Saturday, August 31, 2013

There, Oh There

How did it happen that it's the last day of August already?  In my mind it's still early summer, the pace completely leisurely, a sense of promise in the air (smelling of wild thyme or of mint).

And in my heart I'm in Greece, in just such a taverna, researching a story, jotting down some local color for the story of my life.

Instead, I'm slow to move, malingering in immobility after the weeks' gathering rush, doing no writing, making no plans, hoarding my flagging energy.

Cooking is a constant, anyway.  I revel in the seasonal tomatoes (made into salads with good feta, cucumber, mint or marjoram, and the splurge of an avocado).  I was happy to find pimientos de padron at last week's market, which I've grilled on the stovetop in a little olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.  I roasted chicken thighs with garlic cloves and green apples and thyme; shaped Indian lamb patties with green peas, spices and a little lemon zest and yogurt; made a garlicky Turkish salad with spinach leaves and scallions.

The bleating of the unseen goat in the neighbor's yard makes me feel I'm somewhere other than I am, as well, so maybe in the end I'll be transported utterly.

image:  Greece Art & Architecture
posted by Nefeli Aggellou

Friday, August 30, 2013

Craving Shade

The patio is broiling today, and we'd like nothing more than a pool of deep shade to sit and read in (preferably cooled further by murmuring water, or still water like this, or by a drizzle of light pink roses against the fence).  But as it is I've closed the blinds against the heat of the mid-afternoon, and will lie quietly and listen to a Charles Todd mystery on my iPod.

This after a most cheering lunch at our favorite local Italian cafe, where I had delicious linguini con vongole, both lemony and garlicky, remembering the tiny translucent clams in Rome which I virtually lived on one September.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Trust Movement

Trust only movement.  Life happens at the level of events not of words.  Trust movement.
—Alfred Adler

I’m down to just a few things on my desk:  a cup of shells (from what ocean?), two beaded necklaces, a sheet of packing box labels.  August’s calendar.  Computer.  Plants.  The poster of the Navajo Dye Chart from eleven years ago when we moved here, off campus.  A quarter.  Some lichen-green post-its and a pen. 

It comes to this.

I’m trusting that this movement out, away, will bring me up on some outrageous, wondrous shore, calling me forth to new adventures of the spirit.

image: Matala, Marc Para

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Affirmation for the Day

I embrace emerging experience.  I participate in discovery.  I am a butterfly.  I am not a butterfly collector.
—William Stafford

image: She Who Is

Monday, August 26, 2013

Either Spoken or Done

I will be posting one by one thoughts and words I saved from "The Little Zen Calendar" one year (okay, well—1996!) and found in a drawer with other lost treasures.

This, to cheer a Monday with that lovely Turkish gourd—
"As naturally as the oak bears an acorn and the vine a gourd, man bears a poem, either spoken or done."
—Henry David Thoreau
Now having spoken, off to do some poems.

image:  gourd, Turkey, Maderibeyza

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday

Happy belated birthday to Writing with Light!  Four years old, on August 2.

It makes me very happy to have kept with it this long, without faltering.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Apricot Sours, and the Aegean

Sailing between the Greek islands as I turned twenty, Hydra to Rhodes and Rhodes to Crete and Crete to Santorini, the pearls my grandparents had given me, one by one every year, the strand of au lait-colored cultured pearls, breaking and spilling down the rough-weave dress I’d bought myself in Athens, in the Plaka, spilling all across the shipboard floor.  Sailing the Aegean at twenty and drinking apricot sours on deck—delighted equally by both.

Somehow the pleasure isn’t quite the same today...though I did find a jar of maraschino cherries in the fridge, hiding behind the harissa. (Is that what's known as eclectic tastes?)

image:  apricot sour, taylor takes a taste

The Path Ahead

The path immediately ahead is not nearly so alluring, I know.  Not Italy, not even new-world red tile roofs and shadowy arcades with learning deep in them, the wisdom of the world held there, but an unlovely urban space in sight of a freeway, where we'll be expected to go on with an overload of work that isn't satisfying either.

I'm curious to know, though, if—with openness, good will, the mindfulness I've been practicing—I'll be able to find moments of nicely weathered stone, doorways into or through, a breath of green, a window with a friendly face, a square around the bend with a café table.  If I treat this change as exploration, opportunity for movement, time for getting out of ruts and clearing a different way forward, maybe it will show me exactly what I need, for me.

I always stay put way too long, in what is merely comfortable.  Or worse, in what has been used up and in turn used me up.

As I head off for another half-day of clearing out the office where I've been less than myself for several years, but to which I have formed a strange (but typical) attachment, I will be drawn forward by the bright promise of hope given me by this most mindful poem.

