Our Board Book: St. Ia Rides a Leaf

As you know, illustrator Kristina Tartara and I have contracted with St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press for a board book. Earlier, I shared this photograph as a hint about the book.

Where is this place? It’s St. Ives in Cornwall! This charming seaside town, and the parish church that watches over it, are named for St. Ia of Cornwall (Ives is an Anglicized version of her Irish name).

I discovered St. Ia’s story while researching another book (coming out this Fall), and although it fit beautifully with the women’s devotional I had in mind when I found it, the story stayed with me until I realized it makes an excellent book for little ones as well.

St. Ia was an Irish missionary to Cornwall in the 5th or 6th century. England owes much of its Christianity to Irish missionaries who crossed the Irish Sea to save those heathen English.

Ia expected to travel with a group, but unbeknownst to her, her fellow missionaries decided she wasn’t old enough to come along. (Is there a child anywhere who can’t relate to this?)

Ia’s group left without her, and without telling her. She ran down to the beach, expecting to board the ship with them, and instead, she saw it disappearing over the horizon.

Ia was heartbroken. She stood on the shore for a while, being sad and praying, and she saw a leaf floating on the water. She touched it with her staff, the way you do when you are busy being sad and you start fiddling with something around you. The leaf began to grow, and Ia realized something special was happening.

The leaf grew large enough to be a seaworthy boat, and Ia rode her leaf to Cornwall. In one version of the story, she arrives before the people who had left her behind. (That must have been just the least little bit satisfying.)

Our book is a simple, lyrical 300-word retelling of this story. With contracts signed, Kristina and I are venturing into the world of story-boards and sketches. I love this. I will never get over the enchantment of seeing my stories illustrated, and Kristina is a great partner. We talk over the time and place, the probable age of Ia (our guess is very early teens), and the layout. When it’s ready, I’ll be sharing Kristina’s work here, both in development and finished.

Meanwhile, here is some of the other artwork we’ve found that shows Ia’s voyage, each interesting in its own way.

#BlogtownTuesday: Interview with Hopeful Patience

Continuing our stroll around #Blogtown, today we’re visiting with Michelle at Hopeful Patience. Like most of our #Blogtown friends, we haven’t met in person, but we’ve known each other online for a few years. As always, I’m asking 5 questions, and as today’s guest, Michelle is sharing her answers below.

How did your blog gets its name?

One day, I was describing to my brother that I was beginning to feel able to imagine and hope for something that wasn’t possible yet but might be possible someday. He called what I was describing “hopeful patience.” A few months later, I was creating my blog, and I found that that phrase encapsulated what I wanted my blog to be about.

What would you say is the defining characteristic of your blog?

This question follows nicely on my answer above–the goal of my blog is to practice hopeful patience myself, and, as much as I can, inspire others to wait hopefully in whatever struggle they find themselves in.

What’s your Favorite Thing about Blogging? Least Favorite?

I really love having an avenue to publish my writing and to share some of my ideas and encouragement with others. It gives me a concrete way to make writing part of my life. That’s important to me because I have always seen myself as a writer, but for many years I didn’t have any tangible way that I was acting out being a writer. The only negative part of blogging I can really think of is when I fall into wishing I had a wider audience.

You’re a member of Blogtown, a social blogging collaborative. How is blogging social for you?

Unlike other writing I might do that is more for myself, blogging is specifically a way to share what I’ve been pondering with others. I really like socializing through writing because it allows time to think carefully about what I want to say. I’m much more comfortable with writing than, for example, talking on the phone. It also means a lot to me to interact with people in meaningful ways online because most of my life is spent at home, and I don’t have a lot of opportunities to socialize in person (most of my in-person socializing is crammed in after church on Sundays).

Tell us 3 things we’d know about you if we’d grown up with you.

A. I was planning to become an author since before I can remember.

B. Vermont was my favorite place to visit during summers as a kid.

C. In early high school, I dreamed of attending Oxford University, studying the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and becoming a professor.

Thank you, Michelle!

You can connect with Michelle at Hopeful Patience. See you in #Blogtown!

