Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Astonishes

This poem (by a just-discovered poet) for the end of May, the wakening of those summer mornings that we feel beginning inch by inch while we 
sleep . . .

Horses at Midnight without a Moon

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.

Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.

But there's music in us. Hope is pushed down

but the angel flies up again taking us with her.

The summer mornings begin inch by inch

while we sleep, and walk with us later

as long-legged beauty through

the dirty streets. It is no surprise 

that danger and suffering surround us.

What astonishes is the singing.

We know the horses are there in the dark

meadow because we can smell them,

can hear them breathing. 

Our spirit persists like a man struggling 

through the frozen valley

who suddenly smells flowers

and realizes the snow is melting

out of sight on top of the mountain,

knows that spring has begun.

—Jack Gilbert

image:  Horses at Night,

Mayhem and Momentary Dismay

May is fast waning.  The month of possibilities, of come what may. 

Of may bees, of aye may (Juliet’s soft-breathed ai me!), of “yes, of course you may,” of maydens and mayhem and even momentary dismay.  Mayonnaise too, on little sandwiches carried in a basket outdoors.

We may find some of the same qualities left on into the next month, mayhap a smidgen in things Mayan, or even mayoral.  So let us continue on gladhearted, undismayed!

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Tiffany Window

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Quiet Afternoon Thoughts

It’s nice to spend an afternoon working quietly at home, with the sun coming through my hundred-year-old catsup bottle (yes!—or in fact a hundred and twelve or so by now) and my small Tiffany stained glass pane; a wren popping in and out of the honeysuckle hedge outside; Earl Grey white tea brewing in the glazed green pot; and no one interrupting me but myself, as random thoughts occur and take me somewhere far away.

I’m trying to figure out what to have for dinner, too, and whether I have the energy to stuff an eggplant with lamb and sage and feta.  I say no, but will probably be sorry later.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Catsup Bottle Catching the Sun

Sacred Idleness

Another weekend gone, even though longer than most.

I do like the quote which I found yesterday, "Work is not always required. There is such a thing as Sacred Idleness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected."
—George MacDonald

We ate lamb and trout on the sidewalk outside the Turkish café, and remembered Crete; and had a nice, long, lazy day off, cultivating that Sacred Idleness.

And I was pleased, and touched, that my hundredth friend on Facebook, timed so appropriately, was my best friend in first grade, who I’d lost contact with over the years.  On Memorial Day, remembrances of things long past unite with those more recent, even fleeting.  Life is strange and rich in its workings.  My mother would have been pleased about my reconnecting with my childhood friend as well; and I missed (and miss) my parents so much, not just on days of celebrating what is past.

image:  August Macke, Turkish Café

Monday, May 28, 2012

In Memoriam

Let us remember all those we love, who are with us or not; all those who make and have made life and love memorable.
In one of the stars, I shall be living.
In one of them, I shall be laughing.
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing when you look at the sky at night.
—Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

images:   Imagine Mosaic, Central Park, Shannon Marie
Christie B. Cochrell, Shakespeare’s Grave, and Weathered Tombstone in Stratford-upon-Avon

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bonnard Flowers

Some Bonnard flowers for a chilly end-of-May Sunday, while I brunch with writer friends and celebrate having finished my collection of poems (with three of the poems inspired by Bonnard and his life-enhancing paintings).

image:  Pierre Bonnard, The Vase of Flowers, 1945

Saturday, May 26, 2012


I would love to have little niches built into my walls, like Cretan houses or the old artists’ houses in Santa Fe, with their painted wooden cupboards and worn stone floors.

It would be nice, too, to have bigger niches to nest in, I think, padded with bright-striped hand-woven cotton, as inspired by this quote:
I was at that time like a fledgling swallow living high up in a niche in the eaves... 
—Pierre Loti (French novelist and naval officer, and wine bar in New York)

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Candle Niche

Friday, May 25, 2012

Italian Garden Landscape

A Klimt for a May Friday.  The happy abandon of a garden overgrown with flowers.

image:  Gustav Klimt, Italian Garden Landscape

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Ancient Text

I would love maybe more than anything to be able to write like Michael Ondaatje, to bring music to the slightest phrase.  What he describes has always become magical already in his telling, though the images of this place, Polonnaruwa, show it to be magical all on its own.  I doubt I’ll ever be there, except in the photos and words, but I feel the runes vividly on my skin.

