The entire day has been sunny, with almost no wind and the air feeling rather crisp. In fact, it was a perfect day to take out my bedding—blankets and pillows—to hang in the chilly air where they could be aired out the old way without using a dryer. After a few hours outside, the bedding smells fragrant and reminds me of my youth when this was often done. We served Compline with the reading of the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, a service so touching that it can readily bring tears to one’s eyes. Today, known as “Clean Monday” began our journey through Great Lent as we set out with some trepidation, but as the days go by, we become more sure of our lenten path that will being us to Holy Pascha.
A light covering of snow on the ground did not alarm us, but the strong wind did. There was the possibility of losing our electricity but we carried on and, glory to God, all went well. There were fewer people than usual for the Forgiveness Sunday service, no doubt due to the heavy snowfall closer to Vancouver. They naturally would have assumed that we had twice the amount of snow, which did not occur. Never the less, the act of asking for forgiveness and forgiving one another was deeply felt by everyone. Let us pray this this cleansing spirit will remain with us for a long time. Vladika Lazar was taken to the Royal Columbian Hospital for his pending operation. Please pray for his healing and well being.
We were up at four o’clock in the morning to allow Vladika Lazar time to get ready for a trip to Vancouver for another scan. We are fortunate to have had Thomas drive him there. Meanwhile, Father Thomas arrived with others to begin the Hours in preparation for the Georgian Liturgy. Bishop Sabba arrived soon after and I was ready to greet him with the ringing of bells, but unfortunately I did not see the car drive up, so I was rather late with the greeting of the bells. Although the service was in old Georgian, I was taken by the piety of the people who were worshipping in the old church or, as it is being called, the “Georgian” church. After the prayers of thanksgiving were read, we descended to the main hall where a huge Georgian meal was awaiting us. Their cuisine has always been noted for its variety and for being delicious. After a some words by Bishop Sabba, people were free to speak with him or to just circulate and enjoy each other’s company. The visitors soon had to leave to fly back to Toronto, leaving the Georgian community thrilled with today’s event.
Daily tasks took up much of the day until early evening when our Georgian visitors arrived. Bishop Sabba, the Georgian bishop from Philadelphia, accompanied by Father Thomas of Toronto, arrived at Vancouver Airport and a delegation that met them brought them to the monastery. Someone was thoughtful enough to start a fire in the wood burning stove in the hall and, by the time the guests arrived, we could open the doors of the stove and enjoy the warmth. I could not believe the food that the women prepared and set out on the tables. There was scarcely enough room for all the dishes. It was amusing to discover that they did not realize that today, although a Friday, everything could be served in the way of dairy products, not that it mattered, for, as everyone knows, Georgian food is always delicious. Tomorrow morning they will serve a Divine Liturgy in the old or, as it is now being called, the “Georgian” church.
I served alone for the feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple and I found it quite difficult, as I could not use my canes or walker. Still, by the intercession of Saint Simeon, I managed to complete the service. As no food was prepared for a meal, Elena quickly whipped up a delightful meal. Vlad had filmed the entire service, then he wanted to film an interview which we did in the old church. I felt that it was successful. Later we had visitors from Saskatchewan who brought us jars of jelly that one can find only in the Canadian Prairies—chokecherry, Saskatoon, and high bush cranberry jellies. We shall have to be careful and not use them up quickly, as there is nowhere to find more here.
When I ventured out to see how much snow had fallen overnight, the sight was remarkable. A light blanket of snow turned the landscape into a work of art, and the sky was overcast all day with clouds hanging low, adding another layer of silvery beauty. Much of the snow melted throughout the day and, when we began Great Vespers on this, the eve of the Meeting of the Lord, it was extremely cold in the church. We did not bother to turn on any heat and thus we spent the entire service in a frigid church, but with much fervour in our hearts. As it often happens, I get carried away with measurements, and instead of baking a small prosphora for tomorrow’s Liturgy, this one was large enough to serve several dozen communicants.
Another sunny day—how fortunate can we be? It does not make any difference if we have more snow storms because spring is not just ‘in the air’ as people say, but it is evident with plants coming back to life, and the air filled with Mother Earth’s welcoming fragrance. We had forgotten that today is British Columbia Family Day, a public holiday, so that many were able to enjoy a long weekend away from home. I must say that living here, every day is a holiday and we must not forget that. Stavroula has been so patient with us. She began by helping Vladika Lazar, then me, then Yuri and now Thomas. Only Father Moses has not yet fallen into line. Perhaps it is also difficult at times to work with men, as they can be stubborn, uncooperative and unpredictable , often like preteen boys [but their hearts are full of love and gratitude!
