Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Farewell to November


After three days of steady rain—
over two inches said the radio—
I follow the example of monks
who write by a window, sunlight on the page.

Five times this morning,
I loaded a wheelbarrow with wood
and steered it down the hill to the house,
and later I will cut down the dead garden

with a clippers and haul the soft pulp
to a grave in the woods,
but now there is only
my sunny page which is like a poem

I am covering with another poem
and the dog asleep on the tiles,
her head in her paws,
her hind legs played out like a frog.

How foolish it is to long for childhood,
to want to run in circles in the yard again,
arms outstretched,
pretending to be an airplane.

How senseless to dread whatever lies before us
when, night and day, the boats,
strong as horses in the wind,
come and go,

bringing in the tiny infants
and carrying away the bodies of the dead.

—Billy Collins

image:   Jean Colombe, Les Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Seen in London

Though I had envisioned whole roomfuls of Pre-Raphaelites, even a precious few fine paintings were balm to the soul.  Even just this one would have been enough to justify the journey to the Tate (and the walk in autumnal royal woods along the Thames to get there).

image:  The Lady of Shalott, John William Waterhouse

Monday, November 28, 2011

Places I Would Rather Be

At University College, Durham, photographing the castle walls (or going off to study archaeology, with bacon sandwiches in my day pack and some Scottish shortbread for mid-afternoon).

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Nook

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thought for the Day

Live your questions now, and perhaps 
even without knowing it, you will live 
along some distant day into your answers.

—Rainer Maria Rilke 

image:   Capilano Suspension Bridge, Weirdly Odd

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thought for the Day

Nothing is exactly as it seems, nor is it otherwise.
—Alan Watts

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mills Chapel, Reflections

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Some of What I'm Thankful For - Four


New and old, far and near, all dear.

Thank you, my friends—and happiest Thanksgiving.

image:  Friendship, Stephen Huneck

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Color of the Day


As I wrote in a creative nonfiction piece—

At the Musée Maillol, a few blocks from our hotel and close to the shop that displays cheeses in its windows like priceless jewels, there is the special Bonnard exhibit we learned about by chance.  Most of the paintings are from private collections and many are truly radiant, including "The Red Roof," my newest poster.  In the original the chartreuse isn't so shockingly chartreuse.  (And what is chartreuse?  It's a liqueur, but also Stendhal's famous charterhouse— and along with lavender and snake-skin, the most popular color in Parisian fashions this fall.  We see it in all the shops in Saint-Germain.  That doesn’t make me any fonder of it.)

image:  Mutant Shrimp-Chartreuse

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thought for the Day

Water which is too pure has no fish.
—Ts'ai Ken T'an

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Koi

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Calm

A fine, calm poem, about new beginnings, toward the end of another month and year.

Da Capo

Take the used-up heart like a pebble
and throw it far out.

Soon there is nothing left.
Soon the last ripple exhausts itself
in the weeds.

Returning home, slice carrots, onions, celery.
Glaze them in oil before adding
the lentils, water, and herbs.

Then the roasted chestnuts, a little pepper, the salt.
Finish with goat cheese and parsley. Eat.

You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.

—Jane Hirschfield

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Still Life

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November Blaze

Driving on our near-country back roads this morning to the store to pick up quiches for a brunch at work, struck by the glorious splendor of the few trees in which the late-November sun is collected, as if ablaze—the year burning itself out dramatically.  

image:   Bonfire, He Who Laughs Last

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Joies de Vivre

Mayan hot chocolate, fragrant with spices and chili.  Make your own , or sit in a café under some golden autumn trees, or inside, behind steamed windows, and linger.

image:  Mayan Liquid Gold 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Castles in the Air and Otherwise

Who isn’t lured by castles, on a hazy hill or in the air, especially on a humdrum workday in November?  I’d much rather be rambling around Kenilworth, or even (in this off-month) the frantically touristy Warwick.

I’ve always loved John Cheever’s short story, The Golden Age, which begins
“Our ideas of castles, formed in childhood, are inflexible, and why try to reform them?  Why point out that in a real castle thistles grow in the courtyard, and the threshold of the ruined throne room is guarded by a nest of green adders?”  (see longer quote )
For me, the archaeologist manquée, it’s the thistles and the nest of adders that are half the charm.  The more ruinous, the better.  And for the heroine of my Cretan novel, too—Marcella Neely, incurable romantic—whose castles in the air take the form of Minoan palaces.

The practical is always always out to get the dreamer, so it’s good to have Eliza Cook write
“Why should we strive, with cynic frown, to knock their fairy castles down?”
 And Thoreau (safe in his woodland paradise) makes peace between the two—
“Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
To give the practical its own last word, though, here’s our thought for the day:
"Simply by not owning three medium-sized castles in Tuscany I have saved enough money in the last forty years on insurance premiums alone to buy a medium-sized castle in Tuscany."
—Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Warwick

Monday, November 14, 2011

Some Late Roses

My allusions are a bit oblique today, but one can always find a rose or two when one's in need of them . . .

