Ice Flowers

by Sr Nunother

I know a sister who prefers a day of dark clouds and sunsets dimmed by shadows. I confess I’m envious of her ability to see beauty where I experience unease. I find Cape Cod winters especially stark and its snowfalls just a step away from mud-mixed slush.  In late winter, I begin my search for hope. This year I found it in glittering ice flowers formed from snow, turned to sleet, turned to ice, in a rapid succession of Cape Cod temperature changes. God’s presence is in everywhere, in everything, when my faith door is open.

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Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

by Gourmet Nun

By now you have most likely planned your entire Thanksgiving dinner, but even if you have, I’d like to suggest a simple side dish you might want to consider adding to the meal, or taking with you if you’ve been invited to someone else’ s home for dinner. The idea occurred to me as I passed our rather empty gardens and spied several rows of leeks still standing strong and holding their own out in the cold.

Since the earliest days in the Community, it has been our custom to serve the traditional Cape Cod Thanksgiving meal, which always included creamed onions. Then, when our gardens began to produce beautiful leeks we started using them instead. Many people prefer leeks because of their milder and more subtle flavor, and now they have become a “must have” addition to our holiday menu.

If you have never been introduced to leeks cooked in this particular way, they might very well become a favorite with you once you give them a try.

Creamy Festive Leeks

1/4 cup  butter
4 cups chopped leeks (about 2 pounds)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sherry
Salt
 
Rinse leeks well, as soil can often be caught between leaves. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the leeks and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 30 minutes. Add the thyme, sage, white pepper, flour and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add sherry, and season with salt.

 
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Seasons


 
Seasons

 
The air has the first hints of that autumn crispness that comes with the change of season. People carry on as if they don’t notice; visitors to the Cape set up on a piece of beach to eke out the last bit of vacation. But the change is there. Knowing Cape Cod, we’ll probably be blasted with one final heat wave just when we think fall has arrived to stay.
 
It’s amazing the subtle signs we learn to read that tell us change is coming. The gradual change in the morning light, just a bit darker at 6 a.m. now. The slow, almost imperceptible change of color in the green of the tree leaves and plants. The flourishing of garden vegetables planted in early summer.  And the sudden and refreshing change in temperature.
 
This is sometimes how God works with us as he changes us. We go through seasons and our “color” changes slightly or an inner garden suddenly flourishes. I had the chance to work on the Community grape vines this weekend and I couldn’t help but think about all this, as I chopped off stray vines that were sucking life away from the fruit. It was satisfying to clear away the pieces not needed to give the fruit a better chance as we look forward to the season for picking and stomping. Perhaps I could be a bit less protective when God tries to clear away my excess vines.  
 
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Firm Foundation

 
I drove out to Truro yesterday, about 40 minutes-plus with traffic the way it is now. I clean a house that is over 300 years old. It’s a beautiful spot on a hillside and the house is lovely with wide floor boards and antique furniture.  It seems like every time I go there’s a new little buckle in the floor or crack in the ceiling. But it’s amazing that after 300 years it still stands and nothing has actually fallen apart. The foundation is literally tree trunks and stumps – huge and sturdy. Everything creaks and shifts but there is a sense of stability that allows the creaks to be added charm rather than cause for concern. I’m sure someday it will need major work, but for now, it stands firm. 
 
There’s something to be said for building on a firm foundation. The creaks and cracks can be tended to without having to rebuild the whole house.
 
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Late Have I Loved You

by Artist Eye 

I was recently in the right place at the right time to see some Bog Coppers enjoying their brief season in the sun. Unlike their ubiquitous cousins, the American Coppers, these dark beauties only breed once and are usually only seen for a few weeks of the summer. Tiny transient out-pourings of God’s extravagance.

The fourth century writer known as Pseudo-Dionysius, referring to God as the Beautiful, wrote: “Beauty is the great creating cause which bestirs the world and holds all things in existence. . . .  [It] is the Cause toward which all things move, since it is the longing for beauty which brings them into existence.” 

The Coppers beat their wings gently as they dodge the light and shadows of the swampy vegetation surrounding their bog. Watching that frail beauty, I imagine that they are part of the whole creation groaning and longing for that New Day which Beauty will win.
 
 
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Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

by Gourmet Nun

On the Cape, with the tourist season, summer officially starts on Memorial Day. This year it has been rainy and cold — more than I ever remember. It is so wet that we have not been able to get into one garden to plant it, a record late date for this!! In spite of that, the strawberries are pouring in a tubful at a time, sometimes 2 tubfuls at a time in spite of the fact that they are sometimes literally under water.

