Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Snowy Places I Would Rather Be

Every so often I miss snow—miss, for instance, walking in a nice slow snowfall on Christmas Eve (those big wet flakes that melt as soon as they touch earth) on Canyon Road with all the farolitos and the smoky piñon bonfires with carolers gathered around, and hot cider with sticks of cinnamon.  Or trudging in good boots through three inches or so on Boston Common, on the way to the map room in Boston Public Library, or to cozy Tealuxe (in the old days) for a small pot of Victorian Rose or Monks Blend tea.  Or romping with a dog in deep powder.  Or waking in the night and knowing right away it’s snowed, seeing the light of a heavy snowfall seeping through the curtains.  Or seeing it painting the distant New Mexico mountains, or the Italian Alps.

The fun is being someplace snug during or after snow, having the tea and maps and fireplace and reading lamp and quilt and dried-off dog to offer contrast.  Eating porcini in the Roman town at the foot of the Alps, or standing in the late December sun watching the Deer and Buffalo Dances in the reddish foothills under the Sangre de Cristos—admiring the snow from afar.

That’s why I used to ski, too—for the enormous pleasure of removing those punitive boots after, and having earned the right to sit with my stockingfeet up, by the fire, and drink hot-buttered rum or creamy chocolate, and not move.  (And then go home for a hot bubblebath and Star Trek.)

Snowmelt is a favorite concept of mine, the water born of snow, carried by aqueducts or little riverbeds; and nothing seems so hopeful as a crocus or other spring flower poking its pretty nose up from a patch of old snow.  One of my touchstone moments is, always, the ninth-grade spring our art class walked up the canyon on a surface of old, packed snow to look for red clay to shape into pots or the figures of gods.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Old Roses, Birds, or Bells?

If I decide to self-publish some books, according to the lessons of yesterday’s class, one of the first things I will need to do is come up with a name for my press that lets the world know what I am and what I write.  At the moment my favorite thoughts are Tortuga, Bel Canto, Euphoria, Dog Star, or Cottonwood; birds:  Kestrel, Egret, Sandpiper, or Junco; colors:  Cerulean, Viridian, or Terracotta; old garden roses:  Alba, Gallica, Eglantine, or Rosa Mundi; Calliope (the muse) or Blue Iris (the flower); New Mexican memories:  Acequia, Abeyta, Blue Corn, Tsankawi, Petroglyph, or Piñon; Sage or Crabapple; Estuary or Oxbow; Andante or Adagio.  Or further bells (playing with my middle name):  Carillon, Belltower, Bluebell, Bellagio, Campanile.  These could all be Press or Publishing or Books, though preferably Press in most cases.

I can tell this venture is stalled already!  This is only step #1, and the fun part . . .

image:  Arti et Veritati, Mary Hazelton Blanchard Wade

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Seven Steps Forward

  • get dressed (remember stripes are good)
  • open the windows to birdsong
  • laugh at the bleating of the goats
  • breathe in the lavender smell of the tea
  • read about the sandflower created by seismic waves
  • watch a fisherman untangling nets
  • open the last bottle of Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade

image:  Nefeli, Greece Art & Architecture

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Now I am malingering—lingering not in the true mal, the depths of the sickness itself, but reluctant to come out of that safe place of perfect excuses and not having to do anything but lie around and read, able to say to all unpleasant tasks and chores “Sorry, I’m sick—just go away!”  To put all shortcomings and failures, for the moment, firmly out of mind.

The place where kind neighbors bring bags of lemons from their trees for me, and I discover by some equal magic a jar of wild thyme honey from the mountains of Crete, forgotten for years in the far dim reaches of the pantry cupboard until I need it to brew my healing tea.  (There, too, are cedar planks for salmon; some most delightful bacon-flavored pasta sauce from Half Moon Bay; a box of strozzapreti from a shop that closed two years ago; three kinds of beans and six of spicy Indian vindaloos and tikka masalas and kormas; a can of kippers; Cream of Wheat; and an orange box of Uncle Ben’s rice.)

The place where I can wrap up warm and put on favorite socks and summon childhood spells to keep the world and its worries at bay—for just another day.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Unmade Bed

Saturday, January 17, 2015

How Aren't You?

