Wednesday, June 30, 2010

one way to welcome

I mentioned in a recent post that our neighbors are adopting a baby soon. I want to do something to honor this special occasion, and the other day I got an idea. Not long ago they put some new landscaping in at the front of the house. I can't tell you the terror that struck my heart when I saw the old stuff get pulled out--I can't abide a bare foundation--but the new stuff was in place the next day and it looks great. They've got some knockout roses planted, and when the sun splashes on those petals it looks very pretty. I thought I should take a picture. So I did.

Here's my idea, spawned by the above photo action. I'd like to take pictures of baby Charley's new world as it is when she arrives here. The house, the street, the town square (hopefully all the evidence of flooding is gone--I haven't been down there lately), their church, and so on. I want this to be a surprise, though to include some things that may not be possible. What are some things that I shouldn't overlook?

When my Mom turned 40 my Dad and some friends conspired to throw her a surprise party. One of those friends--who was never without her camera--put together a flip book of pictures "this is how _____ looked when Kiki turned 40." I caught her taking pictures of the front of the house and almost ruined the whole endeavor by pointing this out to my mother: "Mom, what's Ellen P doing taking pictures of the house?" Way to go, Anne! Ellen was fast on her feet and covered her tracks.

Anyway, that book was a fun memento of that special birthday party. I thought a book along those lines for Charley would be a nice keepsake. Any thoughts? Ideas? I'm more or less starting from scratch here. Input welcome!

The picture is unrelated. I just like it.
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

early summer snapshots

Here are a few favorite pictures from June events. I need to remember to take my camera with me more often to capture some of the "ordinary" scenes that represent what life is really all about. In the meantime: my hydrangea (doing great on year four!)

one of my parishioners and his dog, Lucy

a dessert tray from the progressive dinner

is anything more refreshing than lemons?
lilies in bloom at the cathedral during the icon workshop
progressive diners (take that any way you want!) -- this is such a great shot of my church folks!

Monday, June 28, 2010

old dogs can learn new tricks

While catching up on some blogs this morning I read that my blog buddy Amy was camping at Mt. Lassen National Park in northern California. I was excited to read this because I've been there! Wonderful friends from St. Louis days moved to that area shortly before I moved to Tennessee, and my friend Kathy and I had the great fortune to spend some time with them at their amazing place while on a California vacation. Candy and Steve lived just down the road from the Park (less than hour away) so it was a natural destination during our visit. That trip was full of wonderful memories for which I am so immensely grateful. I mentioned to Amy that I would post a picture from that day at Lassen, so here we are! I've included a picture with Kathy, too, since she appears in my posts now and again.
I've been thinking a lot lately about behavior. Mine and that of others. There have been several incidents in the last couple of weeks involving different people that have me asking the question, "what's this really about?" Like when you change the font in the church bulletin and someone goes off on a tear. You know it's not really about the font.  I went nearly ballistic a couple of weeks ago about something that happened at the church. My behavior was, in part, about the matter in question. 1) I believe a bad decision was made, 2) the decision-making "process" was flawed, but 3) there's a deeper issue that is about me that needs some exploration.

So I'm exploring. Catalyzed by the remark made recently by someone that I was "just being me," I've been paying attention a bit to that side of "me."  Reflecting on a conversation I had the other day with a friend, I recognized that side manifesting itself. As I thought about it I was able to name the behavior: bossy. Huh. Picture a Hollywood sequence of film being rewound through the years at lightning speed, stopping at a moment in time. Here is where my film rewind stopped. I was about ten or eleven years old (I think, but honestly can't be sure). A group of us (girls) at Friends Meeting happened upon some Sunday school files that included registration information filled out by our parents when we first started Sunday school.. (My mother has never heard about this little episode, but she's gonna learn about it now!) One of the questions on the form solicited input from the parents about behavioral issues. In my mother's handwriting were words suggesting that I could be bossy. I took umbrage at the time, but it looks like she was right! And obviously, since this memory wasn't hidden too far in the recesses of my mind for recall, I've had it tucked away as something to pay attention to. Better late than never, it appears that the time to pay attention is now!

If I was displaying a tendency toward bossiness at the tender age of five, I'm wondering if that was innate or learned behavior (I'm thinking that my dad might qualify as a model in this department, but we're in the early stages here and I don't want to make that claim too early in the game)?  In either case I'm not sure we can "unlearn" behavior so much as we can retrain ourselves to behave differently. Before I can retrain, however, I need to learn what prompts the behavior in the first place. Naming it is obviously the easier part!

