Friday, March 30, 2007

May 2007 - Body, Mind and Spirit

Body, Mind, and Spirit. Hmm. Well, there have certainly been tasks enough to stretch all of these during the 15 years we've worked on this devastated place.

Initial sports were carrying wood upstairs, carrying dirty water downstairs - or, flinging it out the window -, digging nettles and picking broken glass from flowerbeds, planting shrubs, moving furniture. I filled duffel bags with boxed orange juice in Prague and hauled it home on the bus. I chopped wood.

Sports changed in nature. Then it was chasing sheep to re-pen them, walking - being dragged by - the huge Central Asiatic shepherd dog we had, moving books and furniture, moving plants, hanging clothes outside. Sometimes bringing wood inside.

Now I hang clothes outside only in pleasant weather - I have a dryer. I still move books, but move only small furniture - no large pieces. I get assistance for any difficult plant moving. Others bring in wood. Our Golden Retriever walks herself, although once in a while I go looking for her.

Nowadays I ought to take the tips I give visitors. There are interesting walks - down to the old mill, to a little bridge above the river, to the ancient brickyard, and along a road to a fishpond and up the rise in a field to overlook forests, fields, villages.

My mind has been so engaged here that at first when I shut my eyes in bed at night I saw things, things which don't exist. As well as all the physical work, learning Czech took energy. In early months, after a neighbor visited, a daughter sick with a cold said, "Today, I didn't understand one thing Eva said. Now I know why I'm so tired when I go to her house, with the dictionary, for a couple hours".

There were many problems and many interesting puzzles and questions about people and history to which we bent our minds. If I should make a list, you wouldn't have time to read it. Who would work for us, and how, and when, and what paper work is needed? These are a few things we pondered.

Renovations require much thought. We found that areas where we'd planned and re-planned most were most done to our later satisfaction. We engaged in negotiations garnering comments: "Barbara, you don't want several colors in the kitchen. Kitchens are best all white." I answered in meager, broken Czech, that not only did I not desire a hospital operating room, but that I
wanted to match colors of remaining decorative tiles my husband's grandmother had installed in 1910: beige, gray, and deep red, as well as white. A carpenter explained if my closet had just shelves, I wouldn't have to hang anything up! "No, no", or rather "Ne, ne" worked okay here.

As a respite for the mind from present problems there is always the library - a biographies, travel books, family photo albums. In a mystery story, I ponder someone else's mystery instead of my own.

Aunt Hana used to say on visits here that it's wonderful to be in "The Nature". I find it so, although a series of gray days I do find not uplifting. Letters, e-mails, phone calls, and personal visits by family and friends feed the spirit. I like talking after church with people we've gotten to know here - which here has been VERY SLOWLY. I especially enjoy talking with the young novice whom I help with English.

We had a wonderful old abbot, and somehow, I'm not certain how, we communicated. One day he did the sermon. Not understanding him, I was thinking about hopelessness and hope. Afterwards my husband told me our abbot's sermon had been about prisoners of the old regime, especially those he'd known in prison camp. Those who survived best were those who had not lost, or at least had not completely lost, hope.

Monday, March 05, 2007

April 2007 - Books and Libraries

I'm happy that we have a library. In the old days it was The Grand Salon, used during large parties. Most of the time Empire chairs and settees held large fancy dolls! Several death masks lazing on black velvet pillows and granite busts of ancestors on stands did nothing to improve coziness. A cousin and my husband agreed that as children they'd found the room sinister. Now it's comfortable, nicely decorated, with sofas, a round African mahogany table, new and old bookcases. It contains our myriads of books.

The library does not have central heating yet: in winter one pops in and out quickly! One year as the weather warmed up, someone working here wanted to reshelve books with no regard to arrangement. I made her wait for me or a visitor to reshelf properly.

Although we're out in the countryside people do come looking for information. We supplied a customs official with maps before he went for special training. He was pleased to have "National Geographic" maps of Civil War battlefields which he then explored in his free time. I switch
books with another English-speaking country dweller. Fulbright exchange teachers borrowed reading materials during their year nearby. Every Christmastime one daughter pulled-out and reread "Cheaper by the Dozen". Another daughter met a male visitor, clad only in his shorts, looking for a particular novel in the library! I loaned our doctor information before a trip to Scotland. Children pick books from the children's section. Very careful children get to look at old children's books. Recently I showed my second cousin family photos, including one of our great-grandmother. I gave her two children's books, with bookplates, of a first cousin-once-removed who died a few years ago at age 100 because I have those books.

I prefer mysteries, biographies, novels when they are NOT the kind specializing in being depressing, and poetry. I read poetry when I am feeling emotionally strong. Our son likes Tom Clancy for his intricaties of science, history, politics, and human relations. My husband has read much on Middle East explorers and has a number of biographies and journals. I think we've both read most of Havel's plays, and some Ivan Klima, Josef Skvorecky, and Jan Drabek.

At various time I concentrate on specific authors. London is a wonderful place to collect, but other places are possible, including Prague. Special to me are Eleanor Fargeon, Madeleine l'Engle, George MacDonald, Alice Meynell, C.S.Lewis, Charles Williams, Laura Ingalls Wilder. My first old George MacDonald books came from Foyle's in London, when it still existed. In a summer in Oxford I collected several authors, but most exciting was attending meetings of the C.S.Lewis Society and meeting the man who was his literary executor. One person leads to another - Alice Meynell is because of Fargeon; MacDonald and Charles Williams follow Lewis.

Admittedly I read just about anything printed on pieces of paper.... But some pieces are much better than others.