Monday, April 29, 2013

In Need of a Klimt

A day in need of a Klimt.

A day badly in need of a Klimt.

A day that can’t, in fact, do without 
a Klimt.

image:  Gustav Klimt, The Birch Wood

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Blank Slate

Today is a blank slate (with appropriately noncommittal skies) on which I can write anything.  There’s music in store at the end of it, a leider recital, and the delicious taste of peach oolong right now, but the rest awaits the chalk.  The motions of my hand, to summon it.
“The Moving Finger writes, and having writ, Moves on,”
as Omar Khayyam tells us in his Rubaiyat.

Misspellings I remember written on the board in school, and errors in equations, to be erased and fixed—are there erasures in life?  The satisfying clapping out of nullified chalk dust from erasers, out on a rock or building wall outside?  The poem goes on
“nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
The opposing school of thought maintains that nothing is written in stone.  Is it or isn’t it?  I feel sometimes as if all my actions have been carved deeply in, chiselled in large sharp Roman letters, my life set in its path as surely as the milestones marking off the road.  But as I learned when doing archaeology on the St. Bernard Pass, milestones can be moved—again undoing the whole equation.

A crow walks on the little hill outside my window, black and proud under the young fruit trees of the growing orchard, leaving no tracks.  My writing him down is all that keeps him in the picture, now that he’s strutted away.

Beginner’s mind, we are reminded in the class on mindfulness I’m taking now Wednesdays at noon.  Don’t let the stories about everything pile up and weigh you down.  Live in the moment, let it go.  The moment is enough.  Beginning honeysuckle on the vine, venerable lichen on broken branches, the writing of nature on the uncluttered slate of my attention.

Let today be what it will, then.  I will not try to direct it, just to be receptive, observant (which implies a kind of rite or sacred quality as well).  Let today be.

image:  slate blackboard

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Calm: Crossing Bridges

Water, air, wood (or sometimes single stepping-stones)—a combination of elements enabling passage.

Bridges I remember offhand are
  • a little one at Bandelier, on the hike up to the Ceremonial Cave (before the long ascent on cottonwood ladders)
  • the Roman aqueduct at Il Pondel, about which I have written endlessly
  • the Turkish aqueduct full of nesting ravens near Knossos on Crete
  • the handsome Brooklyn Bridge
  • many fine bridges in Paris
  • the golden Ponte Vecchio
  • the breathlessly high-arched bridge in the Japanese tea garden
  • a beautiful bright red bridge in Hilo, where old Chinese
    women fish with nets early mornings in the flat tidal pools
  • the Delgado Street Bridge in Santa Fe, under which atomic bomb secrets were given to the Russians (or so the story goes)
  • and then this bridge and quote from Tom Stoppard

image:  The Beauty of Arts     

Monday, April 22, 2013

stream of consciousness

A graybeard
with a sheaf
of blue iris
gladdens my morning,

and then, delicious,
a slightly charred panini
with caramelized shallots,
lots of arugula pesto,
and farmer’s cheese

chores of the best sort:
arranging spring flowers,
washing a few dishes,
making two pots of tea,
charging my camera batteries,
picking up the latest Montalbano from the library.
looking for two old poems I’ve been reminded of,
mailing letters and Matisse postcards

stopping by the produce market
for green beans (which I don’t buy),
a rough-skinned melon soft to touch (but with almost no flavor, after all),
some tarragon, apples,
a round squat loaf of olive bread
to go with the small piece of cheese I picked up
at a whim:  Urgelia Cadi, creamy and pungent,
from the Spanish Pyrenees

slicing potatoes for poulet bonne femme
with tarragon and pearl onions,
baby carrots, lemon zest, and a bay leaf

and tomorrow I’ll make a quinoa salad
with chicken and feta, radicchio,
red onion, and pine nuts;

and the next day
pasta (whole wheat shells)
with Italian sausage and arugula—

and there’s my week arranged.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, spring flowers

Sunday, April 21, 2013

After Being Away

I am happy to be home, to
  • my mound of comfy pillows in their Egyptian cotton cases
  • my silver long-stemmed rose, weighting pages
  • my easy Indian cookbook, awaiting
  • a cup or two of white lavender tea in my cup painted with Italian lemons
  • the books for my “slow writing” course
  • the orchard of young fruit trees ankle-deep in verdant grasses
  • the idea of smoked salmon for tacos (brought back from northwest smokehouses)
  • a long, contemplative Sunday ahead
  • the possibilities of the farmers’ market
  • the possibility of jam and croissants
  • the choice of walking at Shoreline or just reading all day

And above all, to

time of my own!!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Calm: At the End of the Dock

I watch the ferries stitching back and forth across the water from Seattle, remembering when I have been on them.  When I've been on my way to Bainbridge Island or the San Juans, or to well-loved Victoria, in company or alone.

The ferry docks here are not so idyllic as that above, but they are gateways nonetheless to adventure, to aqueous dreams unreeling, drifting free.  Dreams with a deep green heart, persistent as the Amazon, as those Canadian fjords with oysters in their depths and days beyond recall.

Let me drift there, leaving the dock for uncharted waters, for crossings lost to time.

image:  Yehuda Edri

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Some nesting rituals before flying off to Seattle tomorrow for work—
  • slicing the rustic and wheat breads I bought at Green Gulch Farm
  • washing the knife; oiling my bamboo cutting board
  • making a pot of lavender white tea
  • finding passages for my imagined “Slow Writing” retreats
  • hanging my string of paper birds (a gift from one just gone)
  • eating up the pumpkin chocolate bars

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tax Havens

This charming story for tax day, from a friend.

