Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More orchids

More orchids from the orchid festival.

There are lots of old books to read, all different from each other. I started The Four Seasons by Laurel Corona, a "novel of Vivaldi's Venice". I'm reading also The Magic Doe (Mirigavati), a new translation by Aditya Behl. Mirigavati or The Magic Doe is "the work of Shaikh Qutban Suhravardi, an Indian Sufi master." And a non-fiction-Incognito by David Eagleman. Eagleman writes: "Ours is an incredible story. As far as anyone can tell, we're the only system on the planet so complex that we've thrown ourselves headlong into the game of deciphering our own programming language… What is Experience really like?"

Monday, January 30, 2012

for the love of orchids

It was almost 2 years ago now since Cheri and I  attended a festival of orchids held in Fort Mason, in San Francisco. I selected here mainly white orchids. My mother loved orchids which she hung outside the windows around the house.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Deep plays

Sunny spring-like day again. One brown leaf floats on the pool. Early buds. My grandchildren visiting and playing blankets and towels.Deep in their plays the world goes on.

 I stopped by the fishermen in the river. “The fish are not biting.” But they were there deep in the their thoughts.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What books influenced your life?

"She is, in a sense, acting as an observer," Lively says. "She's someone for whom reading has always been absolutely crucial ... She's thinking a lot about ... the way she is a product of everything she has read quite as much as a product of the way in which she has lived," said Penelope Lively in an interview in NPR news. ( She is Charlotte, the main character,  in  the book How it All Began by Penelope Lively.)

Can books shape our lives? What books influenced your life? A biography of Douglas McArthur which I first read when I was in high school  gave me an idea of discipline and code of honor and how to conduct my life. Reading about the monks and Thomas Merton when I was in college helped me spiritually.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Trees and time

Today, like the trees, I want to surrender myself to time. To the moment. Without words. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012


During my afternoon walk to day, I met a gentleman who said to me, ”Did the fog fool you this morning?” The day turned to be a glorious today like spring. Even the fisherman who had not caught any fish agreed. It’s like spring.
This morning I drove to Sonoma, a town over the western mountain range  of Napa Valley, to attend the second lecture of the Muses series. Kayleen presented Heloise and Abelard, and St. Francis of Assisi with St. Clare and  “Brother Jacoba” /Lady Jacqueline Settisole Frangipani. Interesting stories of philosophy, theology, and love. That was the time of courtly love. If you ever visit Assisi and Italy and and Parisand France there are many places to see and remember. 

Lady Jacqueline arrived at the bedside of St. Francis and brought him gifts before he died. One of them is mandorla, the almond cake. 

Other than it is an almond cake, what else is the meaning of mandorla? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What is your story?

Four fishermen were fishing in the river when I walked there this afternoon. Two were seated on their chairs. The other 2 stood behind their fishing lines. Nobody had caught any fish yet. One of them was there in the river everyday for the last 10 days. “No fish” he always said  to me and it was no different today. 
All of them were looking at the river as the tide flowed upstream. What were they thinking while waiting for the fish to bite? One of them had the patience to go fishing everyday. 
What is the essence of fishing? Is to commune with the elements? With the river? Is it just to pass the time since they have nothing else to do? A form idleness? The river and the fishing lines have their own stories. Maybe the fisherman wants to read them and remember. 
The salmon tells its story when it returns to its place of birth. 
From the Love of Stones:
“My name is Katharine Sterne. These are notes for me to follow...The beginning should be that of the stones, not of me, and that is what I have written. And that is what it should be. My life is part of the story of the Three Brethren, not the other way around. It is a question of perspective.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Knitting with love

from Sea-Cat and Dragon King
“Sea-Cat’s mother worried because looked like a wet hearthrug and always catching chills. But Sea-Cat’s mother loved to knit. Sea-Cat used to go about the ocean bottom collecting skeins of seaweeds.... Then she down in her rocking chair and knitted and embroidered everything into a closely fitting, elegantly tailored, wonderfully complicated, waterproof, decorative, scintillating catsuit for Sea-Cat to wear...Sea-Cat shone like a wet star...The Dragon King was Lord of the Ocean...He was as ugly as he was old...”
“”Why do you want my beautiful suit?”
“If I wear your beautiful suit, I will become as beautiful as you.”
“I can never give away my catsuit because my mother knitted it for me and I could never give away my mother’s present, because she knitted it for me with love.”
Then the Dragon King began to cry...cries tears of rubies...”
I remembered I have an old book by Tobias Hill-The Love of Stones- and it is about jewels, rubies. 
It opens: “Years before his murder on the Bridge of Montereau, Duke the Fearless of Burgundy commissioned a jewel called the Three Brethren. It was the shoulder-knot of a cloak, a triangle of stones connected by crude spurs of gold. It was wide as a piece of armour across the collarbone. The jewel gained its name from the three balas rubies, which were identical in every way.” 
The setting at the beginning of the novel is Istanbul, Turkey.
I have to read this book-The Love of Stones-together with the other books from the library. I know which one has the edge at the moment.

