february blues and a catch up

I feel it is fairly appropriate to have a screen capture of Over the Garden Wall at the beginning of this post, since I have been feeling just as lost as Wirt and Greg are throughout the show. I identify with Wirt; I want to be more like Greg.

Many things have happened since I last wrote a post. I got a job as a pharmacy technician. I’m learning more about medications than I really ever wanted to know, and I honestly don’t find it terribly fulfilling work. However, I am helping people, so that is good.

I haven’t read very much (as evidenced by a lack of book reviews posted here). I keep intending to read, but for some reason I have some kind of mental block that keeps me from cracking open those beloved spines and allowing myself to be inspired. Earlier, in the fall, I lacked the mental and spiritual energy for it. Now I simply put it off, perhaps because I am afraid of opening myself to spiritual connections (even to fictional characters) or because I am afraid of thinking.

I did pick up a copy of Mary Oliver’s Devotions in the airport on the way to my best friend’s wedding in January, and the poem “For Tom Shaw S.S.J.E.” made me break down in tears on the flight. It was on page 8. I have re-read it many times since that first time, and every time I am struck by Mary Oliver’s ability to touch the heart of the matter with a few simple words. Her writing is helping me see the beauty in the world again.

This might should have come earlier given its importance, but I finished my degree and graduated. As one might expect, it was terribly anticlimactic. It was also heart rending in a way I think many others did not experience, since this was the second graduation ceremony I did not have (homeschooling and graduating early and moving to a monastery do not typically allow for such things). I think the loss of another major marker traditionally associated with growing up, as well as the lack of finality to all the work I put in, has really impacted me, although I do try not to dwell on it. I have to trust that this is God’s intention for me and for the world, and to be honest, not getting graduations is (in the modern parlance) a “first world problem.”

It takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all its tainted glory and still to love it.

Oscar Wilde

I wrote this quote from Oscar Wilde at the beginning of the journal I started in October. I have been trying to live by it, trying first to see the glory in the taint and second to love both. Making things, like the Dalai Llama and two and a half pairs of socks, has been helping. Remembering that I have people who love me has been helping. Trying to add to the beauty of the world, even though I fail so miserably most of the time, has been helping.

The only other things going on in my life right now are trying to figure out which foods I am allergic/sensitive to, which means a lot of non-egg and non-dairy foods, lots of music, and stealing momentary snuggles with my (11 year old) kitten.

I hope you all are doing well, and that God will give us all the grace and strength to make it through the pandemic. (And through February. God knows Februaries are already hard enough here in this northern hemisphere. I will make it through with tea and cupcakes, and I will gladly share should anyone need them.)

-Odds & Ends-
My favorite chanting
An album I can’t stop listening to
Vegan cupcakes cookbook (which will be perfect for Lent, just sayin’)
Yarn I can’t get enough of (that I think is perfect for socks)

yarn along June 2020

This month is a solidly summer month, filled with berries and scones and grilled meat (at least until the Apostles Fast starts). I have been steadily working on many things, such as sock patterns from 52 Weeks of Socks and also many books.

The most exciting thing I have been working on is my Etsy shop! I am selling handmade wool prayer ropes. I have been wanting to do this for some time now, and I finally got around to it, now that I have enough inventory to actually fill some orders. 10% of all profits will go to support Orthodox Christian mission work in Albania. (If you want more information on that, please go here. I had the great privilege of visiting Albania as part of a missiology class I took, and I loved it very much and I really hope to go back someday.)

In my previous blog post, I mentioned that I read 11 books in the month of May. Some of these were fairly short, like The Little Prince by Antione de Saint-Exupéry, or Transcendental Wild Oats by Louisa May Alcott. Some I had already started, like Becoming a Healing Presence by Dr. Albert Rossi, or Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

This month I hope to keep up with this amount of reading (if not more). I really want to finish Louisa May Alcott’s A Long Fatal Love Chase and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, as well as Fr. Thomas Hopko’s really wonderful book Doctrine and Scripture (here I should mention that SVS Press is having a 50% off sale right now, so if you’re interested, go check that out). I also want to read Further Up and Further In by Edith Humphrey (also an SVS Press book), since it was part of a graduation present from my church. I could list more, but my reading is very prone to changing as time goes on, so I don’t want to overcommit here!

As far as knitting goes, I am working on another pair of socks from Laine’s 52 Weeks of Socks. This pair (pattern #1 in the book) is in a deep purple from Farmers Daughter Fibers held with a strand of Shibui Knits mohair in a similar color. They have such delightful cables!

