Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Time for Second (and Third) Chances

Yesterday I wrote, "On the second-to-last day of the year, I'm looking for ways to sum up and let go.  The morning has been spent making gorgonzola wafers with piƱon nuts, from my Santa Fe Kitchens cookbook; synching Carmina Burana to my iPod; reading Jane Hirshfield on Zen and poetry, for inspiration; watching a whole bevy of birds delightedly splashing in the bird baths once the ice melted.

I'd like a ceremony of some sort, to mark the turning—whether a silent retreat at Green Gulch, a night walk to the caves at Bandelier, a visit to Glastonbury's Chalice Well, leis thrown out onto the white waves at the Place of Refuge, which the sea turtles have come back to over the years.

We'll spend the last day of the year in Santa Cruz."

And so we have begun it.  (Sunshine and the sound of water.)

On the last day of the year, over the years, I’ve liked to climb up to the line of caves at Tsankawi and sit facing the sun, then on the way home buy red wine tasting of the Provence earth from Kokoman on the Pojoaque reservation.  Or eat cracked crab with a smidgen of prosciutto and some lemon-pepper linguini, while summoning good friends from books, the word-artists and sages.  Or sit looking out across Keauhou Bay, the birthplace of the stillborn king, and reinvent myself; set off above the ocean a flurry of Chinese fireworks with charming names.

At Tsankawi—which in Tewa means "village between two canyons at the clump of sharp, round cacti"—I found the year and years like petroglyphs written on the long sandstone cliffs all around me.  I always asked myself there why I didn't stay in Santa Fe, work for the School of American Research, be a real artist?  Live in the canyons?  Closer to myself.  To the vital red earth.  I'd press my hand print into the cold snow; pick an indigo berry from a juniper tree and crush it in my fingers to release its inner nature and transfer to my own skin the vivid, spicy fragrance of the juniper that is so quintessentially of that place, and of me. 

On the Kona Coast, over the years, I wrote my end-of-year notes time and time again.  Whether idly, or querying; happy or -un.
Yellow fish in the curl of a wave.
An empty bottle of New Zealand lager, and an unspent Roman candle.

I wrote:  "Recently somebody said 'you have to re-invent yourself from time to time'—and when more naturally than at the start of a new year?  Somehow I'm always conscious of 'taking stock' in Hawaii, of re-defining (if not out & out reinventing) what is most and best me; though that tends to get lost almost immediately back in the daily grind.

"We always go to the Place of Refuge, a sacred place on a perfect white palm-circled beach, where those who had broken the kapu (sacred rules of life) and offended the gods, or defeated warriors, or noncombatants, could find sanctuary, cleansing, and new life—so to visit seems appropriate for the process of personal renewal.  A place for second chances.

This time we also walked along the beach to the hotel, now abandoned and ruinous, where I stayed four or six years ago and—in this same effort at re-defining—took my coffee out, mornings, to the black rocks of ruined temples, and mirror-still tidepools, to write and think and read Robert Browning's poems.  The image of an empty hotel (and that one, mine, particularly) is unsettling—maybe because it's so intrinsically contradictory.

Am I like a sea creature, then, that moves on from one borrowed shell to another?  Is it only the shells that are ever re-defined?  The stones of the old temples piled now into sea-walls instead, and in another year fallen again and awash with rock-crabs?"

Again, another year:
"The Chinese fireworks have better names than ever:
         Successive Happy News
         Overlord in the Sky
         Mandarin Duck Disporting Water
         Monkey Driving
         Bird in Fright (flight, instead, surely?)
         Jasmin's Gun
And the ponderous coils of firecrackers, one hundred thousand all on a strand."

And that year or another, a collection of observations:
. The fisherman with his empty bucket says, smiling, 'I guess we'll have sardines for our supper.'
. Smoke along the road to Kealakekua—chickens roasting, hundreds, barbecued, on spits.
. On Thursday the dive boat has anchored offshore—strung with Christmas lights.
. On Saturday morning they practice dancing, with the bamboo sticks.
. The old Chinese man on the lawn between the Kona Inn and the ocean paints ideographs, with a fat brush—I remember the sign for thinking within motion, the self and the journey which is within.
. At the Saturday farmers' market we buy a bagful of papayas and flowers— pink ginger, orchids, mixed anthurium, $5.00.
. They are fishing off the rocks.  The volcano has been taken by cloud.
. The second boat whose mast is constant in my view of steeple, mast, and white plumaria went out this morning with a striped sail.
. I drink a dry white wine from the volcano.  Not as fine as Etna or the other volcanic whites, but surprisingly good.
. Dried leis on the statue of the fish god—the walls of temples and the breakwater—all lava, seaworn (the petroglyphs for crossing).

No conclusions.  No wise words to carry me or us or anyone into the unwritten new year—only an offering and a blessing, an awareness of what all has passed.  And what remains, enduringly, endearingly.  Love and delight in its myriad guises.

All happiness ahead, fellow voyagers and celebrants.  Let us now invoke the New Year.

image:  She Who Is, Invocation

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Nearing the End

(of the year)

Things that have come up today—

. one who studies insects
. Peruvian warm springs salt (from an ancient ocean, trapped underground, which feeds a natural spring located in a Sacred Valley leading to the lost city of the Incas)
. fig & apricot jam
. Mozart's aria for bass and double-bass
. green cardamom, crushed with a little hammer
. Narnia
. Nick Bantock's wonderful faux mail

I am grateful, as ever, for these diverse treasures, and am happy to share.

image:  Nick Bantock

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas a Little at a Time

“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays—let them overtake me unexpectedly—waking up some find morning and suddenly saying to myself:  'Why, this is Christmas Day!'”

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Boyd's Bear

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Joy of a Thousand Angels

“The light of the Christmas star to you. The warmth of home and hearth to you. The cheer and goodwill of friends to you. The hope of a child-like heart to you. The joy of a thousand angels to you." 
—Sherryl Woods 

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Christmas Colors

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

And a Quail beside a Noble Fir Tree

Meanwhile, in a little corner of the living room...

“The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting.”
—Louisa May Alcott

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Pottery Quail

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gathering Back the Sun

And now, we gather back the sun.

Like winding yarn, the ball of it growing as patient hands collect and recollect.

Like prayer, turning our faces gratefully upward to it, letting it warm our hearts.

Like spring water, letting it run cold and bright through our fingers.  Drinking thirstily, never able to get enough.

Like lovingkindness, quite brimming over with the light.