Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In the Midst of Winter

"In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.  And that makes me happy.  For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger—something better, pushing right back."

—Albert Camus, The Stranger

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

To Open a Window

Metaphorically or otherwise, it’s never too late to open a window . . .

I just read this morning that “Archaeologists helping restore Mingary Castle on Scotland's western coast have reopened a window that was sealed some 500 years ago.”

It’s never too early, either.

Open windows in January let in the sound of passing quails, of horses crossing up into the hills, of laundry spinning warmly in the dryer, of flute practice—a breath of reinvigorating air.

And as always, in any season, any year, there is Pierre Bonnard, the genius of the open window.

image:  Pierre Bonnard, The Open Window, VMFA/Mellon

Saturday, January 25, 2014

An Odd Collection

Thinking of things at random, this late January early afternoon, I gather in my writer’s mind the following—

Persian blue
a poached egg
cirrus clouds
a phonograph record
standing stones

An odd collection, which I’ll try to make into a patchwork quilt of story, after lunch and returning library books.

This image I find when looking for kinds of “refuge” greatly appeals to me.  It will hold my day’s story, quite perfectly; give it a further quizzical twist.

image: Daingerfield Lewis Ashton, A Gathering for Kindred Souls Living Off the Grid

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nora Borges

I love all of the paintings by Nora Borges, the younger sister of Jorge Luis, posted at the link below.

Gorgeous indeed!

image:  Nora Borges, Brain Pickings

Sunday, January 19, 2014


I am wooed today by offers of Old Holland Yellow Green (a tube of oil paint at the art store), sizzling seafood (a fragrant platter through the window of a Chinese restaurant), striped rubber boots (for children playing in the rain, or in the shallows at Shoreline, chasing the bobbing coots), a Siamese kitten sooty and possessed of an old soul.

I take my chilaquiles to campus, and finding the Rodin sculpure garden all in shade, settle for a picnic table in the sun near the old Chemistry building.  I haven’t had chilaquiles since I fell in love with them that Thanksgiving in Cancun, herding Slavic scholars to the Temple of the Jaguar and walking and walking on the turquoise shore.

But longer than the happy elements­—the Old English Sheepdog having his ears rubbed; the gluten-free baker with his earring singing along to “Puff, the Magic Dragon” while I watched the rounds of cornmeal masa being rolled and grilled and filled with meat or cheese—I’m carrying the annoyance with me of having been jostled by a rude teenager with two half-gnawed ice-cream cones;  being treated as not important, or invisible.  She had to be aware that I was standing there, out of her way, but didn’t care.  I’m still unduly ruffled by such a small thing.

Eventually the good Oaxacan spices and the sun between the oaks soothe my uncharitable soul.  Coffee, bicycles, academics dogwalking, the thought of Santa Cruz—the day is untroubled again.

image:  Chilaquiles, Latinofoodie

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In the Kingdom of the God of Doors

In this month of Janus, god of doors, I’ve started thinking about favorite doors, over the years—

The door in my funky old office in the old Press building, that opened onto the courtyard—a little courtyard tucked between the Stanford Daily and the University Press, with well-established tree and sun-dapple; my much loved office with its fossil-bed floor (paper clip prints, matchsticks, lead slugs) and publishing posters, my job finally to work with books, as I and my father before me had so long wanted.

The door that stood often as not open atop the wobbly wooden stairs on Forest Avenue, the door that T.S. Eliot the pearl-gray Himalayan cat one evening sauntered through, and often during those best years let out the aromas of linguini con vongole or penne con pastrami, the halting melodies from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana picked out on my well-travelled piano.  A plain door, with a padlock, but a door that kept no possibilities out.

A purple door in Durham, up in the Cathedral close, when I was staying in the castle there and doing archaeology (cow bones and one little Roman deep-bowled spoon) in Northumbrian mud.

The door into The Shed in Santa Fe, opening from the cobbled patio into the crowded waiting room with piñon fire, where the names of hungry hordes were entered into the big ledger and sooner or later called, while we waited in keen anticipation of red chili blue corn enchiladas swimming with sauce and melted cheddar.  Other doorways beyond revealed the low ceilings and intense colors of paintings and painted walls, lunching with friends and family, always seeing others we knew.

The shop of doors on Alameda, downtown too in Santa Fe.  Great Tunisian or Moroccan doors, or more likely Mexican doors, carved into eloquence.  Doors into foreign places.  Places of longing and imagination.

Doors like this mission door, with deep tranquility inside.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mission Door

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Calm

Somewhere in the world . . . and once upon a time.

I feel that I should write a fairy tale about this group, a fable full of lessons learned and unexpected kindnesses and reckonings.  A meditation, an exploration of place, deep as the woods behind, but entering a clearing.

image:  Yehuda Edri

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Instead—seven alternatives.


Be still does not mean don't move.
It means move in peace.
—Eyen A. Gardener


I wanted to start the day writing of waterbirds and agency and mountains sacred to the Coast Miwok; to say what’s been most vivid for me in the past few weeks. 

Instead, I clear my writing room, and end writing of Hopi vases, empty of their corn, and my own turquoise vase, a gift of clay and grace.

(my notes from Saturday)


…the way that trees, rather than compete for light, sometimes withdraw from their neighbors' shade and grow instead toward any available brightness
—Jane Hirshfield, discussing “Optimism


Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.
—Billy Collins, from “Consolation”


Try not to resist the changes that come your way.  Instead let life live through you.  And do not worry that your life is turning upside down.  How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?


Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

—Anton Chekhov


Instead of Christmas cards—T.S. Eliot’s The Cultivation of Christmas Trees.

image:  Initial I, Melchior Lotter

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tea Caravan

I’ve been daydreaming about starting a Tea Wagon, in a lovely portable shepherd's caravan like this.  Afternoon tea, scones, jams, tea sandwiches, savory tarts, spindly bright-colored café tables with full-blown roses in vases, or peonies, and napkins in the colors of Provence...  A portable bookshelf as well, from which customers can borrow light or philosophical reading, and sit lingering as long as they like.

The café tables—two or three inside, a couple on the porch (if a different caravan) with a big pot of rose geraniums, and three or four in the shade alongside it—will have matching slatted chairs.  Plates of Majolica (melamine) will match the Provence fabrics, or coyly contrast.

The teas will be made in little individual pots, and will include:
Spring Cherry Green
Apple Green
Ginger Tangerine Sencha
Snow Leopard White
Lavender White
Blueberry White
Vanilla Coconut White
Melon Oolong
Earl Gray
Cardamom Black
Monk’s Blend
Orange Marzipan Rooibos
Wild Cherry & Chili Rooibos
Yanabah Navajo
Peppermint Chocolate

One or two will be iced, each day, depending on the season or occasion, and served with lemon or fresh mint.

And with them will be offered three or four things like
tangelo buttermilk scones
savory cheese and scallion scones
buttermilk biscuits
chard and prosciutto tart
old fashioned blackberry crisp
egg salad tea sandwiches with herbes de Provence
sauteed mushroom butter and bacon tea sandwiches
cinnamon toast
jams and preserves
herb butter
Greek pine, fir, and thyme honeys
fresh figs and Mallorcan almonds
prosciutto and seasonal melon

I will park outside libraries, or under a redwood in some back-woodsy residential area; in places where there’s little hope of joy or romance, like in the parking lot of the new building in Redwood City, or of an assisted-living home.  Wherever there’s a need for a spot of color.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

May My Heart

For the new year, a new Bonnard and a new, true quote from E.E. Cummings—starting things off right!

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

—E.E. Cummings

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Flowers in a Water Jug