Sunday, September 18, 2016

Some Fennel and an Old Leopard or Two

At Shoreline, as I start around the lake from where I've parked just at the edge of the marshes, the smell of fennel on leggy dry stalks spices the air.  When I write it, the fragrance brings the memory of Pantelleria with its capers and little wild purple snapdragons and the walk down to the sea—the suntanned woman I was fiercely jealous of, as tanned as an old hide, and her friends who'd all worked on the film of The Leopard with the famous Italian director.

And that memory leads, just now, to another of eating one night years and years later on the upper west side in New York at Il Gattopardo before walking to the opera.  We will have eaten fish, I think, sea bass over fennel if the connection holds, and been among the first inside that fall evening, embarrassingly early.

Which leads in turn to a quote from the 1958 book by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, which I have on my shelves (unread?) still from the time just after that September visit to the strange volcanic island between Italy and Africa, "Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga com'è bisogna che tutto cambi."  That is, "If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change."

Another voyage, miniscule in actuality and vast in ripples out and back, launched by the smell of that dried herb warmed by the California morning sun.  Such are my travels—the baggage I lug around needing a caravan of camels with brass bells to carry.

image:  Wild Fennel

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Small Things on a Big Day

The small things, on a day of vast associations:
. corn meal griddled into a tortilla, and filled with mole amarillo, chicken, cheese
. some tiny raspberries, picked yesterday along the coast
. a poem by Rabindranath Tagore
. the texture of the hand lotion
. unexpected new leaves on the Japanese Maple (as if touched up with paint)
. this painting by Pierre Bonnard which I had never seen

image:  Pierre Bonnard - Les Cascades à Grasse

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Best of August

. Walking among the thousand-year-old redwoods, near Santa Cruz—a holy place, inspiring reverence and awe.
. Seeing Duck Soup again, half a century later, and admiring Harpo's antics just as much as ever.
. Having the dog days pass unnoticed.
. Being impressed by Confederates, at TheatreWorks.  A world premier, and very impressive.  So timely, and thoughtful, about politics and racisim and scandals, and beautifully acted (just three characters).
. Laughing at The Mikado, transplanted to Italy and beautifully performed as usual by The Lamplighters.  My favorite line was cut, but I filled it in from memory:  "No money, no grovel."
. Long, lingering picnics with friends, in various shaded places.  Most notably of all, the retirement picnic (baked chicken with Za'atar, Indian spiced rice, tapenade, rosemary almonds, a lovely tiramisu cake with decorative almond blossoms which I picked up from the baker in the morning); and Orinda (herbed turkey breast, farro and wild mushroom salad, ratatouille, smoked salmon and cream cheese, Gruet champagne, followed by the funny unknown Shaw play).
. Finding a recipe I'd copied for Chicken Kokkinisto, with allspice berries and cinnamon.  Remembering how fond I am of Crete.
. Getting my poetry collection ready to submit to a chapbook publisher.
. Coming up with my definitive lifetime booklist:
Pogo and Peanuts
The Once and Future King
The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea
Summer of '42
P.G. Wodehouse at large
The Magus
Gaudy Night, and Dorothy Sayers at large
Heaven Has No Favorites
The Song of the Lark and Willa Cather short story "A Wagner Matinee"
The Battle of the Villa Fiorita
The Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors, The Princess Casamassima,
         and Henry James at large
Lolita, and Vladimir Nabokov at large
The Bone People
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "Four Quartets"
short stories by J.D. Salinger, Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever,
         Eudora Welty, Graham Greene
The Sound and the Fury
The English Patient, Anil's Ghost, Running in the Family,
         and Michael Ondaatje at large
Arcadia, and Tom Stoppard at large
M. Butterfly
The Sonnets to Orpheus, and Rilke at large
Unearthing Atlantis
Everyday Sacred
The Tao of Womanhood
One Continuous Mistake
poems by Mary Oliver, Jane Hirshfield, Billy Collins,
         Michael Ondaatje, Denise Levertov; haikus
. Always, the amiable and meditative birds.

image:  A La Campagne, Dog Days

Monday, August 22, 2016

Elegy for Sunday Drivers

Sunday morning is all hurry now, too, like the rest.  All zip and zoom, the need to be someplace you're not, doing whatever you aren't.

What of the mild meanderers who set out with a folded map and thermos of coffee in a bright Guatemalan bag to find a walled garden or Benedictine abbey down a one-lane road, stopping to feed a winesap apple to a dappled gray in dappled shade, or visit an antique shop on the way, or out of it, and rub the bottoms of the copper kettles full of history and time with a gentle shirt-tail, admiring the verdigris—where have they gone?

And those slowed by a flow of sheep, an unnamed monastery open to the sky with broken stairs that lead no further than a fig tree?

Those who photograph sand bars when the tide is far out, and a blue fishing float, a steady track of small bare feet?  

The unhurried pair of sisters with the Cairn Terrier named Poo Bah?

The retired geologist who ambled off to have lunch out in Chimayo, where bees hummed at the honey bear intended for the sopapillas?  Who left the car in the shade afterwards and walked to watch the weavers and consider a handwoven blanket colored by dyes obtained from flowers, leaves, or insects, but ended leaving the purchase for another time?  What of the group I thought I recognized, having martinis in real glasses on the Pecos River later in the afternoon, slicing green chile bagels to eat with good country pâté?

Another SUV roars past, not looking back, and I pull off on the quiet side road, tired of rush and its oblivion.

image:  Dappled Grey

Katholiko or Gouverneto Monastery, Crete
Sandbars, Provincetown (Christie B. Cochrell)