! Why do we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway! yuk yuk!) All those commentaries do is perpetuate misinformation and display the writers' ignorance (whether genuine or disingenuous) of their own subject. English is not crazy or mixed up-- if it were it could not function as a language, much less become the most dominant language on the planet -- okay, that has had something to do with many of its speakers' overweening lust for power, love of money and moral turpitude, but you get the idea.

And let's stop claiming that English is 'less expressive' than x or y language. Pure twaddle/ poppycock/pish tosh/rot/rubbish/crapola -- that claim says a lot more about the speaker than it does about English. "Er, yeah. The reason I can't express myself is I speak this useless language. If only I were Greek/French/Italian/Vanuatuan I could tell you how I /really/feel." Tell Shakespeare that English isn't expressive enough! Tell Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan! W.H. Auden! Or just about any Irish person with a writing instrument and not very much money, apparently.

If English were a garden it would be a slightly wild, unkempt garden, a welcoming garden: Hey! Wanna grow here? Come on in! There's room for all you weirdos! -- an English garden, in short -- no less beautiful in its weedy way than the more orderly Japanese or Italian gardens.

Okay, I must slink off to do something constructive before King of the Hill comes on. Don't laugh, it's brilliant.


Started learning the Hebrew alphabet for kicks -- I suspect it is really work avoidance (aka Resistance!) . It is very challenging, though -- I have a pretty good eye for little visual details (calligraphy), an ability to make truly shocking noises with my throat when the need arises (high school drama), and a degree which included phonology, dialectology and comparative linguistics, and I /still/ have a dickens of a time telling my 'Aleph from my elbow! It's great though -- like a really challenging puzzle. What's especially difficult -- besides the fact that the letters are so different from anything European and the fact that many of them look almost identical -- is that the relationship between the letters and sounds seems so counterintuitive. This is of course only because we are essentially brainwashed from an early age to believe that there is a necessary connection between letters and their sounds -- in OUR language, of course. Naturally all other languages are just /dumb/ (goes the thinking). All the stranger an attitude inspeakers of English, a language which has a seemingly endless lack of respect for anything resembling consistency.

In reality letters (of any alphabet) and their sounds have a completely arbitrary relationship, and it is fun to tackle a system so foreign that one is confronted with this fact again and again.
I mean, how can it be that upon this little tail-y thing depends the difference between a 'b' and a 'k'? How can this dumb little dot make an 'f' sound like a 'p'? How can a molecule-sized difference in length turn a perfectly good 'w' into an 'n', but /only at the end of a word/!? Arrrrrrgh!

And I haven't even attempted the vowel system yet. In my naivete I thought there wasn't one. Sigh.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Thinking of London and Gleneagles - -this suits both

Here's the great Woody Guthrie; it's called 'Feed of Man'. It is one of dozens of lyrics found after his death, some of which have been recently set to music by Wilco and Billy Bragg on the 'Mermaid Avenue' cds (there are two volumes), which I cannot recommend strongly enough without hurting myself. I have divided this text into 'lines' for readability here, basically according to his own capitalizations, but other than that I have preserved his amazingly, passionately original diction, syntax, spelling, punctuation, etc.

Anyway, events in the UK being somewhat beyond /my/ words anyway, I'll let this towering genius of a dead American speak for me.

If you beat up, butcher and you bleed a man:
If you bang up and badger and Bloodlet a man;
And then I come along on the feet of a man
And half way laff and cry 'bout The meat of man,
And I do what I can to Bale string and tie some ballad truths Up
cured out for the feed of man
And folks try to tell me That it's on God's orders that you bleed your man;
It's on God's good word that you Bleed your man;
On God's plan print That you dead a man;
or you spit and curse and whip your man;
I say I'll help you fix and squeeze yourself up a new God of some kind;
One that tells you Fertilize and multiplye;
One that tells you: Outsow and outblow,
Outplant and outgrow; outdo and outrun and outclimb,
and out spread Every other tree and bush and bushyfruits and flower petalls;
Outfruit them all for the feed of man;
Outstalk and out hunt and out think For God's own sweet sake, out think!
Out think! Outthink the fruits Outgrow these animal kind and shapes of man!
If you miss and go down
Your dust will turn up on that long hot job
Once more again To help in the feeding and the seed of man
And not in the bleeding and the end of man.


That should have said "I never knew how to hold this /kind/ of paintbrush -- though it does seem sort of kingly in the photo, doesn't it? I'm still not holding it right in the picture though!

For those wondering, Dylan (who just moved back to London 2 weeks ago) is fine. He says ironically he bombed onstage last night.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Renovating the church basement, Canada Day weekend. . .funny how I never knew how ot hold this king of paintbrush! Facial expression representative of. . .I don't know what. My brother and I both have a very hard time being serious in front of a camera. He' a professional comedian and I'm a -- priest's wife! Yikes.