I am also working on finishing my gray Honey Study Hat (pattern by Andrea Mowry in one of my Taproot magazines). At this point I’m really hoping to have enough yarn to get through the crown, but I might have to introduce a yarn in a similar color and weight to finish it. Fortunately I have one, so this shouldn’t be a problem, but the texture difference between woolly wool and soft alpaca might be a bit obvious. We shall see!

I hope you are all doing well and taking care of yourselves!

(Joining up with Ginny’s Yarn Along)

(All the links to Bookshop are affiliate links, which means you can support me a little while supporting independent bookstores!)

may 2020

The ending of April and beginning of May have carried a huge amount of weight for me in such a good way! I finished my thesis, did my last week of classes for my undergraduate degree, and took my last finals, and now I am approaching my first summer as a college graduate! (I suppose I should mention that I do have to take one more class for my science credit over the summer, but this should be fun and I’m not counting it because I’m taking it online at a local community college anyway…)

My graduation present to myself also came, which is Laine’s beautiful 52 Weeks of Socks book (which I guarantee is sold out again so I’ve linked to the Ravelry page showing all the patterns)! I preordered a copy of the fourth (!) printing run, and it showed up right before my finals began. This was of course very exciting, and I couldn’t wait to cast on. I originally chose sock number 51 using a La Bien Aimee sock yarn held double to get the gauge, but this ate through the yarn and there was no way I would have had enough. So, I frogged it and cast on another sock with the same yarn but held single. This worked out beautifully, and now I have one whole sock, which I am very proud of. Hopefully I can get through Second Sock Syndrome and finish the second and have my first properly fitting functional pair of socks made with my own two hands.

This whole sock knitting adventure has only just begun, and at the rate I knit, I’ve got years to keep exploring the wonderful world of socks. I really want to get some thicker sock yarns, like Tukuwool and Quince and Co’s Finch (or Tern if I’m really feeling luxurious). There’s another one, Onion Yarn, which is a Norwegian blend of wool and nettle fiber that I really want to try. (One of my favorite Instagram sock knitters used it in a couple of pairs of socks, and it’s absolutely beautiful.)

In terms of book news this last month, there honestly isn’t much beyond M. L. West’s Greek Lyric Poetry and Plutarch’s The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives, both of which were for school. I think my favorite of the Greek lyric poets are Sappho for her incredible use of images of nature, Solon for his meditations on citizenship, and Stesichorus for Geryon, followed by Bacchylides for his use of color and imagery which just aren’t in Pindar (Bacchylides is not in the M. L. West volum). Of Plutarch’s biographies selected for the book, my favorite was Themistocles. There was this beautiful line about the tapestry of life that just got me, but then I am always completely taken by textile metaphors…

I also reread Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles and Helen by Euripides (both from this volume). Helen is such a romp, and I love the way Euridipes explores power dynamics between women and men even in Menelaus and Helen’s relationship.

In a more religious vein, I am reading a short book, How Can I Learn God’s Will? by Fr. Daniel Sysoev. The first three quarters of the book is about God’s love and the Divine Names, which is very in line with St. Dyonisios the Areopagite’s On the Divine Names (which I really want to read soon). Only the last quarter is about learning God’s will, and it is quite practical. I am also reading The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer on my Kindle (this COVID-19 situation has given me a profound appreciation for the ebook lending part of the library). It is good in its ideas, although sometimes difficult for me to read, because of its modern self-help language and expression.

What are you working on and reading these days?

With love in the risen Lord,

Catherine

(Joining up with Ginny’s Yarn Along this month)

march downfalls, and some thoughts on prayer

Some brothers asked Agathon which good work required the most effort. He replied, “No labor is more difficult than prayer. Demons understand that prayer is a path to God. They will do everything possible to hinder this journey. Prayer is like fighting a war.

By Way of the Desert, entry for March 4

This month literally brings with it the beginning of Lent for us Orthodox folk, which is a beautiful as well as a stressful time. It always feels as if there is more to be concerned with, when really this time is about focusing on the one thing needful.

I have been doing a lot of reading for school, mostly Pindar with a side of St. John Chrysostom and a bit of Herodotus thrown in for good measure. My favorite is the Philokalia, which I am working through in a non-linear fashion because apparently that is how one is supposed to do it. If anyone wants to know this order, please let me know through email or whatever, because this way definitely beats cracking open Volume 1 and starting with, “There is among the passions an anger of the intellect, and this anger is in accordance with nature.” Oof. Start in the middle of Volume 4, my friends. It is much easier.

For personal reading, yesterday I (re)read from start to finish C. S. Lewis’ classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I would say it was a delight, which it was, but it was also very challenging, because I’ve been in a bit of a rough patch recently spiritually. It’s all good and probably means I’m growing, but you know when an allegorical children’s book is challenging, things are rough.

