Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Indeterminate Hiatus

Maybe a few days. Maybe a few weeks.

I may log in Friday to change the Year of St. Paul logo to the Year of the Priest logo.

Other than that, I have no doubt the crickets will orchestrate things quite nicely in my absence.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fighting in the Mead Hall

"Hygelac's kinsman kept him helplessly
locked in a handgrip. As long as either lived,
he was hateful to the other. The monster's whole
body was in pain, a tremendous wound
appeared on his shoulder. Sinews split
and the bone-lappings burst. Beowulf was granted
the glory of winning; Grendel was driven
under the fen-banks, fatally hurt,
to his desolate lair. His days were numbered,
the end of his life was coming over him,
he knew it for certain; and one bloody clash
had fulfilled the dearest wish of the Danes."

From Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney

This is a classic example of what I love about Beowulf, of what is so prevalent throughout the poem. We go from a naked succession of details (Sinews split/and the bone-lappings burst) straight to a more intangible concept (Beowulf was granted/the glory of winning;) without the slightest disparity or incongruence: it is neither superfluous nor niggardly to suddenly introduce the outcome of the present situation. Then, I love how we get the horrid, shuddering feeling that Grendel must feel, knowing that the wound he has received is his death sentence (His days were numbered,/the end of his life was coming over him,/he knew it for certain;). And then to make it even more certain and solid, comes: "and one bloody clash/had fulfilled the dearest wish of the Danes." And the poem doesn't stop there, but continues throughout, here and there, to reiterate Grendel's death, the finality, the certainty of it - and it all goes into making Grendel that much more real of a monster.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Garden Sprawl Friday

Today I don't have time, as I have actual gardening that needs to get done. But here's some tid-bits (you can click on all photos to enlarge; I finally figured out how to work it):

This is where the pole beans are growing, which used to look like this. It's longer than it looks. Those miserable looking things between the beans are carrot thinnings from the other patch. Carrots and beans like each other. The carrots should pull through and start shooting new green.

The hardy kiwi has blossomed. I intend to do a post on kiwifruit next week.

The beets:

The pumpkins (for previous beets, pumpkins, and melon pics go to this post):

The cabbages are starting to scare me. Previous photo at this post. They seem to be balling up now, slowly.

Those Minnesota Midgets:

The walla wallas are doing good. Carrots in background:

The raspberries coming along (lots of them this year):

The moon is...

The moon is half steeped like an amber kerchief
in a silken breast-pocket; a lifting light
out of an ocean fathomless and black:
a late-blooming flower, up from the east
and over common rooftops. Moon of pregnancy
and moon of void; moon familiar and never more strange
as now and solitary, sudden and staring.

Outlier of the streetlamps, expectant exile
warmer and fuller above the empty
roadways, suburban streets suddenly home
to warm winds, unwitnessed in the dead of night.

The Desert Fathers

LIII. He [abbot Pastor] said again, "If there be three in one place, and one of them lives the life of holy quiet, and another is ill and gives thanks, and the third tends them with an honest heart, these three are alike, as if their work was one."

St. Michael icon - gold leaf

The icon, in two previous stages before the gold leaf, can be found here and here.

The border has yet to get its second layer of gold leaf. The rest is all down, and later will look smoother. Two layers of gold leaf altogether. The halo has been burnished; that's how it stands out.

Now, the first layer of gold leaf was laid down using some fish glue mixed with vodka as a binder. Some breathing also went into it. The second layer was done with a more diffuse mixture of the same (plus breathing), but could have been done simply with water and alcohol, which would have acted as a reconstitution of the previous glue underneath. Even the first layer could have been done as such (just water and alcohol and no glue), since there is either animal skin glue, rabbit skin glue, or fish glue in the red bole that was laid down before the gold leaf. Gold leaf is one atom thick. To say gold leaf is finicky is an understatement.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Brush Care

For years I have been using this brush cleaner that comes in a puck shaped container. The soap is hard and you twirl your wetted brush on the soap and it's very convenient. It also makes good as a brush shaper after your brush has been cleaned. I started using it after a person told me at the art supply store that using regular soap (I had been using bar hand soap) was hurtful over time to your brushes. So I started using this soap specially made for brush cleaning.

