Monday, March 30, 2015

A Perhaps Hand

Spring is like a perhaps hand

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.

(E. E. Cummings)

images:  Christie B. Cochrell, Getty pot and Montreal window, collage

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Name of the Flower

Field Guide

No one I ask knows the name of the flower

we pulled the car to the side of the road to pick
and that I point to dangling purple from my lapel.

I am passing through the needle of spring
in North Carolina, as ignorant of the flowers of the south
as the woman at the barbecue stand who laughs
and the man who gives me a look as he pumps the gas

and everyone else I ask on the way to the airport

to return to where this purple madness is not seen
blazing against the sober pines and rioting along the


On the plane, the stewardess is afraid she cannot answer

my question, now insistent with the fear that I will leave
the province of this flower without its sound in my ear.

Then, as if he were giving me the time of day, a passenger

looks up from his magazine and says wisteria

—Billy Collins

image: Wisteria frutescens flower closeup, Dcrjsr

Friday, March 27, 2015

Is It Spring, Is It Morning?

From Mary Oliver’s “Such Singing in the Wild Branches”—
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?  
Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need 
Quick, then—open the door and fly on your heavy  
feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

image:  She Who Is

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Of Time and the River

I feel as if I’m time-traveling. 

First, from spring back to winter.  Old snow mounded on the ground, a chill wind hurting my ears (sounding mean, not like the ocean in a seashell), the trees without buds or bloom.  Instead of birdsong, cigarette smoke and sirens.  Chicago is two hours ahead of California, but two months behind.

Then, the vivid memories of being here in this hotel on the river last year and years ago, winter and summer, spring and fall, sitting out on the riverwalk at evening with a margarita and a book, watching the sparkle of water from behind the big windows in the late morning, being miserable, being love-struck, feeling my life changing dramatically and knowing I would never be here in this place again, finding myself still watching lights come on at dusk and dark ten years later, and ten years more, watching the fireworks in a celebratory mood or in a pensive poignant mood set off over the lake from the light-bedecked Navy Pier, which I see from this window well and from another only obliquely, being terribly sick in this room or a room higher up above the river but just like it and ordering chicken soup from room service which tastes after being so sick like heaven, life itself, the seasons and the years all mixed and muddled, friends here with me and gone, everyone moving on, love finding me and my finding the bridges arching with delight, the lights thrilling in this city so far from home, from love just found, the fireboats spraying water like the geysers my parents watched in Yellowstone long before I was born, my mother and me too arriving here by train when I was three or four or five, not knowing that I’d ever come again, to this city she knew, that I would on this lake I cannot even name, with strangers, see the millenium turn.  And fifteen years later, watch that unknowing child get on that train again without turning, heading back west, heading for what would one day be.

image:  Chicago River and Wacker Drive at Night, Daniel Schwen

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What I Knead

I have the ritual in place, now—my breadbaking.  I use my mother’s wooden bowl for the second rising, the bowl she used for her own bread (and for popcorn during Sunday football).  I use her soft ruby-red rooster (cockerel) dish towel to cover it.  I add a bit of Cretan thyme honey, dissolving it in just-warm water like a baby’s milk.  I have my ocean colored pot, my pan of water on the oven’s bottom shelf for the sake of the crust, the wire rack for cooling—only not too long, because the slicing is the best!

I am feeling sad this morning though, because at the last minute I ruined the symmetry, the lovely round shape of the loaf, and it has come out lopsided, though full of different seeds, nutty and fine.

And I still miss the kneading of the older, longer ritual, the laying on of hands.  I feel each time again that I am cheating, not getting involved enough or giving as much as I ought.

image:  Frühstückskorb mit Brötchen, 3268Zauber

(And maybe, after all, my lopsided loaf is really just heart-shaped, like this one . . .)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

It Is Spring Again

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”(Rainer Maria Rilke)

image:  Gustav Klimt, Italian Garden Landscape

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

When I Am Torn

It is that time of year when I am torn between inside and out—between my comfy bathrobe and a mound of pillows on the bed/and a chilly fading of daylight in the patio, where one adventurous geranium blossom has ventured forth today; between the silence of the house/and the sporting of the neighbor out back with dog and goats; between a half an hour with a book (but which?) while the clay pot chicken reheats, the rosemary tinging the air/and a little cloud-gazing, vinca-appreciation; between stirring up some bread with pumpkin seeds and hemp, sunflower seeds and flax, and maybe a smidgen of fennel or cumin or cardamom/and sitting still out in the growing dusk collecting impressions in a notebook. 

An indecisive month—lion or lamb?  Forwards or back?  Sad or happy?  And why decide, why not putter or poodle between one thing and the next, at will or whim, leaving the windows open and the fire (if I had one) lit?

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Oranges through Screen (Santa Monica, 2011)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tickled Pink (and Tawny Owl)

The colors of the day:
  • light golden brown—the color of the bottoms of the shortbread I have baked with citrus zest, Meyer lemon and orange
  • tawny owl—the color of Merlin’s owl, Archimedes, in The Sword in the Stone
  • burnt orange—the color of the cardigan, a generous calf-length, I give my heroine to cheer her rainy autumn day in Mallorca (and under it, a persimmon tunic)
  • planked cedar—the color of the wood of the new house with jauntily peaked roof being built in a high field of spring grasses between here and the market
  • blizzard white—the sheer white of a blizzard of almond or apple blossom
  • Tintern green—the color of the luscious rind of the chive flavored cheese I’m taking to coworkers tomorrow to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (to make up for the devil’s food Irish Cream trifle I am not after all making)
  • Amaretto chocolate—the rich deep fragrant brown of the glaze for the orange shortbread
  • tickled pink—the color I’m tickled to see an elderly couple on a downtown sidewalk, the wife with an armful of pug dog and the husband with an armful of orchids on leggy stems

image:  Folt Bolt

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Tail We Could Wag

“In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.” 
(W.H. Auden)
Today’s finds:
  • this Auden quote
  • old boots made into wagging dogs
  • a hermitage
  • the kiss of a mother giraffe
  • the tomb of a Celtic prince unearthed in l’Aube, France
  • the idea of lodestar
  • mothballs embroidered with brightly colored silk moths
  • the sudden joy of rediscovering the Camerata Academica Mozarteum and being reminded that “happiness is a choice too” while I was being miserable for someone else (who wouldn’t have been cheered at all by my misery)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

An Hour Well Spent

In a free hour this afternoon I drive to the store on the back roads, heavy with blossoming fruit trees, to buy some oranges to zest for my bread, accompanying cardamom, pecans, and honey with “the essence of wild sage from the foothills of California.”

On the way back I stop at the community farm stand, wooden and hand-lettered, that offers honey too, and eggs; free seeds and an assortment of books—only the books in evidence today.

And now my kitchen smells brightly of zested orange.  The bread will do its thing all night while we’re sleeping, and be ready to bake in the morning.  Our dreams will be cardamom scented, and livened by a moment of freedom and simple joy like that in André Gide’s Amyntas (North African Journals) when the orange escapes—
“From the top of the Rue de la Casbah an orange begins rolling and bouncing; a little girl rushes after it; the orange escapes . . .  If some French boulevard did not stop them, both would tumble all the way down to the sea.”

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Oranges and Petals