Saturday, April 30, 2011

Walls Six

How fun to take a virtual walking tour of the wall poems of Leiden, on a mild spring morning!  Start here , and follow the arrows . . . 

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Bamberg Wall

Friday, April 29, 2011

Walls Five

This wall from the poem by Billy Collins, The Poets Are at Their Windows:

Just think-
before the invention of the window,
the poets would have had to put on a jacket
and a winter hat to go outside
or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.
And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper
and a sketch of a cow in a frame.
I mean a cold wall of fieldstones,
the wall of the medieval sonnet,
the original woman's heart of stone,
the stone caught in the throat of her poet-lover.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Summerhouse, Lago di Como

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Walls Four

The wall not obstacle or barrier, but something that connects, serves to define the space in- and outside it.  A liminal space.  The purpose of Hadrian's Wall was regulating passage, uniting a region.  And the wall in Robert Frost's famous poem is also something held in common rather than something divisive, which is the common assumption.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Ostia Antica

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Walls Three

Christie B. Cochrell, Hadrian's Wall

And then of course there's THE wall.  

I miss northern England, the borderlands, the vast green spaces, looking out on history and prehistory and the stories told by archaeologists and all those sheep.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Walls Two

I guess my thought is that if you are up against the wall, it might as well be an interesting wall—a wall with good or profound things written on it.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Canyon Road Wall

Monday, April 25, 2011

Walls One

Walls, this week—not sure quite why!  Maybe I shall get more philosophical as the week goes on.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Paris Wall

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

The kind of love and care I wish for everyone this weekend—

Sheep's Cheese by Jane Hirshfield

In the cellar, sheep's milk cheeses
soak in cold brine.
Once a week, a man comes to turn them.
Sixty pounds lifted like child after child,
lain back and re-wrapped
in their cloths on the wooden shelves.
The shelves are nameless, without opinion or varnish.
The wheels are only sheep's milk, not ripening souls.
He sings no lullabye to them. But his arms know the weight.
image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Eggs 8

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Idea of Bliss

Ambling around this Bonnard garden.

Riding with a young daughter to school one April morning on bicycles, slow, single file, the wheels not absolutely steady, along a dappled almost-country road.

Or, crossing Deer Creek on a palomino, headed for a little track up into the foothills, while others are leaving for work.

Another yummy Spinach, Mushroom, Gruy√®re Strata, shared with friends on an outdoor table.  A late weekend breakfast, maybe.  Thinking about the interesting idea that stale bread soaks up the eggs and milk more readily, as if the drier bread is thirsty for their sustenance.

Lying in the grass, watching swallows circling high above me overhead.

image:   Pierre Bonnard, Garden Path

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

The thoughts of the earth are my thoughts. The voice of the earth is my voice. All that belongs to the earth belongs to me. All that surrounds the earth surrounds me. It is lovely indeed, it is lovely indeed.
     —Navajo song

To celebrate the day I plan to sit under a shade tree and read Billy Collins's poem of gratitude for the earth and its beings, over and over.

images:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mesa Verde, Tsankawi

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Three quotes from Mary Oliver, on a day such as this:

 "You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I'll take grace. I don't know what it is exactly, but I'll take it."
"Ten times a day something happens to me like this - some strengthening throb of amazement - some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness."
"I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything - other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world's otherness is antidote to confusion - that standing within this otherness - the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books - can re-dignify the worst-stung heart."

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Striped Tulips

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Places I Would Rather Be

Back in the rose garden, rather than listening to boorish coworkers drone on about mindsets and anomalies and ratios.  At least one of them now has a rescue Lab, so we have a friendly canine presence here again, sprawled out on the carpet with bone and bowl.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Two Pink Roses

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mission Santa Clara

A perfect day in the mission gardens, with glorious roses crowding the inner court, and wisteria in full bloom cascading off the wooden arbors like blue water in a fountain.  Wedding parties everywhere, and student musicians off to play in the Mikado matinee.  Like Santa Cruz, another university I'm sure I would have liked to have attended.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mission Roses

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I love this little painting by Whistler.

And so much else he's done, paintings and etchings both.  Scenes of Venice, of the Thames, of fog, of mist, of night, and in them luring lights . . .

image:  James Whistler, plein air painting

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Evening Smells

A lovely grassy smell from the awakening green hills (which will soon, drying, give me hayfever).

The smell of the horses in the pastures near our house.

The smell of green chili and pork, made yesterday in my slow cooker and reheated.  The smell of Santa Fe, roasting green chilis in the fall displaced in time and season.

The smell of spiced rum, reminding me of Key West, New Orleans, Mallorca.  And, having just seen Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester’s mad Jamaican wife.

Smells bring distant times and places near, evoke the foreign and familiar, things missed and well loved.  Things present and essential to my well-being.

image:  Roadside grasses on a very wet day, David Baird 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gauguin Orange

image:  Paul Gauguin, Orange and Green animatoreg

Bonnard Orange

One of those Bonnard oranges to end all oranges.  The scrumptious quintessence of orange.

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Bouquet of Mimosas


My color of the day.

Ah, but is this International Orange , or Tangelo? Something Bonnard would have used lavishly, in any case.

And it's interesting— When I search "orange" and "Bonnard" in Google Images, my own blog post from October comes up!