On the same spiritual front, I’m about halfway through a book called The Divine Flame, which is a book about a divine flame that St. Porphyrios lit in one man’s heart, which inspired him to become a monk. I’m obsessed with St. Porphyrios; he’s absolutely wonderful and has been very active in my life, so this book is very dear to me. I actually got the copy as a gift when I was visiting his monastery (the Hesychasterion of the Holy Transfiguration), which is near my monastery in Greece.

I’ve also been reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea for my book club. It’s a literary ode to the story, which despite its relative lack of a plot I don’t mind overmuch, but one does have to acclimate to her writing style. Alongside that, I’m (still) reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. I really should finish it, but school and spiritual reading has been taking priority recently.

After writing all that it occurs to me that I’m reading a lot of things simultaneously. I’ve always done this, it keeps me entertained. Since the whole going on brain meds thing has happened, I’m at least a lot better at finishing them, which is nice.

As far as crafting projects go, I’m working on the same sweater and the same embroidery and many of the other same projects as recent posts will mention. I’ve also started a Honey Study Hat (pattern by Andrea Mowry, because apparently I’m addicted to her patterns) in a lovely gray wooly wool that didn’t have a label. I will say, brioche stitch is much easier than I thought.

Whether it is at night or during the day that God grants you the gift of praying with a pure intellect, undistractedly, put aside your own rule, and reach towards God with all your strength, cleaving to Him. And He will illumine your heart about the spiritual work which you should undertake.

A Discourse on Abba Philimon, from the Philokalia

P.S. I’m sorry about the lack of pictures, but my room is a mess and I really couldn’t be bothered to take any. So writing it is.

(linking with Ginny’s Yarn Along)

projects and reads: February 2020

Recently I have been trying to finish many of the projects that I started a while ago, such as my sweater now formerly known as the Christmas sweater (I am stuck on that infamous place, sleeve island, on this one). Thus, armed with high hopes and great intentions, I instead cast on for another project.

Now, you could say that this is the continuation of a project I have been working on for some time, since I bought the pattern almost a year and a half ago, and have started it at least two different times, but now I think it is the time for finishing my very own Find Your Fade. I am starting with a skein of a white speckle I picked up at one of the yarn shops here in Boston, then I will be using a few skeins of La Bien Aimee, and a skein of Farmer’s Daughter Fibers. I think it will turn out very well.

Currently, I am reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (for fun) as well as J. N. D. Kelly’s Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom (for school). In Achebe’s novel, I am really loving the exploration of the spiritual aspects of the traditional African tribal culture he depicts. I think that kind of really immediate connection to the spiritual or divine is something the West has really lost, so seeing it be very present in another culture is wonderful.

Golden Mouth is a thorough biography of St. John Chrysostom which uses his main biographers as sources but supplements with other historical information. So far I have read about St. John’s early childhood and the general conditions of Antioch in the 4th century AD, as well as his conversion to Christianity and his dedication to the ascetic life.

As a mental health side note, the February (and pre-Lenten) blues are upon us. So, here’s a quote from Mother Gavrilia:

Never ask: “Why has this happened to me?” When you see someone struggling from gangrene or cancer or blindness, never say, “Why has this happened to him?” Instead, pray to God to grant you the vision of the other shore… Then, like the Angels, you will be able to see things as they really are: everything in God’s plan. Everything.

Mother Gavrilia
My working desk

(Joining with Ginny’s Yarn Along on this first Wednesday of the month)

on doing fine things well

I am the kind of person who is prone to small, fiddly projects, like knitting a sweater in fingering weight yarn or translating Ovid because I don’t trust other people’s translation of the Metamorphoses. Because of this, I frequently get stuck in the middle of doing fine fiddly things that require concentration and more time than I feel these projects should rightly demand of me.

Because of this, I am often left with the question – is it actually worth doing these fine things, and especially is it worth doing these fine things well?

But more fundamentally, is it worth doing fine things at all? And is it worth doing things that take so much time?

Then yesterday, as I was journaling, I began to think about the slowness of things. The slowness of translations, the slowness of healing, and the slowness of struggle.

Fine things, hard things, are often slow, like working on a translation. In a translation, half an hour can yield this:

And she represents the earth struck by her spear
Bringing forth a blossom of olive white with fruit

Metamorphoses 6.80-81, translation mine

Is all this debate about the interpretation of a participle or whether or not this should be taken as a dependent clause or a prepositional phrase worth it? Perhaps.

