Tag Archives: Religion

Snow Memories

By Mary

Just as the meteorologists predicted, the world is covered in the first coat of snow here in Southwestern Wisconsin. Snow is not an element that I welcome with peace. However, I have been musing of favorite snow memories. In the past I have had my share of good times in the flakes: Slating, sledding, the traditional first snowfall ride that I would take on my horse, building forts and jumps, and of course making snow angels. No childhood snow memories are as dear to me as a later favorite snow memory though.

This memory takes me back to Raminika.

Raminika is a poor military village far, far away in a mountainous region of Russia dotted by the shrubbery of trees and little dachas on steep hillsides. When I spent the winter in Russia, there were times when I would make the 4 hour round trip from the city of Vladivostok to the little village of Raminika. I would go with a most  joyful group of Catholic sisters that had originally come over from Spain. The trip would be a vernacular collage of Russian, Spanish, and English. The only background noise that could be understood by all passengers was the emotional booming opera music that the sisters were especially found of playing while navigating the twisting roads on those longs trips into the countryside. The operatic ensemble was a deserved relief to the sisters, some of whom would make the trip up to 5 days a weekly. A children’s center had recently been opened by the order for children to have a safe place to play. In addition to making the trips to the village, the sisters also taught at the University in the city and maintained a very detailed prayer life.

While I viewed these incredible ladies with utmost admiration, it was perfectly evident to me that the children at the center did too. On the days that I rode along, when we would arrive at the little rented building, a flock of children would greet us. Entering into the cramped space, the charismatic Sisters would be right in the midst of the excitement, chasing balls and dancing with the children.  Every child there would get to drink heavily sugared tea from a plastic cup and have a large chunk of donated bread as an early afternoon meal before playing more games and heading home before dark.

I can still remember the taste of the bread, the sweetness of the tea, the hours and hours of volleyball that I would play with the kids, and the painful Russian lessons that a gaggle of school-aged children would capture me to partake in!

One Saturday, a young woman from the University in the city made the trip with the Spanish Sisters, and just before dark she asked the golden question in the golden language (English!) ” would I like to take a walk with her?”

This walk turned into my favorite snow memory ever. The stillness and crispness of the cold after such a long day in the midst of the close quartered commotion greeted me with a special refreshing lure. My breath floating like a white sheet of fog into the cold air calmed me as we set off to view the fallen ruins of an old military officers club at the edge of the village.

After some time of walking, a little girl who looked to be about seven or so and who had been one of my former volleyball buddies throughout the day, ran up from behind us and linked her little arm in mine. How I enjoyed our unspoken friendship on the remote walk in the crisp snow. After some time, we came to a shack with straw spread in front and a rusty clothesline spread with the hanging of frozen laundry.

My new friend waved goodbye to me. I hugged her and watched as her blue coated back darted into the little house. And just for a second everything seemed beautiful.

Even snow.

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A Flying Farewell to Summer

by Kate

This morning the sky is dark. Thunder has been rolling through for hours now. The late lone sunflower that finally bloomed in my front yard is bowed down under the weight of the lashing rain and the tangled garden behind the house has succombed to complete chaos. School is in session, which means that summer is over here in our household. I am reluctantly leaving behind midnight on my back porch buried deep in the pages of a book, and instead greeting the day- and my teacher husband- before the sun rises with strong coffee, sizzling bacon, toast and eggs and cheese.

On this dark and rainy morning I am thinking about the end of this summer, which was a beautiful one. Thinking about this moment in the green Colorado River a few weeks ago in Texas.

This picture was taken by the amazing Julie Martyn. Julie is an incredible photographer who  lives a life of high adventure in Alaska with her husband and baby boy. They all happened to be in Texas at the same time as we did this summer, and we met on a blazing Sunday afternoon for an afternoon of swimming and Chinese food.

What I love about this picture is the joyful freedom and complete trust I can see on the face of my daughter as she flies through the air from my hands to those of my husband. I hope that I can learn to fly like that, from one season to the next, in faith that strong hands are there to hold me and that the next season will be as joyful as the last.

 

 

Red Dirt Wedding Part One

by Kate

When we arrived in Oklahoma great gusts of wind were chasing billowing clouds across the sky. Nicole had feared a tornado would snatch her wedding away, but the sky was blue and the sun shining brightly. We had flown into Dallas and had a long hot drive ahead of us. Just after crossing the Oklahoma border we overtook Cale chugging up a hill with the old 4runner packed full of siblings.

