Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year's End

This last day of the year is when I typically take stock, reinvent myself.  I've spent it looking across the harbor where the Hawaiian king was born, stillborn; climbing to the Anasazi caves in the red sandstone valley, facing the sun, smelling the pungent juniper berries on my fingers; lighting the Chinese fireworks with long poetic names. Today, in New York, I spent the afternoon with the French Medieval saints, the sage Cycladic figurines, and the rhapsodic colors of the Bonnards and Gauguins.

The ruins of the year are beautiful, like these in Mallorca, and I treasure what I have been and seen.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mallorca 2013

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ten Favorite Things of the Year

  • meeting my three good high school friends again, in Santa Fe
  • making the acquaintance of smoked sage margaritas and Kakawa spicy hot chocolate
  • walking the labyrinth at Ghost Ranch
  • all of John O’Conor’s late Mozart piano concertos
  • sfogliatelle from La Biscotteria
  • my purple kilim pillows from Turkey
  • listening to Mozart at Glyndebourne, after walking in the gardens there in view of distant sheep
  • the walled garden in Pisa with its vibrant green shutters, orange tree, and cat
  • our pilgrimage to Puccini’s villa
  • every day with my innamorato, soulmate, and friend

image:  Golden Morning, Evolver Social Movement, Andriy Semenovych

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Wishes

May your day be a day of glorious light!

And may the year ahead be blessed.

Love, peace, joy to all.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mallorca church

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Playing Favorites

This is my favorite Christmas card, in a year of cute cards.

My favorite of the low-carb cookies I have baked:  almond shortbread with lemon zest.

The favorite things I’ve done this week:  walked the labyrinth, gone to the spice shop.

My favorite carol:  O Holy Night,” sung by Jonas Kaufmann (though the “Huron Carol,” posted by one of my favorite authors, Louise Penny, is also wonderful—a new favorite).

My favorite other find this week:  a gold wire Christmas tree that stands inside a wine glass (my favorite Shakespeare Santa Cruz wine glass) on the table.

images:  The Almanac Gallery, UK
             Christie B. Cochrell, Christmas Cheer

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Carol of the Bells

What more is there to say than this?  

Ring forth your oh so precious life!

It's like the bumper sticker I saw last week:  "Mo bettah no can get."

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Mission Bells

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Color of Gratitude

Things I am grateful for today:
  • melon white tea
  • my silver bracelet inscribed with a sonnet
  • moose confetti (Paper Source)
  • harissa—particularly satisfying for breakfast
  • flannel nightgowns
  • time to sleep beyond the usual limits
  • our little cottage, despite how cold it is and how the circuit-breakers drive us out most evenings in the rain and dark to turn the lights/heat/dryer/Christmas tree/ t.v./you-name-it back on
  • my sweet husband freeing the graceful mosquito-eater from a web
  • ever and always Mozart
  • the fragrances of lavender and lemon zest (going into almond shortbread)
  • lunch with friends
  • the green of this Mallorcan door

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Green Door, Mallorca

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rewriting the Dark

I’ve always thought of the winter solstice as the low-tide mark of the year, the shortest day, the final test of endurance after which the light begins coming back.  But today I’ve been challenged to think of it in another way—to celebrate the darkness.  For itself, its healing powers, the dreams it allows.

I’ve been telling myself that though this day is the shortest, nothing has been lost—the night will be the longest.  The glass is not half-empty at all, but half-full.  (Or all full, only of different things; which reminds me of a favorite line in Murder by Death, “this room is full of empty people!”)

Pacing off the day, I walked the labyrinth, feeling the turns in my body the way the year now turns.  Inward, and again outward; the long half circles and the short; the journey centering myself.  The center is the fifth direction, where the other cardinal directions join.

I walked through the New Guinea spirit house, after, among the carved wooden figures and crocodile drums, and gathered short-needled evergreen that had been trimmed from the trees there. Then I went to the spice store and bought rubbed sage, French lavender, juniper berries, crushed red pepper, garam masala, cinnamon.  And a piece of swordfish, remembering the island where the seller of swordfish—spada—came around in a three-wheeler with a bell; and I was taught to marinate it in a blue bowl with lemon and olive oil and a little salt.

Later perhaps I’ll try this meditation on the riches of the dark that call us home—

“The best meditation for the winter solstice is a simple one that some of you may already know. It is the star in the heart.
The evening of the winter solstice, turn out the lights, light a candle, and meditate quietly for a while with the candle, and then blow it out. Sit for a while in the dark. Notice what arises. Is there a fear of the dark? Does it feel peaceful, relaxing? Ask that dark to guide you. People are fond of asking the light to guide them. But there is guidance in the depth of the night, in the darkness of the night sky.
Imagine the night sky. Imagine one star coming closer and closer and closer to you, until it enters your heart. Feel that star in the heart . It is radiant. Its bright white light permeates your being, pulsates within you. Feel yourself as a star in the sky, the darkness around you, the light within you, the energy that radiates from you. You, from your heart, by simply being, illumine the darkness. That radiance guides you and illumines the path for others. Light the candle again. Notice the shadows, the interplay of light and dark.
You are participating always in that dance of light and...”
(Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans)

image:  Michael J. Bennett, Night Sky, Stars, Trees

image:  British night sky, Tom Bayly

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Slipping Away

This week has slipped away.  I wonder where they slip away to, weeks?  Like the spotted horse, appaloosa or pinto, I dreamed about last night, disappearing down a cross-street in some busy city, maybe the cobbled shopping district of Pisa?  Or like a full-rigged sailboat zigzagging off toward the far horizon?  (The flotilla of boats, masts strung with lights, that I remember coming down the Kona Coast on Christmas Eve?)  Like the minnows we tried to catch in our cupped hands, the darting sunspots reflected on floor or bedroom walls my cocker spaniel chased?  Impossible to stop, impossible to quantify or qualify.