My work is cut out for me. One good thing, at least. After recognizing my bossiness the other day I called my friend to apologize. She told me that she didn't think I was being bossy at all, though she acknowledged that there are times when I am curt. Noted. I'm not going to pawn that off on being a Yankee, but I am aware of being perceived that way (which doesn't mean it's not true).

We are ever a work in progress. I just pray that I actually progress!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

dirty hands to God

The folks you see here are truly beloved of God. No, really. I even offered them dispensation from coming to church today. They were OUTSIDE yesterday, doing yard work: planting, pruning and weeding, primarily. At 9:00 AM the thermostat was already at 90, and humid? Is it officially summer? For their dedication and sacrifice I told them they had glorified God in the highest.

We added some landscaping to our property recently, you see. And as anyone with a garden knows, maintenance is a necessity--the only downside of the beautification effort. Oddly enough the person who encouraged and coordinated the landscaping project is also the one who grumbles about maintenance! We are in the process of putting together a garden guild to tackle the maintenance issue, but that effort is in the formative stages, and not yet off the ground. We have two garden beds that include flowers, and foundation plantings along the most visible side of the church. In my view the maintenance issue is worth it--our property looks so much better, and loved!And yes, I weed, too!

And I just know that those who went home drenching wet yesterday will come to church this morning with smiles on their faces as they pull in the drive. There is such great satisfaction to be found in the garden. Ah....

Saturday, June 26, 2010

new life

One of our crepe myrtle plants. See below for details.
Yes, I'm playing with the blog. I started to play with the other one and that got me itchy. And, since I never really liked the black and white with the vegetables I switched things up. Or over. Or around.

I received six hands in the mail yesterday. Yay! Thank you Nancy! I love the different sizes of hands that came in the package, and the fabrics are each so different. I even have one of them in my stash! My count is up to 20 (maybe 22--I traced the hands of the friends sitting on either side of me at the PC training I went to last month, and I'm not sure I added them to the list). Still need more hands if others of you out there want to send them along. You can trace your hand on fabric or on paper, either one. Left or right.Young and old alike.

I've got some babies I want to do something for. My goddaughter gave birth to child #3 on Thursday, Elliott Michael. My friend Jules is a first-time Nana to twin boys who are just two weeks old. Our next door neighbors are adopting a girl from China and will bring her home in another month: she'll be nine months+ when she gets here. And, hmm, there's another one somewhere, another girl. There are some other young-uns in my life that I want to do things for as well. Like Luke and Cross, for starters. And the three granddaughters of my late friend, Kathy. I haven't even met the youngest, who will soon be one! It's been much too long since we've made a trip to St. Louis. We've also got a baby due in August at church, a boy. So babies abound! I wish I were closer to all of them to fuss over and hold and get to know.

One of my colleagues is pregnant. The news of her pregnancy really pierced my soul. That took me by surprise. You think you've done your grief work and then whammo, out of nowhere you double over with pain. There's a shower for her in August, so I need to do something for that baby, too.

Closer to home--at home, actually--we've got new life. When we came home from Melrose at the end of April we brought with us four crepe myrtles that were volunteer shoots off an older tree. Sadly, they were at the back of Kenneth's pickup during that trip home and the wind smote the leaves off those little beauties. I did not despair, however, in spite of the fact that I lack a green thumb (I did not inherit my mother's gift with greenery). We kept them watered, dug holes in carefully chosen locations, and set them in. I cut them back to encourage growth, but for the longest time, nada. A couple of weeks ago two them began to sprout. Yay! Yesterday when I was watering plants I noted that the other two had minuscule signs of greenery. I have now cut those two plants back farther to encourage those shoots, and we'll see what happens. As it appears at this moment, however, we'll have four Melrose crepe myrtles growing here in middle Tennessee, and I'm thrilled. There's nothing like a little success to make the heart shout with joy!

On that note, I'm off to a work day at church, where I plan to spend most of the morning indoors and out of the heat. Except when I'm out there with my camera, documenting. It's a cushy job, but somebody's got to do it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

friday five: summertime, summertime, sum-sumsummertime

At RevGals Songbird related that the start of her summer has been less than stellar. She invites us to share five things we love--or don't--about summer. The tone is up to us!

Full disclosure: heat and me, not so much. Humidity? Don't go there. All summer things in my life are filtered through the heat index. My following five, therefore, will disregard such things in responding to Songbird's invitation.

