Thursday, October 20, 2016

How a conversation brought calm after a nightmare...

I went on a walk with a local friend on Monday...
was really nice...autumn leaves, discussing books...
Later on, after falling asleep, I found myself awake, troubled,
having a nightmare, 
I am sure I drank some Holy Water and then
I went online to read something comforting;
well, I did not find that 'something' but then I started remembering the 
conversation I had with my friend,
and how I acquired my first icon, with money from my 27th birthday...
the next thing I knew, I was writing a short essay... 
and was calmed, comforted and slept the rest of the night through...
this essay published today at Conciliar Post...
I told my friend that I did not know what to do with her icon, once I bought it. I would sit in one of the old IKEA chairs; chairs my professor had lent me for my studio apartment, and just stare at this icon of St. Xenia. I put this icon on the mantle of the small black gas fireplace in my small studio apartment. Once, I remember, I was holding this icon and looking deeply at it when I suddenly felt like I was falling into the icon; that somehow the layers of the icon opened and there I was, falling. I did not know it then, but that was prayer.
You can read the rest here at Conciliar Post and here on my 
blog for published writings. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tuesday, busy, record-breaking warm, in NYC and at home

 Had to go into NYC for a dentist appointment,
normal, routine.
Had a lovely breakfast with Mr Husband.
Had meat lasagna for lunch;
I asked to be seated at the back of the quiet restaurant,
in busy NYC, away from the crowds and hot streets. 
I had many glasses of cold water, and slowly ate the meal,
savouring it.  I could tell, as I ate it, that it had red wine in it.
It's rare to have the time to just sit and slowly eat,
and I appreciated that. 
I got a sense of peace from it.
I meandered through 2 clothing stores, lost a lot of that peace,
until I was back home.  
I felt I was indeed in a cultural wasteland, my goodness.
Will leave it at that!

Back home, I worked on a short essay and hung out with Cleo.
I love my newly cleaned work space, with icons of many of my 
favourite Saints. 
I am glad that at home I can live surrounded by beauty,
quiet and good books.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Holland ~ First half of day 2

Milk and yogurt comes in cartons there!
I believe the milk, on the left, is half milk fat,
the yogurt full.  
I enjoyed every detail of the food, the grocery shop, having breakfast in 
the beautiful village, in the old farmhouse we were in, with a canal right outside...
will share pictures of that, DV, later on. 

Beginnings of creating my breakfast... stroopwafel, granola cookies, chocolate, toast,
a boiled egg, a small orange, milk, tea, hot cocoa... 

Wonderful apricot jam, you can see my stroopwafel warming over my
cup of tea, above... 
I remember that I was really tired, waking up that first full day in Holland.
Actually, I was so tired, that my body at times felt like lead, I too tired to manage.
I think that is one of the reasons my already favourite meal of breakfast,
became so important to me.
I simply needed the support, as my body was working overtime to try to keep up.
basically having not only a busy day of train travel and walking new places
the day before, on 1 hour of sleep,
but the time difference of 6 hours, my excitement, the exhaustion of the travel itself... 
I am the type that does not always fully realize when I am that tired;
looking back, I should of tried to nap; but you see, it was our first full day in Holland;
I was excited, Mr Husband was excited.  
I was not really tracking things correctly, which often happens when 
excited but very tired. 
And it was our first International trip together; and I was so happy to be 
with my parents, this trip was long planned and much dreamed of.
So, we made some significant mistakes in terms of what
we could really handle or what was best.
We had 2 days with a lot of difficulty because of this,
and this day, that I am narrating here, ended up being one of them,
all because of really the smallest miscalculation, that I will soon 
narrate to you. 

But meanwhile, I was loving my breakfast and eating with
my Husband, my Mom, my Dad;
I was living it up, really, for me; I am not the sort
to want to go to loud concerts (they make me shudder, now, not sure how I 
managed them when I was in my early 20s and younger) or do super
extroverted things; rather, I love everything about a home and
eating together and savouring meals... if anything, my appreciation for 
all things culinary, simple and a little more elevated has 
greatly deepened over the last years.
A good cup of tea, a good fried egg or a particularly exceptional strawberry, even an unexpectedly good
sandwich, can be an event that is so enjoyable, so noticeable... 
My Mom and I were both admiring the simple things, like this cute (above)
salt and pepper shaker in one. 
I was tempted to try to find one to take home, but this never came to be, though
I did later buy a new clear plastic pepper grinder in Amsterdam, at a Hema store,
but that is later and I will try to keep to the story-line here.
(But while I am off on a tangent, here is a bit of Hema's history, written in English! :) )...
Well, time went on...instead of napping, I think I had a bath, 
often a very sensible thing to do... I am not the best with time management to begin 
with, especially if I am tired like I was this day, and I was doing 
various things, like trying to order a half-off 6 month delivery pass for our
local grocery delivery service.... I lost track of time and my family was eating lunch
while i was dilly-dallying, not registering that lunch would be a good thing to eat 
now and that I really needed to focus on that.  
But, well.  I was too tired to fully register that and all of a sudden, we were running a bit behind.
I grabbed some bottled water, granola bars, nuts, my knitting bag, my camera, 
put it all together. 
Remember, as you can see above, I had had a very generous breakfast;
between the time difference (6 hours), my spacing out and not feeling that hungry,
I was about to make that simple mistake that really cost me heavily
within half an hour's time. 
This week, in reading more of A. Sophrony's 
Letters to His Family, I came across something very helpful in 
articulating what happened next, as it was such an unexpected
internal confluence of many things, leading to a very different outcome than
what I had expected.
A. Sophrony writes to his sister Maria:

