Category Archives: Spring

Spring Green, or Your April Book of Days

And here now is your belated Convivio Book of Days calendar for April. Cover star: “Beech Trees in Springtime,” an 1897 oil painting by Christian Zacho. It is filled with the ephemeral spring green of newly leafed trees, which, if you are lucky, you will be seeing a fair amount of in the coming weeks, as spring comes into its own. An annual bit of wonder and renewal. We see it even here, in this strange green land, in an albeit subtle way: passing by a stand of bald cypress, for instance, as we drive across the state on Alligator Alley. It is a fine time to take a drive or to take a walk and see something new and fresh and green.

We find ourselves, too, in the midst of an important week, across cultures and spiritual traditions: Ramadan continues and at sundown tonight, Passover begins. And it is Holy Week, a week of complexity and mystery in which the forty days of Lent, which we’ve been immersed in since Ash Wednesday, will come to a close. It began last Sunday with Palm Sunday. Thursday will bring Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, when tradition would have us visit three churches in the moonlit night, Friday will bring Good Friday, when we commemorate the passion of Christ, and Saturday the vigil through which we wend our way toward Easter.

What I know about Ramadan is not much and what I know about Passover is perhaps just a bit more, and is mostly is in relation to my Catholic upbringing and to Passover’s connexion to the Easter story. I know that Passover commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, and I know what a friend told me once, which has always resonated with me about the holiday: “We are traveling through the desert with our ancestors via a table filled with metaphor and symbolism.” The meal is the seder, the same meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciples in the upper room on that Holy Thursday night before he died. Pesach is the Hebrew name for Passover, and Pesach informs the name for Easter in many languages. Hence our Italian word for the day and season: Pasqua. And while Ramadan roams the calendar, falling a few weeks earlier each year, Pesach, Pasqua, and a full- or near-full Paschal moon are all constant companions based on the timing of the spring equinox.

The Last Supper is the Passover meal in the upper room that is commemorated at the Mass for Holy Thursday. Each year, as Lent begins, I think to myself, “This is the year I’m going to do things right.” I imagine myself taking the time to give the forty days their proper space and time, to be more mindful, and give them more reverence. And each year those forty day zip by and I find myself here, at this junction where Lent runs headlong into Holy Week, and I realize I just have these few days left to make things right. Holy Thursday is my night to do this. I drag Seth along with me, if he has it in him, on a Holy Thursday pilgrimage that my grandmother taught me: as the rest of the world is contemplating sleep, we will head out into the night and visit three churches. The churches that know Grandma’s ways will keep their doors open late into the night, or even throughout the night until morning. The moon is our companion through this pilgrimage, along with a few other hearty souls who visit the churches with us. The churches will be dim but warm with candle glow and quiet and the presence, to me at least, of all the loved ones I bring with me in my heart. I sit, I kneel, I pray, I ponder. It is a night like no other, the strongest bridge I know between realms. We each, of course, bring to it what we bring, but this is what my Holy Thursdays, my Maundy Thursdays, are like, and I feel truly at home in the mystery.

IT MAY BE NOT TOO LATE to order things from our website for Easter. We ship US Priority Mail, which is two days to most domestic destinations, so chances are good you’ll have your order by Saturday. Locals, of course, we can deliver to you or you can come pick up at our front porch. It’s a little too warm these days to ship our German chocolates for Easter, but locals: I don’t know that there’s anywhere else nearby where you’ll find German milk chocolate bunnies and German marzipan bunnies. We have a few left of each. Plus Ukrainian pysanky, wooden bunnies and splint wood baskets and paper mache eggs from Germany, handmade egg-shaped candles from Sweden…. many Easter delights await you at Convivio Bookworks! CLICK HERE to shop. And use discount code BUNNY at checkout to get $10 off your purchase of $85 on all our offerings, plus free domestic shipping!