1) I love the garden! I'm particularly enamored with flowers, but I love eating out of our vegetable garden (not blog header photo--some of last year's abundance!). And if we're not growing it, someone else is! The local Farmer's Market is a wonderful summer pleasure.

2) The idea of relaxation, picnics, and cookouts. I say idea because I imagine those things will fill our calendar, but they never do to the extent that I would like. Hope is a wonderful thing.
3) Outdoor entertainment. Oh, to be in New England! I loved being able to go to Tanglewood (summer home of the Boston Symphony in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts), whether for symphonies or a James Taylor concert. When I lived in St. Louis I enjoyed an abundance of outdoor musical programs. Here in my wee city the Nashville Symphony does an annual concert on the lawn at our local university which is top notch (and free!). Given that this is Music City you'd think there'd be a lot more of this kind of thing here, but there really isn't.
A typical evening at Tanglewood

4) Shorts and t-shirts.

5) Events: county fairs, craft fairs, pioneer days, yard sales, you get the picture.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

for the record

Blogger and wordpress both have blogs using the title "Word in Progress." Dang. Is there some variation on that theme? I haven't come up with it yet. Ideas received with gratitude.

Friday Update: I am able to use the blog title in blogger, but not in the url address. Word in Progress is established, but so far, no posts. I'll work on setting up the blog today (Friday). The "i" in "in" has been removed for the url.

Get this. In wordpress the blog title is taken, but it's only used in English as a translation of the title in the language of the blog! Of course I can't find it now to show you, but what good does it do to translate the title and nothing else? Oh well.

thankful thursday

No more troubles to add to the roster--in fact, there's some good news!

A friend who is able to extend some generosity is making it possible for us to rejoin our local Family Life Center. Yay!!! This means I can swim again, work with weights (a very painful, probably arthritic knee could use some strengthening, not to mention portions of my being), walk the track and treadmills, and maybe, FINALLY, take a thai chi class.  Thank you, thank you dear friend! This falls into the category of what my friend Kip calls a big biscuit day!

Other biscuits:
  • I have a new photo card. Yay!! 
  • So far it appears that our phone and internet service are fully functional again.
  • My friend Yolande is home safe after a trip to Greece.
  • It looks like Ken's computer may be suffering from a virus, not a lightning strike. This can be handled! We've got someone on board who can resolve this mess. 
  • Camping in Germany might be fun! It would bring the prospect of that trip a whole lot closer to reality.
  • Incentives are good ways to inspire me to work my PC business. Think grandsons in Texas. Think family in Connecticut. Think Germany. Think covering and screening in the deck. Yes, that's the ticket!
  • I think I will have the day to myself today and tomorrow. (someone tell me how to insert a smiley face here)
  • I've got a potential name for the new blog: Word in progress. Weigh in on that, if you don't mind.
I've got local honey for my biscuits. Care to join me?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

proceed at your own risk

Kvetching ahead...

This morning I was going to rewrite my lost blog entry, but it appears that I used the energy behind the matter when I wrote it yesterday. It's just not coming together for me this morning at all. I guess this is a good thing (this is evidence of moving on), but there was a portion of it where feedback would have been helpful. Oh well.

Did I mention previously that I've lost all the church files on my computer? All my business files, too (from when I had a business). A result of deleting files in Picasa, of all things. Documents with the same title as photo folders went "poof!" I am not happy about this, for all sorts of reasons. But there IS a silver lining of sorts. I need to start the church newsletter from scratch, for instance, and I have just discovered that I have Microsoft publisher software. Picture a big grin. I enjoy this kind of thing, you see. Writing, layout, graphics, the whole bit. Maybe it's because there's newspaper business in my gene pool, but whatever the reason, I run with it.

There's also this thing called a learning curve. Yowza! I don't want to use any of the default font combinations, for instance, so I'm constantly overwriting those. And then the program restores the defaults and I have to go back and overwrite again. I'll figure out how to establish my own defaults somewhere along the way, but for now, I've got a newsletter to get out. Anyway, that's fun stuff.

