Monday, February 28, 2011


For the last day of the month, acacia and other bright things.  

Over the weekend I've made a tagine with lamb and the last of the pears from Harry & David and lots of good spices from Penzeys, where I wandered in olifactory heaven before stocking up on cumin, coriander, curry, cinnamon sticks.

And the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Zubin Mehta was a gift to the spirit—including one bright yellow double bass.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Acacia Abstract

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Some days it's better to just not inquire too closely into distinctions, contradictions; try to make too much sense of things.  Enjoy the aesthetic moment, and let it go at that.

Today is one of those days.

Words and sentiments tangling in the branches of incomprehension—what Billy Collins has to say about that adds humor and charm to those inchoate reflections of mine on reflected pine.

Plight of the Troubadour 
For a good hour I have been singing lays
in langue d'oc to a woman who knows
only langue d'oïl, an odd Picard dialect at that.
The European love lyric is flourishing
with every tremor of my voice,
yet a friend has had to tap my shoulder
to tell me she has not caught a word.
My sentiments are tangled like kites
in the branches of her incomprehension,
and soon I will be lost in an anthology
and poets will no longer wear hats like mine.
Provence will be nothing more
than a pink hue on a map or an answer on a test.
And still the woman smiles over at me
feigning this look of sisterly understanding.
          —Billy Collins

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Dark Pine

Friday, February 25, 2011


I’ve been delighting in the orchids that have bloomed most unexpectedly in my office on a years-old plant, suddenly full-sprung from nowhere, and wildly exotic, with that intense yellow at their so-foreign fingertips. 

They remind me of the spiders we found in Hawai’i at that place in coffee country that made such good macadamia nut pie, spindly and hung there in mid-air on webs we’d creepily walk into unawares—solid and impassable while yet invisible, like the glass window in the field in the Thurber fable

This poem tells it well—

The Orchid Flower
by Sam Hamill

Just as I wonder
whether it's going to die,
the orchid blossoms

and I can't explain why it
moves my heart, why such pleasure

comes from one small bud
on a long spindly stem, one
blood red gold flower

opening at mid-summer,
tiny, perfect in its hour.

Even to a white-
haired craggy poet, it's
purely erotic,

pistil and stamen, pollen,
dew of the world, a spoonful

of earth, and water.
Erotic because there's death
at the heart of birth,

drama in those old sunrise
prisms in wet cedar boughs,

deepest mystery
in washing evening dishes
or teasing my wife,

who grows, yes, more beautiful
because one of us will die.

I’d been thinking recently about old Nero Wolfe mysteries, too—the New York detective with his passion for orchids and gourmet cooking.

And here’s a new mystery, with orchids, that I must try to find:  A Twist of Orchids, by Michelle Wan.  (Set in the Dordogne, oddly, like another mystery I just bought.)

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Orchids1

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thought for the Day


"Calm is all nature as a resting wheel," wrote William Wordsworth.

And Jane Hirshfield, this:


It is foolish
to let a young redwood   
grow next to a house.

Even in this   
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.

That great calm being,
this clutter of soup pots and books—

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window.   
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.

image:  Calm Waters, Ricky David

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Furry and Feathered Friends

What has comforted me most on a weekend of emotional upsets is all our many friends out in the yard despite the rain—the little black-headed phoebe perched on top of a tiny newborn pear tree with unbudded buds; the alpacas lying head to head like matched bookends; a pair of quails in a comical scurry or flurry; the wakeful owl calling quietly into the night.

The world of nature brings a smile; its hopeful rhythms like the beating of a heart re-affirm themselves.  I remember to breathe deeply, breathe in, not hold myself tensed up against the troubles that threaten to defeat my humor and my joie de vivre.

I also love this poem, To Paint the Portrait of a Bird, on The Blue Lantern.

image:  Say’s Phoebe, Wolfgang Wander

Friday, February 18, 2011


In French, the word for umbrella is parapluie, or “for the rain,” as in Spanish it is paraguas, or “for the waters.”  (Though I learned in conversation just now that paraguas are for men, while women have daintier sombrillas.)

There are many things I’d offer up as my parapluies—not against the rain, but for the rain; ways of getting on within the rain; things made brighter because of the rain.

• The purple iris in the garden, drenched and dripping wet.

• This morning’s croissant with drenched-purple olallieberry preserves.

• The dinner I’ll make tonight, spicy Moroccan pork with apricot and pistachio cous-cous.

• A good mystery novel.

• A black cashmere sweater and silver bracelet inscribed with a sonnet.

• A snuggly Labrador Retriever, sleeping in a curl.

