Monday, November 30, 2015

What We Take Home With Us

“If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it's useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then the next day you probably do much the same again—if to do that is human, if that's what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time....

—Ursula Le Guin

image:  Panniers, Galway

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Though (or because) the world is so messed up and sad,  I'm grateful for a myriad of things.  I've been noting them this golden week, the intense heartfelt "last hurrah" of autumn as it sends every last leaf into that blaze of red/orange/yellow glory.  People I love are first, of course, and friends.  A friend I've come across again by chance after a dozen years apart, plus those I found still there and still themselves after half a lifetime.  And then the LP I pulled out at dusk—Hummel's septet to cheer me as I washed our green and white Italian rooster bowls in Joy dishwashing soap.  The bright clementine tart, the smell of orange lighting and lightening the kitchen.  Za'atar spices another night warming eggplant and lamb.  Rain dripping from the lip of roof.  Birds frolicking.  The purples, rubies, raspberries, garnets, and burgundies of a Sacred Threads scarf.  Michael Ondaatje's way with words.  Red rice from the Camargue, brought home by travelers to France in better times.  Patches of sunlight.  The Nunuma bush buffalo looking rakish and magical just inside the museum entrance.  Artist's journals.  Slippery elm throat lozenges, and Bach Flower Remedies.  Just-baked bread, the fragrance too.  Wool socks, and Neruda's 'Ode to My Socks."  Tables outside.  Tables inside.  Kilim pillows, Peruvian bird rugs.  My silver typewriter charm.  Nuggets of veined turquoise on silver chains.  Aquatic blue.  Dove gray.  Earl Grey.  Memories of pilgrimage.  Books of Hours.  The full Little Bear's moon.  Japanese Maple leaves.  Cretan honey.  San Ildefonso pottery.  My little apple green teapot.  Italian castle stamps (reminding me of dusty Portuguese stallions and ships on stamps in childhood given me by Joe Sena, who also taught me how to use chopsticks).  Mozart piano concertos.  Mozartkugeln.  Gauguin, Mucha, Piero della Francesca.  Burritos.  Sea glass.  A postcard of Alice Waters sitting with a glass of coffee in a jaunty hat under a tree.  This blue vase, with a kiss of light.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Blue Vase with Sun

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cold Tangerines

“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don't want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”

image:  Pierre Boncompain, La Branche de Laurier

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What I've Especially Liked Today

  • the Airdale Terrier waiting with infinite patience along the country road
  • the blueberry biscuits at Cafe Borrone
  • the red leaves reflected in the smoke tinted window of the artichoke-gray/pewter-green van
  • the smell of crushed juniper berries and orange zest now imbuing the slow-cooking lamb shanks
  • the Sacred Deeds scarf in shades of berry, wine

And what I didn't like at all—

That Rose Market is moving.  The place that always cheered me on cold rainy days, with lamb kebabs sizzling and smoking on the outdoor grill, while venturing inside, wild sage leaves for tea, and exotic spices (though not Ras El Hanout, not when I searched four or five towns for it several years ago); rosewater, an array of nutted candies, and those ruby-seeded pomegranates.

image:  Juniper Berries

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ode to November

I rather tend to overlook this month, in the great scheme of things, the month whose gems are topaz and citrine, and flower the chrysanthemum (my mother especially liked spider mums).  I'm typically too busy to pay it much attention, and dispirited at being back from Aosta or Rome, Lucca's medieval towers or Glyndebourne's Mozart, with worries and work and the long desolate winter ahead.

But this year I mean to court it, appreciate its special gifts, give it its due.  To enjoy the leaves starting to turn red on my little Japanese Maple (that have been preparing themselves for this moment all year).

November's signs are Scorpio and Sagittarius—the constellation of the archer based on the centaur Chiron, half human and half horse, a goodly combination, who taught Achilles archery.  The learned healer, bridge between humans and beasts.  I had in fact just written Sagittarius into my story, my detective after eating little pears and chocolate with his archaeologist girlfriend (who writes about the Carthaginian goddess Tanit) laying his head on meditation cushions in the walled orchard of a derelict old finca in Alcúdia and regarding the stars.

My writing is hung up between Mallorca's Roman theatre and Santa Fe's cathedral, more than forty years ago, when her little patron saint was stolen.  (Not in November, but it does feel like a month for loss or wavering of faith, as the light goes, and life apparently with it.)

So I muster my saints, the first of the month being Sant' Uberto, protector of hunting dogs (Black Labs, of course) and hunting horns (which Mozart uses to such great effect) and foresters (my father's father, for one, and myself—forestress manqué, amateur and sadly ineffective guardian of trees).

I'm off on pilgrimage to the ocean, on his feast day, and then to my adobe hideout with its brilliant dahlias and warm sepia Edward Sheriff Curtis photos.  I'll take my camera, look for shorebirds, eat good chowder, find what's unique in these first November days.
“In November, some birds move away and some birds stay. The air is full of good-byes and well-wishes. The birds who are leaving look very serious. No silly spring chirping now. They have long journeys and must watch where they are going. The staying birds are serious, too, for cold times lie ahead. Hard times. All berries will be treasures.”
Cynthia Rylant, In November (children's author and librarian from West Virginia)

images:  November, from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
              Scorpio, Sagittarius