Sunday, March 31, 2013

Gathering Eggs

Happy Easter.  

May your eggs come in whatever colors you prefer (including chocolate).

image:  Teodora

Friday, March 29, 2013

Mute Offering

I am not able to find words I want to share about the tulips in the yard today, this perfect tulip, perfectly pink. They are a song without words, a mute offering that speaks more clearly to the heart than all of speaking.

Which sounds like a line from Rilke.  Which leads me to these lines from Rilke:
But listen to the breath    the unbroken message that creates itself from the silence.

The tulips are a message, confided to the inner ear.  The inner eye, if there is such a thing.  They are a Friday poetry.  A pause before the weekend rain.  A breath before the next sentence picks up the conversation where, before the breathtaking pinkness of them, their pink quintessence, it left off.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Pink Tulip

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Of Boats and Fossils

This fresco reminds me of a wonderful old boat I saw embedded in a sea wall somewhere on Crete, probably Chania, like a fossil boat in limestone.

Which reminds me in turn of a) the fossil fish which used to sit on my piano, and now sits under the octagonal "ship's" window in the hallway; and b) the characters gathering fossils in Lime Regis in The French Lieutenant's Woman.

All by way of woolgathering—my favorite activity.

image:  YehudaEdri

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Things That Make Me Perfectly Happy

  • a merino sweater the purple of the pigment violet
  • warm pain au chocolat
  • a branch of lilacs
  • melon oolong tea
  • walking by the water
  • sitting by the water
  • looking at the names of boats*
  • a little black pug dog
  • remembering Hadrian’s Wall
  • seeing and not having to respond to office e-mail
  • a new easy Indian cookbook
  • pretending perfect detachment
  • pelicans
  • seeing the quails come up the driveway
  • window gardens
  • little green watering cans
  • roasted cauliflower
  • the title “Overheard in an Old Graveyard
  • a sunny window 

*my favorite fishing boat still “For Tuna”

image:  Gustav Klimt, Woman with a Purple Hat (a.k.a. Dame mit Hut und Federboa)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Turn and Return

Somehow the coming of Spring brings to mind these ancient images, the oldest myths.  That everything is new this time of year is yet an old story, an old recurring dream and wakening for 
us—old as the hills that bear the new grasses.

I am reminded too of Nietzsche's concept of the two kinds of time, one within the other, one vast and all-encompassing, one closer to the fabric of our daily lives, repeating itself time and time again.  The passage of the seasons that make up a year, and the accumulation of all years, into eternity. 

That is Spring, then, both new and old.  The small turning of a calendar page, the ponderous turning of earth to sun; the long, slow, lovely earth of ours wheeling through countless uncounted millenia—each one Spring-born.

images:  Roman and Etruscan frescos

Saturday, March 23, 2013

No Time for the Zoo

If I had my absolute choice I'd be staying in one of the upper rooms here, flinging the shutters open at daybreak and sitting at the window, writing, held inside the scent of lavender.

Instead, I'm in San Diego, on a different ocean.  By no means a bad place!  But I am working all weekend, which leaves no time for writing and exploring missions or off-shore islands.  No time for the zoo.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Viewing Comets

I think there's a new comet out there, which I must remember to look for.  

I've always loved comets, and remember getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning in Santa Fe in junior high to go out into the front yard and see whichever one that was.

They are like shooting stars frozen in place, except more of fire than ice.  They are surely good omens, friendly visitants.  They must have puzzled prehistoric, prescientific people, and told them fantastic stories.

image:  Yehuda Edri

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Flowers Lead to Books

Two of my favorite things:  flowers and books.

To quote Oscar Wilde, "With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?"

Or, indeed, to quote Maira Kalman, “Flowers lead to books, which lead to thinking and not thinking and then more flowers and music, music. Then many more flowers and many more books."

What more is there to add?

Only more of the same:  flowers and booksFlowers and books.

image:   Un Cappello pieno di Sogni

Monday, March 18, 2013

Places I Would Rather Be

Today, living here.

image:  A Gathering for Kindred Souls looking to live off the Grid, Carolyn Hewland

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Morning with Irish Cows

These (though three-leafed) remind me of the patch of four-leaf clovers I found in our lawn in Santa Fe, the strip along the driveway.  My own unlooked-for patch of good luck, that seemed then inexhaustible.