Because of man's freedom, the reactions of each person to one or another 
phenomenon cannot be foreseen. In life there is always something 'unexpected',
unforeseeable, something that yields to no categorization. 
The best intentions from all sides can, as experience has demonstrated,
sometimes lead to misunderstandings, and even to grave misunderstandings" (113). 
First, let me say that what happened has not lead to 
grave misunderstandings but it did dramatically change the tone of the day
and impact our trip in ways that we unpacked later and
had discussions along the lines of  'next time don't do this'.
Now, remember that I wrote about the car we rented yesterday,
and that the roads of the small village were windy ones and frankly
confusing to us, who were new to the country and small village.  
And the GPS on the fancy brand but unhelpful BMW that the rental 
car company rented to us, was unpredictable and confusing at times,
and even flat out wrong.  
So, the biggest 'take home' for me, in what I am about to narrate, is that
one should not plan, on one's first full day abroad, to do that which
is so important to you and that you dreamed of for so long.
But I did not know that and soon was living out this lesson.
It was such a simple mistake.  In my hurry, and not knowing that
little town that my Mother was born in, 
was so very little that there
were no types of shops of any sort.
  I think in my mind, I was thinking
there may be something special 
I would want to bring home 
from this special visit,
and so I grabbed extra bags along 
with my bag with everything I needed.
We were just outside the village we were staying in
when I realized that I left the bag behind,
the one with my lunch, my knitting (I knit to keep calm in cars,
I find riding in them nerve wracking), and more over, my big beloved
Canon Camera.  I had the other empty bags, but not the one I really needed,
at that moment. 
A man was meeting us at 3 PM at the church in this tiny village,
much smaller than the small village we were staying in;
I had managed to email, after Google searches for the church and using 
Google translate, a man who could show us the church that my Opa and Oma went to,
that my Aunts and Uncles were baptised in, that my Mom was
baptised in.  
Really because of myself, to be honest here, 
we were running about 10 minutes behind, which meant
we would *just* make it on time.  Add that to confusing roads, a flaky GPS,
we could not go back to get my bag with my camera in it.
I can't really explain well what happened next, other than to say
I was so deeply devastated by not having my real camera,
that I not only could not handle it well,
the disappointment, but I was overcome with a feeling of failure,
that I could not photograph the church of my Oma and Opa as I had wanted to.
The last things I really did with my Oma, just hours before she fell and broke her hip,
dying about 2 or 3 days later, was show her pictures of the beautiful big Princeton Chapel that
Mr Husband and I (as boyfriend-girlfriend) had recently visited.
Pictures on a good camera.  
It was like all the grief and loss, the pain, of losing my Oma (and Opa, years before),
 (Oma and Opa are Dutch for Grandma and Grandpa), 
everything came rushing at once within myself; 
 I admit that I cried in the car, upon arriving in the village that I had been
dreaming of being in for so very long.
All the pictures you see here are from my cell phone camera, 
which is a good camera, but without the added capabilities of my
actual Canon Rebel Camera.

And so I began in my Oma and Opa's little village not as I thought I would,
with gladness, sunshine and thankfulness but
with this sadness that was really hard to shake. 
I think if it had not been a place I had dreamed of coming,
if I had more sleep, etc, I could of rebounded; 
I have certainly rebounded from disappointments before;
I remember texting my sister-friend about it,
telling her how humbling it was that it was like I had no 
interior resources at all to draw on when this disappointment occurred.  

And so it began, with my view of the Church...

The Church doors; so beautiful and simple...

There have, of course, been renovations since my Mom was 
a baby in this church, 60+ years ago.

This cute beehive / light bulb shaped box is for ideas
for the church... cute, eh?

The simplicity of this table, with the beautiful Gospel book,
the symbols of Christ and Holy Communion, it reminds me almost of 
an English Church.  I wonder if in Europe the Churches
have a bit more in common in style, at least.

