Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thought for the Day: Making So Much of the Tea-Cup

"But when we consider how small after all the cup of human enjoyment is, how soon overflowed with tears, how easily drained to the dregs in our quenchless thirst for infinity, we shall not blame ourselves for making so much of the tea-cup."  
The Book of Tea, Kakuzō Okakura

images:  Rose Té & Amore alle 17

               Miele Tè e Dolce Lavanda

Friday, June 28, 2013

Birthdays Come and Gone

This cake I might one year have made for my mother's birthday, to be eaten next to little chuckling Frijoles Creek at Bandelier, in the shaded valley below the ruins trail, the cliff dwellings that always called me for a walk while she sat and watched birds or other picnickers, or read and smoked and drank coffee from the thermos after a feast of smoked salmon on green chili bagels.

And for her birthday, though she wasn't really one for poetry, these lines from Ted Kooser's "Mother" speak to me, if not to her.
for this is the month of my birth, as you know,
the best month to be born in, thanks to you,
everything ready to burst with living.
There will be no more new flannel nightshirts
sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card
addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.
You asked me if I would be sad when it happened

and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.
Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have to be lonely forever. 

image:  Provence Mon Amour

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Joies de Vivre: Iced Coffee

I am reminded how much I like iced coffee, though for some reason I never remember to look for it.

In Germany, the eiskaffee, made with strong coffee, ice cream, whipped cream, and grated chocolate, isn't to be scoffed at either.  I remember it from my first trip to Europe, many memories ago.

An Italian affogato is essentially the same, though made with more gelato than espresso.

Summer days, summer travel, sitting at a little café table on some charming square . . . and then the earthy aroma and flavor of coffee, ice cold.  There's a perfect itinerary.

To be accompanied by another favorite book, The Mystery Roast, by Peter Gadol.  Great summer reading, about coffee and Cycladic figurines.

image:  Iced Coffee, Craving Comfort

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

More Summer Rain

I love this new woodblock of the summer rain—especially so since all the rain and rainclouds here have gone away, as if they never were.

But here are further musings on it, when the blue sky palls and it gets hot again and only ordinary.

image:  Kawase Hasui, Early Summer Rain, Arakawa, I Require Art

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Rain

Days of gentle rain:  a great treat.  I walk without thought of an umbrella, feeling the seaside mist on my hair like a kindly touch, someone well-meaning, someone nearly remembered from childhood, a relative or friend.

Summer rain is cold glass, lamps lit, crawling under an old quilt and reading all the afternoon away.  A luxury of coolness and a favorite soft sweatshirt against it.  And that heavenly smell, the wetted earth.

Or picking raspberries in a wet bowl (ceramic, white) for a late-morning breakfast.  Going into town for books, for cheese and bread, for stamps, for touching base with others after days of solitude.

Playing pool once with my mother on a rainy day on Bone Lake in Wisconsin.  Having my father teach me how to hold a ping-pong paddle in Lake Lodge in Yellowstone, inside the rain.  Making a summer cassoulet with white beans, thyme.  Listening to Abbey Road.  Seeing Hadrian's Wall or the gardens at Giverny or the blue copper roofs above the St. Lawrence River in old Quebec.

Loving being inside, held safe, or out, face upturned happily rain-ward, having a small hour's adventure.

image:  Bridge in Rain after Hiroshige, Vincent Van Gogh
Bridge in the Rain after Hiroshige

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Like Silence But Not Empty

The rest is silence.


Silence is a rest!


“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?”

—Lawrence Durrell, Justine

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

—Ansel Adams

“In Silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.”


“The world's continual breathing is what we hear and call silence.”

—Clarice Lispector, The Passion According to G.H.

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”

—Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

“On the fifth day, which was a Sunday, it rained very hard. I like it when it rains hard. It sounds like white noise everywhere, which is like silence but not empty.”

—Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.”

—W.B. Yeats

“Green was the silence, wet was the light,
the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”

—Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.”

—Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“Silence will contain all the sounds,
All the words, all the languages,
All knowledge, all memory.”

—Dejan Stojanovic

(Off to a silent retreat, this second day of summer.  Then silent for the rest of the weekend, communing with the Pacific at Pt. Reyes.  Back Tuesday.)

image:  She Who Is

Friday, June 21, 2013

Antique Skies and Seas

Summer solstice always makes me think on a grand scale—back down through the millenia to the perfect alignment of Stonehenge, and that doorway at Knossos where the sun on rising comes between the stones to light—well, what?  Some ancient mystery, lost in time.  The thrill of the immense.

At Chichen Itza, on this day, the Mayan Temple of Kukulcan appears to split in two.  At Machu Picchu, in the Nazca Lines, between the Pyramids of Giza . . . the marking of the firmament in ordered rounds.

Harnessing the sun’s magic for our own.  Or losing ourselves in periodic wonder of it, anyway.  Living in awe.  Letting the unknown get as close as we can bear.

I’ve always loved those things.  One of the books I’ve gone back to again and again is Astronomy of the Ancients.  (I am distressed not to be able to find it on my shelves just now.) 

And yet—for me, this morning, the beginning of summer is nothing more or less than just a little lavender white tea in my Italian cup.  A red ball thrown up by a child into the curving of a sandstone arch.

This amiable art, suggesting all the mysteries available for the asking if I choose to venture out.


image:  Valeri Tsenov, Antique Seas

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Peeking Through

I’ve always been fond of things inside other things—smoky quartz crystals inside the plain exterior of geodes, a ruby burst of pomegranate seeds inside the rough old skin, the ballerina and the little mirrors in the music box, fragile blue eggs in a wren’s nest in the alcove for our washer and dryer, paper flowers in clam shells floating open when immersed in a water glass, piñon nuts in those hard seeds in sticky pods in fragrant trees in deep red canyons . . . nested Russian dolls, chocolate-covered cherries.

And so I love this blue-hued church inside a wall, a church in time and out of it, a church in Lindisfarne, in northern England, in my mind, just peeking through.

Things hidden, cradled safe, emerging from the openings.  Mysteries and mirth and miracles.

This bit of poem, I think, conveys the wonder of their emergence.
There are openings in our lives
of which we know nothing.
Through them
the belled herds travel at will,
long-legged and thirsty, covered with foreign dust.
(Jane Hirshfield, from “The Envoy”)

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Lindisfarne Priory

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Perhaps a Singing Bird

"Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come."
(Chinese proverb)

Oh what a happy thought!

And oddly enough, I think the singing bird I’d choose would be a mockingbird.  Clown though he might be, and maddening outside one’s window in the middle of the night, he’s always so enormously bighearted—not just in those unquenchable outpourings of sound, but in the way he drives off predators from other kinds of birds less able to protect themselves.

Another demonstration of bird largesse that amazed me a week or two ago was seeing a blue jay (again one might think raucous and uncouth) attacking time and time again the net in which a small bird like a wren or finch was trapped, and eventually releasing it.

Monday, June 17, 2013


I have become charmed by Chimichurri, the lovely green sauce made from finely chopped parsley, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and red wine vinegar (with a splash of chipotle salsa, for a certain daring je ne sais quoi).  Or sometimes with other herbs, with lemon juice instead of vinegar, with sherry vinegar, or other variants.

Though the sauce is originally from Argentina, the origin of its name is uncertain.  My preferred theory is that it came with the Basque settlers in the 19th century.  “According to this theory, the name of the sauce comes from the Basque term tximitxurri, loosely translated as ‘a mixture of several things in no particular order.’"  (That, alone, is charming; it would make a good title for a poetry collection or many other bits of my writing.)

And though it’s South American, and complements that cuisine quite excellently, it feels very Mediterranean to me as well, like the Mallorcan sauce made with parsley, garlic, and ground almonds.  Or like pistou, or pesto.  The Italian, Spanish, and French cultures have carried at least this recognizable element of their old world cuisine with them to the new world.

