Sunday, February 18, 2018

Valentine's Letter (Slightly Belated Because of the Confluence of Ash Wednesday and said V-Day)

Valentine’s Day 2018

Dear Family and Friends,

In the 19th century the most famous piece of advice in America was “Go West, young man.”  Since it is now the 21st century, and we cherish an oppositional streak, and we are not young, and only one of us is a man, last year we did the exact opposite and went east. Far to the east. 

In early June Mary spent two weeks at St. George’s College in Jerusalem.  This was a Continuing Education trip, and Mary and several other female clergy were studying women in the Bible.  They explored a number of places, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Galilee, Jericho and the Jordan River, which was neither chilly nor wide (more like 115 degrees and about four feet across.) She found it a transformative time, learned a lot, and was grateful for the two or three words of Arabic she remembered from visiting Chuck and Leslie in Qatar and the seven or eight words of Hebrew she remembered from seminary. 

From the photos she posted on social media you might get the impression that Israel is inhabited primarily by cats, but she assures you there are plenty of people there to feed and pet the cats.  In addition to cat photos, Mary returned with a taste for the cooking styles of Israel, most of which seem to involve a lot of chopping of fresh green things.

A few months later we traveled east together, only this time we were headed to Greece.  To mark our 20th anniversary we joined a tour of Greece focused on icons.  In churches, monasteries, museums, shops and workshops we saw the stories of the Bible vividly portrayed through the rich iconography of Greek Christianity.  A trip to the icon workshop where this Theotokos (“God Bearer”) was created led to an animated conversation with one of the icon writers on technique, including their method for laying down gold leaf and polishing it to the high gloss you see in this photo. 
Visiting Meteora with its little monasteries perched atop sheer limestone cliffs, we marveled at the rich concentration of icons and frescoes in the chapels.

There is more to Greece than icons, of course, from ancient history and Biblical sites to contemporary culture.  We were moved by a visit, on the first anniversary of the death of Doug’s father, to the ancient therapeutic center at Epidaurus dedicated to the healing God Asklepios, whose name was invoked by physicians taking the Hippocratic oath for many centuries.  Although the Oracle at Delphi predicted only one thing - that our credit cards would get a workout -  we gave her high marks for accuracy. 

For Doug a highlight of the year came at the end of September with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care.  A year of celebrating, including an open house, a public lecture, and the publishing of a commemorative newsletter, ended with an elegant private reception at the Virginia Historical Society.  VIPCare was honored by elected officials at both the State and Federal level.  It turns out that some organizations turn 50 with none of the gray hair or aches and pains or bifocals or cholesterol that marked the same birthday anniversary for at least one of the writers of this letter.  

Here VIPCare Board president Frances Broaddus Crutchfield joins Doug in receiving a citation for VIPCare from Delegate Betsy Carr.

Mary continues to serve as the Director of Transition Ministry for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, where she helps parishes find the right priest and helps priests find the right parish. On occasion, she gets a little testy when parishes are hesitant to listen to her wisdom, but more often than not, it is joyful work. She’s got plenty of other responsibilities as well, often called in the jargon of the church “other duties as assigned,” but if she told you what they were she’d have to kill you. Her hobby opportunity to spend money at art supply stores spiritual discipline is writing icons, as anyone who follows her on FaceBook has seen. Her Craft Cave in the basement is her silent place, where she writes icons, prays while she writes, sighs a lot, and blessedly doesn’t have cellphone reception.

The end result is a work that is dedicated to the glory of God, like this one in progress, a rendering of the 15th century Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev’s Old Testament Trinity.

Our children and grandchildren are happy, healthy, and living exciting lives. This spring, we were delighted to attend Bryce’s graduation from law school. Matt and Jenny keep to a hectic schedule driving Katie and Ben to their various activities. Once again, Katie’s dance troupe danced at Carnegie Hall!  (Practice, practice, practice)  Bryce and Bambi and the boys are hip-deep into technology, robots, STEM learning and fiercely competing in board games. Christopher is mixing up a storm in the San Francisco bay area – he’s now in charge of the cocktail program at a restaurant called Hog and Rocks, after several years at a pair of high-end Indian restaurants. He still occasionally asks his mom for a recipe that somehow magically morphs into a cocktail. Not quite water into wine, but fine stuff nonetheless. Sam and Inanna are living the North Country life near Stowe, where Sam’s auto body business, just relocated to a new and larger location, is thriving, and where they are looking for a larger home to replace their “starter house” as they plan for the future. Alexandra is deep in the wilds of Bushwick with her pup JT, working in Queens, and teaching us how the world has changed (possibly even for the better) since we were in our late twenties.

We’re looking forward to a busy year, as we head south for a friend’s daughter’s wedding, north for another friend’s son’s wedding, and to Colorado Springs for our nephew Peter’s wedding to the lovely Carol. Should be an interesting year with lots of stories to tell – check back and see what we’ve got to report next year.

In the meantime, come to see us in Richmond. Now that Doug has completed the patio project, we can even lounge around the back yard and enjoy a cold beverage as we grill! Doug got a new bike computer for Christmas (after recording 31,000 miles on the old one) so he claims he’s going to get up off his knees and get back on his bike, but he promises to be around whenever you come by.

With our love and best wishes for a happy 2018,

Mary, Doug, Spooky the cat and the bees

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