Now, luck comes other ways.  In poetry, in patient and dumbfounded cows, in the regard of the world back at us.  In the lamb stew or colcannon I will make for supper, this day of the Irish (only three-eighths my day, then).

Afternoon with Irish Cows

There were a few dozen who occupied the field

across the road from where we lived,

stepping all day from tuft to tuft,

their big heads down in the soft grass,
though I would sometimes pass a window
and look out to see the field suddenly empty

as if they had taken wing, flown off to another country.

Then later, I would open the blue front door,

and again the field would be full of their munching

or they would be lying down

on the black-and-white maps of their sides,
facing in all directions, waiting for rain.

How mysterious, how patient and dumbfounded

they appear in the long quiet of the afternoon.

But every once in a while, one of them

would let out a sound so phenomenal

that I would put down the paper

or the knife I was cutting an apple with

and walk across the road to the stone wall

to see which one of them was being torched

or pierced through the side with a long spear.

Yes, it sounded like pain until I could see

the noisy one, anchored there on all fours,

her neck outstretched, her bellowing head

laboring upward as she gave voice

to the rising, full-bodied cry
that began in the darkness of her belly

and echoed up through her bowed ribs into her gaping mouth.

Then I knew that she was only announcing

the large, unadulterated cowness of herself,

pouring out the ancient apologia of her kind

to all the green fields and the gray clouds,
to the limestone hills and the inlet of the blue bay,

while she regarded my head and shoulders

above the wall with one wild, shocking eye.

—Billy Collins

image:  shamrocks

Saturday, March 16, 2013


This morning is all blurry, out of focus—
and opera;
a soft old sweater,
socks to match (pale blue);
far, muffled birds . . .

and then oranges, jarringly round and bright.

image:  Fog, Yellowstone

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It Is Permitted

“You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted. Begin again the story of your life.”
—Jane Hirshfield

Writing a brief bio yesterday for a short-short I’m getting published in the literary magazine I edited (and printed on the letterpress, long spring evenings with frogs and campanile bells) my senior year of college, I had to consider, distill, the story of my life.  I’ve written thus and so; I work someplace I used to like where I’m not valued anymore and am losing sight of myself; I travel whenever I can, though less than I would like.  Ifs, ands, and buts.

But I can start it anywhere I want.  Begin again.  Choose any opening, and go from there.  What freedom is there, in those words, that realization!

In spring, I write, instead of snatching Lean Cuisine at my desk, I walk out in my purple suede shoes along the shaded street with rose gardens and up the hill where the street ends, to look out to the bay and across it, to salt marshes where shore birds walk on long spindly disjointed legs.

And then I write about looking up whitewashed cottages on Crete for sale, traditional stone houses with sea views and roof terraces, arches and turquoise doors.  We’ll live there half the year, wear espadrilles, grow eggplants (what the Greeks call “garden eggs”), walk everywhere, grow lean and fit and burnished by the sun.

Or instead I’ll write down the menu of tea and scones for my bright-painted gypsy caravan which I’ll park outside libraries, among the seasonal produce at farmers’ markets, in the parking lots of sad big corporations with no spirit of their own.

I write a page of quotes on meditation, finding inner peace in writing words by hand in fine-lined notebooks, for the retreats I will give—in places with tall eucalyptus, orchards, red earth bluffs.  Hearing but letting go the hum of cicadas, the sound of summer rain on the tin roof.  I’ll learn to heal, I write, to rub massage oils into protesting muscles, and will smell eternally of lavender and white angelica, blue cypress, balsam fir.

I don’t forget to write about how I’ve been going everywhere on a green bicycle, the color called woodland fern 5, sporting a woven willow basket; with a vintage cloche hat keeping my long hair from the wind.

Whatever I write today, thus it begins . . .