Here is a good page to tell you more.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Friday Calm the Day After

After several busy days, I’m feeling more centered again for having the wooden bread board relieved of its hardened layer of cookie dough, oiled and put away.  The sheep cookies are dreaming lemon zested dreams on a Provençale plate.  The seeded spelt crackers sit tidily in their box awaiting the crumbs of Chaumes and Welsh Tintern; and though a generous new bag of turmeric hides our hand-painted “Amore” tile, until I can decide where to put it, it seems appropriate somehow that it should do so.  No turkey vultures are falling out of trees this morning, and two cars of lost souls (parents for graduation?) are being directed back to the road by our landlady with her bowl of just-gathered young lettuces.

I have presents to wrap (a pile of favorite memoirs), and cards to write, besides the house title to proof for errors, but the day began with mint white tea and a lake meditation, and a piece of sea green glass reflects on ancient tides (though not too ancient, being glass) beside my Henry Dearle “orchard” cup, bone china from St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and with just a bit of Mozart this will be another perfect day—after the perfect day of picnicking with friends and Rodin’s caryatids yesterday (swordfish and bright green chimichurri sauce, reminding me of the seller of spada who came down along the sea in a little three-wheeler on the island between Italy and Africa one long-ago summer).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Flag Day

Happy Flag Day!

(This one from Hexham Abbey closer to my aesthete's heart than the American flag, which I must admit I feel rather unpatriotic about.)

And then a quote I just happen to like about flags:

“[The main road was] now teeming with people carrying torches, pitchforks, and rakes, and one very confused man who apparently had mistaken the mob for a parade and was marching around with a Swedish flag.”
—Cuthbert Soup, Another Whole Nother Story

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Hexham Abbey

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Going Back

I remember reading that when you have a fallback position you do just that—fall back.

And so I think it’s been in my case, with my childhood home in Santa Fe.  As long as I could go back, I went back, looked back, held back, dwelling in the past as much as anywhere.  I was pulled always in two directions, though more strongly to the first.  Tugged by a stealthy undertow of memory, of long-established expectation and obligation; caught in a most amiable trap.  I never quite left off being a child (not paying any real attention to Corinthians, though loving the language).

Several years ago I took a weekend workshop at Tassajara with Edward Espe Brown, the Zen teacher and bread book writer, “Change Your Handwriting and Change Your Life.”  During the course of that, one of the things that did change my life, happily, allowing me to move into a different and a better place than I had been, was learning that I needed to cross the tails of my long “ys” and “gs”—always before, I’d left them dangling in the past.  Left them hanging out uselessly, leading only backwards.

And now, I think it’s time for me myself to write myself again forward, to look to the future and think of myself there.  Intention is the crux of forwards progress, I have heard.  So while I won’t ever forget the past, or those in it, or the places I’ve loved so well, I must move on.  I must stop going back, or at least thinking of it as the direction I long for most.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, At Hadrian's Wall

Monday, June 10, 2013

Facing Monday

Here is my plan of attack for today—
thanks to Maurice Sendak, whose 85th birthday it would have been.

Forwards ho!  (ho ho)

image:  Maurice Sendak, c NCLC

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Calm: Feeling Blue

Feeling blue—

My mother used to enjoy having “mad days,” when she could be just plain old mad at everything and everyone.  She found them very satisfying.

And I can see that “blue days,” days of feeling blue, can be a pleasure too—when the blue is this, luring and deep and with a little boat.

At the meditation retreat I went to in February, one of the other participants said wisely “sadness is our birthright.”  And after a day of silence, reflection, nurturing, sadness had welled up, profoundly, and had come to seem a privilege, a gift.  Not something to be avoided, but something to be cherished.  An important part of being.