AND WON’T YOU JOIN ME this Friday, Good Friday, via Zoom for Real Mail Fridays? It’s a weekly online social I host for the Jaffe Center for Book Arts. Good Friday is an odd day for a social, I know, so the approach I’m planning is this: a more subdued soundtrack for the first two hours, and then we’ll devote the final hour of our gathering to a most sublime recording called “Lamentations: Holy Week in Provence.” It’s by the Boston Camerata. “Lamentations” is a most beautiful piece of music, and we will play it uninterrupted from 4:00 Eastern to the close of our online social. We do bill Real Mail Fridays as a letter writing social, but the folks who join us each week from around the globe do all kinds of interesting things during our time together. We’ll begin as we always do, at 2:00 Eastern. Come and go as you please but do consider joining us for “Lamentations” beginning at 4. No matter your faith tradition or your beliefs, it is a most special way to mark the day. CLICK HERE to join us Friday between 2 and 5 Eastern.

 

Image: “Beech Trees in Springtime” by Christian Zacho. Oil on canvas, 1897. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Spring Market on Saturday

Locals! Please come see us this Saturday, the First of April (no fooling) at Johan’s Jöe, our favorite Swedish coffee house, for the Johan’s / Convivio Spring Market. Johan’s will have springtime treats like semlor, the delicious cream-filled buns of Sweden made only during Lent, along with the best coffee in Downtown West Palm Beach (or maybe anywhere), and all their other wonderful offerings. We’ll be there with all of our handmade artisan goods for Easter and springtime from Germany, Sweden, and Ukraine, plus German chocolates, candies, and marzipan, my mom’s hand-embroidered tea towels, and who knows what else.

Official hours for the Spring Market are 9 AM to 3 PM, though I plan to be there in time for Johan’s 7:00 opening time and at the end of the day, I’ll be packing up from 3 to 4… so there is some flexibility in those hours. We’d love to see you, so please come by! German wooden bunnies, pyramids and incense smokers with bunnies, handmade candles from Sweden, real egg pysanky from Ukraine and hand carved crosses from there, too. As for the semlor, as I understand it Johan’s just serves them on Saturdays and they only make so many and once they’re gone, they’re gone (so maybe get there early!).

For all you folks who are not here, you may peruse our springtime (and other) offerings at our online catalog, and when you order online you also can take advantage of our online springtime special: Use discount code BUNNY at checkout for $10 off your order of $85 or more, plus get FREE domestic shipping. CLICK HERE to shop!

Johan’s Jöe is at 401 South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. It’s the southwest corner of Fern Street and Dixie, and if you approach from the east on Fern, from Flagler Boulevard, you’ll get to see some of my favorite local murals. My suggestion? Make a day of it: Visit the wonderful West Palm Beach Green Market first, then come to Johan’s for coffee and Convivio shopping. We can help fill your Easter basket with the most unusual things!

Your Convivio Book of Days calendar for the month of April will be a little late! Maybe that is my All Fools Day prank on you. I promise to get the new calendar to you as soon as I can.

John

 

It’s Laetare Sunday, and Mother’s Day in the UK, Father’s Day in Italy

It’s Midlent: The Fourth Sunday of Lent, and halfway through our Lenten journey we get a Sunday whose color is rose, the color of joy, rather than penitent purple. A little break, a small reprieve, in celebration of being midway through. The day is called Laetare Sunday, a name derived from the first few words of the Mass for this day, in Latin: It is Isaiah 66:10: Laetare Jerusalem (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem”). It’s the day when folks in the United Kingdom honor their mothers: Mothering Sunday, they call it. And this year, Laetare Sunday happens to fall on St. Joseph’s Day. San Giuseppe, sacred to Italy, where today is Father’s Day, in honor of the saint who was foster father to Jesus.

