Monday, February 29, 2016

The Best of February

Frolicking birds lined up at the three baths (the St. Francis from Mission San Juan Bautista, my Zen stone from Berkeley, the tall art deco bath from who knows where).  One handsome Steller's Jay and Rufous-sided Towhee waiting a turn among the flighty finches and others.

All the blossoming trees.  Pink now on stage like a whole troupe of pink-tutued ballerinas, as well as the earlier white.  The apricot orchard at the library in bloom.

Hot cross buns.  Early, it seems.

Getting to hear Maria Joao Pires playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto #3, exquisitely.

Our favorite Indian-spiced lamb burgers at Arlequin, sitting at a sidewalk cafĂ© table like somewhere in Paris.  Getting a glass of cold Gruner Veltliner from the wine bar to accompany the lamb.

An extra day, which I'll use to go eat Jamaican sole and work on my last mystery pages, in my spring-cleaned patio, though my writing mind seems as rusty as can be.

The fabulous Pierre Bonnard exhibit at the Legion of Honor, come to us from the Musee d'Orsay by way of Madrid.  Getting to bathe in those colors, radiant and transformative, which always remind me of the passage in Remarque's Heaven Has No Favorites, the description of the effect the stained glass windows at La Sainte Chapelle have on the slowly dying but intensely alive woman who's come down to the life and light from the safe sterility of the sanatorium:
It was almost noon, and the room, with its high stained-glass windows, was flooded with light, as if it were a transparent tower of radiance.  It seemed to be nothing but windows, full of Madonna blues and glowing reds and yellows and greens.  So powerful was the torrent of colors, she could feel the hues on her skin, as if she were taking a bath in colored light. . . . It was a cataract of light, a weightless ecstasy, a falling and suspension at the same time; she felt she was breathing light; it was as though the blues and reds and yellows were coursing through her lungs and blood, as though the dividing line through skin and consciousness had been abolished and the light were penetrating her as she had seen it in X-ray photographs, except that the X-rays went as deep as the skeleton, whereas these seemed to irradiate the mysterious force that made the heart beat and the blood pulse.  It was life itself, and while she sat there, tranquil, without stirring, letting the light rain down upon her and into her, she belonged to it and was one with it.  She was not isolated and solitary.  Rather, the light received her and sheltered her, and she had the mystic feeling that she could never die as long as it held her so, and that something in her would never die—that part which belonged to this magical light.  It was a great consolation, and she pledged herself never to forget it.  Her life, those days that still remained to her, she felt, must be like this, a beehive filled with the ethereal honey of radiance:  light without shadow, life without regret, combustion without ashes— 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Spring Again

Light in the sky—and silhouettes of branches, treetops—until almost half past six.  I'm finally convinced that spring is coming, once again.  (Like the Zunis or Hopis believed they made the sun rise every morning by praying it, willing it, making it happen.)  I've tentatively moved my rugs and kilim pillows outside, with a wary eye on the weather forecast.  I've missed too much of early spring already, hidden in warm rooms inside with collage papers and edited pages, however satisfying those too are.

I'm otherwise rereading British mysteries about classical musicians.  Ordering Indian take-out.  Going to Beethoven piano concerts, Gilbert & Sullivan.  Contemplating mulligatawny soup.  Thinking of reading History of the Rain.  Planning to braise pork with juniper berries later this week.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Bistro Table in Spring

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Wandering with Saint Valentine

"Many of the current legends that characterise Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic love." 
"Saint Valentine of Terni (one of three Saint Valentines) was the patron of affianced couples, bee keepers, greeting card manufacturers, happy marriages, love, travellers, and young people, and  invoked against fainting and the plague."
My favorite Valentine's Day was nine years ago, in Florence, the first year with my true love.  We were staying in a room which had been part of Giaccomo Rossini’s apartment during the time when he was writing The Barber of Seville and the William Tell overture.

As we wandered the city we happened on the Chiesa di Dante, where the poet first saw his Beatrice (then eight), the beloved for whom he'd write his god-touched lines. 

It's her church more than his, a dim and unassuming place, deeply moving in its quiet sincerity.  We found her grave against one wall, among the Portinari family graves, a simple stone in a shadowy corner.  Many others found it before us, coming to pay their homage to the woman who inspired love beyond all reckoning, beyond exile and death.  Poems or maybe prayers written by hand on notebook pages are left for her there by the dozens, folded over and confided to the stone.  Words of love murmured to Beatrice still, though Dante is exiled for all time in Ravenna.  In one of Florence's big cathedrals stands an empty tomb with his name.

Wandering on, we found more words to inspire—the words “Andiamo in gioia” beckoning from the doorway of a gray stone church.  Oh let us go in joy, they said to us; and for all these years after, we have, we are, remembering to celebrate both joy and love.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, On Juliet's Balcony, Verona

Saturday, February 6, 2016


The fruit blossoms are here!

images:  Vincent van Gogh, Almond Blossoms

Claude Monet, Apple Trees in Bloom

Henri Lebasque, Girls in a Mediterranean Landscape

Pierre Bonnard, Almond Tree in Bloom

Camille Pissarro, Kitchen Garden with Trees in Flower

Henri Martin, Lovers at Spring

Claude Monet, Spring

Henri Lebasque, Children with Spring Flowers

Camille Pissarro, Kind mit Trommel

Gustav Klimt, Roses under the Trees

Friday, February 5, 2016

Embracing My Inner Monkey

This month is going fast already, and (again) I've been neglecting my blogging and several other things.  I must get my act together. 

Which reminds me of two favorite sayings—"dog and pony show," and "not my circus, not my monkeys."

Unfortunately this year it is my circus, and my monkeys.  In fact I am the monkeys.  The Year of the Monkey—mine.  And monkey mind too—mine.  (All of those busy thoughts, unsettled, capricious, whimsical, chattering, clamoring for attention.)

I've been writing the last few days about the blue monkeys of the Minoan frescoes, both at Knossos and at Akrotiri, blue monkeys gathering saffron from crocuses to give to the goddess.  One was originially misidentified as a woman, the tail ignored, the incomplete fragments restored into a wrong whole.  

What this says about monkeys and women and archaeologists I'm not sure, though I've used the story different ways.  Maybe only that being unsettled is common?  Or that some of us have those blue monkeys in place of what we believed we were?  As attendants to priestesses, that's not such a bad thing; and the Chinese as well believe the monkey connected to wisdom and to gold.

Gathering saffron is a good task to assign them (us), the capricious creatures that otherwise distract and even drive crazy.  With crocus pollen I can make fragrant paella, I can dye cloth sunny yellow or the orange of Buddhist robes.  I can use it in therapies, in healing, as an anti-depressant.  Gathering (something I do instinctively, you will have noticed) is a calm pursuit, holy pursuit, allowing me to see things through without having to utilize all three rings of the circus, let alone the flying trapeze.

images:  Minoan Blue Monkey Fresco, Palace of Knossos

Zazzle Japanese Monkey