Gauguin, too, has some very fine oranges.  More of these later.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Orange Flowers

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Walking at the Baylands, watching the languid rhythms of birds—the wash of sandpipers as a shimmer of them catches the light, the wheeling of swallows, the slow stitching of avocets, the ponderous overhead passage of two Canadas headed away from shore.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Shorebirds

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I was drawn off the busy streets, my round of errands, into the lovely precincts of the apricot orchard behind the library that hasn't yet been cut down to make room for more sterility and fuss.  We desperately need places of sanctuary like this—within ourselves, as well.
I am not bound for any public place, but for ground of my own where I have planted vines and orchard trees, and in the heat of the day climbed up into the healing shadow of the woods.
      —Wendell Berry

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Orchard, Los Altos

Monday, April 11, 2011

Today's News

What's going on here today (per today's Stanford Report online)—

"The bees are in the blossoms and the swimmers are in the fountains. Some classes have moved outdoors, into the sunlight."

And soon—

"12-15 robots expected at this year's Robot Block Party"

images:  Stanford News Service 
             Cross-Cultural Blog

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Mostly I like to look at trees, and walk or sit under trees, and feel the healing and vitality they offer.  But it's also satisfying to hear what people have to say about trees.

There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. —Minnie Aumonier
Happiness is sharing a bowl of cherries and a book of poetry with a shade tree.  He doesn't eat much and doesn't read much, but listens well and is a most gracious host.    —Astrid Alauda (who also said "if I had time for only two exercises, I would choose yoga and skipping")

There are many quotes about trees — and even a whimsical book about living one's whole life above the world, in the leafy branches, Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees .

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Maple5

Friday, April 8, 2011


A return yesterday after thirty years to One Market Plaza, where I spent two years on the 30th floor happily working on claims for a steamship company.  Nicely tangible things like spilled coffee beans and rotted onions, and one December huge cans of tinned shrimp that had perhaps gone bad—which we all cautiously risked eating and I made into remoulade, served to daring friends, an uneasy dinner party or two.  I remember furtive phone calls to a private investigator we used, to set him on the trail of seamen who were thought to be taking new jobs while claiming disability from us; trips to the docks at Hunters Point where our three ships came in and unloaded—the Austral Rainbow, Austral Moon, and another that doesn’t come back to me—Star?  Lightning?  Lightning, I think.

It was so long ago.  That first job in the city.  My days on the edge of the sea . . . sorting through the flotsam of others’ far journeys.

Looking for others' thoughts on cargo, I find these words from Richard Wilbur, beginning his poem The Writer
In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

image:  Vessel seen from below, Tropenmann


I've always loved Japanese Quince, one of the first flowers of spring, most years gone by.

And I love this quiet poem for an April Friday—

What We Need Is Here

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

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Quince

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Japanese Maple

Exquisite lightness and grace, floating on light.

I love these colors, too.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Maple

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Play of Light

This lovely mossy brick and waterspout, freckled with sun, reminds me of my stated approach to life and to photography—self-confessed lover of the play of light, the journeyings of time, heartbreaking things ephemeral and ancient and impossible to hold.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Water Basin

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Grace Notes

No wonder grace was considered a garden...

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Gamble Garden

Monday, April 4, 2011

Garden Notes

Begonias in an old clay pot in a little dapple of sunlight, at the always restorative Gamble Garden.

Letting begonias be begonias...

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Begonias

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

On Dictionaries

Houses and castles (both random), part of the all-inclusive realm of dictionaries.

Here, to begin, in honor of Poetry Month, is W.S. Merwin's poem on the larger subject—

At my elbow on the table
it lies open as it has done
for a good part of these thirty
years ever since my father died
and it passed into my hands
this Webster's New International
Dictionary of the English
Language of 1922
on India paper which I
was always forbidden to touch
for fear I would tear or somehow
damage its delicate pages
heavy in their binding
this color of wet sand
on which thin waves hover
when it was printed he was twenty-six
they had not been married four years
he was a country preacher
in a one-store town and I suppose
a man came to the door one day
peddling this new dictionary
on fine paper like the Bible
at an unrepeatable price
and it seemed it would represent
a distinction just to own it
confirming something about him
that he could not even name
now its cover is worn as though
it had been carried on journeys
across the mountains and deserts
of the earth but it has been here
beside me the whole time
what has frayed it like that
loosening it gnawing at it
all through these years
I know I must have used it
much more than he did but always
with care and indeed affection
turning the pages patiently
in search of meanings

—W.S. Merwin
Ever since my own father died I have had his dictionary too, not Webster but Random House.  He used to keep it laid open on the blue cupboard in his den, to consult while typing letters or a page or two of his novel on weekend mornings (coffee cup sometimes knocked off the typewriter stand by the carriage return, unloosing a great flurry of cussing), or wandering in with Scotch and cigarette and double crostic book in hand during some summer evening, barefoot, in one of his fish- or ship-printed shirts bought on the Kona Coast.  For years I kept that dictionary in my tiny kitchen in the apartment on Parma Way, under the window with the cheery painted Mexican parrot hung there to overlook whatever I was cooking.  Laid open too, always, the words left free to roam around (at random) and mingle with the childhood aromas of frying meat, oregano.

I, too, ever in search of meanings.

And for thoughts on that other book of words, see here.

image:  Illustration of a castle from Webster’s Dictionary, 1855

Friday, April 1, 2011

Poetry Month

Welcome to a gentler month, we hope!

With the recent inclement weather in mind, this quote from Jerome K. Jerome (if not a poet, then just about every other kind of writer) is apt:
Nothing is more beautiful than the love that has weathered the storms of life.
Tulips absolutely included.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Pink Tulip