Fine things like healing are often slow. I have been out of the hospital for not even two months, and I expect myself to be better and to do better, especially since my injuries are not visible on my body. Yet today, the feast of the Forerunner, was the first day in months I was able to make it through an entire Liturgy without leaving.

Is this, the process of putting myself back together with more exterior supports than I thought possible, worth it? Of course it is.

Fine things, difficult things, are often so slow they go at the pace of a snail, like the Christian struggle. Here, I hope I remember to say my prayers, and there, I hate that I forget. But slowly, the days that do build up, and they are the ones that change me.

Is this struggle for Christ worth it? Without any question at all.

These fiddly fine projects are slow, and moreover, they are not strictly necessary to my personhood. So why do I have questions about their value?

So this is the value of doing fine things well: each stitch, each word, gives me an opportunity to take one measured step at a time, to not rush the process, and to glorify Christ with every breath. This is what I need above all, and maybe by writing it down, I won’t forget.

Christmas sweaters and Advent books

Before the snow fell
Our current winter wonderland
Yarn that feels like frozen sparkling snow
Reading and research…
Dorm room Christmas decorating

It’s finally snowing here in Boston, and I am so happy for it! We are coming off of two consecutive snow days after a week off, so I have been luxuriating in the hygge (and, sadly, the procrastination…)

In that vein, I had a lot of goals for the month of November that got fairly well interrupted by a week and a half hospital stay. Fortunately now that’s starting to be sorted out, and now that I finally have more energy and I have the ability to focus focus (two great things that go great together, when one isn’t distracted by a snow day)! The healing is a process of patience and self-forgiveness, and learning how to read the rhythms of my body better.

This means my projects for this month have taken on more special dimensions because they have seen me through the before and after of the hospital visit.

My knitting project for the last month has been what I have dubbed “the Christmas sweater,” since my goal is to have it to wear on Christmas Day. It is the pattern Whitehorse by Caitlin Hunter, knitted in Tanis Fiber Arts’ Metropolis colorway in DK. I started it thinking I could participate in and finish it for TFA’s Metropolis knit-a-long on Ravelry, but because of my stay in the hospital, this didn’t happen. I’m a bit sad about not being eligible for prizes, but it is my special speckly squishy bobbly beauty of a sweater (yoke), and it saw me through the psych ward, so it’s ok. It still means a lot.

While the psych ward was not great for my knitting, it was good for my reading! So I kept the momentum up and started St. Maximos the Confessor’s Life of the Virgin (translated by Stephen Shoemaker) for the Advent Fast. Apparently it used to be read in monastic communities year round, so I read the section appointed for the Entrance to the Theotokos into the Temple. It is very beautiful but also drips Byzantine rhetoric, which I am quite enjoying.

I am also reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Craft of Writing, which, although about fiction writing, is proving useful to my thesis as well. Good writing is good writing, after all.

Finally, I caved and bought myself a copy of the classics textile material culture-ist’s bible, Elizabeth Wayland Barber’s Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean. It is truly the most marvelous book I have ever read, and I have been learning a great deal about the possibilities of tapestry weave being used in Rome or the surrounding areas from 43 BC-17 AD (in other words, Ovid’s lifespan). Of course, I’m saving my ideas and conclusions for my thesis, but I am terribly excited, and I cannot wait to read my own writing.

Joy is such a wonderful thing, and these monthly check-ins really remind me of what a joy it is to have things that I love that I can share with others. If you want, but only if you want, write something in the comments that brings joy to your life, so we can all see and share in each others’ joy!

(As usual on the first Wednesday of the month, I’m linking up with Ginny’s Yarn Along. Head on over to her page to find other beautiful people who blog about wonderful things!)

seventh October twenty nineteen

Here we are in October yet again… It is one of my favorite months, and many of my close friends (and my godmother!) have birthdays this month. However, it is also a month of gloominess and usually means that seasonal affective disorder makes my depression worse, so I have to be extra careful about what music I listen to, what books I read, how much exercise I get, and so on.

This month I am actually finally going to finish Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. I have been “reading” it for months now, which simply means that I have been stuck at page 396 for months.

The other two books I am reading, 100 Poems by Seamus Heaney (an anthology with short poems and selections of longer works) and Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber, were both given to me as gifts by two of my professors after I was chosen to win the Humanities Paper Prize for two distinctions, an essay and a set of poems. They also gave me another book, Homer by Jonathan Burgess (who I am a great fan of), but I can only read so much at one time! I’m very excited about the Seamus Heaney book because he is one of my favorite poets, and currently my favorite poem of his is either “Postscript” (linked in the sidebar) or “St. Kevin and the Blackbird.” Women’s Work is about exactly what the title says, but with a specific focus on cloth production in very early human history. Of course, I am utterly fascinated by this topic, as I have decided to write my undergraduate thesis on weaving in ancient Greece.

