Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Creole Belle

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we--
Of many far wiser than we--
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:--

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


That's Windermere--Cumbria, the Lake Country, not yet visited...so very English, with gray northern light, flagstone walls, trimmed hedges and flowing ivy... But the season here is winter--time of the solstice, banked fires upon the hearth. Maybe even older--like Beuys, in those early drawings--his creatures emerging almost by themselves, from a time of peat bogs and runes. No such telling here--La Californie--where even the shell mounds remain unknown--everything new, unfounded...

A woman, too--time of warmth...

Sunday, December 17, 2006


La Jolla, looking down from the cliffs, blue green water, golden kelp, eel grass around all the rocks... Everything shifting back and forth with the tides. Out beyond the point, a white foam breaker's edge, then calm. Swimming out from the beach, long strokes, summer air, like the day with Peter and Pat, out farther still, Pat's rocking ChrisCraft, athwart the seas, lifting and pitching with each new swell. A goodbye of sorts, mid-ocean... incomplete...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sea of Okhostk

12 December. A little later, towards the end of the afternoon. Mixture of raw sienna, orange and umber, thinned down, and applied over translucent wavery dark-brown ground. Enough water so that it becomes misty, the touch of cadmium orange subtle but prominent. Also a boat—a ship, rather—like the one the Chinese girl gave me at school, an old freighter from Shanghai, piloted by her grandfather. Mark saw it in my office—real for him as well. “The things most real to us are the ones we experience before the age of five.” From somewhere in Marx. Feel of a surface—the material of a certain time, a certain place. Undefineable except to the senses. Like the dark brown masonite of Dad’s table, varnished by hand, the one my arm rests on now… A kind of bedrock, in it’s own way--perhaps only to me…

Sea of Okhotsk.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


12 December 2006, Tuesday. Dark rainy day. Imagining a beach on the coast below Sydney—Maroubra--the name coming from an Aboriginal word which means “like thunder”—from the sound of the waves on the rocks… But here not so much melodrama as mood--all grays, with raw umber brush drawing of a single boat, the first one in several months. A surf boat, that is, or at least it could be…and which I always associate with places like this—Sydney, Melbourne, Perth…the Western oceans…

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Owl Harbor

Late in the evening on a winding Delta Road...light breeze, darkened waters, stands of cattails and reeds. A few bars still open, hints of neon--the Saddle Club, Bullards, Johnny C's... Otherwise, it's only night sounds and the dark, sleeping cormorants and mallards. Su Shih, writing long ago, "On a Boat, the River at Night," his concern for spider, moon, mud worms in the cold...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Hong Kong Bound

Dark ship on a dark sea. Lighter lines scratched into umber...reeds on a marshy shore. Banks of the River Plate. El Río de la Plata--River of Silver--with waters wide enough to be unending, invisible, all the way to Uruguay.... And every other ocean as well--in a storm, off the coast of Sicily, for instance (Mike Richardson's story), sailing in a worn Greek fishing hull, running close-hauled between the capes, unable to make headway, too near the cliffs... But here we're well offshore, in the calm of a winter fog, harbor bouys far behind... Heading out for Hong Kong, Singapore, points beyond. My library books, in Oceanside, as a boy--sea stories, working ships just like this: the engine-room, a wiper... Reappearing again just last month as a photograph in the hands of a Chinese girl at Berkeley--her grandfather a Shanghai sea captain. Picture of his steamer--around the time of the war... His jaunty pose, leaning against the rail...