The History Teacher

Trying to protect his students' innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.
And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.
The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
"How far is it from here to Madrid?"
"What do you call the matador's hat?"
The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom on Japan.
The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,
while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off.

—Billy Collins

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Roses2

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Today's To Do List

sit in rose garden
slather croissants with jam
sell some paintings
consider play about African stamps
consider St. Paul’s
wash Cretan espresso cup
write twenty-six letters
be kind
slow down for horses
slow down, period

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Warwick Roses

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rainy Days

Now that the rains have started and the days are wet and gray, I’m homesick for the area around Hadrian’s Wall—and all the space and greenery and sheep.
Somehow the rain seemed cozier in England.  There was always the chance of tea (Earl Gray, Darjeeling, blackcurrant), and sandwiches (prawn mayonnaise, chicken and sweet corn, cheese and onion, egg and watercress), and tempting liqueurs (damson gin, ginger wine, elderflower wine).  Happy chances, happy rambles getting there.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, At Housesteads Roman Fort

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Calm

For me, this painting shows the very quintessence of calm.  Interesting, given the intensity of that red.

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Woman with Dog (Phillips Collection)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Places I Would Rather Be

Oh, Venice, again and always.

Getting ready to eat a big bowl of Pasta e Fagioli Veneziana, or to go to a Vivaldi concert in a lofty old palazzo on a back canal.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Brown Palazzo

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


When I Am Among Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily. 
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches. 
And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

—Mary Oliver

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Maelmin

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Any given window can greatly affect 
one's outlook . . .

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Kenilworth Latticework

Monday, November 7, 2011

Time Change

We’ve gotten our morning hour back—but at what cost of daylight at the other end?  Life is such trade-offs as these; constant negotiations for what precious little time there is to go around.

I, who came late to my love of mornings above all, am happy to have one more quiet hour of beginnings, but others more impatient feel the loss of light at the end of the day, light to to on working or go on doing things by . . .

And it is bright, this gifted hour of mine, awash with sunshine and with birds on their way through, alighting for a moment here.

image:  Canada Geese and morning fog in Golden Gate Park, Mila Zinkova 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

All of a Sudden

. Leaves are turning red on Bowdoin Street
. Christmas crackers are appearing in shop windows
. I’m tempted by café Cubano with a shot of rum, to take the chill away
. The sun has vanished for the afternoon behind heavy rain clouds
. Burmese curry from the Green Elephant seems essential

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Red Leaves

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thought for the Day

We are not our possessions. We are not our possessions. We are not our possessions.

But we hang on for dear life to all we have.

And oh, sometimes, how we long for more!  (See this gorgeous Rummage.)

And see also this, on Clutter.

Main St. Antiques, St. George
Lad with mother pushing from behind rolls cartload of possessions out of Uerdingen, Germany, moved out by allied military government seeking to prevent loss of life from shelling by Germans on other side of Rhine.  Unknown, 19 March 1945


Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Calm

When the tide is out, calm prevails.

Take advantage while you can!  How I would love to be poodling about on lazy sandbars at low tide, at an unpeopled Cape Cod, a sail like watermark out where the eye loses itself in waking dreams.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Sandbars, Cape Code

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nothingness (Places I Would Rather Be)

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.

—Billy Collins (On Turning Ten)

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Lake Louise, Detail

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


This old photo of mine, which I liked expecially for the textures and white-on-white aesthetic, reminds me (in composition) of the many Bonnard pictures in which women are painted off in the margins, onlookers more than participants.  This is often my preferred role in any scene—the quiet observer, the one who slips by almost unnoticed.

images:  Christie B. Cochrell, Summerhouse, Lago di Como;
              Pierre Bonnard, The Breakfast Room

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chili Sin Chili

Here’s the recipe I’ve come up with that even the tenderest tummy can stand, which yet doesn’t offend my New Mexican taste buds.  Good on such mid-autumn nights as this, with daylight almost gone, and hobgoblins afoot.

1 tsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1 ¼ lb. ground turkey
1 can organic pinto beans, drained
1 can organic black beans, drained
2 or 3 small zucchinis, diced
2 14.5 oz. cans fire-roasted tomatoes
chicken broth
1 T. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
salt to taste

Heat olive oil in large skillet, and saute onion until soft but not brown.  Add garlic and saute briefly.  Add ground turkey, and saute until cooked through, breaking up thoroughly with a spatula.  Add zucchini and saute briefly.  Add spices and a smidgen of salt.  Stir to blend.  Add tomatoes and drained beans, and as much chicken broth as you like, to make soupy or keep from getting too thick.  Simmer for half an hour until flavors have blended and windows steamed.  Enjoy the fragrances as well.  Serve perhaps with a dollop of Greek yogurt, for contrast.

image:  Clay pots with simmering dishes at a street stand in Chalma, Malinalco, Mexico, Thelmadatter