Then my camera card went south. You know that saying about rain--we're in flood stages here. The coffee maker is leaking (this is serious!), the lawn mower is on the blink, the IRS hit us with fees and penalties for last year's taxes that we still owe, Ken's computer took a hit during the storm that cut short the life of local Bradford Pears, and the computer appears to be unrestorable (and nothing is backed up), our steam-vac hose is being held together with duct tape, and I'm trying to figure out how to be perceived as less snarky by some who think that's my usual nature (ouch). It's not, for the record. That was yesterday's post, and maybe I'll come back to it when the matter rears its head again, which it will.
Yesterday the latest issue of the army retiree newsletter came, announcing specials at a resort in Germany. Yeah, right. This is a military guest house, just so you know. I went to the web site for the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort and got hooked. Not on the lodge, but on the scenery. And all the places there are to see nearby: Mad Ludwig's Castle, Hitler's Eagle's Nest; Dachau (not so much a want to see but a need to see), pristine lakes, ancient towns, the Alps...   Flying space-available on army aircraft and camping out might be doable. Maybe. How many Pampered Chef shows do I need to have to accumulate these kind of funds? Yeah, right.

I apologize for complaining. I don't like complaining about stuff in my life. Some days I just need to get it out so that I can get to the stuff that matters and gives life instead of drains life. You know?  If you've read this far, thank you for bearing with me. That feels like a hug.

Okay. Putting on my bright and shiny attitude now. Today appears to hold some promise, so I'm planning to ride that wave. Come on, jump on board. Kowabunga! And thanks for listening.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

in need of a name

I'm stealing a moment of internet connectivity to post this query. I've been thinking about reviving the meditations I used to write every week based on the Daily Office. It's been four or five years since I wrote those, and in those days I sent them out via email. I would do them in a blog format now. My challenge is to come up with a name for the blog.

The email address I used when I sent the meditations was WayWordMinistries. "Way" for "The Way," a term used by the Jerusalem church led by James after the death of Jesus; "Word" for, well, The Word. Through Blogger "WayWord" is not available as a blog title. I thought of "A Way with the Word," which seemed catchy, but then it struck me that it sounded a bit arrogant. I want no part of arrogance.

So. Thoughts? I don't need to stay connected to "WayWord." To do so would be a matter of convenience and continuity. Songbird already has the best title for such an endeavor (Reflectionary), so I need to think along other lines. The little gray cells aren't churning out much in the way of ideas, so I am looking to you, my faithful followers and creative persons to offer suggestions. Anything. I need a place from which to launch, if not latch.

I await your genius.

foiled again

We are having trouble with our phone and internet service. For the last two to three weeks the service is interrupted for no apparent reason. Internet signal is lost. There is no dial tone. The phone rings and we answer and we can hear nothing from the other side. Callers are sent directly to the rollover feature of vociemail that is part of the phone service. We are beyond frustrated. Don't ask why we have tolerated this for so long. Sore subject.

This morning I had a post ready to publish. It was one of those gut posts. Poured it out. Admitted to complicity and shared frustration. It's gone. Lost to the gods of internet and phone service whimsy. I won't try to rewrite it. Not today.

We are scheduled for service repair tomorrow. Until we're back in cyberbusiness, please consider this my inadequate greeting. And comfort that child above who clearly needs a hug.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Borrowed a list, checked it twice

And now for something completely different (from icons).

My blogging buddy Jan posted this the other day. It's a list of 99 activities/accomplishments, etc. The idea is to highlight those that can be checked off your list. I have changed this up a bit. If I haven't done one of the items, I have crossed it out and replaced it with something I have done. This may as well be fully descriptive of events in my life, rather than partial! Play along on your own blog if you feel so inclined.

99 Things About Me

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band recorder consort
4. Visited Hawaii Bermuda
5. Watched a meteor shower hurricane
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to DisneyWorld
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis baby goat
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped Ridden in a hot air balloon
12. Visited Paris London
13. Watched a lightning storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child dog
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France where Jesus walked on water
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch-hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon Rode a camel
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice in the alps
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run base hit
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors-
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (sort of—I tried to learn gaelic)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied buy original art
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa Anne Frank's house in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David the Wailing Wall
41. Sung karaoke the exultet
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt serious flooding
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant Paid someone else's toll
44. Visited Africa Israel
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (I sat in the front seat)
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris the Empire State Building
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie TV commercial!)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China Hadrian's Wall
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class ballroom dance lessons
59. Visited Russia Switzerland
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies Mary Kay
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving Hiked on a glacier
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp Gettysburg
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter two-seater plane
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar Haggis
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades pyramids of Egypt
75. Been fired from a job unemployed
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon Masada in person
80. Would like to Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican St. John the Divine
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Slept through Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating Cooked a five-course meal
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life Given blood
90. Was excused from sitting Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Got a tattoo nose job
94. Wished for Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo Old North Church in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake Dead Sea
97. Been involved in a law suit caught a bouquet
(this bouquet was actually handed to me by the bride as she and her new husband walked up the aisle, but I did catch two others in my day)
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Here he is, the finished product. I know he looks a lot like the most recent version you saw, but there are some subtle differences.