St.Mamas [of Cypress], a devout Byzantine hermit who refused to pay tax since he had no income other than alms and lived in a cave, was ordered to be arrested by the local Governor. As he was escorted into custody the group encountered a lion about to devour a lamb along the roadside. The saint commanded the lion to stop, picked up the lamb, mounted the lion’s back and rode on the back of the lion into town. Upon seeing this, the Governor exempted the saint from taxes thereafter; hence he became the patron saint of tax-evaders and animals.”

images:  St. Mamas, Vanouka
St. Mammes, Lucas Cleophas

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Oh, how I want this window!

Windows are our way of negotiating the outside and the in-.  They are the space—the interface—where we decide moment to moment whether to travel out, whether to let things (and which things) into our private sanctum, the rooms where we think, write, live, breathe. 

They’re places of possibility.  Of yearning.  Of hesitation, and off-putting.  Sometimes, shuttered, of refusal.  Of negation.

Windows like this one draw us, offer daydreams, embody peace, the sun-struck happiness of being where we are.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Astonished Gratitude

A break in the clouds, a ray of sunlight on the water . . . let me be in that ray, today.  In that quintessence, that resplendence, that moment of astonished gratitude.  Let me bathe in the intensity of being.
Simply, and absolutely, being.

Being there.  Being here.

Have a blessed Friday, all.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Against the Harmful Spirits

My charms today against the harmful spirits of my daily round:
  • this simple glass of flowers with one feather (for flight, the flight of seasons and of birds, their winged auguries)
  • a string of Venetian glass beads (for being rooted in the wonder of the world as I know it, the wondrous time-charged places where I’ve been, the beauty I hold inside me)
  • the remembrance of a hill in the canyon covered in juniper and piñon (a haven of memory, the place I come from and return to when I’m ME)
  • a favorite pale blue cotton sweater with a little pocket
  • the etched sea glass, a present from a friend, that murmurs peace

image:  Miele Tè e Dolce Lavanda

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

From the Goldfish Bowl

I'm having a bad week, and need these goldfish and geraniums to cheer me.  A week of drudgery, of too many meetings, too much work of the least satisfying sort—and then of having just those things to write about, and with the writing effectively doubling them.  

Let them go, the Buddhists would say.  Be a fish, swimming in clear water.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Breathe myself out.

I want out, that's the problem.  Want out of my bowl.  Want a far blue lake to swim in.  A sun-dappled pool under some waterbirch or pine.  A lazy river with a gypsy caravan parked beside it, windows wide open to the lemon-scented air (the lemon groves recalling the Corfu or Cypress of Lawrence Durrell).  Want to splash, to make a splash, not circle endlessly in constricted obedient circles.

To—literally—write myself into a better place.  Tell myself, tell those others, what it is I plan to do with my one wild and precious life.  Answer Mary Oliver's urgent question.

image:  Henri Matisse, Goldfish

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Calm: Hilltowns

Orvieto, Volterra, San Gimignano, Erice (with its remains of Phoenician walls and long-vanished temple of Aphrodite) . . . the Italian hilltowns call to me in a language I was dreaming before I was born.  

The medieval towers that still stand, with bells old or mute now, call my name clearly, sweetly, and I answer without having to think twiceHere I am

These are all hometowns of the heart; the kind of strength that comes from climbing, looking up, finding the sky in reach, the mountains further still, and blue, and almost mine—the way love makes things.  Birds, cathedrals, the curve overhead of a stone arch.  The flicker that is lizard on a sun-warmed wall.

image:  Yehuda Edri

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Small Pencil Likeness

As if in answer to yesterday’s post, Notes Out of Time, came this poem from the Greek poet Cavafy—here talking about a sketch of someone loved and gone rather than a handwritten message from him.

Appropriately elegiac.  And I remember my father, too, on one enchanting afternoon on the deck of a ship.  But in the Pacific Ocean that was, beyond the San Juan Islands, rather than in the Ionian Sea.  On the little Sea Bird, during the last year of his life.

Aboard the Ship

It certainly resembles him, this small
pencil likeness of him.

Quickly done, on the deck of the ship:
an enchanting afternoon.
The Ionian Sea all around us.

It resembles him. Still, I remember him as handsomer.
To the point of illness: that's how sensitive he was,
and it illumined his expression.
Handsomer, he seems to me,
now that my soul recalls him, out of Time.

Out of Time. All these things, they're very old—
the sketch, and the ship, and the afternoon.

—C. P. Cavafy

image:  Photo Lovers

Monday, April 1, 2013

Notes Out of Time

I was perfectly amazed this morning to pick up a note that had fallen beside my bed, and find it a handwritten note from my father—dead almost twenty years. 

His writing is distinct, and I knew it at once, feeling he’d slipped it to me just this morning through some crack in space or time, or maybe sent it all those years ago by some particularly slow and peregrinating carrier.  It made me so happy, for a moment.

I realized that it must have been tucked between the typewritten pages of a manuscript of his I’ve been transcribing, and somehow fallen free.  He would have jotted down the note one summer evening in his den in Santa Fe, the room with typewriter (whose carriage once or twice knocked his Saturday morning mug of coffee all over the floor and wall, amidst much colorful cursing), Samurai sword, framed photos taken at the Mount Washburn fire lookout, and big Random House dictionary left open to consult for double crostics.

It comments on the words he was writing about his childhood growing up in Idaho, and on his life as a precocious youth, but I’d like to find meaning in it for my own journey just now, my ongoing exploration of ways to go forward.  It’s not every day, not anymore, that I get notes from my father.  So whatever they are, I can only take them to heart, and be grateful.
“Sometimes the physical and emotional chronology of maturation got out of synch with mental maturity, and that could lead to frustration and tears.”

image:  Christie B. Cochrell