He spread his fingers over every discovered rune.  He traced each letter on the Stone Book at Polonnaruwa, a boulder carved into a rectangle four feet high, thirty feet long, the first book of the country, laid his bare arms and the side of his face against this plinth that collected the heat of the day.  For most of the year it was dark and warm and only during the monsoons would the letters be filled with water, creating small, perfectly cut harbours, as at Carthage.  A giant book in the scrub grass of the Sacred Quadrangle of Polonnaruwa, chiselled with letters, bordered by a frieze of ducks.  Ducks for eternity, he whispered to himself, smiling in the noon heat, having pieced together what he had picked up in an ancient text.  A secret.  His greatest joys were such discoveries, as when he found the one dancing Ganesh, possibly the island’s first carved Ganesh, in the midst of humans in a frieze at Mihantale.
—Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost (The Grove of Ascetics)

image:  Reclining Buddha of Polonnaruwa, Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors

Monday, May 21, 2012


Poignant old lyrics that I had memorized in junior high when the school play (back on another river) was the Spoon River Anthology.

But once having left you can never return
There is no going back there is only the yearn
You're haunted, you're hunted wherever
you roam
Spoon River, Spoon River is calling you home

For the river is time and it flows toward
the sea
And in leaving its banks you are free,
you are free
But you're haunted, you're hunted wherever
you roam
Spoon River, Spoon River is calling you home
Nostalgia is rampant these days.

image:   Claude Monet, Bras de Seine près de Giverny

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Still Life

My window, the window that’s been mine since childhood, with the green of a Santa Fe spring outside it, the budded but not yet blooming Mock Orange which I can smell even unopened, even from here.  The green apricots hanging thick on the old tree beyond it, against the back wall.  I’m feeling the losses strongly, this house haunted with all the memories and forgettings of my past, my being what I am and what I’m not, the house I’m getting ready (though I can’t, ever, be that) to sell, once and for all.

How calm it looks, with that cup of cold tea gracing the windowsill.  How little the photo tells of the whole story.  How much I love it for what it holds hidden away.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Spring Green

Thursday, May 17, 2012


A heavenly stretch of lilacs, with a snowfall of purple underneath.  (No traffic, luckily, while I was stopped in the middle of the road shooting pictures.)

I will get back to thinking aloud soon, but am counting this as a thousand words . . .

In the meantime, happy Friday.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Lilacs, upper Canyon Road

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Places I Would Rather Be

And I am!

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Window, Canyon Road, Santa Fe

Friday, May 11, 2012

Beginner's Mind

I can feel my head—and whole being, in fact—having a hard time getting around the new technology in my life, though I’ve introduced it willingly.  The iPad is just different enough from both iPod and laptop to make me dyslexic, short-circuited like a fuse with too many demands on it at once, almost panicked.  It’s really strange, and a definitely physical sensation, as if my brain is fighting off a bacterial attack.  I don’t like it at all when I don’t know how to do things.

Beginner’s mind is one thing, but dimwit’s mind quite another!

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Ball, Tassajara

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rue de la Casbah

I thought I had lost my copy of André Gide’s Amyntas, his intensely poetic North African journals.  I was especially sad to think I had lost the ability to recover the tumbling orange I remembered imperfectly but with ferocious attachment, as if it had been my own recollection and not his.  Momentary, but somehow vital.  In such moments are lives lived.

Now, happily, I’ve got it back.

From the top of the Rue de la Casbah an orange begins rolling and bounding; a little girl rushes after it; the orange escapes . . . If some French boulevard did not stop them, both would tumble all the way down to the sea.
(Algiers, Saturday, November 14, 1904)

image:  Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Steps in Algiers, 1882

Monday, May 7, 2012


I love Roman frescoes, their colors, and their usually fragmentary nature, which leaves room for the imagination to fill in.