• A pot of Earl Grey tea.

Oliver Mtukudze’s happy Tuku Music.

• Walking at Hadrian’s Wall in a black rain slicker.

• Writing poems about egrets.

image:  Iris, Derek Ramsey

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thought for the Day

"Too much rain
loosens trees."

(Kay Ryan)

And yet how beautiful it is in these small unassuming droplets . . .

image:  raindrops on a leyland cypress tree, Czechmate

Monday, February 14, 2011


Some loving poems on various kinds of love, to celebrate the day.

The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere,
they're in each other all along.

(From Essential Rumi, by Coleman Barks)


The boy at the far end of the train car
kept looking behind him
as if he were afraid or expecting someone

and then she appeared in the glass door
of the forward car and he rose
and opened the door and let her in

and she entered the car carrying
a large black case
in the unmistakable shape of a cello.

She looked like an angel with a high forehead
and somber eyes and her hair
was tied up behind her neck with a black bow.

And because of all that,
he seemed a little awkward
in his happiness to see her,

whereas she was simply there,
perfectly existing as a creature
with a soft face who played the cello.

And the reason I am writing this
on the back of a manila envelope
now that they have left the train together

is to tell you that when she turned
to lift the large, delicate cello
onto the overhead rack,

I saw him looking up at her
and what she was doing
the way the eyes of saints are painted

when they are looking up at God
when he is doing something remarkable,
something that identifies him as God.

—Billy Collins

Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,
absentminded. Someone sober
will worry about things going badly.
Let the lover be.

(From Essential Rumi, by Coleman Barks)

Of Love

I have been in love more times than one,
thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting
whether active or not. Sometimes
it was all but ephemeral, maybe only
an afternoon, but not less real for that.
They stay in my mind, these beautiful people,
or anyway beautiful people to me, of which
there are so many. You, and you, and you,
whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe
missed. Love, love, love, it was the
core of my life, from which, of course, comes
the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned
that some of them were men and some were women
and some—now carry my revelation with you—
were trees. Or places. Or music flying above
the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun
which was the first, and the best, the most
loyal for certain, who looked so faithfully into
my eyes, every morning. So I imagine
such love of the world—its fervency, its shining, its
innocence and hunger to give of itself—I imagine
this is how it began.”

—Mary Oliver


Ming Ming,
such a lovely
thing blue
and white

bowls and
basins glow
in museum

they would
be lovely
filled with
rice or

so nice
to dinner

or washing
a daughter

a small
of course
since it’s
a small basin

first you
would put
one then

the other
end in.

—Kay Ryan

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Rumi Heart

Saturday, February 12, 2011

More Blossoms

It seems the rain is on its way to us again, so we shall revel in this false Spring every minute until then.  It's going to be our comeuppance, after these weeks of bursting blossoms and lunches outside while the whole rest of the country suffers under the snowdrifts and the arctic cold.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Blossoms 2

Thursday, February 10, 2011



If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Billy Collins (Poetry Foundation)

image:  Blackberry blossoms, by "color line"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Places I Would Rather Be

Wandering around the precincts of Bamburgh Castle (Lancelot's?) on the Northumbrian coast, stopping around now to eat a crab stottie.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Bamburgh

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Further Rabbits

"Although this looks like a bunny head photoshopped onto a foot-and-a-half long cottonball, it's indeed all rabbit."  Brent Moore

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rabbit, Rabbit

Happy New Year—happy Year of the Rabbit.

I am reminded of the game I used to play at school in Santa Fe with my British Latin teacher—on the first day of every month whoever said "Good morning rabbits" first would get some kind of rabbit from the other.  I still have a smooth black clay rabbit, Zuni or Hopi, from those days.

I never knew the origin or broader meaning of that.  I see that mentioning rabbits (more commonly "rabbit rabbit") is something in British folklore, bringing luck.

Here's another explanation, with a cute lucky rabbit picture.

image:  Untitled (Two Rabbits, Pampas Grass, and Full Moon), Utagawa Hiroshige
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Red Chili

I’ve been eating red chili all week:  New Mexican, the best—and purest—in the world!  Everything from cheese or chicken enchiladas to soft tacos with blue corn tortillas, smothered, to frito pie, to carne adovada (pork), to burritos with pinto beans and whatever.  I feel much happier, with all those endorphins besides the delicious flavors.

I’ve been known to make spaghetti with red chili sauce; now I’m wondering about a pizza with red chili sauce?  Can’t wait to experiment!  In the meantime, here’s a possibility.

images:  Enchiladas, The Shed; Chili Pods