If the choice, though, is to escape the blues, the Huffington Post suggests these mood-enhancing foods:
oranges and papaya (for their colors too)
salmon (fish oil)
saffron (known in tradition Persian medicine and Tibetan healing)
St. John’s wort
whole wheat English muffin with jam (simple and complex carbs)

And some cheering activities can be found here.

But if, with me, you want simply to be with blue, that blue, the blue that becomes us, the blue that we become, here is a poem to keep us there on this blue Friday.

In a Net of Blue and Gold

When the moored boat lifts, for its moment,

out of the water like a small cloud—

this is when I understand.

It floats there, defying the stillness to break,

its white hull doubled on the surface smooth as glass.

A minor miracle, utterly purposeless.

Even the bird on the bow-line takes it in stride,

barely shifting his weight before resuming

whatever musing it is birds do;

and the fish continue their placid, midday

truce with the world, suspended a few feet below.

I catch their gleam, the jeweled, reflecting scales,

small dragons guarding common enough treasure.

And wonder how, bound to each other as we are

in a net of blue and gold,

We fail so often, in such ordinary ways.

—Jane Hirshfield
From: Of Gravity & Angels, Wesleyan University Press, 1988

image:  Collage Art (Yehuda Edri)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Without Reproach

I am being haunted by my childhood house, which I have left for good now, signed away or as good as, hoping to find a buyer who will love it as much as I have over the years—if not enough to hang onto, in the end, to love no matter what or why or where I am. 

What I have been is there, what’s in its fabric is our lives—my parents, me, the friends who came and stayed and came and went and come back now, in dreams, without reproach, not saying much at all, just standing in the dark, reminding me.

image:  She Who Is

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Voices from a Farther Room

Reflection:  The throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it. 
Reflections of things already long absorbed into body and soul.  Water standing broken on the pavement like pieces of broken mirror, showing what is, what was, what is no more.  Fragments of happy lives and then, less so, cut short, cut off, thrown back at me.  

The light of the back yard under the cottonwood, like southern France; the heat of summers spent riding horses at Bishops Lodge at eight, at thirty pitting little sour cherries into bowls for pie, reading Colette, walking up Canyon Road to the low gallery with open door and tawny wooden floors and on its whitewashed walls black and white photographs by Kertesz; the sound of voices from a farther room (echoes of Prufrock), all of the light and heat and sound thrown back at me and when not caught in time, falling and shattering.  “I know the voices dying with a dying fall.”

Reflections on selling a childhood house.

image: Punta Arena, Reflejos, Eliana R. Gallardo Carcamo

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Color Therapy

I need to get some color into our patio, though the summer heat and dryness seems to bleach it all out mercilessly.  One thing I like the idea of a lot is the huge Turkish carpet which my friend in Mallorca had laid outside on the main terrace of her renovated windmills, softening the stone or concrete.  (We'd lie on it on our backs at midnight, after a ten o'clock paella or tumbet, and good dry white local Moscato, picking out the constellations.)

I'd also love one of these bright patio awnings, to create the shade that isn't there.

But in the meantime the quails flow through (eleven babies late last week, another six this morning) past the feet of St. Francis and his small water basin, and the Greek flag hangs cheerily over Shiva, while the Provence tablecloths brighten evening supper.

image:  Whimsical Gardens

Monday, June 3, 2013

Where There Are No Hearts to Break

“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear—the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break....”
—Edward Abbey

image:  Yehuda Edri

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Crack in Everything

forget your perfect offering

there is a crack in everything

that's how the light gets in

—Leonard Cohen
A very stressful week—but the idea that stress causes cracks (and vice versa) cheers me, when I take a moment to consider this picture and the quote, because they remind me that it is just there at the point of maximum stress that light gets through, and hopeful violas, and growth into the future that might otherwise not be.

It always amazes me when I see the weeds in the garden gently, persistently, displacing the paving stones, over the months and years, and finally breaking them down.  I must remember that as a way of going forward—especially now, when I feel these immovable blocks sitting solidly in my path. 

image:  Whimsical Gardens