That vehicle is a trooper. I crossed the eastern continental divide hundreds of times when I owned it, spun gravel up a dirt road leading to my mountain cabin every day and night. I’m glad he has taken it on. That is a southern vehicle at heart and never took to the cold harsh salty Pittsburgh winters. But I digress. Right now, I bet you are thinking that the only vehicle that you’d like to see is the famous Amish Special, the old 15 passenger van.

Yes, that’s it. Grandma’s right there in the front seat. Who could drive this beast over hill and dale, you ask? Why, my Uncle Roger. Who appears to have been taking sartorial tips from his Amish brethren, particularly regarding hats, glasses, and facial hair.

I will admit here that I rode the van back to the motel from the reception, and I found it to be an unexpectedly peaceful experience. There was a faint sweet scent of alfalfa, a deeper tone that may have at one time been a hint of a cow pie. A hushed silence. All in all it reminded me of a dairy barn early in the morning. Not a bad place to be at all. However, back to the beginning!

We arrived in time for the dress rehearsal. This gave us a chance to check out the church, which was modern but perhaps my favorite modern church architecture in a long time. There was a great foyer with high light arched beams.

And a dynamic statue just asking to be imitated by 95 percent of my siblings.

Pretty stained glass.

A lot of great art, but perhaps the most unique was a full size blackened crucifix. It turns out that the old church burned down, but the crucifix, though charred, remained. It was striking and beautiful.

The night ended with Rob’s white truck heading off into the twilight full of siblings and cousins. It was a beautiful thing.

At this point you may be wondering if there are pictures of the bride and groom featured in this series. Rest assured that there are many glorious pictures to come. Stay tuned for the rest of the series- the wedding! The roses! The Dress and all the dresses and the Jim Beam bottle in the barn at the dance.  Y’all come back soon.

German Churches, Bicycles, and an Easter Baby

by Kate

I have always loved Holy Week. The drama, the pageantry, the depth and richness, the sheer endurance needed to make it through the services which have in my experience ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Growing up and attending the beautiful red brick German St. Peter’s parish across the road from our ridgetop farm, I loved the fact that the appropriateness of the thin, reedy, dirge-like and dragging rendition of “Were You There.” In my 20’s I moved to far flung places and joined church choirs that burst forth in polyphonic brilliance with the Hallelujah chorus at the end of the Vigil service, but there is a special place in my heart for the brave, tiny rural choirs directed by women like my mother and my grandmother, fiercely determined to create passion and drama and beauty and bring to life the rich musical tradition of the church with a rag tag band of eye rolling teens, a couple gruff farmers, quavery sopranos, and a startlingly robust alto or two.

Last year though I wasn’t anywhere near a country choir, but here in the city attending services at our local neighborhood church. Like the church of my childhood, St. Augustine’s is a German built parish, red brick and soaring towards the heavens but on a much grander city sized scale. Here is St. Augustine himself.

St. Augustine’s is a very handsome church, with light streaming through  beautiful stained glass windows.

My favorite, the one which most often captures my gaze and imagination, is St. George with his white steed, glowing with light and color.

During Holy Week last year though, my imagination was not so much captured by St. George as by the fact that I was due to have a baby at any moment. I thought perhaps I would be exempted from my Holy Week duties, but it was not to be. That baby was completely content to stay curled up right where she was. She was determined to experience the whole of Holy Week and the Easter celebration from her warm quiet and cocooned interior cushioned position.

Good Friday last year was warm and sunny, and after I walked home from church with Casey we pulled out the vintage bicycles inherited from my grandparents and older than either of us. Somehow we had never managed to use them until this day, but the sun was shining and it was one of our last days sans infant, so we thought we would set off to explore. Sadly there is no photographic documentation of this event. You will simply have to use your imagination to picture a six foot tall full term pregnant woman with a sun hat on and a long lanky six five husband weaving through the city on vintage early 70’s bicycles. It was a glorious adventure that led through back alleys barely covering hundred year old cobblestones, along the river, through the downtown, out to Point State Park, and back to Lawrenceville. The rugged terrain didn’t faze the happy baby however. She waited till after we had attended Easter morning mass to arrive.

Now I have an Easter baby, which adds another level of joy to Holy Week. This year though she is an Easter toddler, which means that soon I will corral her and cart her off to Good Friday services. I am fairly certain that joy will not be the only emotion I experience. Wish me luck.