#MakersMonday: An Interview with Daniel

Today’s guest on #MakersMonday practices the fascinating and ancient art of wood carving. Daniel designs and creates in his shop, Candelar, in the north of England, and we connected during an artisan’s event sponsored by the Ancient Faith Store. As always, I’m asking 5 questions. Here’s how Daniel responded.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORK.WHAT DO YOU CREATE?

I am Daniel Mihailescu, an Orthodox Romanian artisan living in the UK, where, by God’s mercy and providence, I own a small workshop specialised in the design and manufacture of liturgical objects.

HOW DID YOU LEARN TO DO THIS KIND OF WORK?

By trade I am a naval design engineer, and so I was blessed to have the design skills needed for the production of crosses, icons, vigil lamps, and other such wood-carved products.

WHAT DO YOU FIND SATISFYING ABOUT BEING A “MAKER”?

Having the freedom to work from home or in my workshop, in my own time, surrounded by beautiful people, all artisans in wood carving, pottery, music or painting, makes me happy, peaceful, and I love being a ‘maker’.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY ASSOCIATED WITH PRACTICING YOUR CRAFT?

My favourite memory is about Father Paul from Australia. On many occasions we add a thank-you item in the order shipment, and I remember thinking that Father Paul would definitely like one of our blessing crosses. As it happened, a few days after shipping the parcel to Australia, Father Paul emailed us saying that he would like to order a blessing cross!

SHARE A PHOTO OF A FAVORITE PIECE, AND TELL US THE STORY THAT GOES WITH IT.

“Have faith and wholeheartedly trust God Who will never abandon those who Love Him”—these words belong to Saint Cuthbert, “the wonderworker of the English land”, who was born in Northumbria around 634.

Saint Cuthbert possessed a rare spirit of endless love of God, of people and of every single creature of God. He had kindness, great compassion and zeal in preaching the Gospel; for his humility and loving heart, the Lord bestowed on Cuthbert the gifts of prayer, miracles, prophecy, and clairvoyance.

Father Justin from the “Orthodox Church of Saint Cuthbert and Saint Bede” in Durham suggested a beautiful oak blessing cross to honour Saint Cuthbert and we are grateful to God for the result.

Thank you, Daniel!

You can connect with Daniel and see his beautiful work at Candelar.co.uk.

#BlogtownTuesday: Interview with On Faith and Life

Today’s interview with Charla at On Faith and Life is extra fun for me because Charla started blogging BECAUSE of #bloginstead! We met in a book review group I administer for work, and now she’s got a great place to publish those reviews. As I do every week, I’m asking 5 questions. Here’s how Charla responds.

How did your Blog Get Its Name?

I started this blog on a whim, and I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself into writing on one specific subject—so I named it in the most general way possible. I’ll be writing a lot about my conversion to Orthodoxy, but I hope to do so in a way that connects with people of all faiths; and I’ll also be writing about life—being a mom, daughter, wife, and beyond.

What would you say is the defining characteristic of your blog?

I’m just starting out as a blogger so I’m not really sure yet where this is going. It’s pretty exciting to have such an uninhibited space in which to write. Basically, I can write about anything I want, any time I want, and I think that’s pretty amazing!

I really like the idea of having a conversational-style blog where I can write and share things that are relevant to my Orthodox Christian faith. I want to be able to connect with others without limiting it too narrowly—for example, I’m a mom and a homemaker, but I don’t want to connect only with other moms and homemakers. I want the conversation to be Deep and Wide {old Southern Baptist hymn reference there!}.

You’re not likely to find deep theological discussion here—I will not be hosting a book club discussion on the Philokalia—but you are likely to find everyday theology, and things such as book reviews, as well as links to articles and resources that have resounded with me. And maybe a recipe here and there. And perhaps some discussion on liturgical living. Stay tuned.

What’s your favorite thing about blogging? Least favorite?

So far I love the actual writing and I love connecting with other bloggers, but I’m already starting to feel the pressure to post on a regular schedule, develop a format, etc. (To be fair, this is internal pressure.) I feel like there is a huge push to market in the blogging world, and that’s just not on my list of priorities right now.