Simple but very rich in symbolism, these 3 things... so many parables in the Gospel can be linked to this image.... candle - light of the world - let your light shine - grapes - Holy Communion - I am the Bread of Life, this Blood is broken for you - the white vase - reminds me of the wedding of Cana, 
the cask of wine... the tray the grapes are on, the offering given and offered... opening...

These stairs to the organ are as steep as they look, almost strait up. 

View from up top. 
I wonder when they put the mirror in, so that if the organist is playing,
they can see if someone is coming behind them.

My Opa was here in this church, for many years, playing the organ.
I think the original organ is long gone; I know that the one my Opa played had bellows
that one had to do by hand; stories of him telling his sons, 'harder harder' trying to get it all to work
and play for prayer in Church... 

What you see from the organ itself... the organ is interesting, with
the decorations that almost seem Catholic to me, who is used to Protestant Churches
with no decorations, for the most part... you will see more about the organ
later in this blog post... 

This is the very baptismal font that was used to baptise my Mother
and her 7 older siblings. 
It was really neat to see it and that it is still be used today.
It's so tiny! But beautiful... 

Do you see those long polls with black bags at the top,
in the picture above? 
These are the old offering bags, that elders of this Church
would of passed down each pew.

These are the new offering bags, passed from person to person in the pew.
Somehow the change between one person holding the bag for the whole group to use,
person by person, to each person holds the bag in quick succession,
seems to echo the changes in the Protestant church in general, as I have experienced them.
Pastors, Elders, Deacons, in the church I grew up in, used to dress up in robes,
then in full suit and tie, sit towards the front of church
and be seen as an authority; reverence and respect were high,
as were the sense of authority.
Now days this has changed a lot, at least in the church I grew up in.
Very few men if any in a suit and tie,
no consistory up front, no Pastor that goes by anything but
his first name; now, I happen to like and respect the Pastor at my 
parent's church, but you can't deny the changes over time.
Even coffee being drunk before the service and in church.
Yes, big changes have been happening... at least in the US churches.

But whatever the implications, the past and the present are different;
sadly this church is struggling with an all too common problem,
one that is in Europe now and is in North America as well:
the younger folk are no longer coming to church, no longer
seeing God as relevant to their lives.

View from organ, of main church and balcony...
from what I understand, the balcony is not in use anymore,
as the congregation is just not that large now.... 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. 
These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,

Do you see what I mean about the organ?
The intricate wood carvings in the side and top, the Angels and 
an unusual Cross at the very top.
I would of loved to know more the history of this organ,
and appreciate it... 

I believe that some how these metal bars are heated for the cold
of winter... not for kneeling, as we had first thought... 

My Mom translated this sign (above) for me:
Name of church - Reformed Church from Boerakker, Established June 18 1911, First stone of this building was laid through the minister HS DeJong on Oct 16 1929, verse from Nehemiah and then name of person who is architect....

These last pictures are from the entryway of the Church, the other side of the red door;
I wanted to see what one sees when one goes into church
through the main doors... 

This stone was done for the 100th anniversary, in 2011.

And this is the church kitchen.
I found everything to be so lovely;
I just love anything about home and kitchens. 
I wanted to put down one more thing;
the man who showed us the church, he must of used some soap or 
aftershave that my Opa and Uncles used... or something...
He smelled just like them; immediately the memory of my Opa and Uncle J
were so present to me, along with my Oma.
My Husband's old house (an old Dutch colonial) smelled like my Uncle J and Aunt H's 
old house... 
Smells bring back a lot of memories; I hope I can keep my sense of smell for years yet;
I know some of my family who are older have lost a lot of this and 
I realize what a gift smell is to us...
I really appreciated the gentleman going out of his way to show us this Church.
It remains a good memory, but one with sadness and confusion also for me,
as I had been unable to anticipate or adequately deal with the fall out of
my disappointment over not having my real camera.
I must say I am not normally so incapable of dealing with things, including
my own sense of grief or disappointment; but it was humbling if nothing else
and a real learning about how to plan differently when doing a big trip.
I would say that Mr Husband and I both returned home, 2 weeks after this,
quite exhausted, realizing that we made some real mistakes in
the planning and execution of the plan we had for this 
overseas vacation.
I think I will be pondering and unpacking this for days to come.
The rest of the trip, and even of this day, I hope to narrate in time.
We did have a lot of good moments, but the trip towards the end proved to be
beyond our strength and we really struggled with things because of this.
My life, as is most today, is very full and I can see myself writing 
about this trip over the next months, 
not weeks... it's going to take some time... 
And that is the first part of the first full day in Holland, back in late September of this year.