Monday, December 04, 2006

L'Atalante/Li Jiang

Two boats, two streams--the Siene and the Li Jiang. Jean Vigo's young river captain, Michel, and his bride, Juliette--a girl from a small country town. She boards the barge unknowing, dressed all in white--dark hull and river mist, bringing with her what she can--the freedom of tenderness... But can it last, amidst the channels and shoals, bales of river ware, chalk and grain... She flees at last, in Paris, lost forever; Michel lies dreaming, vision of a river maiden undersea... The Rusalka--water spirit--Warszawa's mermaid, sword and shield. In the east, who knows--does this story find its twin? Late evening, below Guilin, that was Yangshuo, another small town...darkened room, river night, a single lantern out on the water, but only the sound of soft currents lapping. Summer air, as it's always been, Po-Chü-i, Li Po..the river, my friend...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Rock Dove

Sometime in April...that was at the beginning. A rock dove, full body, strong bones. No great mystery on sidewalk or curb--but wait, once in flight, it's back to the time of Odysseus, or Noah--the messenger--another being, moving through the air. Gray city skies, building shadows, where the light never reaches the street. Like Giacometti, in his Swiss valley--a condition of the earth. But here the temperament is more southern--Mediterranean even, 14th and Broadway, downtown. Oakland, yes, all those years, slide open the narrow grate, step out onto the street...

Oh have you seen those lonesome doves
Flyin' from pine to pine
A-mournin' for their own true love
Just like I mourn for mine...


High in the Sierras, just below the Yuba pass... a small mountain town with steep metal roofs, banked for snow. "We close down at the end of September, open again in May." Wooden cabins along the river's edge...continuous sound of water, rushing, churning against stone...

But now it's high summer, later afternoon light. High above, the Sierra Buttes, craggy granite outcroppings. In front, near the road, the red rust of old barn paraphernalia (even if just for show) and a large, shallow trout pond, also rimmed with stone. Gray forms of fish meandering back and forth…moving slowly in circles, now seen, now disappearing...

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Down by the Salley Gardens
William Butler Yeats

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Erev Shabbos

From 13 August 2006. Then, late in afternoon, Erev Shabbos. Simple and singing. The greater light and the lesser light, whitish square, yellow oxide square alongside, dot of gray in between. Small bird below, watching. Haven’t done something for erev shabbos in a long time. Maybe needed…essential, even…

From Sunday August 15. This morning: Erev Shabbos on the easel. Yes. Scanned and sent to just a few friends. Note from Dick in Paris—Delcroix, Corot and a Korean woman in the Louvre…the meaning of gestures…

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Dark Sunday, late fall. Beautiful gloomy air. Something to do with a forest—maybe from Margaretta Lovell’s course description. Evocative, half-read… Narrow birch tree to the right—just the trunk, and opposite, flame-like leaves, but very muted. Something like that.

Happy Valley

From 25 June 2006. Rather, an expanse of color, surface, weight. As in Minervalaan, from last week (the park in Amsterdam in summer of 1991). Or the pair Sheung Wan and Happy Valley… (The name used by the Chinese people of Hong Kong is Horse Racing Ground; that's where the British set up their track. Also known locally as Wong Nai Chung, Yellow Mud Stream, from creek of the same name. This fits well with feel of the painting, although curiously I didn’t know it at the time… In fact, I stopped initially at “Happy Valley” because it takes such getting used to…)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Persimmon Tree, Autumn

Persimmon Tree, Autumn. Delta fields, somewhere beyond Isleton. Two lane roads give way to dirt, pools of water on either side, endless furrows... All the colors of brown, jostled together in a wide stillness... Misty light, veiling the sun, even at mid-day, water in the air... Old marinas, after summer's fun--Owl Harbor, for example--with an ancient PT boat moored in the shallows, Navy gray against river mist . Thanksgiving day--this is how it is--a celebration, but out here, just a few Spanish-speaking men, fishing from levee rocks, their small fires banked against the chill. Down below, in the fields, a bevy of pick-ups--large-sized Dodges and Fords--pulled up in a farm house lot. Everyone inside, you'd imagine, gathered round the table. Leaving us the empty roads, the late afternoon light, the wind...