The other day I went to get some more at the supply store and found the price for the stuff was over nine dollars - just for one container, as pictured. I remember when it was below five. There's no way I'm going to pay that for a puck of soap.

I started looking at the other soaps, and came on this:

A little cheaper and a lot more of it.

Then I used it the same day to clean my brushes. It smells exactly like the soap from the washrooms of my elementary school days. I'm starting to wonder if I'm being snookered. Are these companies just packaging generic soap as "artist's brush cleaning" soaps, and selling it for ten times the price? There's lots of bar soaps and liquid soaps that are especially mild, without strong detergents. Why can't I use those to clean my brushes?

Why not regular liquid dish soap?

I think I will.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

EDM Challenge #131

(Click to enlarge)

For Owen's EDM Challenge #131: Draw a spray bottle.

I took my spray bottle and put it on a small canvas, the bottle on its side. I then spun the spray bottle and figured I would draw it from whatever position it stopped at - you know, to be spontaneous.

So I spun it a few more times before it stopped at the position I wanted.

I'm real spontaneous.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Desert Fathers

C. A certain brother asked the abbot Poemen, saying, "What am I to do, Father, for I am troubled by sadness?" The old man said to him, "Look to no man for aught, condemn no man, disparage no man: and God shall give thee rest."

World's Sexiest Beaches ("News" headline)

Question: how in bloody hades can a beach be sexy?

I'm disturbed by the possibility that there are people out in the world who, seeing a beautiful beach, a place of certain longings, refreshment, discovery and innocent curiosity, will thereupon say with all sincerity that it's sexy. [First frontiersmen, upon pushing aside the brooms of evergreen and peering out to a previously undiscovered expanse of crystal blue shattering on blinding shores, say with one accord: "That is so sexy".] Sexy? That is like thirty rungs below "neat".

Or would the headline be referring to beaches that are known for prominent immorality, like fornication?

If so, then how is other people having sex on a beach, or committing acts on a beach that lead up sex, or committing thoughts on a beach that lead to sex, sexy?

Knowing that this beach we are standing at the threshold of is home, right now, as we gaze, to other people fornicating or carousing in a manner that is the occasion to fornication? Yeah, real sexy that.

And herein lies the key to what's so disgusting about the mainstream secular culture's pop take on sex: it's public. Lose the secret sacredness (not pagan "sacredness", but the awe-inspiring sacredness that you know is from God), you lose the sexiness. The secular culture is demented and blind enough to take a wide public sort of vista, like a beach, and it's next automatic thought in line is "sex".

Friday, June 5, 2009

Garden Sprawl Friday

The yellow irises came first, then the blue-violet ones. I've always loved the clashing ranks of their green swords on a windy day.

For today's Garden Sprawl, this tale from The Desert Fathers may seem pertinent:

XXIII. There were two brethren, monks, that lived together in a cell, whose humility and patience were the praise of many, even among the Fathers. A certain saintly man, hearing of them, wished to prove if their humility was sincere and perfect: so he came to visit them. They welcomed him joyfully and when the wonted prayers and psalms were ended, he went out of doors and saw a little garden where they grew their vegetables. And he caught up a stick, and set to with all his might to beat and break down the herbs, till not one was left. The brothers saw him but said not a word, nor were their faces vexed or downcast. He came again into the cell, and when Vespers was said, they bowed before him, saying: "If you will suffer it, master, we shall go and cook and eat the cabbage that is left, because this is the time that we have our meal." Then the old man bowed before them, saying: "I thank my God, for that I see the Holy Ghost rest upon you: and I exhort and entreat you, brothers beloved, that ye keep to the end this virtue of holy humility and patience, for it shall be your greatness and glory in heaven in the sight of God."

I'm trying to imagine someone coming along with a stick and trashing all my cabbages - or lettuce,

or various others:

Those two monks were not quietistic phonies, that's for sure. That test was the real thing.

Here are my three lingonberry bushes:

The small one on the left is a wild one, as opposed to the two cultivars on the right. I have found lingonberry hard to come by. But I'm trying to get as many different ones as possible, and plant a good long curving row of them in the front in a raised bed faced with rock.

