Tuesday, August 8, 2017

La Vie en Ambre


Away for the weekend, and gratefully back home here to the coast, where I'm nesting again.

Making a chicken and farro salad with green beans, goat cheese, marjoram.  With shallots—always tantalizingly mythical, redolent of the Victorian poets, alchemizing those Medieval and Arthurian elements.  A kind of amber skin, amber a kind of alchemy as well, fossilized tree resin holding inside it flowers, fruit, feathers, insects, crustaceans, spider webs, healing, history, life itself.

Getting ready to read The Cleaner of Chartres, by Salley Vickers (having loved Miss Garnet's Angel, set in Venice, holding inside its own amber heart the Archangel Raphael and the restoration of a 14th-century chapel).

I have lived by the sundial motto, "Count none but the sunny hours," and am pleased to learn there is a rose for such as me, named Amber Sun.





images:  Christie B. Cochrell, Sundial

Amber Sun rose

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Beyond the Dusk


I could smell the curves of the river beyond the dusk and I saw the last light supine and tranquil upon tideflats like pieces of broken mirror, then beyond them lights began in the pale clear air, trembling a little like butterflies hovering a long way off.
(William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury)

With August comes an awareness of summer, summer no longer mid-, but in decline, on its long, slow way out, burning itself up as it goes.  There is a great nostalgia in it, wistful sadness for the waking glory lost, the potential more than likely unfulfilled, fading and making-do begun.

As I have said before, to me The Sound and the Fury captures the feeling of summer as nothing else can, the quintessence of summer.  So I must either read it again now, for the umpteenth time, or try Light in August for a change.




image:  James McNeill Whister, Nocturne, Grey and Silver

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Thing Perhaps



 since the thing perhaps is
to eat flowers and not to be afraid
—E.E. Cummings

I have been amazed at the squirrels and the things they'll eat/have eaten—the new herbs I planted as a venture into the adventurous, comfrey (used since Roman times to heal wounds, broken bones) and chamomile (tromped underfoot in the Italian Alps when in pursuit of our Temple to Jupiter), the whole of one native blossoming plant (only the soil left untroubled around it), and all of the blue lobelia that I'm especially fond of.  I've been keeping secret from the squirrels a little deep blue willow ginger jar with defiant lobelia coming back after being eaten.  I think we should be able to all cohabit without fear, to indulge in our serener appetites or hold back as the moment asks.  It is a good thing to eat flowers unafraid, but good to live another day beyond the teeth that seek to nip us in the bud.




image:  Christie B. Cochrell, July Bouquet

Saturday, June 24, 2017

After a Hiatus


. . . I can be found sitting on our deck in Santa Cruz with a wellspring of pink roses beside the pinecone lantern, and a squirrel coming inquiring. 

By the time I've finished that sentence the squirrel is gone, and only I am left to inquire.  How did I come here, during that hiatus?  Will the several small squirrels or the one big squirrel eat the herbs I planted yesterday along the fence where they get in, the earth crumbled away below it in a kind of hiatus too?   One tests the chamomile leaves.  What are they so busy with here in this yard?  A towhee hops across the stones I've brought in from that other yard, that other county and climate and time, piled together next to the herbs.  Where is she going, so intent, in the way of her kind?

Birds and words.  I'm back among those small (and great) enchantments, changed but not.

I look for quotes for "hiatus," and am led to "break."  But mostly in the verb tense, active breaking not the absence of action which I have had.  And Jane Hirshfield writes about what binds us—binding and breaking opposite.  Breaking is a letting go, which I have done, yet again not.  I'm in a new place now, with many of the things I'm bound to still with me.  (Bound to stay on.)

I find myself still in possession of the little dish with the Egyptian ducks, or whatever species they are, from a visit to the Legion of Honor.  This dish has spanned the break with me, bound for the coast.  And now it sits on the generous windowsill in my bathroom, the pure white of the paint having invited the deep blue, the near-monastic calm the unanticipated whimsy.

And other things besides the deck and sill are foreign too.  The Monterey Pine full of wind, where there has not before been pine tree, gnarly branches, cones.  Sometimes it shakes out bush-tits, or the pygmy nuthatch, sometimes upside down.  But this afternoon just wind, as if from inside out, the way the ancient Greeks thought it was winds within the earth that caused earthquakes.

Hiatus, the pause or catch in the breath between vowels (the [hiatus] ear, la [hiatus] interrupciĆ³n).  Japanese aoi:  'blue/green,' Swahili eua:  'to purify,' and Hawaiian aea:  'to rise up.'  Hiatus itself contains a hiatus.

That's all it's been, really, my relocation here where I am now—continuing after a breath with the next syllable, where I left off.


image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Egyptian Dish


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Menu de mes jours


Recipes I'm giving up on, sadly or otherwise:

. Leek & Goat's Cheese Picnic Loaf, which sounds delightful for a shady afternoon among the hedgerows quoting P.G. Wodehouse, with its Dijon, thyme sprigs, and double cream.  I copied this out by hand one afternoon not long ago in London, but find it by far too labor intensive for me, now, already, after all.

. My mother's Dilled Salmon Patties, which go way back to childhood ("and can go back right away, as far as I'm concerned"—as the old quip says).  They always sound like a good idea, as do salmon burgers, but somehow I need my salmon whole and brooking no nonsense instead of flaked or ground or otherwise deconstructed.

. Amish Friendship Bread, the very idea of which even now, almost thirty years later, makes my blood run cold.  My life was given up to Amish Friendship Bread for what felt like eons, ruled and confined by the obligation to deal with its continual and relentless demands, making travel impossible or even the odd stolen weekend out of town.
  Day One:  Stir and cover.
   Day Two:  Stir and cover.
   Day Three:  Stir and cover.
   Day Four:  Stir and add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1 cup cold
         milk.  Stir until smooth and cover.  Transfer to 2 quart container.
   Day Five:  Stir and cover.
   Day Six:  Stir and cover.
   Day Seven:  Stir and cover.
   Day Eight:  Stir and cover.
   Day Nine:  Stir and add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1 cup
         cold milk.  Stir until smooth.  Place 1 cup batter in three
         separate containers (total 3 cups).  Cover and give to two
         friends, keeping one for yourself to start the whole process
         over again!  (**&*!xx%?!*)
         To the batter remaining in the bowl (from which the three
         cups have been taken) add 2/3 cup oil, 1 cup sugar,
         1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt,
         1/2 tsp. baking soda, 3 eggs, 2 cups flour.  Stir in 2 cups of
         any of the following, or combination thereof:  blueberries,
         strawberries, raisins, dates, nuts, mashed bananas,
         applesauce, pineapple, dried fruit, granola, etc.  Use your
         imagination!
         Pour into two buttered and sugared loaf pans.  Bake at
         350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until tests done with
         a toothpick.
         ("Starter purchased at an Amish fair in New York and
         brought to California by plane in the summer of 1989.")

. The jaunty (gentille) Herbed Bluefish Flamed with Gin.  In another lifetime, maybe I would make this for a dinner party after work, one snowy February.  In that parallel lifetime where I'm living in Boston as I almost have three times, walking a French bulldog along the Charles River, working as assistant curator at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in the Fens, or at the Map Room in the Public Library.



image:  Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party (The Phillips Collection)