Monday, November 13, 2006


Golden temple against muted blue-gray sky. Early evening. The inset doorway green with incandescent light--glowing, like the faces of the worshippers, who pour out onto the street, some seated on smooth courtyard stone (also gleaming), their backs to us, tan and pink and yellow rust, costumes white as they near the door. A burst of light above one tower--interlocking rings, also gold--which dissappear into the darkening sky. Rangoon--it's the name, perhaps, the lilting air, warmth so very close to our own--enveloping...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sorrows (After Po Chu-i)

From 8 August 2006. Today: again, raw sienna mixture for ground, lantern shapes emerging, but not really lanterns. The idea of the sentence. (B, last night: “What is syntax?” “The way the parts of a sentence fit together, and the rules that govern this.” Where did this come from?) / Last phrase this morning (OnPainting256): Pirates all. I did hesitate, I admit. But we are all part of all. / Today’s painting: back and forth. Very meuzy, but I like it this way. Nothing too definite. Sorrows (after Po Chü-I).

After Cavafy


That we’ve broken their statues,
that we’ve driven them out of their temples,
doesn’t mean at all that the gods are dead.
O land of Ionia, they’re still in love with you,
their souls still keep your memory.
When an August dawn wakes over you,
your atmosphere is potent with their life,
and sometimes a young ethereal figure,
indistinct, in rapid flight,
wings across your hills.

C.P. Cavafy

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Andrus Island

White water bird on bluish field. Sandhill cranes in autumn. Much too pure for that—their muddy roughness, on land, hidden amongst the furrows in late light—two of them rise up to dance, so naturally unexpected—all spindly legs and spreading wings—as if in their temporary stay they would be forever… All else vast quiet, low light on low waters, stubble of field, brackish edge… Loping power lines strung above, pole to pole, into the distance. Hardscrabble road—rutted gravel, a car feels out of place in this run of air. Far distance, haze, silhouette of Mt. Diablo, now seen from the east. All late light and quiet, Delta breeze…

Monday, November 06, 2006


From 14 August 2006. Gray morning, touch of fall. A Nederlands tjalk--shallow draft, inland seas... Pulled up on the flats at Volendaam, early autumn, misty light...all the colors ochre and brown...even the air a neutral shade, as if moderation were all... A world of social relations--the give and take of daily life...cargoes and trade, needed things--hemp, flax, bolts of cloth--barley, millet, rye...carried on quiet waters...maybe a song....

T'ao Chien would have known as well...

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Dutch ship on a Dutchman's sea... Roiled waters, late afternoon, golden sunlight through the crest of each gold-green wave, and the general chaos of changing tides... Berkeley fishing pier, often just this same vision, like something out of the old paintings--Hobbema, Cuyp, Van de Velde--the solidity of wood--beam and draft, long metal bolts to hold the load, augered through. Lee-board down, into the wind, Nordzee...

Hangzhou Rain

Just over three years now, since Hong Kong and Guilin--overland to the border, then the mad explosion of Shenzhen, supersized--and miles of gray, tear-stained apartment blocks, each balcony strung with laundry, the roads packed, ox cart to Audi--unrelenting. An overpass with Western faces, looming above, vacant media smiles, while Hakka women in wide black cloth hats bend patiently, hoeing, at the side of the road...

A love for the past--even never having known it (maybe better that way). Knossos, Zamoscz, Hangzhou rain...

Blue Flag

From August 10 2006: Drawing this morning, in copyshop. Youngish woman, small top, narrow but rounded figure… Leans back, massages her arm, then lower part of her back. Feeling of self…taken so for granted. Also—black oversized earphones, narrow wire to bag alongside…

At Moe’s. Late Milton Avery...

Working back into painting begun yesterday. Orange shape with darker rectangle below, partly washed away. Cooler gray painted around. Shape of flag appears, but condensed—made stubby, that is. Like in monster cars, maybe. A kind of (rhetorical) sentimentalization of form itself. Happens with toys all the time. (Chunkier than need be.) Pale blue painted stripes. Patriot? As in phat.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Friends (After the Chinese)

Two figures against muted gray green--a field, in the atmospheric sense--reaching in, perhaps. Personalities distinct, even in silhouette--one more upright, the other dark and tentative. Parallels or contradictions...even at this tiny scale--their lives played out before us in touches of wash...