Time for some Ruskin

Here are some golden lines of his from Elements of Drawing:

BOLD, IN THE SENSE of being undaunted, yes; bold in the sense of being careless, confident, or exhibitory, --no, --no, and a thousand times no; for, even if you were not a beginner, it would be bad advice that made you bold. Mischief may easly be done quickly, but good and beautiful work is generally done slowly; you will find no boldness in the way a flower of a bird's wing is painted; and if nature is not bold at her work, do you think you ought to be at yours? So never mind what people say, but work with your pencil point very patiently. . . though there are all kinds of art there is one quality, and, I think, only one, in which all great and good art agrees; -- it is all delicate art. Coarse art is always bad art. . .you do not yet know how much tender thought, and subtle care, the great painters put into touches that at first look coarse. . .

Here's the latest thing -- the logo for the BC Orthodox youth camp. The stars represent 12 apostles, the four cabins are the four Gospels, three mountains for the Trinity, two hills for teh two natures of Christ, and the countless trees representing the saints. There ya have it -- hidden meaning in everything! The style is deliberately sort of funky and not too serious; the lettering is sort of esoteric-Versal to appeal to the many young Harry Potter/ Lord of the Rings enthusiasts. . .the cross of course is central and to stand out it had to be very dark. I didn't figure this was a problem, since being Orthodox we are not afraid of black! If it's good enough for monastics. . .

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Welcome to the (outside) world, baby Simeon Peter! Born today, July 5, 2005. He had the good sense to be

A) a boy, thus adding to the future pool of cute Orthodox boys for my two daughters to choose from (yes, I know I am ending with a preposition; I don't care)

B) born to two of the most wonderful parents I can think of (ditto)

Way to go cool cat Simeon! Okay, before I said C) he was born on a Monday, which was just plain wrong as it was Tuesday. All day I thought is was Monday for some reason. Sigh. Anyway, he did have the manners to be born on a weekday so his parents could enjoy their weekend together first and Dad could ditch work for a couple of days!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

and you wonder why mothers of young kids are half demented

Watching Sound of Music with Ella, who is four. We get to the scene where Maria comes to dinner and the children have left a 'gift' on her chair:

Ella: Why did she yell?

Jenny: She sat on a pine cone.

Ella: No, a porcupine.

Jenny: It wasn't a porcupine, it was a pine cone.

Ella (becoming passionate): It WAS a porcupine.

Jenny: No --

Ella: I SAW it MOVE!

What could I say? It did move. . .

Friday, June 24, 2005

Christian ecology

If we Christians truly treasure the hope that one day we, like Adam and the penitent thief, will walk alongside the One who caused even the dead wood of the cross to blossom with flowers, then we must also imitate the Master's art and make the desolate earth grow green.
Vigen Guroyan
Inheriting Paradise

What would the world be, once bereft of wet and of wildness?
Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

brilliantly sums it up

The snob's error is to put good taste before a good heart.

Joseph Epstein
Snobbery:The American Version.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Idea for learning calligraphers

Okay one last thing before I forget. A good way to recycle practice sheets of calligraphy, especially layout paper, is to use it as gift wrap! This way it's pretty even if it's full of mistakes. Even the paper you warm up on or scratch your nib on to check for blots can look cool reused this way. Better, more interesting and a lot cheaper than storebought wrapping paper.

And finally for today, a bit of Italic calligraphy. I enjoyed running out of space at the ends of the lines and having to deal with it! Pardon the atrocious capital 'B' in the fourth line -- I made a 'D' by accident and, well, that was my fix at the time. A Roman 'B' shouldn't look anything like that! Nice poetry though :-)

And here's the man himself -- my copy of Rossetti's drawing of. . .William Morris! He was one of the central figures of the English Arts and Crafts movement. No time to go into what that was; trust me -- it was a good thing! I don't usually draw people from other drawings (I prefer to draw from life if the subject is living, and even if it isn't) but I really liked this head and wanted to try it. . .

let's try that again. . .
One of my first attempts at combining lettering and foliage -- this was based on a William Morris design. I did it in gouache (pronounced 'gwosh'), a water-based paint which is opaque (ya can't see through it) as opposed to watercolour, which is supposed to be light and filmy. Anyway, this is pretty crude in the details but it's got a certain charm -- that would be the William Morris part!

A quotation from Chesterton-- always a good thing.