All the photos were taken from the top of Galata Tower.

Monday, January 23, 2012

From my bookshelf

One book I found in my bookshelf-The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan (1966)
"The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan are a group of deities whose origins stem from Indian, Chinese, and indigenous Japanese gods of fortune… The earliest mention of the Seven Lucky Gods as a group was made in 1420 as place called Fushimi where it had been recorded that a procession of the Seven Lucky Gods was held in imitation of the famed daimyo processions."

"One of the many beliefs concerning the Seven Lucky Gods is that during the first three days of the new year,  (they) become sailors and command a magic ship called the takarabune.'

The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan are: Benten, Ebisu, Hotei, Bishamon,Daikoku, Fkurokuju, and Jurojin. Benten is the god for writers, artists, and photographers.

From the library:
Sea-Cat and Dragon-King by Angela Carter (an old children book-2000)
Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst (2011)
The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman (2011)
The Mind edited by John Brockman (2011)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

An invitation

Sammy, 7, our other grandson, invited his mom (my daughter) and me after today's 9 o'clock mass for breakfast at Butter Cream Bakery, "an old Napa landmark and icon", which was started in 1948,. He wanted to use his gift certificate he found in his Christmas stocking. Three of us decided to sit on the counter rather than the table and watch the cooks prepare the food. He ordered a doughnut twist covered with chocolate.

Cheri was with the Women’s Guild for lunch.
I finished Woolgathering by Patti Smith, a memoir of her early years, first published in 1992, reprinted by New Directions  last year as an augmented edition.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Things we do together

Today, Cheri and I went to watch our grandson, Jackson, 4, plays beginners'basketball. His dad is one of the coaches.
Early afternoon, yesterday, before the heavy rain, we went to the movies and watched Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close based on the book of the same title written by Jonathan Foer. The story portrays the psychological effects of a loss of a loved one from the perspective of a 9-year old boy who lost his father in the 9/11 catastrophic event he is too young to understand. The acting is excellent and the editing is superb from beginning to the end. The surprises and vignettes of the different characters are wonderfully visualized in the movie than in the book.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My English teacher

“...the habitual vision of greatness”
the first step, the first stair
from the rudiments to mastery, find the road that will make all the difference
I heard about the travel of St. Ignatius of Loyola to Montserrat. The pilgrims' walk of the Santiago de Compostela. The climb to the summit of Mt. Fuji. The toil for the first novel, first poem.
I remember my English teacher who inspired me to study English literature-
”if winter comes can spring be far behind..”
“She walks in beauty like the night
of cloudless climes and starry skies...”
“She was a phantom of delight
when first she gleamed upon my sight…”

We read and recited the poems and attempted to write our own first poems.
My English teacher was my guiding light. She stirred me to gather my bow and arrows, enter the forest and listen for the waterfalls. She was so delicate. When her husband, her muse, died suddenly, she mourned deeply. My classmates and I walked with her to the cemetery everyday where she placed a fresh rose on his grave.
I will try each day to find a vision. I will try to find the simplest way and make it new.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

the earliest enthusiasm-your muse

I attended a course today, the first of one of 6 weeks' lectures on Muses.Kayleen (our lecturer), in a clear entertaining presentation, brought to light or life the “role of love and inspiration” in Dante’s Beatrice, as she discussed the Theory of Anima. The other two muses she touched on were Theano, wife of Pythagoras, the discoverer of the Golden Mean and Hypatia, the last librarian of Alexandria, the muse of Raphael.
Dante and Beatrice met for the first time when he was nine years old and she was eight. At that very young age he already knew he loved her. He met her again 9 years later. Dante composed La Vita Nuova for her. He promised to bestow on Beatrice the greatest honor  and wrote the Divine Comedy. 

From Purgatorio Canto 30:
“a Lady came in view; an olive crown
   wreathed her immaculate veil, her cloak was       green,
   the colors of live flame played on her gown.
My soul-such years had passed since last it saw
   that Lady and stood trembling in her presence
   stupefied by the power of holy awe-”
Beatrice died at the age of 24.
Kayleen gave us an inspiring suggestion. “Think back from your memory, your earliest memory, start with the smallest enthusiasm or spark that moved you to write a poem , or sang a song; when you experienced one of your happiest moments, that rare feeling of joy,” she said. "Write it in your journal.”
Next week will be the medieval Muses-Heloise, muse of Peter Abelard,  and St. Claire and Lady Jaqueline  Settisole Frangipani, the muses of St. Francis.
I never thought of a Muse not until after I read the blog of Jeanne: 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Pollination Equation

The insects that populate the earth and make our lives interesting.

