Thursday, April 30, 2015

Outrageously Happy

I am being rained upon by olive blossoms— something I didn’t know existed, until last summer when I set up my lovely patio seating under the olive trees (with kilims, rugs, and spotted cat).

My bread is rising for its baking tomorrow—lemon zest and rosemary, the classic recipe.  And so my hands are fragrant with both, from zesting and chopping, and our dreams will rise yeasted with the linen-covered bread bowl on the bedroom floor (the temperature less problematic there).

The deep red roses grace the orchard to the left of the cottage, the little lime tree grows taller each day against the fence, and quails are calling in the distance to my right.  The strand of gorgeous new silk birds hangs on a branch near me, a plane passes over the house, headed to unknown destinations, and all is blissful in my peaceful home world.  I’m reminded of the old Peanuts cartoon I saw again this week—
“What do you think you’d like to be when you grow up, Linus?” 
“Outrageously happy!”
And now a ruby-throated hummingbird has just come to the red geranium, a flower pilgrim, a tiny djin granting that wish.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Bird Bell Tota

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday Gratitude

Things I am grateful for today:

  • my bonsai Colorado Spruce (an Earth Day present to myself)
  • the minced lamb with Moroccan spices and eggplant I’m sauteeing for dinner
  • the new bread I’ve baked with flaxseed, hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, and toasted pumpkin seeds and piñons, which I’ve named Pane di Gioia
  • the thought of Glyndebourne and Bath or Salisbury in June
  • the rain last night
  • Poirot
  • weekends
  • this wise quote on dogs

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Bonsai Colorado Spruce

Monday, April 20, 2015

Graced by Trees


My life has been dappled and graced by trees.  Our family history has been intertwined with trees; my childhood home was watched over by trees.  I lived for happy years later up a rickety flight of stairs in what was in its essence a treehouse.  When I need to envision space and peace within, I take myself in spirit back to the piñon-thick canyon where the birds come for sanctuary, the tree-canopied garden where the artist lived, and to the ancient lichen-nobled apple at Green Dragon Temple in the tree-hushed eucalyptus-fragrant valley near the sea.

Like generous margins and spaces between words, trees now begin to seem an old-world luxury, an undervalued blessing of the past.  Gaston Bachelard, in The Poetics of Space, tells us “Rilke wrote: 'These trees are magnificent, but even more magnificent is the sublime and moving space between them, as though with their growth it too increased.”

Their shade, their generosity, is what allows well-being and a healthy ambling among and lingering within the god-frequented groves.   I used to spend long summer evenings on the Stanford campus sitting with sandwiches under the sprawling oaks and reading Henry James—his long, slow, intricately coiled sentences that seemed so summery and grand.  Now there’s not space or time enough in my more hurried life to fit them in.  I mourn the loss, sitting thirstily under the silver-touched olive in our patio for ten minutes each morning before rushing off to work.

But even in the time allowed, the brief moment of taking leaves into my consciousness before the painful daily leavetaking, I am refreshed, restored, reminded of the woodland nymph I was, and am, that photo from eighth grade of me and cottonwood, the child drawn to the grandfatherly tree outside the enviable weathered barn of the photographer, outside my life yet in it.

images:  Gustav Klimt, Buchenhain (Beech Grove)
              8th-grade photograph, Helga Gilbert

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Perfect Picnic

What would it be, I wonder?

Charry grilled fish and peppers on a deserted Greek shore, beside the remains of the weathered Argonaut?

Apple blossom and bone china in an English garden, with shelves of Keats, Jane Austen, and a few dozen Agatha Christie paperbacks tempting a visit through the open cottage door?

Those margaritas carried in a backpack up a gentle oak-canopied hillside after work?

Black Forest ham and Gouda with a red rind on a sailboat carried by the wind across the bay to Angel Island from the Berkeley Yacht Club a lifetime ago?

Wooly sheep and Daimlers in the countryside at Glyndebourne followed by the bubbly delights of Mozart and champagne?

The Rodin Sculpture Garden, candles, Black Lab, children, friends?  The year I threw myself a birthday picnic there.

The bread and olives carried up to the stone tiers of the stadium at Delphi past the Temple of Apollo for breakfast before the tourists and the sun?

Any and all of these.  The company is all that ever really matters, and the blessing of the Muse of Picnics in her straw brimmed hat.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Old Hands

“Why does she have a grandmother’s hands?” a friend’s young daughter asked of me years ago, hurtful in the way young children are.  Sun damage I could have said; my having grown up in high desert of New Mexico, holding the reins of palomino horses on rocky June trails; catching minnows in mountain streams.  My not painting my nails, maybe she meant—because they chip (except in Italy when I drank frothy steamed milk several times a day in earthy cappucino) and break while planting blue lobelia, chopping onions and garlic for guacamole, playing Chopin nocturnes badly, stumbling on the notes.  Once playing jacks, gathering agates, figuring algebra on a chalkboard.  Washing dishes at dusk, feeling the grace of hand-held smooth-lipped bowls, making them clean.  My never being able to get enough lotion to soak in, scented with lavender or almond, cherry blossom from the south of France or my favorite Bert’s Bees milk and honey.

But I love this hand I photographed in a garden nearby, weathered and full of life.  I should be grateful to have hands as worn as this, a pilgrim’s hands, prayerful hands, practical hands, unpampered hands that gather marjoram and sage and put out water for the birds, that write on paper and computer keys always wherever in the world I am and that way talk to friends and gather stories and history and lives and work through thoughts and scoop up happiness with insatiable greed.

“What do you do with this hand?” a massage therapist asked me in December, surprised that it was so tired and tight.  I was surprised in turn, thinking “well, live.”  What don’t I do with it?  I am a writer, I told her.  It seemed so obvious.  My hand is what I am.

So in the end I couldn’t ask anything better than to have the hands of a grandmother, of my own grandmother and grandfather too, the hands that made Orange Pekoe tea and worked the leather of saddles, the hands that held me, showed me love.  The hands of strangers that stroke saffron on a forehead, that carve santos, that stitch up wounds, that offer shadowplay in firelight, read Braille, string pearls, polish a skate blade, plug a dike.  The hands in which a tarnished coin lies, reading heads or tails, telling my own or someone else’s fortune, showing the way.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Hand

Sunday, April 5, 2015