Nobody can imagine how nothing could turn into something. Nobody can get an inch nearer by explaining how something could turn into something else. It is really far more logical to start by saying 'In the beginning God created heaven and earth', even it you only mean 'In the beginning some unthinkable power began some unthinkable process.' For God is by its nature a name of mystery, and nobody ever supposed that man could imagine how a world was created any more than he could create one.

from The Everlasting Man

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Robert Bolt

Allow me to effuse about Robert Bolt for a minute. He wrote A Man for all Seasons, The Mission (yes, that great movie with R de Niro and J Irons was based on his novel -- there is lots more about the Rodrigo and his brother relationship in the book, if you're interested) and something else incredible that I can't remember here. Anyway, just make sure if you see the movie of A Man for all Seasons that it is the one with Paul Scofield (not C Heston -- I shudder even to contemplate it). Then sit back and feast your ears on the writing and acting, your heart on the profound moral integrity of its main character (Thomas Moore -- Samuel Johnson said of him "He was the person of the greatest virtue these islands ever produced") and your brain on the crackling wit and brilliance of the dialogue. Then go buy the play in book form, and die of joy all over again. 'Kay?

Ok -- a version of this straightened and with the metal rings cropped out, but I couldn't get it un-shadowed. Oh well. Anyway, I sold this drawing today! Yay!

One of many studies for an icon of John the Forerunner. I have now drawn him so much I feel I actually know him personally -- truly a fringe benefit of iconography!

Kid, the dog. This was done a few years ago.

Friday, June 17, 2005


Tonight I am working on the drawing for a St Barnabas icon (the companion to the also unfinished St John the Baptist. . .)
Two thoughts:

1) What oh what would I ever do without water soluble pencil crayons (especially Venetian red)?
They are God's gift to iconographers.

2) I can really see how someone could become a complete drapery nerd. Drawing drapery is difficult (therefore bracing and character building) and endlessly complicated. I mean there are endless possibilities and levels of difficulty. I think this single phenomenon just /might/ have been responsible for the Renaissance.
Just a thought. . .

Thursday, June 16, 2005

chalky blogging

I live in a neighbourhood that is very walkable and relatively dry, so I like to go out to the main sidewalk and write quotations and poetry (not mine -- as I wrote to a friend earlier, I am not a sadist) for people to read as they pass by. They're just in chalk, so they wash away with the rain (the poems, not the people), but I write them very neatly and even illustrate them sometimes. It is really meditative. Anyway, I apparently have become a bit of an institution in the 'hood; I always get people coming up and saying "so you're the one who writes these out here!" Some of the folks are very emotional in thanking me for doing this, and tell me that it actually affects their lives. Anyway, a cheap way to publish! A chalky blog, it you will. I should mention that my criterion for what I put out there is only: is it beautiful, humane, ennobling. I don't put anything political or negative there; there is enough of that around. Though living mere blocks from the Parliament I can't say I am not tempted. . .

I also don't preach or teach, except very sneakily, through the texts. But rarely are they overtly Christian things anyway, though of course all beauty really flows from Christ! I would love it if others copied me in this practice (some have already told me they are going to start doing this), but I would really encourage them to keep the same ethos. Imagine the pain people are carrying around with them. Don't add to their burden, rather lighten it if you can; give them some profound beauty to comtemplate on their way to work, or whatever.

It is raining right now, so my Robert Frost (the sonnet 'she is as in a field a silken tent') is vanishing, making room for something else. I love the idea that people don't know what they are going to see next. I have chalked, to date: Bob Dylan, St Ephraim the Syrian, John Donne, Chekhov, Shakespeare, Terry Pratchett, Emily Carr, Vaughan Williams, Woody Guthrie, John Ruskin, CS Lewis, GM Hopkins, Frank Zappa, Auden, GK Chesterton, Shelley, Coleridge, Wm Morris, Wm Blake, Charles Dickens, Rilke, Vigen Guroyan (Armenian Orthodox who wrote an exquisite book on the spirituality of gardening called Inheriting Paradise) andBruce Cockburn. He started it all; drawing with Ella I idly wrote 'look how far the light came to paint you this way' -- one of his lines -- and I noticed later from the living room window that people would stop and read it, just have a moment to think about that lovely idea, and chalky blogging was born. (Although I have never called it that until right now, and I never write any of my own 'stuff' out there.) There have been many more I can't remember right now; I've been doing it for a year now, excluding really bad weather. I really enjoy scouting out what to put out there next -- it has forced me to read a lot more poetry than I would otherwise! You know how, strangely, sometimes you have to be forced to do something you actually love. . .

Elder Porphyrios

I am reading a beautiful book called Wounded by Love: the life and wisdom of Elder Porphyrios. It was translated from the Greek by a dear distant friend, Fr. John Raffan of Chania, Crete. I want to share a small excerpt:

The soul of the Christian needs to be refined and sensitive, to have sensibility and wings, to be constantly in flight and to live by dreams, to fly through infinity, among the stars, amidst the greatness of God, amid silence. Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet. That's what it is! You must suffer. You must love and suffer -- suffer for the one you love.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

roughly -- the design for our iconostasis. There were some changes after this stage. . .

the "Apocalypse Lunch" poster image for a Bible study series at UVIC-- idea by moi, etching by Albrecht Durer, photoshop cheekiness by Fr. John