     The Cloudy Vase

     Past time, I threw the flowers out,
     washed out the cloudy vase.
     How easily the old clearness
     leapt, like a practiced tiger, back inside it.

     —Jane Hirshfield

image:  Yehuda Edri

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In Contrast

I’m making a lovely zucchini tian, with thyme and eggs and gruyère cheese, in the teal and earth-colored pottery soufflé pan. 

I wanted to go outside to sit and enjoy the cool evening air while this all baked into our dinner, but the garden—the hot patio with weeds—is too much of a disaster to stand.  Or sit and look at.  I’ve been revelling on Tumblr in rose gardens and Mediterranean terraces with glimpses of the sea, and (as always) reminiscing about Mallorca, this time of year; and the contrast is just too bleak.  My secret garden is just in my head, or on the screen.

But tonight is Verdi night, this year of his 200th anniversary, and I will plan for amiable things ahead.  And enjoy the tian, in just twenty minutes!

image:  The Beauty of Arts

Monday, August 19, 2013

Closing This Door

I have been neglecting my writing as I pack up my office to move, and carry things downstairs.  Sorting, throwing, making hard decisions; my least favorite work.  It's come down to the following, besides the uninteresting manila folders full of papers—

being left behind:

  • Desert Sage tea leaves
  • Spring Cherry tea (one bag)
  • wooden clocklet with dragonflies
  • russet mugs
  • atlas
  • cherry gummies
  • corn soup
  • old typewriter
  • blonde folding desk
  • broken shell, from friends’ children
  • bright Turkish cookbook card
  • two played-out ficuses
  • swan calendar
  • United Nations flag
  • Italian vase
  • blue speckled mugs
  • rooster (cockerel) mug
  • some oregano in Royal Worcester porcelain
  • New Mexico charm bracelet
  • terra cotta face
  • two torn batik patchwork jackets
  • two cobalt blue glasses
  • handmade wooden briefcase (graduation from highschool present)
  • orchid
  • Christmas cactus
  • lots of Black Lab hair
  • wedding video cassettes
  • favorite 45s:  Hard Candy Christmas, American Pie, The Show Must Go On, I’ll Be There, Oh, Babe, What Would You Say, #9 Dream, Gypsy, Someone Saved My Life Tonight
  •  two of my father’s 33 1/3s:  Jose Melis Piano Moods, Down in the Valley
  • pink sneakers (too small)
  • worn-out mouse pads from the Museo Nazionale Romano (“Mosaico a soggetto nilotico”) and of ancient Athenian coins
  • various quotes, including “wherever you go, go with all your heart” (Confucius) and “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”  (e.e. cummings)
  • a color drawing by the young son of friends (going to Angel Island)
  • an unfinished double-crostic book of my parents’
  • a par avion sticker
 coming along, for sure:
  • kaleidoscope
  • Cretan espresso demitasse
  • geode
  • keyhole photo
  • “Vietato entrare” sign
  • fine woven basket
  • “Ecrire” sign
  • sarcasm sign
  • bear fetish
  • lion box
  • black sheep
  • three glass marbles
  • straw fish
  • Oscar Wilde 1882 photo
  • two fortunes:  “You will travel many places”; “Your happiness is intertwined with your outlook on life”
  • Canadian $5 note
  • The Great Herbal two-volume set
  • a calendar of the Zen Circles of Kazuaki Tanahashi (from whom I took a class once)

image:  Matter of Taste

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Pull of Opposites

My father, too, was discombobulated by the pull of opposites in him—the magic, feverish lights of Broadway, Times Square, opera and theater and publishing and all the culture of the world made evident in a few numbered city blocks (the numbers of the elements on their neat grid, the strictly ordered spheres); and then the absolute quiet of the forested wilderness, the lonely green closure of the fire lookout on Mt. Washburn.  The clarity at the transluscent heart of thermal pools, geysers, beautiful and foul-smelling and dear.

He went back and forth for years—Manhattan in the winter (living at the Allerton Hotel, often unhappily), the northwest mountains in the summer; aspiring actor and writer / seasonal park ranger—until leaving both for the high desert of the artists that was Santa Fe.  Unable to choose, or choosing neither, in the end?

Having just returned from New York, I am feeling both worlds tugging me.  There, here, everywhere and nowhere.