It was tough to shift gears this morning, not to return to the community I enjoyed this past week where we prayed this icon into 14 different versions of itself--all the same, all different. It is a remarkable experience, one that many of us find hards to describe adequately with words. It is holy, graced by God, guided by the Spirit, inspired by Christ.

We have already set the date for the next workshop: February 14-18, 2011. Anyone want to come? I can offer accommodation. The cost of the class is $495 if you want to start tucking money away. No artistic talent is necessary. It is helpful if you know how to color within the lines (even if you typically don't).

Today real life insinuated itself in the form of a church yard sale. This was a repeat of the event we did last year, but we have already concluded that annual yard sales will diminish the return as time passes and we have all already scoured our households for goods to purge.

Instead of a yard sale we are thinking of hosting a craft fair/festival. We are in a great location, have plenty of space for vendors (not so sure about parking!), and the bulk of our work would be in getting the word out. There are no craft fairs in this community. There is a large Oktoberfest in the fall, sponsored by a local bank, but it is open to everything and everyone: some crafts, some businesses, churchers and organizations, and so on. We would want this to be strictly a craft fair, and we would really like for it to be juried. Ideas are already exploding in my head (fortunately the explosions have not done damage to my head), and I know that more will come. It's kind of exciting!

And on that note I think I'll settle in with a cold glass of water and enjoy the dry indoor climate for the rests of the day. Cheers!
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Friday, June 18, 2010

day four--taking shape

He's looking pretty good, isn't he? The halo is in place (and the splotchy look around the edge is intentional), the book cover is looking a bit more finished, and his beard looks less faux. I had to redo the whole neck, but am happy with this . Still a few more details to add, a little touching up here and there, then we varnish and bless our work this afternoon.

There have been many blessings this week, one of which has been that with so much of me dedicated to this work/prayer, nearly everything else has left my mind. Unfortunately that includes Father's Day. I am scrambling this morning to get two cards into the mail, and I have yet to get a card for my own father! All of these will arrive late, which annoys me no end. The gas and water bill must also be paid today, and though I had it carefully in place on my desk so as not to forget it, now it is nowhere to be found. I have a little more leisure this morning to deal with these things. This morning we begin with classroom work, and this afternoon will hold our daily eucharist with the blessing of our icons, so the rush to be on time is a tad less urgent. It seems to be ever thus in my life!

See you on the flip side, and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

day three--flesh pots of a different ilk

After Eucharist this morning (still no A/C in the chapel, brutal in vestments!) we gathered for reflection. This is the day of flesh, when hands and face emerge from the flat, opaque sankir to become recognizable features. Before we begin our work, however, we first bless water that in turn is used to bless our hands. (see above)
There are four blends of paint that are layered to bring the features to life, so to speak. We begin with the second flesh (the first is sankir), highlighting those portions of the face and hands that in the end appear the lightest. With each successive layer we start with these same points, then use careful brush strokes that will define the features of the face. Once again I got so caught up in what I was doing that I neglected to "document" the look between each tone of paint. You can't really see the subtlety of progression without those images, but you can see the obvious changes between the first dots of second flesh, above, and after the third flesh has been added, below.
Notice how the eyes look a tad wild before some corrective fine-tuning takes place. Notice as well that the eyebrows are nearly mirror images of each other in the early versions. This was intentional on my part when I did the tracing from the template after putting down the base of sankir on the first day. Since that time, however, I have decided to follow the original, and have adjusted the left eyebrow (seen on the right) to look like the original. More on that another time. Below is my Sinai Christ Pantocrator at the end of Wednesday. He's looking much closer to the original now with the full layers of flesh tones applied, and a pale wash lightening the look overall. Thursday we return to the hair and work on the beard. At that time I will also make some adjustments to the shadows on the neck, which were more pronounced before adding the wash.
One of the wonderful aspects of this art form is the ability to go back and correct. After doing a pretty decent job on Jesus' right hand (in blessing pose) I made a hash of it by adding the fifth flesh color without diluting it properly. Fortunately I was able to recover a reasonable look, though resurrecting the original subtle shades I had achieved was more than I had time to which I could set my hand. My robe still doesn't have the proper "antiqued" look, but I am much less concerned about that at this point. The face is most important, and I am feeling confident that I will get a look with which I will be satisfied.