The lingonberry bush will spread out more by underground rhizomes, but it will only go so far, which is nice. It remains a small compact shrub that is evergreen, and it generally has very polished looking leaves, though the one on the far right (Koralle) has narrower, more lightly coloured leaves and less of a shine.

They put out clusters of tiny, white/pink hanging bell flowers. I've smelled the flowers on the ones I'm growing, and they have an elusive candy smell. I've read that lingonberry is self-fertile but produces far more berries when cross-pollinated with another cultivar. Hence my wanting to get many sorts of them. Pollination is by bees.

The lingonberry has a long tradition in various cultures, like with the natives of my province, but most familiarly in Scandinavian culture. It is like a cranberry but pea-size; but unlike the pucker-inducing, out-of-hand cranberry it has more sugar even than the blueberry, but equal acid as the cranberry. This means that the lingonberry is still tart, but far more edible out of hand, especially at peak ripeness. I understand it has a real wonderful tang.

Of course, it is one of those plants us northerners can gloat in that can't be grown very far south where it doesn't get cool often enough, and where the warmth is too consistently warm for it. But where I live, one can also grow these:

Fig trees. This one is a Desert King, the prime fig tree (of the select few that can be grown here) for southern B.C. I'm debating how I should grow it; as a multi-stemmed shrub or standard tree; in the ground, or in some kind of rock pot.

One can also, if one does it right and in the right climactic zones, grow kiwifruit. We have a very unique climate. Very good for berry-growing.

This is what I love about oak trees:

The old dead leaves still cling to the tree when the new leaves come out. There's something about it that I like.

As a bit of follow up to last Friday's post on herbs, here's some mountain mint, starting to flower:

Here's some Hyssop:


There's this house in the town where I live. An old couple lives in it, and every year they grow a lot of vegetables (and fruit by the looks of the trees) on their property.

This year I finally saw them when they were working the dirt. There was an old man doing what he could in a wheelchair; an old lady looking on, and another old man standing and wielding a hoe as though he was barely able to lift it. Yet they grow tons of stuff. I imagine their pantry must be loaded with canned goods from down the years.

Annually seeing their garden(s) grow is one of the few humble, pleasant sights to see in this town, which seems to be changing for the worse [Man shot dead in the bathroom of the strip bar a few weeks ago, across from which is now a tattoo/piercing studio, and down the street from them, one of those high end Harley bike shops. They're all one sub-culture.] - for the worse, of course, in tandem with the million dollar rejuvenation/upgrade/facelift of the main area that many generations ago was the hub for the entire province.

But back to my own garden. The temperature here has been steadily in the high 20's, pushing into mid 30's (that's celsius) without rain or cloud. Just last Saturday I planted my beans:

and pumpkins,

and the Thursday and Friday before that Saturday, I planted the beets:

I thought I wasn't going to bother with melons this year, but I was at a nursery waiting in line and some packets nearby caught my attention. They are Minnesota Midget, a muskmelon, or what we falsely call cantaloupe. I'm growing them in two large containers, as theses ones are not prone to spreading very far. The melons are small but tasty, and quick to mature; perfect for northen climates.

Gift and Given Over

There went the back and forth of horses in the rain
beside us. But legs and muzzle exhaust, they passed
as shades, whose hooves made of the ever-earth floor
a hollow drum, pacing behind the shifting firs.
Then one showed through an opening between the trees,
came out black and slick as the rained upon asphalt:

Still bystander at the wire fence and nettle,
shaking out its thunderous snorting breath
upon the field's limits and into our hearing,
before going back to the other horse
and the hidden vastness. But while it lingered,
looking without inquisition on our work,

a thousand other creatures' blithesome presences -
the frogs that pounce on silent blades, the spiders;
the worms elastically jigging beneath, and more -
woke like many raindrops, that all at gust once, upon
the trees, spatter, soak, breaking into down-way courses.
And then the presence of long-back, ever before:

one meanwhile moment that is ancient and assures
that not a soul will volley into self all self
without world-field's fence eating, edge enveloping,
dismissing our forensics of the world's trial
we bring forth to show, that are then deemed to be no worth;
always our way displaced with wayside proven larger;
no one exempt from being given gift and given over,
while each is born in the midst of a million births.