Today’s service lasted more than four hours, beginning with full Matins, the Liturgy, prayers for travel, and a memorial for Michael who had reposed forty days ago. We were pleased to see our friends from Cranbrook whom we have not seen for some time. After an abundant Agape meal, people kept dropping in, many of them on their way to, or returning from, Harrison Hot Springs, a nearby resort. We were rather pleased to hear from a family from Vancouver Island wanting to baptize their son here at the monastery in the near future. Our planned singing practice did not take place, so we decided to have it next Sunday when those who are most interested will be present.
For the first time in three or four weeks we had a full day of sunshine and it felt good to be able to open the sliding glass door to let in fresh air, full of earthy fragrance. We had visitors from Donetsk, the area in Ukraine where has been taking place, and I was more than touched to hear from Granny that they pray for us each day in that troubled area. A kind person brought a new walker for Vladika Lazar that will suit him well, since it is taller than most others. This particular walker is the type that has a seat with a pouch, so that a person can walk with it, sit when necessary, and even carry various objects in the pouch.
I experienced a most interesting session with my chiropractor who examined me and said that my right leg was longer than the left one. Thereupon, he manipulated it and the hip, and I arose, feeling all the pain disappearing. Now I must relearn to walk, for I have been hobbling for so long, that it is difficult to walk normally. I do not wish to burden you with my health issues, but I thought you might find them interesting. I hope that there will be many people in church on Sunday, as the prosphora I baked is the largest one I have made in years. It has been cold with a bitter wind, yet I noticed some witch hazel bushes covered in yellow blossoms, another sigh of approaching spring.
It happened at last. We had a couple of hours of sunshine in the afternoon and, while driving, I was almost blinded by the sun, not having seen it for so long. We can tolerate much rain, but an hour or two of sun can re-energize us. We finished the skin creams and labels the jars, and now they can be sent out into the world. A second load of gravel made a great difference to my driveway and it now is a pleasure to drive on it. Moreover, gravel had been spread to the main building so that the days of slogging through mud should be over.
By mid afternoon, I felt energetic enough to prepare some skin cream. All the ingredients were on hand, and all I had to do was ask someone to bring down the large box with the containers for the cream, as it was sitting on top of a high cupboard. Stavroula happened to walk in and so she helped with the production. It really does not take much time before all the containers are filled and set aside to cool. Tomorrow the lids will be put on as well as the labels, and all will be completed. Vladika Lazar and Stavroula went for a drive in the afternoon, stopping at an organic cheese factory, where they bought an assortment of various cheeses.
I drove two different vehicles today [not at the same time, of course], a sedan and a Jeep, and each one had its own virtues. It is reassuring to know that I can still drive comfortably at my age. Michael, a retired forensic coroner, came to fill the potholes on our monastery road, pushing a wheelbarrow full of gravel and enjoying this task. Thanks to the two huge pots of borshch [not borsht!!!] that Tatiana made for us the other day, we had enough left to warm up for supper. We added a garlic preparation to it, for Father Moses, Jon and Thomas had peeled a large bag of garlic yesterday, then put it through the blender with some water and salt. This preparation, which we borrowed from the Romanians, will last for many weeks if left in the refrigerator.
This morning a I had an appointment with Doctor Tadrous, who is a Copt from Egypt, whom I have been visiting for many years, The first visit is simple with a battery of tests, while the second one, to take place next month, he undertakes himself in his usual kind manner and has almost always given a good report. Thomas informed me that two garbage bags were left outside and one of Andy’s dogs tore it open, so the mess had to be cleaned up. Aside from this small piece of information, there is not much else that I can say.
did not sleep well last night so I allowed myself to come toward the end of Matins, knowing that Father Alexey and the readers would do well without me. We also had a large influx of Georgians who went to the old church immediately after the Liturgy to read an Akathist and prayers in Georgian. They are certainly looking forward to the visit of Father Thomas and Bishop Sabba of the Georgian Orthodox Church who should be arriving at the end of next week. With the aid of a walker, Vladika Lazar walked from the cottage to the main building for the Agape meal and he also gave a Meleti. An hour or so before sunset, the sun appeared and shone brilliantly, with the green grass radiating health and energy.
We had a discussion whether the overcast sky was greyish or silvery, with the latter term sounding more attractive. Some men came to help remove the broken limbs and branches, and they will bring a chain saw the next time they come. Others spread a thick layer of gravel and even made a wide path from the cottage to the main building—no more sloshing through mud. Others came to help indoors and outside, even some whom we have not seen for years. Our Jeep has been repaired and is now in its place, waiting for the next time that it will be used.
Stavroula and Vladika Lazar drove to Mission and later to Abbotsford where they were locked out of their vehicle. This happens to most of us at one time or another, but it can be frustrating while we wait for help to arrive. I picked up Galina at the train stop, as she was coming to give Vladika a massage treatment for his back and shoulder. Now that the old monastery telephone number is once again in operation, the number of calls has increased unbelievably. There have been moments when all three phones [each with its own number] have been busy at the same time. You can imagine the confusion it can cause when information has to be passed on to all three callers.
