Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bonnard Week - Seven

Toward the end of his life Bonnard said "Speaking, when you have something to say, is like looking.  But who looks?  If people could see properly, and see whole, they would all be painters.  And it's because people have no idea how to look that they hardly ever understand."

image:  Pierre Bonnard, The Terrace, The Phillips Collection

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bonnard Week - Six

And this dove—which I've gazed at rapturously at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, and at an exhibition in Paris.  The world travels of Bonnards have fascinated me no end.

The artist says of his incandescent colors:  "It seemed to me that it was possible to translate light, forms, and character using nothing but color, without recourse to values."

image:  Pierre Bonnard, The Palm

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bonnard Week - Five

I do love this parrot!

"Our God is the sun," Bonnard said to a young artist.

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Girl with Parrot

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bonnard Week - Four

The artist who paints the emotions creates an enclosed world... the picture... which, like a book, has the same interest no matter where it happens to be. Such an artist, we may imagine, spends a great deal of time doing nothing but looking, both around him and inside him.
—Pierre Bonnard

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Linen

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bonnard Week - Three

This is one of my posters—a window on the Mediterranean from my writing room.

Bonnard said late in life "I am just beginning to understand what it is to paint. A painter should have two lives, one in which to learn, and one in which to practice his art."

True, too, for writers.

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Mediterraneo

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bonnard Week - Two

The precision of naming takes away from the uniqueness of seeing.
—Pierre Bonnard 

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Girl with Cat

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bonnard Week - One

What I need right now is a whole week of Bonnards.  And I suspect that others may too.

As the artist said:  "Draw your pleasure, paint your pleasure, and express your pleasure strongly."

What great pleasure for us that he did so!

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Dining Room in the Country

Friday, July 22, 2011

Places I Would Rather Be

At Tassajara, waking to the sound of running bells calling guests to the zendo; having the bathhouse to myself and watching the moon set; then drinking coffee sitting on a rock and writing before dressing for breakfast with my own napkin ring.  During the day taking pictures of the extremely Zen-like bocce balls in quiet patterns against the sand and wood.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Red Ball

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thought for the Day

I am informed by 
     “Middle age is always a great word to know.  
       So is bezoar.”

One has to wonder why they think so.

image:  Wordle

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I’ve been ruminating on pelicans, for literary reasons, and have been reminded how much I like them.

And of course the poem comes to mind:

A wonderful bird is a pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week;
But I'm damned if I see how the helican.

— Dixon Lanier Merritt (often misattributed to Ogden Nash)

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Pelicans, Half Moon Bay

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Table

I am trying for simplicity.  

A page of haiku on my writing table that I'm working on, plus the jelly jar of flowers we were given by our neighbor's daughter from her wedding bouquet.  

And on the wooden table in the patio, my wabi sabi blue Japanese cloth, and a simple meal of fish and vegetables and rice.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Table, Sand Rock Farm

Monday, July 18, 2011

More Plums

Plums, o plums.

My favorite summer salad is of mixed greens, grated carrots, feta with herbs, avocado, sliced plums, and pistachios.

image:   Pierre Bonnard, Still Life with Plum Pits, 1932

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Joies de Vivre

Plums, clouded and sweet.  The taste of each, again, reminds me of the famous poem.

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten 
the plums
that were in
the icebox 

and which
you were probably
for breakfast 

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

—William Carlos Williams

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Plums

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tea Chez les Steins

I adore this Matisse, which I'd never seen before, having seen it now at the good exhibit at SF MOMA— The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde.

I think of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in their French garden with their poodle, Basket, and offer some pithy quotes from Gertrude to liven the drowsy, tree-shaded afternoon.
A vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables.
Do not forget birthdays. This is in no way a propaganda for a larger population.
If you are looking down while you are walking it is better to walk up hill the ground is nearer.

image:  Henri Matisse, Tea 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bastille Day

An assortment of French tidbits or amuse-bouches to celebrate the day.
It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.
—Gertrude Stein
Boy, those French. They have a different word for everything.
Steve Martin
As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

It was a pleasant café, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old waterproof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a café au lait.  The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.  
Now that the bad weather had come, we could leave Paris for a while for a place where this rain would be snow coming down through the pines and covering the road and the high hillsides and at an altitude where we would hear it creak as we walked home at night.  Below Les Avants there was a chalet where the pension was wonderful and where we would be together and have our books and at night be warm in bed together with the windows open and the stars bright.  That was where we could go.