Somewhere there is a lake of time where all those slipped-away weeks have collected—vast, meandering, between high blue-hazed mountains.  It looks something like Lake Como, I imagine, and you can sit out on a terrace there and eat grilled lake perch with saffron risotto, or wander in striped espadrilles along it to the villa with the devastatingly orange wall imprinted with the memory of sturdy old shutters, the sleep of centuries, the morning’s waking, opening, barefoot and silver-sparkling, the unlimited day ahead.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Sandbars, Cape Cod

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Impulse Buying

This morning I went to the farmers’ market looking for an onion, and ended up buying
  • baby lettuces
  • pimientos de Padron (in mid-December!!!)
  • chicken cheddar apple savory pies
  • blueberry tartlet
  • a nice piece of Ahi tuna (which I’ll marinate in orange juice and soy sauce, and grill)
  • wrapping paper and ribbon
  • Oaxacan tamales and ancho chile salsa
  • dried apricots

And of course I almost forgot the onion!

image:  Peppers for Sale, Tech. Sgt. Michael B. Keller

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Earthy Brown Mushrooms

Feeling rather better here.  The tree is up (straight and sturdy!) and has our favorite ornaments on it and smells deliciously of Noble Fir.  I’ve got the Whiskey Sour Balls stirred up, and they have just to be rolled into shape, four dozen of them.

A big storm is coming, they say, so I’ve got things laid in to eat in case we lose our power.  Eggs hard-boiled for egg salad, a giant can of tuna and one of diced green chili (one of my favorite combinations), some Genoa salami, smoked cheddar, hummus and avocado, and before long a sausage pizza with a cornmeal crust.  Nothing better than cold pizza!  But in the morning I’ll make the egg muffins too; I’ve caramelized some onions for those, sauteed mushrooms, and roasted multi-colored baby peppers.  There’s mint in the garden, and marjoram.  Of course I’ve got enough emergency provisions for a whole week, or more!  The makings for sangria, too, with lots of fresh oranges.  And Whiskey Sour Balls for the third week…  Nothing like weathering a storm in style.

A lovely older woman found me poring over brown mushrooms at Draeger’s, and was as delighted as I with their robust round earthy mushroom nature.  She told me about going out and picking mushrooms like that in New York somewhere, when she was growing up.  It made my shopping special to have her share that with me.

So the season’s shaping up again.  The purple carnations and fir branches help too, giving the kitchen another moment of intense color.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Dove Ornament

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Karma

With this lovely picture I’m try to improve my Christmas karma, which started out so well with the carols on Saturday (some wonderful new things like John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music” and Otto Goldschmidt’s “A Tender Shoot”), but then fell apart yesterday.  The Christmas tree lot nowhere to be seen; the tree I chose arguing with its stand and then the stand leaking all over the living room carpet and some inherited linens I had in the wicker chests I’d set it on; and then the tree not fitting in our other stand, and toppling over, and over.  As a result I got no baking done, though I’d wanted to make some whiskey sour balls with orange juice concentrate and coconut and bourbon.  And no cards, and no writing.

But thinking positively has helped.  The Christmas tree is up, finally.  I’ve put the lights and favorite ornaments on it, including two glass balls (La Traviata, and a Tuscan bird) which we bought in Lucca in a most tempting pottery shop.

Now we’ve got trout baking for dinner, and yellow cherries in a bowl.  I believe things are coming ’round.

image:  Photos prises au Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte par Denise Jacobs, créatrice de France d'art et de lumière

Saturday, December 6, 2014

All Hunkered Down

Torrential rains yesterday evening, as I was driving back to the Press from a shopping run (guacamole and chips; two berry scones; eggs to make egg muffins over the weekend; a Côtes-du-Rhone for sangria with Cointreau and orange slices).  The parking lot was inches deep in rain in just a quarter of an hour.

But it all cleared, and we listened to Mozart calmly on the way home.  And tonight will be the annual Festival of Lessons and Carols on campus, in the chilly gold-and-song-lit church, and I'm trying to summon energy to go because it's always cheering at the start of this so-busy season.

The things that stay in memory from my week are the raccoon dead in the road that made me sad and the bicycle built for two parked by the walking trail, a child's seat and wheel behind the adult's, gracefully and sweetly joined.

So it begins, the descent into winter, the thoughts of hibernation and all things to keep off the chill.

Friday Flowers, Obee Designs

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

An Extra Day of Gratitude

I am grateful, above all, that I have so very very much to be grateful for!  My heart is full of thanks.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Blown Glass