Is it possible that one twelfth of this year has already gone by? Obviously it has and the rest will pass just as quickly. Now that my computer is located here in my cottage, I can use it whenever it is necessary without having to walk in the dark to the main building and sometimes almost freezing in the study room where the computer has been all these years. Last night, for example, I had a cup of dandelion root tea while typing the dairy entry, a most pleasant idea. For much of the day we could hearing a grinding sound coming from the yard of our neighbours who are some distance away. We found out that the broken limbs of their fruit trees that line the driveway were being ground, or chipped, thus creating splendid mulch. Perhaps we could do the same. Last Sunday some women asked if the ashes from the stove in the hall could be saved to be used in gardening this spring and summer.
We did not see the red or, as it was also called, blue moon, for it was dark and cloudy early in the morning, yet many say that they felt its influence. When I asked them if it was a positive or negative influence, they all chose the latter. But, let us be positive, for tomorrow is another day, and a new month, and may it be much better! At last our telephone problems have been partially resolved. The old number 604-826-9336 is now a cell phone that will be with Father Moses as soon as he can manage it. If he is anything like me, it will take some time. A woman called today and said that she had been trying for almost a month to get hold of us and could not. In the future we might get a different number for the land line. Gone are the days when we communicated by letter or telegram, and were content with that form of communication.
No doubt you have heard the expression “when it rains it pours” and that is exactly what happened today. For the last couple of days almost no one has come to see us, but today the sun appeared and a tidal wave overwhelmed us. For days and weeks we have been calling Shaw and Telus and each time there was some complication,so today they both appeared at the same time, one to repair our land line and the other to bring internet into the cottage. Each had three special trucks and vans when, all of a sudden the gravel truck appeared with a load of gravel to be dumped outside the cottage. As some of you know, there is little space for manouvering here, which caused some confusion. At the same time a number of people arrived bearing gifts—food, preserves, plates, cups, utensils for the Agape meals. The kids also showed up to set up the computers in the cottage which was a task in itself. It is evening now and all is calm. Svetlana telephoned from Volgograd and she sent her greetings to everyone, while Christian sent greetings from Germany and to inform us of his impending pilgrimage to Mount Athos.
What a surprise it was to receive a birthday cake for Vladika Lazar, even though the event is long past. However, quite by chance, Lija phoned and informed us that today is Thomas’ birthday, so this cake, mailed here from the United States, has served both birthdays, Thomas’ and Vladika’s. Davey drove us to New Westminster so that Vladika could have an appointment with his surgeon, so it has been rather a tiring day. Moreover, we bought a blood pressure testing kit and began experimenting with it. So far the results are satisfactory. Thomas has his own kit and I think that Father Moses will agree to such testing.
So many of these entries of the diary contain medical news and reports, so today I shall begin with telling you that, no matter how many snow storms we might get in the near future, spring really is around the corner. Our first primrose, a bright yellow one, showed us how brave it has been to survive the icy storms and to be ready for its spring presentation. Then, I noticed that the periwinkles are peeking out from beneath their green evergreen leaves and, lastly, the hellebores, also known as the Christmas Rose, are popping out in various places in the flower garden. They are such welcome signs, especially for us, as we think that anything hovering arounmd the freezing point is winter at its worst.
We had to find a proper electrician to restore power to the workshop and the automatic outdoor lights that allow me to see clearly whenever I walk back to my place in the dark. We also had to deal with the new cell phone for the main building, as the former company was trying to delay us from changing to another company. The difficulty we had with our computers was resolved by Edward who quickly put things aright. Stavroula has done well in guiding us onto the path of proper nourishment, because this past holiday season has had too much emphasis on sweets that are delicious but certainly not good for one’s health.
After Saturday night’s visit to the hospital, I felt somewhat weak this morning and I decided to go yo Matins later than usual, knowing that Father Alexey would be there for the beginning of the service. By way of interest, the Matins/Liturgy service lasts for four hours, although the readers are suggesting that we add another hour to Matins so that the entire service would last for five hours. There was a terrible storm in Vancouver and the surrounding area, but we were missed almost entirely, and I think that a few people did not venture out for fear of the storm. As it was, about 70,000 people were left without power. At the end of the Liturgy, we had a Cross Procession to the water, where a number of people descended the ladder and plunged into the cold water.
We have had some computer problems lately, so I am writing this day’s entry on Monday, which means that I have possibly forgotten what occurred on Saturday. This might not mean a loss of memory, just an overload of information to sort out! Vladika Lazar served a Slava for a Serbian family that has, as its family slava, the memory of Saint John the Baptist. Dragan had brought the kolach [beautifully decorated bread], wine and kolivo [boiled wheat] and, while Vladika served, I chanted. Dragan and his wife Katya, have been very close to us and we rejoiced on this important day for their family. During Vespers, I hurried to the Emergency Ward of the Mission Hospital, fearing that the pain I was experiencing was caused by an infection. Glory to God, there was no infection and I am still alive.