Wednesday, December 31, 2008



Greenhouse, As Advertised

This isn't a great shot, I know, being in the shade and all, but here be the greenhouse in all its glory. When we got here there were a few shreds of poly tacked randomly here and there and flapping in the wind, but other than taking that down, this is what we have. Currently it's a woodpile shelter, and a basking spot for the cat when the sun's on it.

Behind it is the "garage". If it had been built 10' further east it would have been in the sun all afternoon this time of year, for as long as the sun is available. Which isn't much. It's twilight at 3:30. By 2 the "greenhouse" is in full shade. It's a bit irksome but really the problem is the lack of light more than the lack of positioning. And what we have is what we have, and somehow it has to work because we certainly don't have funds to be rebuilding things that already exist.

(The lack of sun makes me a little tetchy I think. Also -32C and blowing snow. Tetch, tetch, tetch.)

ANYWAY. We're talking about how to combine a chicken coop and a greenhouse in this building so they can share warmth and light. The existing "greenhouse" will come off and some old windows Himself has been collecting over the last few years will find themselves in a new incarnation.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Are You Trifling With Me?

We're having another homeschooling family join us for a New Year's Borscht Bash, wherein the gentlemen make wine, the children trade Chaotic cards and build a bonfire, and I get to try some new joint-decompaction and cranio-sacral techniques on my friend, who's a very long-suffering and patient guinea-pig.

In amongst all this hands-on activity there'll be a fair bit of eating in the form of beet borscht, chicken Caesar salad, and trifle.

I found the neatest tip for building chocolate cake when I was researching how exactly one does make a trifle. Unfortunately I can't remember where I found it, so I can't give credit where it's due, but I do want you to know this is someone else's trick. When you grease and flour the pan for chocolate cake, mix the flour with some cocoa, and then you don't get that white, patchy look when it comes out of the pan.

I know this is probably old news for the culinary genii, but it sure impressed me. It would have impressed me even more if I'd remembered to mix the cocoa and the rice flour before I dumped it in the pan, rather than after. Oh well. Hopefully my memory will kick in sooner next time.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. - Luke 1:27-35 (NIV).

Of course, this is the wrong month for chatting up the Annunciation. The church calendar very prosaically places the Feast of the Annunciation on the 25th of March, exactly nine months prior to the Feast of Christmas. Because a pregnancy is nine months long, right? Even a virgin's pregnancy, though one could be excused for expecting other anomalies under the unusual circumstances...

Mary's wasn't the world's first virgin birth. This was a fairly standard device of mythology in describing the origin of heroes, that they should be born miraculously of a virgin. And so they should. The spirit knows that what is miraculous bursts from the unsown field, and that grace is graceful because it leaps uncalled and unearned from the unexpected corner. To build a hero step by step from human clay is to build a plodding golem. We have enough experience of that, good people with feet of clay. We yearn for gods.

And gods are virgin born.

"How shall this be, since I am a virgin?"

Mary doesn't recognize the story yet. She can't believe she's a main character in the incarnation of a myth, even when it's the voice of an angel that pulls her away from her study or weeding or laundry or whatever mundanity she's at in the moment. She doesn't realize that the real question would be "How shall this be, since I am not a virgin?" She is titled the Virgin Mary because it's the untouched aspect of her that is most fertile, as it is in all of us. It's the garden enclosed behind a stone wall with no door that yields the astonishing fruits of the inner country. From behind that wall gods leap into our world and run wild over the earth until they collapse back into the field and are reabsorbed into the virgin heart of all that is.

It makes it so difficult, being compelled to see everything with at least two pairs of eyes. We have to be always at the ready to perceive the supernatural birth incarnating, the gods arising in the humans we walk amongst, the incarnation we take on ourselves when the voice of the angel calls the divine into our human flesh. And we always have to be at the ready to let that go too, and realize that perpetual incarnation of the supernatural would likely send us on in chariots of fire. To forgive the face of God that disappears just when we've recognized it, leaving a broken, yearning human form behind.... to forgive that too, that round about that hidden garden are the untilled fields and brambles of daily life.

The name "Mary" is interesting in the context of the story. It means "rebellion" or "bitterness". So much of the Bible is devoted to hidden meanings, and it would be unlikely that this is just coincidence. In the midst of the bitterness of her humanity, that small untouched corner of her heart generates grace. Generates God.

It's always more than one and also that one. We are perpetual virgins, regardless of everything else. This isn't easy. It always hurts.

The more I turn away, the more the stories become true. A paradox of the broken heart.