Until the next installment, intrepid readers...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

day two--filling in

This is our fabulous instructor, iconographer Teresa Harrison. She is such a gentle and patient spirit, and encourages us in our work no matter how far we might miss the mark of intended brush strokes. That story in a minute.

Monday we concluded with the nimbus/halo and outer nimbus rim. Tuesday morning I took a picture of that first thing so you could see the progression. I was reminded that morning as we spent some time learning about icons and the art of writing them, that the creative process of icon-writing is a full, dedicated, holy, and prayerful act. Concentration becomes a matter of fact without realizing it, and sure enough, I get so engrossed in what I am doing that I forget to stop after each segment to document it. I admit to feeling gratification that I'm doing something right here!

It is understood that the iconographer is free to be creative with his or her work. I've seen some extraordinary icons that depart from the typical, traditional look of monastic icons while maintaining the spirit and order of the art form. And then there is what I did at the close of the first day.

 Icon in progress, end of day one
If you look at the original icon its age and some degradation is apparent in what appears to be flaking. This is due to the material used to write the icon, which contains wax. If one attempts to recreate the look of aging and one is using paint, well, good luck! With skill and practice I suppose it can be accomplished. If I have the skill, which remains to be seen, I sure as heck didn't have time to practice the technique of dry-brush stippling today. What I produced instead gives the icon the appearance of having some serious issues with mildew. I don't really want you to enlarge the photo to see for yourself, but you might need to do that to see what I mean. I leave that up to you. I tried to diminish the mold-effect on Tuesday

 Icon in progress, end of day two.
After "aging" our SCP (Sinai Christ Pantocrator--Sinai because it was created in a monastery in the Sinai Desert, distinguished in some particular details from the non-Sinai Christ Pantocrator; Pantocrator means Ruler of All) we took on the background and the book cover, neither of which are finished. As Ruler of All the lower portion of the background is intended to represent a throne (I initially thought they were ornamental buildings). I spent some serious time getting just the right grunge look on my buildings, and I have to say that the left side, particularly, is pretty good. What might be considered sky is another matter, but you know the saying, it ain't over til the fat lady sings.

Wednesday we work on the face, and additionally I will return to the collection of small white orbs on the cover of the book that look like moth balls. Their color, as you will observe by noting the original on the left, is more muted, looking considerably more like lemon sour-balls.

Come back tomorrow if you dare. At least by then Jesus should have a face, and that is where the real spiritual wonder begins.

day one--foundations

We began our day yesterday with Eucharist in the chapel at the cathedral. On my way from the sacristy to the chapel I passed through the church and the flowers from Sunday caught my attention. Aren't they beautiful? The cathedral flower guild does awesome work.

Some of the stained glass windows in the chapel are out being cleaned, and it was strange having them gone, though mostly my back was to the wall where they ordinarily reside. Worst of all, however, was the lack of A/C in the chapel. Before we even got to the homily sweat was dripping off my nose. Thankfully our work space was very pleasantly cooled!

We begin the writing process by tracing the outlines of the icon onto a board prepared with layers of gesso. Jesus' robe is the first layer to apply. The color is a mix of blue and brown, and we may choose how much we want to balance the mix.
I leaned toward blue! It takes several layers of paint to get a flat, opaque look.

Next we applied a sable color for the stole beneath the robe and the cover and straps of the book held in Jesus' hand. Jesus' hair is the next color to apply. I forgot to take a picture after those steps, but you can see them in the picture that follows: the application of "sankir" for the face and hands. Lighter colors are applied over that. You'd never know it, would you, looking at the result?
Before finishing for the day we added a red for the halo, or nimbus, and a dark blue for the orb around the halo. The red is so that if any of the gold leaf used on the halo flakes off or doesn't take on application, the warmth of the red is what shows through rather than the white of the gesso board. Once the first layers of each section are applied we then go back and add lighter layers on top of the darker ones. It will be a bit of a challenge on this icon, since the original image is somewhat degraded (it was painted in the 6th or 7th century!), and the details are difficult to see.

This is an amazingly holy enterprise. We are instructed to pray with each stroke of the brush as we paint. I find that such a task is easy when painting those portions of the icon that are outlines--I want help! While painting Jesus's hair, halo and outer ring, for instance, my prayer was a consistent "Jesus, guide my hand," or "guide my brush." It works. Honest.

