Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On Such a Day as This, What Would I Do?

Drive up to see the aspens' yellow glory in the mountains above Santa Fe, take the train down the length of Italy to Rome?  Sail through the Bay of Biscay in a striped Breton fishing shirt and cargo shorts, barefoot, or just go to the library on the back road?

Make minestrone soup, or farro and white beans with rosemary, or a good stew?  Maybe a cassoulet with chicken, sausages, and the bacon I have by chance on hand?

Go on a horseback ride from pumpkin patches to the white-capped surf, and then eat fish grilled simply at the harbor with the fishing boats?

Read Tony Hillerman, Colette, or Henry James? 

Which world, which guise, to choose?  The breathlessly impossible or the quiet and sure?

A single poem, I come up with or come down to.  A poem I pluck from all the year's accumulated bounty like a perfect apricot, kept well beyond its season in a hand-shaped blue-glazed bowl.  A poem that encapsulates the day, the time, the longing that arises on this crumbling edge between what's been and what's coming.  What's here.

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

—Wendell Berry, from Collected Poems 1957-1982, North Point Press

image:  Santa Justa Beach, Bay of Biscay

Friday, September 30, 2016

Mabon Altars and Pollen Art

I've been lost this afternoon in images of wish lanterns, festivities at Sangam with the most revelatory faces and drenched colors, lofty Greek monasteries built into the rock, whitewashed cave rooms with inner pools like light in Oia Santorini, wabi-sabi with almost no light at all, William Morris wallpaper, vintage milk bottles, Viking boat funerals, Wolfgang Laib and his rice art and pollen art, naturally dyed Easter eggs, cracked bowls...my usual eclectic mish-mash of mysteriously connected things.  I've learned about Mabon altars (and oil), seen the amazing photographs of Matt Dayhoff, found inspiration for several art projects, including SoulCollage, and am now sitting in the patio, waiting for birds, clearing my head, drinking a Moulin de Gassac Picpoul de Pinet, looking forward to our Friday lamb pasanda and chicken palak and one of the older Endeavors.  Then a cool night with a warm quilt.  Pleasures and treasures in abundance, including the mixture of sunflowers and red roses we picked up yesterday in Half Moon Bay on the way home from Pescadero.  A mixture I had never seen before, quite perfect for the week.  Cracked, but full of light-admitting things.

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen

image:  She Who Is, "Lightbearer," Mixed Media, 2013

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