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Egyptian Blue

I’ve been considering the color of my archaeologist’s thermos, an important detail when you have to get up early every morning and deal with a bunch of bratty high-school kids attending field school in an incompatible spot.  In the end my choices came down to Persian blue, Palatinate blue—which, oddly, means the blue of Durham University, where I stayed that July up the winding stairs of the castle while doing archaeology—or, what I’ve finally settled on, Egyptian blue.  The blue of the fresco above.

Colors, and their pigments, are always intriguing, sensual in many ways.  Blue does seem especially to draw me.  This little meditation on its possibilities comes from a short creative nonfiction piece I wrote several years ago.

Put on your favorite cashmere sweater, and see if you think its color is closest to
· soft powdered Egyptian blue (pigment ground into tree resin)
· the blue robe of a Renaissance saint (lapis lazuli incorporated into viscous oils and honey, wrapped in a cloth and kneaded)
· the blue of a Pompeian fresco excavated from ash (sand and copper, baked)
· partly cloudy Constable blues
· the blue of one of the Auguste Macke watercolors in Tunis—Woman on a Street, maybe, or View of a Mosque without the camels

Image: Pond in a garden. Fragment from the Tomb of Nebamun, 1400 BCE

Saturday, March 9, 2013

So Unlike the Usual

This Picasso, so unlike his usual subject matter or manner, has always left me envious, dissatisfied.  Someone I worked with left the job she did not like, and moved to a new office on the other side of the building, full of space and light, and put up this poster.  

It speaks to me of new beginnings, clean slates (or desks, in any case), the changes I myself have not made, for the longest time.  Of getting out of one's rut, painting cheerful doves against the grain, spying the sea beyond.

It is a lesson I have not learned by heart, a warning I have not heeded.

image:  Pablo Picasso, Doves    

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Except Where To Be Happiest

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Hemingway wrote that about Paris, but it is true about the coming of spring or false spring equally here.  Even work would be fine without those limiters of happiness.  But I shall eat fish tacos, glory in the blossoms, and ignore the spoilers and the limiters.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Look Around

One of the word games/writing exercises I like to engage in is looking around and trying to describe all that I see using only one letter of the alphabet.  Sometimes it works better than others, but here’s my Tuesday drive to work and arrival as defined by the letter “A”—

an Airdale being jogged along behind

a sign askew

the palimpsest of asphalt

hazy blue air

the altitude of an old pine

the awful sterile entryway

things yearned for and remembered from afar

these French geraniums and clothah!

image:  Provence Mon Amour

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Back to the Sacred Grove

Amidst the awful throes of Post-postmodernism, cast up gasping on its bleak and barren concrete shore, I am retreating into an imaginary wood, establishing a tiny Pre-Raphaelite enclave, where beauty, luminosity, spiritual mystery, purity, nature, the mythical or heroic past, and human aspirations reign and triumph.  I shall hide out there—and there you can, if you will, come and find me!

image: How Sir Galahad, Sir Bors and Sir Percival were Fed with the Sanc Grael; But Sir Percival's Sister Died by the Way, a watercolour by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Calm: A Tea Party

“Well that was the silliest tea party I ever went to!   I am never going back there again!”
—Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“Low tea, taken at four, may be as humble as bread and butter and a pot of tea with a plate of biscuits, or it may be as elaborate as a large iced cake, a plate of strawberries and a heap of tea sandwiches.  For inspiration, it is useful to read Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers or the early novels of Iris Murdoch, in which tea menus are elaborately described.

      The great advantage of a tea party is that everything can be done in advance and the hostess gets to put her feet up and sit around for a little while before the thundering herds appear.  Furthermore, the menu should resemble a crazy quilt or set of unmatched china.  The chocolate cake sits next to the cheese buns, and the cucumber and anchovy sandwiches commingle with the shortbread.  In short, you can serve four or five (or two or three) of your favorite things and a pot of tea (with coffee or wine for those who do not drink tea).”
—Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking

My own party, if I had one today, would offer buttermilk biscuits with unsalted butter and French strawberry jam, curried cheddar spread on Jacob’s Cream Crackers, and some of the roasted zucchini salsa I made last night, with a smidgen of smoked trout and lemon slices.  Tangerine Sencha, I think, as the tea.  Out in the just-wakening garden, on a lichen-colored linen cloth.

image:  Tea Party, Tias Arms