As for the wonky eye, I discovered upon closer inspection what that is about. The pupil of the left eye is centered within the iris, but in the right eye it is elevated. One member of the class mentioned yesterday that she has this icon in her bedroom, and that she always finds the eyes to be disturbing. For the record, I confess here and now that I plan to center the pupils of both eyes. I don't want to be weirded out every time I look at this!

PS--I just can't stand that I don't have time to keep up with and comment on everyone else's blogs this week. I'm trying to read them, or at the least look at pictures! 

PPS--for a quick primer on writing icons, go here!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

a week of writing

This week I'll be spending my days at our diocesan cathedral in Nashville. Why? I hear you ask... I'll be participating in the icon-writing workshop there, serving as chaplain and writing this icon of the Sinai Christ Pantocrator. The experience of writing The Virgin of the Passion last year so transformed my relationship with Mary that I wonder what might be in store for me as this figure of Christ emerges from the dark-to-light layers of paint that I will apply. The colors in this icon are less rich than those used to write Mary, but I suspect other treasures are contained within. One thing I can tell you though. I know that this will be a holy endeavor, but I keep getting distracted by the wonky asymmetry of Jesus' eyes. Am I allowed to take a little creative license as I write this? I don't need to make him perfect, I just don't want the distraction!

As I did last year, I'll have my camera to document the start-to-finish process and record, as well, the work of other classmates as our Christ Pantocrators come into being. I'm looking forward to the week. Some spiritual groundwork is already laid for interesting things to happen.

Check back later to see how the work is progressing!
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hazy, hot, humid hospitality

We hosted our diocesan clergy and family picnic yesterday. Brutal day, heat-wise. High 90's with the heat index and humidity. BUT we have a lovely pavilion that includes ceiling fans, so in the shade and seated at picnic tables with buckets of water for reinforcement, we survived. Efforts to set up croquet, volleyball and a cornhole toss were almost for naught. The corn hole toss did get used twice, but more as a test of one's aim than anything else.

Still. It was a nice time. We had an abundance of food, as usual, so today's coffee hour will be overflowing with the likes of  leftover coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad and watermelon. Too bad so many people are away this weekend, there will be LOTS to send home with folks. And, EVERY ONE ON OUR ALTAR GUILD is out of town, so yours truly needs to get to church a wee bit early to take care of that.

A few photos from yesterday. We were so wiped out by the time we got home that we did nothing but vegetate the rest of the day/evening. I long for New England summers on such days! Hope your own weekend contains refreshment!

Friday, June 11, 2010

welcome to storm season

We had a little excitement in the 'hood the other day/evening. We were at WalMart picking up food for a diocesan clergy and family picnic we're hosting tomorrow when a downpour hit. By the time we emerged with our load of food the storm had passed, but not before doing some real damage in our part of town. Oblivious to what had taken place while on our errand, turning into our neighborhood we couldn't help but notice some downed tree limbs in a few yards. We even drove around the block to take a better look at a large limb that had fallen in the back yard of a neighbor.

Then we turned the corner onto the street from which we turn onto our street. Utility trucks were positioned and at work addressing a fractured telephone pole, the victim of an uprooted tree across the street (photo, above). We were leery of what we would find when we got to our house. We were lucky that one small, live branch was across the walk to our door, and the debris of dead and rotted branches dotted the lawn. The worst we suffered was the loss of power.
Around the neighborhood the picture was less rosy. Directly across the street our neighbor, among many others on surrounding streets, lost a portion of their Bradford Pear tree. Bradford Pears, if not pruned and maintained, become weakened by undesirable suckers, and are vulnerable as they age to storms and strong winds. The photo above is typical of the scene on all of the streets around us.
In spite of the damage, it was remarkable to see how quickly those suffering loss were out dragging branches to the curb. And not just the victims of the storm. A trio of neighborhood men armed with chain saws and other equipment went from yard to yard lending aid. They cut through broken trunks to release downed limbs, and cut large limbs into smaller, manageable pieces. In the meantime neighbors helped neighbors, loading the backs of pick-ups with masses of branches, driving them from back yards to street frontage and then unloading them along the street where the city would come by and run them through the mulcher.

Sadly, a house three blocks away was struck by lightning and was immediately consumed by flames. The good news is that this is a place where neighbors DO help neighbors, and the response to mess and disaster is quick and productive. In areas of Nashville devastated by flooding five weeks ago the volunteer effort there continues apace, with no signs of abating. Is it any wonder that we are proud in these parts to proclaim that We Are Nashville?

friday five

At RevGals MomPriest writes: For this Friday Five let's ponder the various ways we work out (or not), physically, spiritually, and/or psychologically.

