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Academic Botanical Gardens & St. Vladimir’s Cathedral

Truly, each and every day we don’t expect something (in reference to adoption news), it’s a good day.

Today, I am thankful for a best friend in my husband.  Today, I am thankful that we are safe from harm (or maybe that’s because I am blissfully unaware of the city’s dangers).  Today, I am thankful that Dan and I have grown closer through all this, rather than farther apart.  I feel relief and oddly enough, a resolve that whatever happens will happen, and I’ll do my very best to be Momma Zen about it all (again, see previous post on Momma Zen if you’re confused).

After a morning of writing (Dan’s working on a screenplay; I’m working on a novel), we head west this time, off the main street Khreschatyk, and within five minutes, we see a myriad of primary-colored playground equipment and structured flower gardens amidst a canopy of trees–perfect for sitting and people-watching.  There’s a rooster crowing somewhere in a pen next to the outdoor restaurant.  A group of children chase the pigeons and sparrows, and others, much smaller, make numerous attempts to reach the monkey bars.  We sit and watch for a while.  Have you ever watched a group of children playing, without knowing their spoken language?  It’s not all that difficult to follow along, since their body language says it all.

We think this would be a great playground to bring our little girl to when we have to come back to Kiev to do all the U.S. Embassy paperwork (visa, doctor’s appointment, etc.).

We continue uphill on Shevchenka about five minutes more, and as we get to a small cleared area where there’s a crosswalk, St. Vladimir’s canary yellow exterior with frosted white edging looms up in front of us.  The cobalt blue domes sprinkled with gold stars are a sight to see.

St. Vladimir’s is the youngest of all the cathedrals in Kiev–begun in 1862 and christened in 1896.  Dan and I agree that the artwork inside could withstand any competition against Paris’s Notre Dame.  It’s smaller but no less awe-inspiring.  I’m sure we looked like smitten children discovering the Bible stories all over again.  The paintings were so precise and realistic that there was no question who the characters were and what they were doing (note that I’ve given them names, since Ukrainian is not one of my second languages, sadly enough)–God Creating the World (in six exquisite panels), The Last Supper, Mary & Child, Jesus Riding the Donkey on Palm Sunday, Jesus & Pontius Pilate, Moses and the Ten Commandments…

Most of the interior was painted by one artist, a Russian by the name of Viktor Vasnetsov, who tried to paint in a style that he felt had been denied to Russian citizens up until that time.  So, although the characters reflect a strong Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite influence, the art has been composed in a Slavic fashion (being that the dark colors look best in winter light, when the sun is lower in the sky).

Since religious icons are an important aspect of Orthodoxy (more on this tomorrow), we buy one representative piece to put in our daughter’s box of treasures–things that we’ve collected that represent her past and what she’s come from.  Here it is:

We’re impressed by the number of people flooding through the massive iron doors–most of them residents of Kiev, we’re guessing.  The women either buy thin scarves at the entrance or pull them out of their purses.  They cover their heads and genuflect multiple times.  Men and women approach various elaborate altars, bow, kneel, and pray.  Others buy thin tapered candles to light and pray for their loved ones.  Two large structures that remind me of saints’ crypts (indeed, the lids are cranked open to reveal a picture of the saint on the inner surface) allow one person at a time to climb the steps, lean over the tomb, kiss the glass, and cross his or herself.  Since I’m not familiar with all this–I’ve only observed it in the many churches we’ve visited across Europe–I’m intrigued with the respect and reverence they show to their God and their saints.  Certainly, more respect than I’m used to in a church setting.  I remember being told in hushed whispers as a child, “They’re Catholic,” as if it was a bad thing, and how I was always confused, because they always seemed more holy than us.  They had the prettiest churches and the most beautiful masses and those fascinating rosary beads.  Ironically, no matter what the differences are, I’ve grown to feel they are more similar to other Christian religions than other Christians would like to believe.  It doesn’t matter what organized religion you decide to take for your own.  It’s all the same.  We all drag along our various trappings, rituals, and beliefs (some of which are not found in the Bible…they’ve simply been handed down generation after generation like grandpa’s old hand tool, never questioning if that tool still does the job, just that it’s grandpa’s old hand tool, and we, doggone it, have to be loyal to it).  Because of that, I don’t really get what mainstream Christianity has over the Catholics, if you want my humble opinion.  I get all that about not having to go through a middle man in your discussions with God, and that religion is not meant to be a mercenary venture, but give me one shining (I mean perfect) example of that in the Christian arena, and I’ll be flabbergasted and truly shocked.  In the churches I’ve attended, they’ve all got the same baggage; it’s just different baggage.  We all have things to learn from each other, no matter our professed religion…or spirituality (since these can be seen as two separate things).

So, it’s a pleasant afternoon spent in the quiet of a grand church building (I still have to add that noun “building” to that sentence, lest my father roll over in his grave and insist with his usual righteous indignation, “It’s not the church; the people are the church!”)…It’s become a running joke between Dan and me.

Later, we sit in the park and eat ice cream treats.  In the lethargic heat of the afternoon, they taste delicious.

Much later in the day, we get a phone call from the director of the adoption program.

“How strong are you?” he belts into the phone.

I’m not sure if he means, “How are you holding up?” or “How long can you stand waiting?”  I tell him we’re doing fine and ask him how everything is progressing with getting us another appointment.

He barks, “Ten to twelve!”

My heart sinks and I say, “Ten to twelve more days?”

“No,” he says, “Ten to twelve of this month, if everyzing go well.  I cannot promise, you know.”

I frantically try to remember today’s date.  “So, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?”

“Yes,” he says.  “We try.”

“OK,” I say.  “We trust you.  Hopefully we’ll have an appointment soon.”

“Yes,” he says.  “Keep hope up.”

We will.  We will.  After all, we have to.  We want to.

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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