I apologize for not writing more this past week, when we honored St. Patrick, of course, and one day before that, St. Urho, whom the Finns know as the saint who drove the grasshoppers out of Finland. Either St. Urho has not gotten as much publicity as Patrick, or he is completely fictional: we’ll leave that up to you. Of St. Joseph, though, we can be certain, and we can be certain, too, that it is a day to find a good Italian bakery and some zeppole to enjoy with your after-dinner espresso tonight. We Italians consume zeppole in great quantities on this day, and there is nothing quite like being in an Italian bakery on this feast day and witnessing the rolling racks filled with zeppole: delicately light pastries filled with custard and garnished with cherries, or their lesser known cousins, sfinci, the same delicate pastry filled not with custard but with sweet ricotta, like cannoli. These things make us swoon this one day each spring. We are a dramatic, operatic people and the Festa di San Giuseppe is one of our annual highlights (and surprise: it revolves around food).

And by Monday it will be spring by the almanac: Balance comes to this old earth Monday, March 20, at 5:24 PM Eastern. Day and night roughly equal from North Pole to South, for just a short time, and then our Northern Hemisphere days grow longer than our nights as we make our way toward the Midsummer Solstice of June. The constant rearrange, so subtle we barely perceive it until we sit back and ponder it in the blocks of time we call seasons. These things will never cease to amaze me.

It was last summer that we were going to have our annual Wayzgoose at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts –– an online video event featuring the fabulous letterpress printer Jennifer Farrell of Starshaped Press in Chicago with music by singer/songwriter and recording artist Patty Larkin and me as host –– but Patty Larkin suffered a terrible accident before we could film the Wayzgoose last summer. It was obvious to me that we had to wait for Patty to recover. “No Patty Larkin, no Wayzgoose.” She had a long road ahead of her, but she did it. Patty’s been touring again, and earlier this winter, she recorded her Wayzgoose concert for us. In the meantime, I recorded my interview with Jen Farrell, and still these past few weeks I’ve been filming and editing, and the last edits will be coming at a more furious pace these next few days, all so we can have the Wayzgoose ready for its March 25 World Premiere. Won’t you join us? You can watch from anywhere in the world, and if you join us at 7 Eastern on Saturday, you’ll be part of a worldwide wave of viewers celebrating good print and good music. Click here to learn more and to watch on Saturday at 7. (The premiere takes place at the Jaffe Center’s website.)

I have a suggestion for your Saturday viewing party: Fix yourself and for those watching with you a steaming plate of waffles. I’ll explain why at the Wayzgoose. The Wayzgoose traditionally falls on Bartlemas, St. Bartholomew’s Day –– a very quirky day in the Round of the Year if ever there was one. And when it came to rescheduling this Wayzgoose, I chose the 25th of March for similar reasons. Trust me: make the waffles, serve them with maple syrup or with ice cream, then sit down with us at 7 on Saturday evening to watch. You’ll love the work of Jennifer Farrell and Patty Larkin’s concert will have you beaming… and you will appreciate the waffle connexion.

So many good wishes for you this day and this coming week!
John

COME SEE US! Find us on Saturday April 1 at JOHAN’S JOE in Downtown West Palm Beach from 7 AM to 3 PM for a little Springtime Market that Johan’s Joe and Convivio Bookworks are hosting together. We had a Christmas Market last December and it was so much fun and we met so many wonderful people, we’ve decided to collaborate again for Easter. We’ll have all our handcrafted goods for spring and Easter there from Germany, Sweden, and Ukraine.

SAVE ONLINE! At our online catalog, save $10 off your purchase of $85 or more, plus get free domestic shipping, too, when you use discount code BUNNY at checkout. It’s our Zippin’ Into Springtime Sale, good on everything in the shop, now through Easter (and probably a bit beyond, too). CLICK HERE to shop! And don’t forget to use discount code BUNNY at checkout if your order is $85 or more.

 

Zeppole e Sfinci

Images: Zeppole and sfinci, above. The zeppole are more popular; the sfinci at this bakery are identified by green candied cherries. Top: “Stasera Zeppole” translates to “Tonight Zeppole.” The photograph of a baker’s storefront window was taken by Giovanni Dall’Orto in Syracuse, Sicily.