—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
The hotel and its bright tan prayer rug of a beach were one. In the early morning the distant image of Cannes, the pink and cream of old fortifications, the purple Alp that bounded Italy, were cast across the water and lay quavering in the ripples and rings sent up by sea-plants through the clear shallows.  Before eight a man came down to the beach in a blue bathrobe and with much preliminary application to his person of the chilly water, and much grunting and loud breathing, floundered a minute in the sea.  When he had gone, beach and bay were quiet for an hour. Merchantmen crawled westward on the horizon; bus boys shouted in the hotel court; the dew dried upon the pines. In another hour the horns of motors began to blow down from the winding road along the low range of the Maures, which separates the littoral from true Provençal France.
—Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Cooks, Paris

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bonnard Summer

More idyllic summer days with Bonnard at one of his houses in France—the table set for lunch or tea or something long and drawn out with ripe fruit.

And I'm thrilled to see that there's finally a Bonnard museum in Le Cannet!

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Terasse a Vernon

Sunday, July 10, 2011


My latest passion is Safeway’s fresh baked Multi-grain with Sunflower Seed Bread, sliced thick and toasted.  Best then is to spread a little hummus on it, and eat it off my painted Mexican plate, with some good French roast coffee (sitting looking out at just-washed white sheets hung on the line underneath the pines).  The texture is perfect, and it feels like such a treat.

image:  Mexican pottery 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Joies de Vivre


Salvia Austriaca, Norbert Holstein
Salvia Caymanensis, Scott Zona
Salvia Sagittata, Scott Zona
Salvia Buchanani, Scott Zona

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thought for the Day

Russian sage . . .

and Russian sage.

Purple Sagebrush, Billy Hathorn

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lazy Summer Days

Our landlord in a straw hat walking the green hose around the yard.
And me indoors, laying seeded croissants out on parchment paper ready to bake before it gets too hot.

Putting wild rice to soak in the blue glazed French bowl.
Chopping herbs.
Cutting a crenshaw melon.
Washing arugula and chives.

In the spirit of adventure, buying a bottle of Lillett to drink on ice.

Authentic Pimientos de Padron, each sixth one hot.

Reading mysteries set in Cyprus, Scotland, Versailles, the Bosporus.

Getting up late to take the train to the city to see French art.

image:  me writing in hammock at the Writing Mills, Mallorca, by Kate Whitehead

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer School

The cool light of a disused classroom (this at Mills) makes me long for summer school, and by association for the ruined red clay tennis court across the road from my prep school, the court belonging to a convent there in Santa Fe.  I think of The Magus, John Fowles's mysterious novel about teaching school on the island of Spetses, south of Athens, full of summer sea and sun and lessons on life.

Things I’ve studied in the summer:
writing mysteries
ancient writing
painting Zen circles
British archaeology
Alpine archaeology
the Impressionists
horseback riding
book publishing
Healing Touch
Mallorcan cooking

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Classroom Windows

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Today's Wabi Sabi

I'm in the mood today for old, beloved, solitary things, with the patina of age on them and the salt of ancient (even vanished) seas.  Burnt lamb yesterday, with the char of a too-hot grill, fit my yearnings for a not belligerently all-American day, and the volcanic ash in the sun-softened Morbier, the coolness of pink roses against a weathered wood fence, good people with lives fully lived, a cat with eyes closed and spine prominent near to hand.

See here for more on wabi sabi.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Lake Como Watering Can

Monday, July 4, 2011

July Celebrations

Let's celebrate July, and holidays, and lazy afternoons fishing or not, or looking at rivers on canvas or computer screen with one of our very favorite American poets.  

Happy Fourth—and to our English friends, from whom we do not choose to be independent.

