Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Best of January

The pelican sitting on the railing a few feet away from our table on the deck at Abalonetti, looking down his substantial nose at those wanting his picture.

Being at Asilomar at the same time as David Whyte, the poet whose words I needed just then—

"The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance . . . "
 ("Walking the beach between talks at Asilomar, Monterey Bay, California this weekend.  My annual gathering for the world wide 'circle of enquiry' that has been drawn to the poetry work. This year's theme was on being 'Half a Shade Braver'—Seven Elements of a Courageous Life. This quote works with the foundational bravery of simply being here, subject to and facing fully the losses and disappearances of an every day human life.")
—David Whyte 

Whoever listens in this silence, as she listens, 

will also stand opened, thoughtless, frightened

by the joy she feels, the pathway in the field

branching to a hundred more, no one has explored.

What is called in her rises from the ground

and is found in her body,

what she is given is secret even from her.

This silence is the seed in her

of everything she is

and falling through her body

to the ground from which she comes,

it finds a hidden place to grow

and rises, and flowers, in old wild places,

where the dark-edged sickle cannot go.

(Excerpted From: 
"The Song of the Lark"

in River Flow: New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press)

Walking the path above the ocean from Asilomar to Spanish Bay.

Hearing one of my twenty-seven favorite Mozart piano concertos, number 21, a couple of days before his birthday.  The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted stunningly by Pinchas Zukerman, and the pianist a blissful Jonathan Biss.

Clementine cake, shared with friends.

Those California January things I love so well—green hills with oak trees against them, warm days, a generosity of yellow mustard weed and now acacia (which always reminds me of the mimosa Bonnard painted, that conflagration of yellow).  And horses nearby here, inspiring me to alter my route home to drive past them.

The lemon scones baked by a friend for tea.

The joy of the birds after rain.

Cuban arroz con pollo, which reminds me of the January days in Key West at the writers' workshops (Peter Matthiessen, Michael Ondaatje, Calvin Trillin, Barry Lopez, many others, and fairy lights in the southernmost January trees, with Cuban rums beckoning).

Finishing several pieces of the postcard-length writing I started in the fall.  Getting close to the end of all three Mallorcan mysteries.  Working on collages for the shared notebooks, and drawing cartoon birds including a blue-smudged bluebird of happiness based on the little glass bird with a lot of attitude from Murano.

This picture of a curandera (for which I can't find the URL).

image:   Pierre Bonnard, Bunch of Mimosa

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Shadow Cords

We saw Zeffirelli's Turandot this morning—the first act visual poetry, a mythological epic.  Every image a perfect line.

And I am struck again by my psychic or at least writerly connections with Giaccomo Puccini, the man drawn to the Orient as I am drawn to Italy and his native Tuscany (though he was once, too, drawn to my native American west).  These bonds are strong and strange—what the Hawaiians call aka, shadow cords, the bonds that connect us, haunted, elsewhere.

Writing about aka, I think of Gauguin in Tahiti, Lévi-Strauss on the plateau of the western Mato Grosso writing of Chopin, the Hiroshige prints in Monet's house in Giverny, the Japanese phonograph records found among Puccini's possessions after his death, the Samurai sword in my father's den in Santa Fe.  I think of the New England maple leaves I found pressed between pages of the Hawaiian dictionary at the house in Hawi where I stayed and meditated on these things ten years ago, and wonder again about longing and belonging.  What draws us?—whether away, or to?

Why am I haunted by the composer on his Italian lake?

image:  Marina Poplavskaya, Turandot

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Creamed Honey

On last week's visit to the Carmel Mission I bought a jar of almond creamed honey prepared by the Cistercian Nuns of Redwoods Monastery.  I used to love creamed honey as a child; it's another of those things that I lost sight of over the years—like cinnamon toast, palominos, moss agates, Platero y Yo, taco meat simmering, white gloves for church, pussywillows, the Petrified Forest which we'd visit with my grandparents who lived in Flagstaff (with Gallup, Grants, and Holbrook between us, besides the litany of reservations, pueblos, tribes).  And this week I've been writing about varieties of Arizona turquoise, which brings me back to those visits as well, always at Thanksgiving. 

To think of all these things again is like a box of childhood treasures hidden under a floorboard, found by chance while clearing an old house where I no longer live.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

If I Had Curtains

Feeling unsettled this morning, I am soothed/smoothed by my wooden measuring spoons, by the idea of baking scones, by some spicy Kakawa hot chocolate in my small charcoal-gray pottery mug, by woolen socks, by the Goudy Old Style font with generous serifs.

Yesterday was sunshine and late breakfast on an outside patio next to a favorite bookstore, but today is gray and rainy and I've promised to go out later, despite that, bundling up.  If I had curtains to draw I'd draw them, build a fire, settle with the dog, play Telemann, and lose myself in the biography of some Italian saint I would be writing, full of local color (old gold and antique garnets handed down from a great-aunt who traveled once to Turkey before returning to Boston to work in the map room and make clam chowder on Fridays with cob-smoked bacon and fresh thyme).

images:  Saffron Marigold

Friday, January 8, 2016

Naming My Days

On days given almost wholly to writing and rain-contemplation, it is nonetheless telling to consider the names of the documents I've recently opened:
. Ungodly Romans (most recent Mallorcan mystery)
. Where Do I Want to Live
. Deciding
. Become a Lake
. Tassajara Yellow Split Pea Soup (releasing its fragrance even as we speak)
. Wild Rice, Farro, Tangerine Salad
. for a winter breakfast
. Spicy Lamb and Eggplant
. Whole Cloth (penultimate Mallorcan mystery)
. History as the Painter Bonnard (Jane Hirschfield poem)
. Pre-Raphaelites

image:  Pierre Bonnard, Dining Room in the Country, and WordItOut Word Cloud 58