You’re a member of #Blogtown, a social blogging collaborative. How is blogging social for you?

I simply love being able to connect with other bloggers. I’ll be honest—it’s especially wonderful for me to connect with other Orthodox Christians, because sometimes our “world” can seem pretty small. Coming from the Protestant world, where everything these days is very connected and virtual—and there are just so.many.options—it’s nice to be able to build a network of like-minded thinkers, writers, dreamers. But like I mentioned above, I want to be able to connect widely, also—as a convert I think it’s a wonderful challenge to present the Orthodox faith and life in a way that’s accessible to others.

Tell us 3 things we’d know if we’d grown up with you

  1. The first thing I ever drove was a tractor.
  2. When I was 10 years old, I won the blue ribbon at the state fair in the cake decorating category.
  3. I grew up in a 100+ year old Southern Baptist church where my grandparents and great-grandparents were members. Many of my family still attend that church.

Thank you, Charla!

You can connect with Charla at On Faith and Life. See you in #Blogtown!

#MakersMonday: An Interview with Amber

My spirit animal is something that flies around the forest, telling all the other animals good news. It’s one of my favorite things in life – having good news and the opportunity to share it. The #BlogtownTuesday mini-interviews I’m sharing introduce people I connect with in my social blogging experiment. Today, I’m starting a second series, #MakersMonday, introducing creative people making lovely and interesting things. My first guest is Amber, at Streams in the South. I’ll ask my #MakersMonday guests 5 questions. Here’s how Amber responded.

Tell us about your work.What do you create?

I can make all sorts of things, but I have chosen to focus on machine embroidery for Streams in the South. Machine embroidery is a quick way to customize an existing object or make a new one. It enables me to support both Orthodox embroidery designers and folks who sew, which helps the creative community.

How did you learn to do this kind of work?

In 2012 I created a blog called 50 First Crafts. I started the year with woodworking and tried so many different craft techniques. I met local makers and tried things I had never even heard of before. I loved it. I took a class on machine embroidery that year at a local maker space, then a friend gifted me her unused embroidery machine and the rest is history.

What do you find satisfying about being a “maker”?

I love making things. If I could I would make everything that I use on a daily basis. The most satisfying thing about being a maker is knowing that my items are of use to people. I still use some of the things I made for the blog, and I hope they last long into the future.

What’s your favorite memory associated with practicing your craft?

My favorite memory of crafting in general is when I was a child my mom would sit in our big rocking chair and crochet blankets while I learned alongside her. With the embroidery machine it is the time that I brought it to our parish craft fair and let the children choose what designs and colors to embroider on the items I was making for sale. I hope it inspired them to try making some of the things they use in their own homes.

Share a photo of a favorite piece, and tell us the story that goes with it.

My photo (below) is the back of a Pascha basket cover that I made last year. The linen is from a set of vintage napkins that I found at a thrift store. They are gorgeous and soft. The design is by a Russian woman who has the most beautiful and elegant historical reproduction embroidery designs for sale. I wish I could make everything she releases! The photo shows the back because I was in awe of the detail she put into her design. The back is possibly more beautiful than the front. The whole piece ends up looking and feeling like an heirloom even as I am working on it. I like to imagine it being handed down from a grandmother to her grandchildren and all of the Pascha memories it may one day hold.

Facebook is a stalker boyfriend.

Don’t laugh!

OK, laugh a little. I love laughing!

But this metaphor actually works. Read on. I’ll show you!

The metaphor popped into my head in the car, as I was moseying along between the grocery store and the mall. It sprouted from a conversation with a fellow blogger this week about what kind of reach you get for different kinds of Facebook posts. Reach is strongly effected by post type. You can read about it in many places – here’s Buffer’s take.

To summarize, value on Facebook, as in all social media, is determined by reach, and the type of post you create will directly impact its reach. Live video is the sparkly platinum, top-tier post type on Facebook. Video uploaded directly to Facebook, but not created live on Facebook, is a close second. Posts with images come next, significantly below video, and the lowest form of post, with reach often not discernible to the naked eye, is a post sharing a link to content on another site.