1. Do you work out physically, spiritually, or psychologically? (I'll let you define what that might mean to you)
You've heard this before, but my daily exercise routine consists of raising my coffee cup to my lips for multiple repetitions. I am not a big fan of exercise. Or, better stated, I think exercise is great, I simply loathe doing it. It's the sweat. I hate. to. sweat. Unless I'm swimming or dancing. I used to swim a half mile every day when we had a membership at the local family life center. I do enjoy a good walk through the neighborhood, especially with one of my dogs, but it's gotten hot, you see, and did I mention sweating? I know I need to do something about this aversion. As my body ages it becomes increasingly clear that exercise will improve my life. Man, I hate that.

I do much better in the spiritual and psychological realms. My husband and I have regular explorations of various theological questions with spiritual implications, so there's lots of exercise there in all sorts of ways. My prayer life, less so, but that's where I happen to be at the moment. I'm working on that. As for the psychological, I've been a journeyer in that area for a long time and have regular opportunities to draw on and work that area of interest.

2. Are you more inclined to join a gym, or a book club?
Book Club. See above.

3. Are you more inclined to read self-help books like Gail Sheehy's "Passages" or spiritual books like Richard Rohr or Theresa of Avila? And if so, what is your favorite?
Yes. Scott Peck is an old hero in the self-help arena. As for a favorite in the spiritual life, I'm currently lapping up John O'Donohue. Where has he been all my life?

4. Are you a loyal fan of a sports team? Or do you join the bandwagon when the local team is winning? And, if so, which one? Way back when, in high school days, I was a fanatic of the NHL team the Montreal Canadiens. My best friend's family were deep into hockey (her younger brother played), and I spent a lot of time with them in my teen years. Pete Mahovlich was my  man. I was such a fanatic that I dated my school notes according to the jersey number of the date's corresponding player. If the date was April 10, for instance, My notebook began its entry looking like this: Cournoyer/Lafleur. Like I said. Fanatic. I cut out every article and picture in the paper and had a scrapbook of the season. When I went to college I moved away from hockey country to the outback of Indiana (outback in terms of  hockey. I loved Indiana). It was difficult to follow the team, any team, and the air eventually went out of my fanatical balloon. I am still a hockey fan and still loyal to Les Habitants, but I couldn't begin to tell you the name of any of their players.

Here in Nashville I root for the home pro teams (TN Titans in football, and Predators in hockey). I don't root for the University of Tennessee. I'm allergic to orange, for one thing, and my home girls, the University of Connecticut Lady Huskies, rock in college basketball. Let's just say undefeated champions.

5. Or do you lean more toward having a favorite theologian/Spiritual writer or self help author  and if so, who? And, why.
I'm a big fan of Frederick Beuchner.We share writing styles, so there's a natural attraction, but he has a way of looking at things upside down and backward that makes perfect sense.Oh, and Parker Palmer.

Bonus: What was the last play-off series you watched and did your team win? 
That would be football, the games leading to and including the super bowl. Once Tennessee was out of the picture I rooted for the New Orleans Saints. As a former resident of Indiana I support the Colts (and who doesn't love Peyton Manning?), but I also wanted the Saints to win, which they did. Go Saints! It was also fun sharing the excitement with Mrs. Senior Warden, who hails from Louisiana.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

thankful thursday

I am really blessed by the women who comprise "the bs girls." Two of them, C and E, are gifted with the art of healing. Both of them make jewelry using gemstones, which I learned recently having healing power.

Yesterday E presented me with the necklace shown here. It is beautiful, but most touching is that E made it specifically for me, guided by her intuitive spirit in the selection of the stones, and affirmed by the deeper intuition of C. E made a list for me of the gems as they are assembled in the necklace. Last night I spent some time reviewing the healing properties of each, fingering the necklace around my neck or in my hands as I did so.

The act of love represented in this necklace touches me deeply, as do the stones that circle my neck. To touch the large pendant of jasper is to touch hope, and feel encircled by the power of love. These gems can, and will, I believe, heal those tender places within where emotions have been damaged, trust betrayed, voice sought, union desired and creativity longs for release.

On a low shelf that runs just above my desk a 5" cross sits with the words "imagine the possibilities" etched across the horizontal beam. Imagine them, indeed.
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