Wednesday, February 29, 2012

That Sort of Evening

It’s the sort of evening that requires an historic stone inn with good walking trails around, a lazily flaming apple log in the fireplace, a spaniel on the heather-and-earthen-tone hearth rug, Lucia di Lammermoor on the iPod, a little peaty Islay single-malt in an etched Georgian tumbler near to hand, a classic detective story in a nice cloth binding open on my lap, and an amiable old raconteur ready to interrupt.

But failing that, warm socks and a BBC rerun will have to do.

image:  a fire in a fireplace, Fastily 

Thought for the Day

I adore adverbs; they are the only qualifications I really much respect. 
—Henry James

image:  Wordle

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Places I Would Rather Be

Today I would love to be in the Rome of Rilke’s letter—winning myself back, as he puts it.

Waters infinitely full of life move along the ancient aqueducts into the great city and dance in the many city squares over white basins of stone and spread out in large, spacious pools and murmur by day and lift up their murmuring to the night, which is vast here and starry and soft with winds.  And there are gardens here, unforgettable boulevards, and staircases designed by Michelangelo, staircases constructed on the pattern of downward-gliding waters and, as they descend, widely giving birth to step out of step as if it were wave out of wave.  Through such impressions one gathers oneself, wins oneself back from the exacting multiplicity, which speaks and chatters there (and how talkative it is!), and one slowly learns to recognize the very few Things in which something eternal endures that one can love and something solitary that one can gently take part in.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, Rome, October 29, 1903 (translated by Stephen Mitchell)

image: Lungotevere dei Pierleoni, Roma, Italy, Fazen 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Reverie

I’m undone as usual by the prose poetry of the farmers’ market, and come away with my canvas bags bulging with
. a rotisserie chicken with roasted rosemary potatoes
. one spinach croissant and one pistachio
. a little bag of blood oranges with rosy skins
. mixed greens for braising, and and unruly bunch of dandelion greens
. a jar of my favorite olallieberry preserves
. a ceramic cup of meyer lemon Saint Benoît yogurt (loving the accent with the little hat)
. sausage and apple ravioli

Then just across the street, I see as I’m leaving, is a Bolivian café (named for three sisters and their three daughters), offering warm salteñas, yucca cheese bread, peanut or quinoa soup, Bolivian coffee.

I feel ashamed to find such delight in these worldly things when at the other end of things are women who have no desire to go on with shabby and diminished lives, are widowed, sick, without friends or resources or even the memory of joy.

My pleasure is a kind of prayer as well, for them and me.

image:  cucumber selling by an old women, Tracksigndeva

Friday, February 24, 2012

I've Been Tagged

I’ve been tagged by Jay Paolini, Actor.
What a fun way to get to meet other bloggers out there in the ether, and express my appreciation publicly for the pleasure their blogs give me, the stealthy, unnamed pilgrim traveling their narrative and visual byways (as on the public footpaths of England and Wales), without acknowledging it in most cases—until now.
Thank you, fellow bloggers, for brightening so many of my days!

The Rules Are:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Post eleven fun facts about yourself on the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you've tagged.
4. Tag eleven bloggers; however, you can break the rules and tag fewer people if you want. Make sure you hyperlink their names/blogs.
5. Let them know you've tagged them!
6. Have fun!

My Answers to Jay’s Questions:
1) Which is your favorite movie/novel character?
Diane, played by Sinéad Cusack, in Oliver’s Travels.

2) How long does it normally take you to read a novel?
In my everyday life, two weeks.  When travelling, six to eight hours.

3) Can you watch a movie more than ten times?
Of course—though I’m not sure I’d admit which!

4) Do you ever listen to music while working on a character/writing?
Sadly, I can’t; I need quiet (or non-engaging sounds) around me to hear the voices/rhythms of the written words in my head.

5) Which movie role would you pay to be cast for?
The female lead in a Tom Stoppard sequel to Shakespeare in Love.

6) What's your favorite dish?
This week, Torta di Verdura Genovese (in Crete, hortopita—or wild greens pie).

7) Which book/movie made you run out of tears?
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (movie).

8) Have you ever prepared/created a character based on a friend or a family member?
I often steal bits and pieces of people I know.

9) Have you ever had to improvise during a show?
Thankfully, no.  Just on paper during writing class.