What about text-only posts? (Text only? Is that even a thing anymore?) If I were guessing, they’d fall just above posts sharing a link. Nothing is below a post sharing a link.

Having read the above, you will now easily follow my metaphor. Facebook is a stalker boyfriend.

Stalker boyfriends, also known as the possessive type, creepers, and abusers, love one thing more than any other. They love control. They don’t want you talking to anyone else. They don’t want you spending time with anyone else. They don’t want you thinking or feeling anything outside their control.

Yikes. Yikes!

So what does stalker Facebook like best? Facebook live! That’s right! It’s created on Facebook, by Facebook, for Facebook. It’s you devoting your whole attention to Facebook. Stalker algorithm will reward that behavior all. day. long.

Video posts that aren’t live, and picture posts, are the next best thing. Not really best….I mean, if you can’t do live video, an image post will do. True, it wasn’t created BY Facebook, but it is posted on Facebook, and nobody can see it without Facebook. You neeeeed Facebook for these posts. Facebook will half-heartedly ensure those posts get a response, so you’ll keep making more of them. On Facebook. For Facebook. So that maybe you’ll get excited. And make a video.

What about that lowest form of post? A post sharing a link? You can probably guess what’s wrong with that. A link post is designed to take the reader AWAY FROM FACEBOOK!

No.

We obviously can’t have that.

So, stalker Facebook will prove to you that you should have stayed with stalker Facebook. Go ahead and post your link post. No one will see it. Facebook will make sure of that. You’ll have to stay with Facebook. You should make a meme, or post a video. Your reach will go back up. Seriously. It will be better this time. Just come back. Maybe you’d like to make a live video?

Yikes.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

In seventh grade, my English teacher required the class to memorize Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.

Decades later, I still remember it.

What makes certain words last forever in my mind? Why do others, apparently more important, vanish minutes after they arrive?

When someone you love experiences Alzheimer’s disease, you ponder memory as you watch it disappear. It’s like an onion, many layered, and one by one the layers peel away. The first layers are at the core, and they last the longest. Our oldest memories, made when our brains and lives were fresh, remain with us when later life has disintegrated.

There are medical reasons for this, and I have read about them, a little. But I am not a scientist. I am a writer, always looking for the poetry of things. Everything is symbol, and symbol glimpses truth. I think we gaze into the heart of things in these glimpses. We can’t take in the entirety, so we must content ourselves with musing and pattern-seeking, waiting for the eventual gleam of light or the bright burst of insight.

Sonnet 18 remains with me because my brain was young when I encountered it. But that can’t be the only reason. What else did I learn in school that year? Ten months of curriculum framed that sonnet, and much of it is lost to me, or blurred, and if I remember it at all, I do so only when present-day context reminds me that I once knew something about it.

Love strengthens memory, I think. I love beauty. Real beauty. Deep, bright, lasting, shining things. I love words. I love them so much. I was seeking after beauty, even in seventh grade, and Sonnet 18 is beautiful. Lyrical, spiritual. Layered.

A friend of my sister’s sketched her in profile that year, or the year after. It was a good sketch. Her friend was talented. Finishing the sketch, across the top she wrote, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” in light, graceful script.

Someone (it may have been me) in the class began work on a parody of the sonnet. “Shall I compare thee to an Oldsmobile? Thou art more shiny, and more round of wheel.” I’m not sure this effort went any further. Fortunately.

Memory is part of the sonnet’s beauty now. I am not young now, and I am not old. I’m journeying through the years between those places, and I have shaken off much of the chaff in my inner world. I know what’s precious to me, then and now and some day, and I like to take it out and polish it. I like to say the words and hear them again, with their old associations and current perceptions.

I can still say this sonnet from memory. I will type it for you here.

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

and summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,

and often is his gold complexion dimmed.

And every fair from fair sometimes declines,

By chance or Nature’s changing course untrimmed.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

nor lose possession of that fair thou ownest.

Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade

when in eternal lines to time thou growest.

So long as men can breathe and eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Now I’ll look it up and measure my memory against the original. Here it is.