My favorite New York moments: 
  • seeing two basset hounds padding along 54th Street while I stood in line on the sidewalk for halal
  • watching an upper west side writer in my favorite Greek restaurant next to Carnegie Hall, with open windows and fifty pottery jugs, scribbling on a lined notepad while eating a grilled octopus salad
  • seeing Gauguin’s quiet mythological painting, The Moon and the Earth

My favorite California moments since my return:
  • making some Jardin Sauvage tea with purple and marigold petals
  • thawing the last of the green chili lovingly roasted by my mother
  • grilling zucchini for a salad with radish sprouts and basil
  • looking for floor runners
  • overhearing “I have to go to Rio on the 29th
  • seeing the whole tribe of quails scattered across the driveway

image:  Yehuda Edri III,

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Out of Time

Instead of fussing with packages to be sealed with tape that’s splitting on its roll, and packing heavy (boring) books to carry in a bag I’ve yet to pack, I want to be writing—to pull rabbits from hats, haring swiftly through expanses of sage and mountain schist; pull silk scarves from my sleeves, colored garnet, lemon, and burnt orange or maybe persimmon; weave unicorn tapestries; cook posole with smoky red peppers or even lovely shrimp for an insouciant flavor; watch ancient olive trees achieve their four-hundredth summer or fall, as philosophical as the best teachers I have had teach me.

But time is up, and I must march off on my trip; a prisoner of other people’s time.  I’ll take my meditation tapes and two new British mysteries, but probably not the fat twig with lichens I found this morning that connects me strongly to the earth, my comfortable heart-felt home.

I’ll see a play on Broadway; visit my favorite Greek restaurant outside of Crete.  I’ll work mostly, and stay inside, imagining what’s out.  I’ll love the time away, I hope, but my homebody twin is bidding me stay.  Is anxious, unsettled, yearning for the return.

image:  She Who Is

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Singing the Blues

“After we became a couple, she composed our time together. She planned days as if they were artistic events. One afternoon we went to Tybee Island for a picnic; we ate blueberries and drank champagne tinted with curacao and listened to Miles Davis, and when I asked the name of her perfume, she said it was L'Heure Bleue.  

    She talked about 'perfect moments.' One such moment happened that afternoon; she'd been napping; I lay next to her, reading. She said, 'I'll always remember the sounds of the sea and of pages turning, and the smell of L'Heure Bleue. For me they signify love.” 
—Susan Hubbard, The Society of S
I am drinking a new tea called Happiness, green tea and green roibos flavored with fresh fruits and flower petals—as I always try, when visiting Boston, to walk up Joy Street. 

And I’m singing the blues.  The blue of these delphiniums, the blue against the evil eye, the blues of Greek Island doors, blue-striped espadrilles, the blue jays in the garden that are eating all the plums, my favorite Salinger story:  DeDaumier Smith’s Blue Period, the blue of ache, the blue of smoke and smoulder, the blue of turquoise strands that were my mother’s, the blue jeans from her drawer, the lovely chain of stories:  The Blue Train, this day that is not blue in its sky just in the blue of preparation to go far from here without choosing my course. 

Blues are celebratory, calm, or deeply tinged with suffering.  They raise the spirits while not losing sight of the sadness within.

“I'm a bluesman moving through a blues-soaked America, a blues-soaked world, a planet where catastrophe and celebration—joy and pain—sit side by side. The blues started off in some field, some plantation, in some mind, in some imagination, in some heart. The blues blew over to the next plantation, and then the next state. The blues went south to north, got electrified and even sanctified. The blues got mixed up with jazz and gospel and rock and roll.”—Cornel West, Brother West:  Living and Loving Out Loud, A Memoir

“What I can play is blues. She was never that into blues. I can salve with Lightning and Cotton, BB and Clapton and Stevie Ray. I can blast Son Seals singing Dear Son until the coyotes in the creek raise up a sympathetic sky ripping interpretation of the harmonica solo. Piercing howls and yelps. Sounds like it’s killing them and also like they love it. Which when you get right down to it is the blues.”—Peter Heller, The Dog Stars

image:  Provence Mon Amour

Sunday, August 4, 2013


I am panicking, realizing that I’ve got to go to Santa Cruz on Tuesday, New York on Friday.

Instead, I want to
  • made gorditas
  • (little char-striped masa harina rounds) on the griddle
  • write a poem about a kestrel
  • find a striped sail to hoist across the patio for shade, and under it a richness of geraniums
  • have a garden party and eat out by candelabra-light, or fairy lights and moon-like paper lanterns strung in all the trees (if only there were trees)
  • plant a blue and pink garden
  • bicycle to work
  • paint the bathroom plum and paper white
  • make a fish stew with harissa
  • get all my writing, in it its ice-green folders, into magazine files in my wooden cabinet
  • reread The Charterhouse of Parma
  • make a Greek salad every day, with summer tomatoes and Mt. Vikos feta with mint and oregano