10) Which is the best city you visited so far?
Not fair!  I guess I’ll have to say Venice.  (But then I feel more than a little sad for slighting Rome and Paris, York—both old and New—and Palma de Mallorca . . . )

11) Were you ever introduced to a famous actor/writer?
I’ve ridden in an elevator with Michael Ondaatje; held a door open for Umberto Eco; and had Peter Matthiessen tell me how we can know whether something we’ve written is any good.

My Tagged Bloggers:

My 11 questions for those tagged are:

1)  What would be the soundtrack to the movie of your life?
2)  Which actor/actress would you choose to play you?
3)  Who would write the script?
4)  If you could change the ending of one book or movie, what would it be?
5)  If you could take only one food or recipe with you to a desert island, what would it be?
6)  What fictional character would you most like to be stuck with on a desert island?
7)  If you could have only three possessions, what would they be?
8)  What fictional family would you like to belong to?
9)  If you could start a restaurant or shop, what and where would it be?
10)  What’s your favorite comfort food or drink?
11)  If you were to open a museum, what would you have in it?

If you have any questions regarding any of this, please let me know.

Bon voyage!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mimosa and Acacia

I’m thinking again of the differences between acacia and mimosa, since the acacia is blooming in the driveway—in fact beginning to fade.

I see I forgot to mention the celebratory mimosa two years ago when I was mulling on the name.  Why not make some now, to celebrate the weekend, to belatedly celebrate Mardi Gras?

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Mimosa

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I'm feeling rather abstracted today,  thinking about the poems I'm writing about the power of poetry (or other writing) to transform us, to give us things we can't otherwise have, or be.

And along with this I'm wondering, as I often have, about Prospero, in The Tempest, and why he chose to drown his books, give up his spells, go back to the everyday world.  Some say it was Shakespeare himself laying down his pen, giving up the magic of the theater and the enchanted worlds he created on stage and on paper, and if so that makes me doubly sad, to think of losing the ability to conjure what one needs beyond the here and now.

Or does there come a time when one gives up needing to conjure, write, dream?  I can't imagine it, if so.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Berries and Sweet Peas

Monday, February 20, 2012

Places I Would Rather Be

Bamburgh, Northumbria.

(Home of Lancelot's castle, and the crab stottie.)

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Bamburgh wall

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thought for the Day

We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.
—Carlos Castaneda

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Annecy, France

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Midwinter Color

And Life is Colour and Warmth and Light and a striving evermore for these . . .
—Julian Grenfell

Let us strive for Nasturtiums, this weekend.  One interesting idea in that regard would be to make  Lobster with Chervil, Nasturtium, and Sherry Cream (from Plating Up).  Easier done, of course, if it were summer and one lived in Maine.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Nasturtiums

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Calm

Was it light?
Was it light within?
Was it light within light?
Stillness becoming alive,
Yet still?

A lively understandable spirit
Once entertained you.
It will come again.
Be still.

—Theodore Roethke

I’ll propose that the lively understandable spirit which will come again, if we can just be still and wait, is the radiance of the stained glass, the Tiffany window or something in a distant hushed cathedral, with the sun behind it.  I always feel bereft when stained glass is drained of its light and color.

image:  Tiffany, Hollyhocks

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I’ve been reminded about how we find alluring similarities between distant places we’ve never seen before and others we might have seen often and thought nothing about back home—how in one amazed moment the two connect, ignite.

This whitewashed monastery on Santorini (right) which has the same organic shape and feel as Ranchos de Taos, the church Georgia O’Keeffe painted (two on the left; in black and white I almost can’t tell them apart).  The bread ovens—fornos—at Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient port, which remind me of the hornos where the Pueblo Indians bake bread back in northern New Mexico.  The piñon sap with which the Navajos glaze their pottery, the way the Greeks did their amphoras—why retsina tastes of pine.

These psychic hauntings are part of the pleasure of travel, of going out into the world to find the part of ourselves that we didn’t know we were missing.  A charged component of our writing and art.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Triptych

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

image:  Christie B. Cochrell

Places I Would Rather Be

Helmsley Castle, on the North York Moors—reminding me of the defiant picnic the four musketeers had on the enemy's battlements in the fun Richard Lester film, and of the poet/television writer in John Cheever's wonderful "The Golden Age" drinking martinis in the castle keep somewhere on the seaside in Italy.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Helmsley from Below

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thought for the Day

The minute you or anybody else knows what you are you are not it, you are what you or anybody else knows you are and as everything in living is made up of finding out what you are it is extraordinarily difficult really not to know what you are and yet to be that thing.