My current project for this month, which I have been working on since the end of last semester, is this cross-stitch which is based on traditional Mediterranean motifs. I got it from Avlea, run by Khouria Krista West. She has all kinds of beautiful designs and patterns, and I want to get one of the Paschal-colored ones eventually.

I brought this project with me on an OCF retreat this last weekend, and everyone loved it, which was really wonderful. I think it is so amazing that people my age are actually so respectful of handcrafts and can find so much beauty and value in them and the time it takes to make them. Also, it was my first below-freezing weekend since the summer started, leaving me with a renewed appreciation for the glory and goodness that is wool.

One last thing I want to share: I submitted some of my poetry for possible publication! I am very excited about this, and of course God only knows what will happen, but even if the poems don’t get printed, I tried something new and I grew a little.

Glory to God for all things!

(I am joining up with Ginny’s Yarn Along here in this beautiful month of October.)

in which I make {another} baby blanket for myself, the unmarried single college student

After I left the monastery about 3 years ago (how on earth has it only been 3 years?), I decided it would probably be a good idea to start working on some kind of a hope chest. I figured that since I would probably someday get married, a hope chest would be a nice tangible manifestation of that dream and hope (and give me something useful to do instead of staring at boys). So far I have a baby blanket, 2 half-finished baby sweaters, and a big pile of yarn.

Which brings us to my most recent knitting project: my second-ever baby blanket which will hopefully be for one of my future children.

I’m using the Fly Away blanket pattern from TinCanKnits, which I also used for the last blanket. It’s a really lovely pattern, and I think my seams on this blanket are better than the last one, so that makes me happy.

The color scheme and design are based on and inspired by Tanis of Tanis Fiber Art‘s beautiful star blanket pattern (here’s the original star; and the idea for me to knit another blanket was totally inspired by her blanket knit-along that she hosts every summer in her Ravelry group).

So here’s to another blanket filled with faith, hope, and love, and the dream of a future family.

(Joining up on this first Wednesday in August with Ginny’s yarn along)

The first blanket (which still has unwoven-in ends, but we’re not telling)

March reads and a knit

IMG_6074 2
So good and so faded… (also some Latin in the corner)

This month is an oddly short one for me, since we get so many days off from school. First a snow day, then Clean Monday, then spring break, then Annunciation… It will be a good month to work on finishing a book (or two) and a knitting project!

The book I have decided to read for Lent is Words of the Heart: Gerondissa Makrina Vassopoulou. It is newly translated, and I am extremely excited for it, since I have been waiting for the translation into English for something like five years. The book consists of a brief biography of Gerondissa Makrina followed by 64 homilies that she gave to her nuns during her time as abbess of the monastery of the Panagia Odigitria in Portaria, Volos. This is so special because there is so little written or recorded spiritual teaching and help from nuns and Gerondissas that this 500-plus page book is truly a treasure. Also, I am of course partial to reading about nuns, so I’m just happy to be able to do that. I am hoping to finish the biography section before Lent starts on Monday, and then read one homily per day until Pascha (since there are so many more than just 40 days until Pascha). I have also decided to use this book for a project for my Literature of Vocation class, so thankfully there go two birds with one stone!

My current fiction book that I am hoping to finish this month is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I started this book back in January with a friend of mine, and now he is done and I am not (since pesky things like papers and midterms keep getting in the way). Doerr’s use of language and imagery is a delight to read, and I am really enjoying his development of parallel plots. (I’m only on about page 70, so I don’t know how things will develop, but for now this is my opinion.) So far, my decision to step outside of my classics comfort zone and read a Pulitzer winner about World War II has been a good one.

The knitting project that is currently getting most of my attention right now is my So Faded Sweater (pattern by Andrea Mowry). I decided to use a gray/pink/white fade in yarn from La Bien Aimée that was heavily inspired by a palatte that Andrea herself used in a different pattern. This sweater has been so much fun to knit specifically for the beauty and hand of the yarn – I love speckled yarn so much! Every stitch feels like a small surprise, a moment of color that is unique but not overwhelming in its particularity. I suppose it’s the same reason that I love language – the small parts are beautiful and complete on their own but together make a larger whole that is more harmonious for the beauty of the individual bits. In any case, I am looking forward to finishing the sweater, although I’m not sure how much longer it will take me.

Here’s to hoping that March is a month of finishing a few good things and to starting some other more ascetical good things!

{Linking up with Ginny’s wonderful Yarn Along!}