Friday, August 31, 2012

You May Have the Universe

You may have the universe if I may have Italy.
—Giuseppe Verdi

image:  Verona, general view from Castel San Pietro, MM

Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Italian Sojourn

What is the fatal charm of Italy?  What do we find there that can be found nowhere else?  I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.
—Erica Jong

image:  old map of Italy, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Off to Foreign Parts

If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey ... either externally or internally ... and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and to forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then ... the truth will not be withheld from you.
—Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

image:  Ancient Boat, Desktop Nexus

Monday, August 27, 2012

Flowers from Bonnard

A last blaze of summer glory (those of us who grew up in places where school started before Labor Day can't help but think of this as the beginning of autumn).

I'll be traveling for the next few weeks, without computer access—which will be both refreshing and disturbing.  I've got pictures and thoughts about travel set up to post themselves while I'm away; it won't be nearly as satisfying as sending thoughts and pictures as I go, but I will keep those in a notebook to share when I return—replete with wondrous wanderings.

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Poppies 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Castles in the Air

I'm getting ready to go away for the better part of a month, and my thoughts have already flown to other well-loved lands.  I'm having a hard time making myself do what needs to be done here, so that I can get away.  Days are shortening, as well, drawing in on themselves already, so there's no luxury of time for daydreaming and wasting.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Durham Castle

Friday, August 24, 2012

Nights in the Sacred Grove

Sitting in the redwood grove watching Henry IV Part 2 on a late August night, I understand why the Greeks considered groves to be sacred— observing, with all senses, the fog wraithing down through the trees; lanterns like stars or prophetic planets moving among them up the hill; the death-defying words, poetry, drama, resounding at their heart; the king-to-be stepping a telling step at the edge of the wooden stage; his hesitation at the edge of darkness to grow up, assume the burdens of the world.  I sat as always there feeling sheltered, cherished, consoled, gladdened.  Felt a kind of hushed awe at being held within the circled columns of the venerable old redwoods, where Shakespeare Santa Cruz for a few weeks each summer creates magic.

image:  Festival Glen, UC Santa Cruz

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Joies de Vivre: Cinnamon Toast

“Recall a taste or smell that has a happy personal memory for you”—

Cinnamon toast!  Buttery golden brown toast with cinnamon-sugar sprinkled evenly on it, the melted butter soaking up the topping, creating a delicious consistency.  Its fragrance, too, adds to this ultimate childhood comfort food, loved best on a blustery winter’s day, or when feeling unwell or unhappy.

image:  The Right Way and the Wrong Way to Make Cinnamon Toast, The PioneerWoman

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writing with Light, Defined

I think this sort of sums up what “Writing with Light” tries to be about . . .  (Though when I named it I was just thinking how I loved that photography is literally—but poetically—that.)

image:  Positive Energy

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

After the Fact

Here’s a picture of Denver that I was never able to figure out how to post from my iPad, while there.  I’m still technologically challenged . . .

image:  Denver skyline, Hogs555

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Denver Musings

Some Sunday morning musings from Denver—
which was founded by putting down logs on land inhabited by the Arapahoe tribe.

From my window I can see 
An earth-colored church spire and refinery towers, the same color and height
A lip of mountains around the broad and unassuming plain where the city rises (or this morning is slow to rise)
Banners for The Book of Mormon
A gigantic Jack Daniels (Old No. 7) sign fronting Backstage Coffee
A solitary pedestrian with book bag and coffee—

Nothing that lures me out to walk in the Sunday morning coolness as I would in Boston or Manhattan, or NW Washington DC (though I was drawn yesterday evening, irresistibly, by the shady brick-walled patio of a bistro in historic Larimer Square, and by a heavy graceful candle holder in a shop window, a long-tailed dove).

Image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mission Bell

Friday, August 17, 2012

Red Tile Roof

Still struggling with the unfamiliar technology, I feel as if I have laryngitis or something, unable to post as I want.

Happy weekend, wherever you are.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mission Roof Tiles

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mountain Daylight Time

I'm in Denver, which surely has no such lions, but I'm having an impossible time loading the images I want via my iPad interface.  Stay tuned!

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Lion's Head Fountain, Getty Villa

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Feta Accompli

It's the time of year (well, perhaps one among many) when my thoughts turn to things Mediterranean.  Tomatoes are ripe and seductive, mounds of peppers delight in souks and markets, eggplants are smoky, dusky, purple as dusk over Mallorca or eastern Crete.

I've pulled out Henry Miller's intemperate love letter to Greece, The Colossus of Maroussi, to revel in the language of someone who feels about the land as I do.
"And what is it about Greece that makes you like it so much?" asked some one.
    I smiled.  "The light and the poverty," I said.
   "You're a romantic," said the man.
   "Yes," I said, "I'm crazy enough to believe that the happiest man on earth is the man with the fewest needs.  And I also believe that if you have light, such as you have here, all ugliness is obliterated.  Since I've come to your country I know that light is holy:  Greece is a holy land to me."
It is high noon.  I want to have my lunch in Phaestos.  We push on.  The rain has stopped, the clouds have broken; the vault of blue spreads out like a fan, the blue decomposing into that ultimate violet light which makes everything Greek seem holy, natural and familiar.  In Greece one has the desire to bathe in the sky.  You want to rid yourself of your clothes, take a running leap and vault into the blue.  You want to float in the air like an angel or lie in the grass rigid and enjoy the cataleptic trance.  Stone and sky, they marry here.  It is the perpetual dawn of man's awakening.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Feta Can, Crete

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Still Another Day

Remembering—oh, remembering—my mother, June Cochrell: June 27, 1924 to August 11, 2011.
The days aren't discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn't unweave: there is no net.
They don't fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn't divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.
—Pablo Neruda, Still Another Day

image:  In Memoriam

Weekend Pleasures

Time enough for words tomorrow!  Today is just for basking . . .

image:  Pierre Bonnard, detail of Summer

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Calm: Breakfast with a Dog

Good morning to all.  Wishing you breakfast under a favorite tree, with a favorite dog.