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure—if it is a pleasure—
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one—
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table—
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

—Billy Collins

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Boat on the River Wear, Durham, England

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Still More Summer Reading

The usual late Saturday malaise—coming home from the library with seven books, and wanting to read all of them at once, besides working on my own writing (ideas for new short short stories, revisions of the Pine Cone saga, a whole series of mystery novels I want to start).  And only an hour of free time left in the day, or possibly weekend!

At least there are leftovers from last night:  French clay pot chicken with black olives, chervil, fennel, and garlic, and herb-scented rice (if not Julia Child’s).  And the heat is not awful.

images:  Claude Monet, Woman Reading 
             Summer Reading, Politics & Prose 
             Summer Reading, SUSS 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

More Summer Reading

Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury is a book to be savored slowly, sitting under trees or on a riverbank.  Nothing else is as summery.  When I finally discovered it, late in my thirties, I read it straight through, one summer, and then started over again at the beginning.  I read it each summer for three years in a row.  I may well go back to it now, to drink in the astonishing, luminous prose.  (And to try to figure the story out, once and for all!)
I began to feel the water before I came to the bridge. The bridge was of gray stone, lichened, dappled with slow moisture where the fungus crept. Beneath it the water was clear and still in the shadow, whispering and clucking about the stone in fading swirls of spinning sky.
. . .
I could not see the bottom, but I could see a long way into the motion of the water before the eye gave out, and then I saw a shadow hanging like a fat arrow stemming into the current. Mayflies skimmed in and out of the shadow of the bridge just above the surface. . . . The arrow increased without motion, then in a quick swirl the trout lipped a fly beneath the surface with that sort of gigantic delicacy of an elephant picking up a peanut. The fading vortex drifted away down stream and then I saw the arrow again, nose into the current, wavering delicately to the motion of the water above which the May flies slanted and poised. . . .
     The trout hung, delicate and motionless among the wavering shadows. Three boys with fishing poles came onto the bridge and we leaned on the rail and looked down at the trout. They knew the fish. He was a neighborhood character. 
. . .
They leaned on the rail, motionless, identical, their poles slanting slenderly in the sunlight, also identical. The trout rose without haste, a shadow in faint wavering increase; again the little vortex faded slowly downstream.
. . .
They leaned on the rail, looking down into the water, the three poles like three slanting threads of yellow fire in the sun. I walked upon my shadow, tramping it into the dappled shade of trees again. The road curved, mounting away from the water. It crossed the hill, then descended winding, carrying the eye, the mind on ahead beneath a still green tunnel, and the square cupola above the trees and the round eye of the clock but far enough. I sat down at the roadside. The grass was ankle deep, myriad. The shadows on the road were as still as if they had been put there with a stencil, with slanting pencils of sunlight. But it was only a train, and after a while it died away beyond the trees, the long sound, and then I could hear my watch and the train dying away, as though it were running through another month or another summer somewhere, rushing away under the poised gull and all things rushing. Except Gerald. He would be sort of grand too, pulling in lonely state across the noon, rowing himself right out of noon, up the long bright air like an apotheosis, mounting into a drowsing infinity where only he and the gull, the one terrifically motionless, the other in a steady and measured pull and recover that partook of inertia itself, the world punily beneath their shadows on the sun.
. . .
"Let's go to the mill and go swimming," the third said. The cupola sank slowly beyond the trees, with the round face of the clock far enough yet. We went on in the dappled shade. We came to an orchard, pink and white. It was full of bees; already we could hear them. 
     "Let's go to the mill and go swimming," the third said. A lane turned off beside the orchard. The third boy slowed and halted. The first went on, flecks of sunlight slipping along the pole across his shoulder and down the back of his shirt. "Come on," the third said. The second boy stopped too.
. . .
"Let's go up to the mill," he said. "Come on." 
     The first boy went on. His bare feet made no sound, falling softer than leaves in the thin dust. In the orchard the bees sounded like a wind getting up, a sound caught by a spell just under crescendo and sustained. The lane went along the wall, arched over, shattered with bloom, dissolving into trees. Sunlight slanted into it, sparse and eager. Yellow butterflies flickered along the shade like flecks of sun. 

William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

image:   Fly fishing at Glasbury Looking across the river from the north bank, Trevor Rickard