Sonnet 18 in the 1609 Quarto of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
By William Shakespearehttp://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/by2g21, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

It’s still mine. Punctuation and capital letters have faded here and there, but the Sonnet remains with me, as it promises to do.

#BlogtownTuesday: Interview with Metanoia Bum

It’s #BlogtownTuesday – time to meet another member of our community. Today we’re visiting Nic at Thoughts of a Metanoia Bum. As I do each week, I’m asking 5 questions. Here’s how he answers!

How did your blog gets its name?

In college, one of my favorite books was Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, which was largely about Kerouac and his friend, poet Gary Snyder, wandering in the mountains and exploring Buddhism, amongst other things. I loved the book for a long time, but when I became Orthodox, I joked that the Orthodox version would be a “metanoia bum”- metanoia being the Greek word for “change of heart.” I’ve used the phrase ever since as a social media username, and it seemed appropriate when I started this blog in 2017. 

What would you say is the defining characteristic of your blog?

I would say that a characteristic feature of my blog is that it contains a strong sense of observational wonder about the world around me. Things often happen out of nowhere, and I write about them to highlight the glory and joy of how we are truly connected as children of God.  I’d also say that a willingness to be open about struggle, emotions and conflicts – largely with myself! – is also a standard part of the experience. The blogs are for the world around me, but also, in some cases, essays to myself. 

What’s your favorite thing about blogging? Least favorite?

I love two things: (1) being able to help people through sharing my own experiences; and (2) the challenge of trying to say something really meaningful within a short format; it has challenged me to think about how I communicate ideas to the world. The thing I dislike is when I have an idea, and it gets stuck. Not being able to get it onto paper, and then often realizing that it may not be ready for the world, is hard. But it’s also helpful.

You’re a member of Blogtown, a social blogging collaborative. How is blogging social for you?

I have built a really strong community because of blogging, not only virtual, but also in-person. Things I have written become centers of conversation in my own home community, and virtual connections have become in-person physical friendships that are real and tangible. It’s fun to see who likes things, who comments, who shares, and how those shares reach other people outside of my own world. My most-read piece, “Guys, You Don’t Have to Be a Priest,” made it outside of the Orthodox world, and was read by Catholic, Anglican, and many other denominations. That impact allows me to feel connected to the bigger world. 

Tell us 3 things we’d know about you if we’d grown up with you.

My notebooks are full of cars, imaginary cities, and maps. That is still the case.

I started college with the idea of being a physician or a physical therapist. 

I was a tech theatre and classics geek in high school, and once got a 1st place award nationwide for one of my projects!

Thank you, Nic!

You can connect with Nic at Thoughts of a Metanoia Bum. See you in #Blogtown!

Bloginstead

Who Has Known Heights

This poem has lingered in the reaches of my consciousness for decades. I don’t recall where I first read it, only that I shared it with my Dad, who understood the feeling it conveyed.

Who Has Known Heights

Who has known heights and depths shall not again
Know peace – not as the calm heart knows
Low, ivied walls; a garden close;
An though he tread the humble ways of men
He shall not speak the common tongue again.

Who has known heights shall bear forevermore
An incommunicable thing
That hurts his heart, as if a wing
Beat at the portal, challenging;
And yet – lured by the gleam his vision wore –
Who once has trodden stars seeks peace no more.

Mary Brent Whiteside

I remember how strongly I felt, reading this poem, how well it expressed my experience then. But now that I’ve found it and read it again, after these decades of life have washed over me, I can see that it is no longer all of my experience.

I do seek peace now.

The heights and depths are there, but they exist more in my inward thoughts. I have learned to guard them, and I have learned that sometimes weariness trumps artistic exuberance.

The memory of those heights tinges my quest for peace with guilt sometimes, and I believe that’s good. I don’t want to be a seeker of peace at any price. I want only to maintain the balance I hadn’t yet discovered in those urgent younger days.

Whether I will or no, I exist within limits. I reread books I’ve read dozens of times. I decide not to watch a film I know will make me cry. I accept the spiritual poetry of scrubbing dirty dishes in warm water in a home of my own.

I choose my quests more cautiously, remembering that final victory may elude me or, more likely, appear in ways and times that can’t be prophesied.