I'm looking out on a sprawling, sun-struck oak, and feeling grateful for the moment of quiet light and time.  Grateful that it's Friday, with a night of Shakespeare in the redwood grove ahead, a visit to a lovely adobe in a rambling garden, and finally The Mikado, Sunday afternoon.

Vive le weekend!  Vive le chien!  Enjoy another cup of tea, this morning on the threshhold, and don't rush off anywhere—just yet.

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Picnic

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sojourner, Wayfarer, Pilgrim

I thought I might like to be a sojourner—a word I’ve come across this morning that is not in my regular vocabulary.  I do journey a lot, and embark on some transforming pilgrimages, spiritual or artistic quests, eccentric jaunts, quiet wanderings, exhilerating voyages, intellectual or culinary explorations, contented roaming.  Few treks

Wayfaring sounds particularly jaunty—with the wind in one’s hair, a picnic of olives, feta, ripe tomatoes, and oregano packed in one’s side-baskets—though it means simply journeying or traveling by road.  The term is said to be somewhat archaic, which suits me. 

Expeditions can be great fun, if more scientific— setting off with compasses and spyglass and thick boots to excavate earth-crusted Roman spoons, to photograph the transit of Venus, to climb the pyramids at Teotihuacan (where atop the Temple of the Moon you find a little cart selling heavenly popsicles), to chart some northern fjord seeded with oysters.

But sojourning seems to be after all less thoughtful or wholehearted; something done in passing.  A temporary stay, a visit for a time.  Boarding in a house, school, or college, for the purpose of receiving instruction.  Perhaps apt after all, since my journeys always end too soon, all encounters in distant places though vital are fleeting.

And which of us is not a sojourner in this world?  Inhabiting the realms of grace for all too short a while.  The stay always better in the company of a fellow traveler with floppy ears . . .

image:  Pierre Bonnard with Dachsund, 1941

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Dog Days Have Come Early

Or at least I've determined that I'm in need of some dogs, so this week shall post some of Bonnard's lovely four-pawed creatures, always good for the heart.  I smile like this child in blue whenever I see them.

Of course that quintessential Bonnardly combination of orange and blues and greens does a world of good as well!  And why is it that stripes are always so jaunty?

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Little Girl with Dog

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Go Softly

Having trouble chewing just now, I’m wooed by the textures and flavors of the following low-impact foods—

. Tuscan white bean soup with rosemary, shredded carrots, and well-simmered arugula
. crème caramel
. chocolate pudding
. oatmeal with St. Dalfour plum jam
. guacamole sans chunks or chips
. angel hair pasta with with basil and goat cheese tomato sauce
. vichyssoise
. cinnamon applesauce
. Tintern cheese
. curried eggplant
. mashed potatoes
. carrot juice
. creamy polenta with gorgonzola
. eggs scrambled with feta, herbs, sauteed red onion and chard

image:  white chocolate and mango panna cotta, whokilledthecooker

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Calm: The Golden Tree of Life

It’s interesting—my Friday Calm postings more often than not include water—still surfaces mirroring (or hoping to inspire) an inner peace.

But calm can often be in the least expected places (just as repose can be situated at the very brink of toppling), and the golden tree of life must include a certain turbulence as well, within which stillness is somehow kept safe.

I remember so well the summer morning when I stood beside a redwood-shaded creek at the Russian River quietly drinking in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto which drifted from the open window of a cabin on the other bank like slow silvery ripples on the deep green swimming hole—until I was interrupted, disturbed, agitated.  The calm was shattered, not to be regained.

And on the other hand, I’ve been finding great stillness of spirit within Verdi’s lively and continually forte or even fortissimo early opera Attila.  That dynamic music creates for me a deep pool of calm.

image:  the golden tree of life, ThereseNicolas

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Alchemy of Guacamole

I’ve always loved the alchemy of guacamole—
ripe avocados
crushed chile caribe from San Juan Pueblo
gray sea salt
Turkish oregano
a bright lemon
minced onion, garlic, and tomatoes

I used to make it all the time in Santa Fe, slowly drawing the ingredients together on a plate, adding a bit more this or that, tasting again, then letting sit and chill for an hour or so until the flavors have perfected one another.

And at the Writing Mills in Mallorca, after our day of critiquing novel chapters, as the Cuban rum and English gin and dry Spanish moscato were being set out, I would add southwestern guacamole to the exotic appetizers on offer there in the heart of the Mediterranean, that island thick with olive trees and almonds and Aleppo pine, and we would eat it looking out on the darkening sea.  It fit perfectly there.

Now, to me, it tastes like summer.  But its making is much of the satisfaction.  It is a kind of meditation, like kneading bread or chopping vegetables in the Buddhist spirit.  Making guacamole brings proper order—lovingkindness—to the world.

image:  Guacamole, Kalyn’s Kitchen