I especially love this fresco, just now, because the birds perched in the delicate tree remind me of the well-fed quail that has been perching itself in the tiniest slip of a tree in our yard, outside the kitchen window, bending its willowy branch (one of only three) nearly to the ground when near the tip of it.  It doesn't seem bothered in the least by the precariousness of its perch or by the thought of tumbling off.

images:  I Require Art, (Detail) Wall fresco, Livia's villa at Prima Porta (near Rome), now in Palazzo Massimo museum, Rome. Photo: raggi di sole — with  Erika Vela.
Christie B. Cochrell, Quail Perching 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thought for a May Saturday

That the stars are adamant
everyone understands—
but I won’t give up seeking joy on each blue wave
or peace below every gray stone.
If happiness never comes, what is a life?
A lily withers in the sand
and if its nature has failed? The tide
                                    washes the beach at night.

—Edith Södergran, A Life

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Aquarium

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Calm: Reading

I love the natural voice of this eight-year-old author, and only wish my own was half as unguarded and charming.
"And all the times I was picking up potatoes, I did have conversations with them.  Too, I did have thinks of all their growing days there in the ground, and all the things they did hear.  Earth-voices are glad voices, and earth-songs come up from the ground through the plants; and in their flowering, and in the days before these days are come, they do tell the earth-songs to the wind ... I have thinks these potatoes growing here did have knowings of star-songs." 

Opel Whiteley, 8 years of age, The Singing Creek where the Willows Grow - The Mystical Nature Diary of Opal Whiteley, Penguin, 1994
 I had to order the book, to read the rest of it.  Preferably sitting under a tree, listening to the earth-voices and earth-songs.

image:  The Singing Creek, Hayley Barker

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Memory of Water

Writing a poem about drought, about the scrawl of long-dried oxbow rivers on the land I fly over between here and New Mexico, about the memory of water that is in us like some tribal lore, I've remembered the vast Byzantine cisterns that lie under what was at the time of their building Constantinople and is now Istanbul.  The unimaginable store of water brought by aqueducts and underground channels from Thrace, from the far ends of the Roman empire, to quench the city's great thirst—for baths and fountains, for the opulence that only water gives.

Richness indeed, but also greed, sorrow.  One of the Corinthian columns in the vast forest of stone that held up the largest cistern, the Basilica Cistern, is said to be engraved with tears, for the hundreds of slaves who died in the construction of the artificial cavern.  

Tears as well for the lost water that haunts me, child of the desert.

image:  Basilica Cistern, Istanbul,

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Another Perfect Window

What would I be thinking, sitting there and looking out?

Probably just idly wondering what I'd have for lunch midafternoon in a nearby taverna, after a lazy swim—grilled fish, peppers and eggplant, a bit of feta on bread freckled with sesame seeds?

Or working out the next page of my novel, looking out to the blue horizon for inspiration.

Hard to imagine, since my thoughts are businesslike and earthbound here this week!

image:   Spring Windowboxes and Patios, Seven Arts Friends

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day

My mother would tell me about picking flowers as a child in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, and leaving them in handmade paper baskets on neighbors’ doorsteps, as offerings for May Day.

There are many rituals to mark the day around the world—everything from leis to caps to lemonade to maypoles to lilies of the valley to morris dancing to Flower Boat Ceremonies to bathing in the morning dew or sea to hobby horses and accordions to motorbikes and madrigals to barbeque breakfasts to foxtrots to kisses.  And of course it’s also International Workers’ Day (the day of St. Joseph the Worker).

I’d love to leave flowers on the doorstep of everyone who has touched my heart this year, to cheer them in return.  Here are some flowers I place lovingly on the virtual doorstep, to say—always inadequately—thank you, and happy May Day!

(And happy May Day, Mama—I miss you.)

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Gift of Flowers