My friend, Brian, who lives in Ontario, Canada, sent me this photo of holly berries taken a few days ago.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Man's search for meaning

I walked to river today and found an egret a little further away on my path still for a moment  then flew away behind the trees. I talked to a older gentleman who was fishing, his cast on the water. "No bite," he said. "Maybe when the tide comes back it will bring the fish." He had been fishing everyday for the last 6 days and had not caught any. 

I just read in David Copperfield succesion of losses, first David's father died, then his mother leaving David orphan and sent to work by his stepfather in a warehouse  and experiencing the "secret agony of my soul." In the other book,Perlmann's Silence, Perlmann's wife died. In addition, in The Life of Meaning, I just read how to confront suffering and death. 

I didn't know why but I thought of Viktor Frankl and his book, Man's Search for Meaning. 

“...Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering.
Take the fate of the sick — especially those who are incurable. I once read a letter written by a young invalid, in which he told a friend that he had just found out he would not live for long, that even an operation would be of no help. He wrote further that he remembered a film he had seen in which a man was portrayed who waited for death in a courageous and dignified way. The boy had thought it a great accomplishment to meet death so well. Now — he wrote — fate was offering him a similar chance.
Those of us who saw the film called Resurrection — taken from a book by Tolstoy — years ago, may have had similar thoughts. Here were great destinies and great men. For us, at that time, there was no great fate; there was no chance to achieve such greatness. After the picture we went to the nearest cafe, and over a cup of coffee and a sandwich we forgot the strange metaphysical thoughts which for one moment had crossed our minds. But when we ourselves were confronted with a great destiny and faced with the decision of meeting it with equal spiritual greatness, by then we had forgotten our youthful resolutions of long ago, and we failed.”
This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. "I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard," she told me. "In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously." Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, "This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness." Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms. "I often talk to this tree," she said to me. I was startled and didn't quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. "Yes." What did it say to her? She answered, "It said to me, 'I am here — I am here — I am life, eternal life.'" ...(excerpts from Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl)
from the Book of Job 42.5 (translated by Stephen Mitchell).
I had heard of you with my ears;
      but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I will be quiet,
      comforted that I’m dust.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Which books?

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists. Through Alyce's at home with bookshttp://athomewithbooks.net/
I finished The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff. After a 20 year-correspondence (1949-1969) between Helene Hanff and the people at 84, Charing Cross Road she finally landed in London in 1971 and recorded her memories of the visit  with witty elegance and affection. I understand now why previous readers of the Duches want to read it again. If I’m granted that opportunity to visit London I will retrace the steps of the Duchess (Helene Hanff).
Now I can spread my attention to the other books I have listed yesterday with the addition of  David Copperfield and putting back  Tom Jones (which I hardly started) on the shelf again. I can only glance at  Between The Woods and The Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor and  Where Silence Reigns, Selected Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke. 

On the back page of The Art of Time by Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber says "To master one's time is to gain mastery of oneself." The author writes-"Your next challenge is obvious-the conquest of your time." I think he is talking to me. Or to you?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What are you looking for?

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asked the 2 disciples following him. In every stage of our life we should be asking that question. And that is a very big question.
On a lighter vein-what are you looking when you read a book?
I'm enjoying the Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Helene Hanff has a lot of question. I started also Perlmann's Silence and Perlmann is silent.

2 days ago one afternoon we had a scare because a lot of black smoke was noted coming from the northeast corner of our condo complex by one of the residents and called 911. Someone was burning leaves in their outdoor burner. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Old and new books and music

2 years ago Cheri and I attended a convention in Montreal. We took a dinner boat 
ride on the first day and viewed the city from St. Lawrence River. Days following we visited the old and the modern, polished and rustic, Montreal. 
Today from the library, I carried home 3 books:
Perlmann’s Silence by Pascal Mercier
A Man of Parts by David Lodge
Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
and 4 music CD’s
Han-Na Chang-Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto
Hilary Hahn-Higdon’s and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concertos
Anne-Sophie Mutter-Brahms Violinkonzert & Schumann Fantasie
Bella Fleck, Zakir Hussain & Edgar Meyer-The Melody of Rhythm, Triple Concerto and Music for Trio

I finished Heist Society by Ally Carter. Kat,15, and her co-conspirators, all teenagers, have to retrieve 5 priceless paintings stolen from a mobster and save her father who was the main suspect. The story flows with suspense, short digressions and flashbacks. Enjoyable up to the last sentence.