—Gertrude Stein

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Fountain, Dusk, Mission at Oceanside

Sunday, February 12, 2012


A confusion of tracks in the sand.  I should perhaps wax philosophical, or lyrical, but will instead let them speak for themselves.

I feel a bit wordless today, as if Jane Hirshfield's moth has eaten everything I might have had to say.

A Moth Ate Words
A moth ate words—
I thought it strange to hear,
and a wonder of fate,
that a worm in darkness
can thieve a man’s fine riddle,
swallow his song,
sip eloquence and feast on its foundation,
And yet that stealthy guest
who dines on stolen words will leave no wiser.
—Jane Hirshfield

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Bird Tracks

Friday, February 10, 2012

Color of the Day

The trick is to name it.

Persimmon?  Pumpkin?  Tangelo?  Deep Carrot Orange?  

Or some medieval pigment that comes from the earth and aspires to heaven, like red ochre or Titian orange?

The color of happiness, I would venture.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Pitcher

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Another Mission

And then of course sometimes my mission is just to enjoy the mission.

Quests needn't be more complicated than that.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

Monday, February 6, 2012

Missions and Quests

All my conscious life (since I ran off one Saturday morning in childhood in instinctive response to the bell of the ice-cream cart on a distant neighborhood street) I have felt the irresistible urge of quests—going in search of essential missing parts of myself, my story, in far-off places.

Since that first occasion, the objects of my quests have changed, but I have been continually roaming, like Tennyson’s wistful Ulysses, with a hungry heart—falling in love with distant things and places.

It’s all to do with longing and belonging.  Things that belong to me, in some mysterious primordial or premonitory way, that I long to have back and must go out in search of. 

This quote from Dewey tells it perfectly:
The epidermis is only in the most superficial way an indication of where an organism ends and its environment begins.  There are things inside the body that are foreign to it, and there are things outside of it that belong to it de jure, if not de facto; that must, that is, be taken possession of if life is to continue.
     (John Dewey, Art as Experience)

Often, I’ve learned, the going is itself your reward, more than the external object that set it off—which sometimes isn’t obtained after all.  You don’t always come out where you expected or wanted—at times indeed far from it; but if you let the journey take you, as it will, often as not you end with something more genuinely yours than if everything had gone accordingly to plan.  The Venice you find under a freak snowstorm is more miraculous than that in the glossy travel brochures.  And if Venice is full, completo, and you have to go perhaps to Ferrara instead . . . Who has after all been to Ferrara besides you?  What of the blue bottle you find in a window there, or the castle of the Medicis showing itself for a moment through a sudden opening in a red brick wall?

Of course the real desire wasn’t the ice-cream itself, to have ice-cream, but in the almost gypsy travels of the cart down neighboring but namelessly foreign streets where I’d never been before—oh maybe in the car, passing, passively, but never by myself and of my own volition (which was the strangest thing of all about that day, to find that in myself, that waywardness, the child who had always been unquestioningly obedient), on an otherwise ordinary Saturday morning while my father was shaving as usual in the confines of the little back bathroom and my mother was at the grocery store or delivering altar flowers or someplace, ordinary too.

I went off then just as unquestioningly to give myself up to the urgent dangerous promise of the bell, the unbearable mysteries of dry-ice, magically smoking, the intricacies of ice crystal formations, like stalactites in a cavern, aching cold in summer, hoary as Merlin, hoar-frosted—oh, but why bother explaining?  As I didn’t, however much trouble I was in.  It was, simply, forever, irresistible.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, San Juan Capistrano Mission

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Joies de Vivre

Puffins—even behind glass!  Even the abstraction of puffins.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Puffins

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Days of Sun

We've been without rain this winter, which is pleasant for the time being, but more than worrisome for the year ahead.

They say that worrying will change nothing, that we should seize the moment—so I'll try not to feel so guilty at enjoying every minute of sun I can beg, borrow, or steal.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Pillows, Asilomar

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Calm

The calm before the storm, or after.  The calm despite the storm.

That is the San Andreas Fault in the background, behind the adobe arcade of the San Juan Bautista Mission (the mission in Hitchcock's Vertigo).  The source—and evidence—of so many earthquakes, yet mostly a calm stretch of valley planted with artichokes, misted in blue.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Fault

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Smile for the Day

I am completely charmed by this homely poem of Pablo Neruda's—

Ode to My Socks

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder's hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation

to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:

beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.

—Pablo Neruda, translated by Robert Bly

image: drei Strümpfe auf der Leine, Anah from New York