On Fridays we do projects in the kitchen — jams, cookies, or prepping for retreats or events. It is a good-sized crew, and very faithful. Last week one of the sisters was celebrating a 60th birthday. I asked one of the sisters to put something together, so we had this wonderful spread of cheese dip, cheese ball, crispy tortilla strips and… strawberry bruschetta — surprisingly delicious! Another way to enjoy those juicy jewels from the garden (or grocery store!)
 

Happy 60th Birthday Strawberry Bruschetta

1 loaf baguette bread
2 – 3 Tablespoons butter, softened
about 4 ounces cream cheese
2 oranges, zested
1 pound strawberries, hulled, cut up
1 to 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste
1 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut baguette into 1/2 inch slices. Butter one side of each slice. Place on baking sheet, and bake 4 to 5 minutes until toasty and golden. Set aside. Combine strawberries with vinegar and sugar, let sit while preparing cream cheese mixture. Beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add zest and beat again to combine. Spread this onto baguette slices. Top each with strawberry mixture, and finish off with the chopped mint.

 
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Beech Forest

 
a path that wanders through the dunes
roots of old beech trees protrude
from hillsides. 
this little woods is a way station
to warblers on their spring migration north.
Today a way station to me.
 
As I walk along, I shed off the clamor of daily demands
and put on the lovely garment of solitude.
The air is filled with the varied vocabulary of birds;
painted turtles slowly crane their necks to see
who walks by. Proud geese parents let their 
goslings approach for a handout of seed;
a few ponds with Lilly pads reflect nearby trees and clouds.
 
Dear Lord, be my solitude
as I must leave this place;
like the tiny warbler let me fly quickly
and alight on your outstretched arm.
 
  

United by Faith

 
It’s pine pollen season on Cape Cod and my new best friend is a Swiffer. As I roam the convent, armed for duty, I think of Martha, the ultimate Biblical homemaker, and her sister Mary. There is, of course, the familiar story from Luke 10, where Jesus tells Martha to relax and commends Mary for choosing the better course of action. It’s easy for me to hear only the rebuke and overlook that Martha is strong and forthright (“tell Mary to help me!”) and comfortable to be herself in Jesus’ presence. Mary’s strength rests quietly in her gratitude and devotion.
 
John 11 recalls the death of their brother Lazarus. Martha emerges as a woman of faith, running to meet Jesus and proclaiming, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Then, practical as always, when Jesus wants the stone removed, she reminds him there could be an unpleasant odor. At a later time, in a loving act of impracticality Mary pours expensive perfume on Jesus feet and washes them with her hair.

One sister is bold and quick of action, the other reflective and spiritually sensitive.  Both are welcome and loved by God.

 
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Life of a Crab

 
A narrow strip of sand running along the edge of the marsh grasses. Here the tide comes and goes. The fiddler crabs have surfaced again after the winter and are busy scampering sideways over the sand; excavating their houses. As I walk along they feel the vibrations of my steps and flee into their holes, leaving just of the tip of a claw visible at the entrance. Looks like a no trespassing sign to me.
   
Fiddlers are such amazing creatures. Their eyes swing up and down on little poles. The males have one extra large claw for bravado. This claw is also the source for their name because it looks like they are dragging around a large fiddle. What struck me today is that the fiddlers live in a colony, actually quite close to each other; yet they seem to operate as individuals. This may be ignorance on my part, but they move around each other without any acknowledgement of one another, and when danger approaches; it seems to be every man out for himself.
 
I have a tendency to act a bit crabby myself. I live in the midst of a colony of fellow Christians but I can still resort to living alone, withdrawing into my little hole. When you live in close proximity to others reality is never very far away. Sometimes I raise up my big claw and wave it around to let everyone know that I am not a push over. But I find that sitting alone in my hole is not what it used to be. I use to crawl in, put up my claws on the ottoman, and wait for the tide to come in. But I am learning; still crabbing but learning. Much  to learn; much to appreciate.
 
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Rendezvous

 
I follow the delicate trail from water’s edge
up the sandy ridge; to the place where high tide set
its final mark before dawn.  The trail looks like it was drawn
by a child with an index finger.
Indeed there are two of these little trails; left by snails. Two snails
met here in a secret rendezvous last night. Not having been eyewitness 
to their actual meeting; I can only surmise their conversation:
  
Spring is almost here my friend, I can feel the water warmer under my foot.
Yes, I’m so excited, the blue bay waters are now shifting to green as the 
phytoplankton begin to flourish.
Oh you are so scientific.. Wasn’t it a lovely night, just the two of us, side by side,
watching the starlight in the shallows?
Did you see that spiny spider crab walk by? So glad he did not notice us on his ramblings!
And then that human walked by with his dog. Big sneaker prints. And can you believe it, two feet!
I wonder what humans think about as they walk by our bay? Do they pause to notice the starlight on the 
incoming waves? Do they hear the rhythm of the waves? Do they see the seaweeds swaying,
singing their alleluias?    
 
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