Last night I dreamed of journeys. Riding some kind of rubber raft on a sea cluttered like a marsh under high mountains capped with snow, a landscape I did not recognize; later, trying to find the right bus in the dark to go back to the hotel whose name I did not know, on some street in an unfamiliar town I knew I couldn’t remember.  Feverish flu dreams?  The result of staying in for days, sick and unable to go anywhere?  Or some spiritual need to find my way to some place I’m not yet aware of?

Of quotes on journeying I find today, this advice of Rumi’s resonates most—
Don’t knock on any random door like a beggar. Reach your long hand out to another door, beyond where you go on the street, the street where everyone says, "How are you?" and no one says “How aren’t you?”  (Rumi)

image:  Yehuda Edri

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

One Letter at a Time

Changing the world, one letter at a time.

I get the idea while sitting in the garden at the medical clinic across the road, considering dappled tree bark and lanky winter rosemary.  I’m in a sad and gripey frame of mind, and trying very hard to escape it.

Thinking of one who sidles in, unpleasantly, but changing him to one who made saddles, my gentle grandfather, working the leather.

Thinking “I cannot bear . . .” but then, instead, “Oh yes I can, bear”—responding to the little black bear, oso negro, scented with juniper, that hung in my early childhood on the gin bottle from Juarez in the dictionary room, the treasury of words.

Brash becomes the softer brush; hiss becomes hush, or wish, or even listen.

Thrash becomes a thrush—a wood thrush or a hermit thrush, plump and with tawny legs, or even a blue whistling thrush, found in the Himalayas with the snow leopards and dance of prayer flags.

Grind becomes a jaunty grin, or rind—of melons or of oranges, tangerines.

And even gruel, the flavorless and nearly empty bowl of poor Oliver Twist, becomes the Grail, holy and sought after by whole armies of knights.

And so it goes, changing.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Treviso Letters

Friday, January 9, 2015

Some Thoughts on the Passing of a Friend

Some Questions You Might Ask

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it, and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

—Mary Oliver

image:  She Who Is

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Places I Would Rather Be

I am comforting myself with images of medieval cloisters and their limestone saints, the anticipation of tilapia tacos spiced with cumin and griddled cornmeal gorditas, a mystery written by A.A. Milne before Winnie the Pooh, my new hooded bathrobe, the presence of birds in the winter trees, some sandalwood shampoo, and an indulgent bag of Fritos tasting of childhood.

Soon the work-world will have engulfed me again, but I am seizing on these promises of salvation among the swarm of other things clamoring frantically for attention.  They are the quiet place where I will go when I need to remind myself of what is real and true and necessary.

image: Mosteiro de Alcobaça, Portugal, Lela Costa, Arte clásico, medieval y renacentista

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Tomb of the Leopards

"So, friends, every day do something that won't compute.  Give your approval to all you cannot understand.  Ask the questions that have no answers.  Put your faith in two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years.  Laugh.  Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.  Practice resurrection."   (Wendell Berry)
I found this quote for my year-end letter, and plan to make it my creed for the year.  Harking back to my ruminations on “despite.”  This will be my Year of Despite, my Year of Though I Have Considered.  These Etruscan dancers and musicians from Tarquinia will light my way.  I shall return again and again to the Tomb of the Leopards when I’m in danger of losing my way, the chamber named for its fresco which is clearly—and atypically—a celebration of life.

image:  Dancers and musicians, Tomb of the Leopards; Etruscan, c. 475 BCE. Fresco a secco. Monterozzi necropolis, Tarquinia, Italy. UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I Require Art

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Something Old

"There will be always something old in the New Year!"
(Mehmet Murat ildan)

This day is always thought of as a clean slate, a new beginning, but I do like the idea that there is old in it as well:  the growing that went into the flowers, the rich history in the glass of the vase, the wood of the table, the love that brought the flowers to me from the lovingly tended garden, the memories I have of other flowers, other gardens, other years, beginning.

As for weddings, I'd like to carry on this first day of the year something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  An old favorite Mozart song, perhaps: Laudate Dominum. A bouncy dog I've never seen before, joyful in Central Park. The borrowed quote above, from a Turkish playwright, which has set me thinking. The blue I stole from The Gauguin painting yesterday afternoon.

A little bag packed for my journey into this unexplored territory ahead.

image: Christie B. Cochrell, Flowers