An opening, too--one that occured in the painting itself. Brush moves around, creates a home--more shelter than limitation. Clouds, cold breeze--late in the fall...

Last night, with Ahron--sound of the violin and guitar. His confidence, launching in to each new melody. The ones I've taught him as well-- Wildwoodflower, Wind and the Rain--along with Vivaldi, Rossini, Suzuki...

Two friends...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Autumn Garden

October 12, 2006, Thursday. Misty morning chill. Pool denizens , one by one, padding the cold stone. Soon: slanting rains. Young latina at the café, with the guys behind counter--her small chest, shoulders pulled back, looking up at an alert angle, smiling. Warmth and reserve... a morning world.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Rainy Field

Point Reyes, early in the spring. Impending storm, power lines on Lucas Valley Road swinging wildly back and forth in the wind, whole hillsides moving, rippling chaparral. Road almost empty as we head north towards McClure’s Beach. Dark farmhouses, the first ones there, like outbuildings on some Scottish highland. A stand of elk—majestic—nestled into the hill. Path down to the water, wild spray flying from the crests of the waves… The Mazurkas--beginning of it all…

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ni Tsan

From September 17, 2006, Sunday. Finally, still in a particularly good mood (and not having painted for the several days)—took up one of the cardboards on painting table—something I’d begun at the very end of August. Drawn/painted figure—working flat, on paint table—same feeling as in the morning drawings—following the line… Has something to do with Ni Tsan, not in looking like one of his paintings, but in the feel of the wandering figure, his back towards the viewer. Spot of white, opposite on the far left, and higher—a star, or star-like in any case…


Cool grays—cliffs of the Dolomiti, well above Trieste--a Dubliner in exile. It was the winter of 1969, our impossible road trip, over the Brenner pass, weaving and wandering in wide arcs of cold mountain air. It's the light that stays with you—the essence of a place, just as each white touch becomes the essence of time. Etruscan birch rods, bound around an axe--strength in unity--and the power of the state. But let’s leave out the axe—only the limbs themselves--fast-growing, gray and white, shooting upwards into the sky—redeeming.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Late River

Late River. Patch of raw sienna, reddish brown against the green. Corners dinged—the status of the universe—and a few remaindered pin holes roughly in the middle. Late evening, Yang-shuo, autumn of 2003. A darkened room, right on the river--the Li Jiang, windows open to the night. Sound of unseen waters, moving. One light in the distance—a fishing boat?—but no sound. Time disappears as well—that same view, a thousand years before. All present.


From 20 September 2006. Also on Friday: Balboa Pool. Annette’s wedding, in Balboa Park—to see the lotus pools. Childhood and everything else, brought together. This painting: too indistinct? The value of blandness--tan in the Chinese-- but still, must come to some kind of unwilled resolution…


From 3 October, 2006, Tuesday. That it could be this way, if only through accident…which is to say, through the way the world works, in and of itself. Accident from our perspective—or letting things be, from the perspective of the world. After reworking Alicia, yet again. Madre.

Last night: davening Neilah; Hour of dusk—the prayer begins at 6:30, late late afternoon. The closing of the gates. Repeated songs, many times—then Avinu Malkenu…and a long, raspy shofar blast, to seal the new year. Tihat’mu, tihat’mu…

Be comforted, be comforted, my people... Cycle beginning with Tisha B’av, and the shabbos following--weeks of Ellul, leading into Rosh ha-Shannah and Yom Kippur…

Be comforted, my people...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


From 9 August 2006, Wednesday. Letter (e-mail) from Dick in Paris—following my painting guide—quiet walk through the Louvre, from Veronese and Titian to Watteau, Chardin and beyond…

Cutting cardboard for more paintings. Thought: When there’s a flood, give in to the flood… A principle? Chuang Tzu, perhaps.

Warm day, working with my shirt off. Feels good. Medium green-sienna ground, then thin burnt-umber glaze—with medium so that striations show. Shape just below center right, green and blue and a little white—too separate. Spritzed out a bit, then work back in lighter ultra + zinc white, pastel green, dark patch of burnt umber and ultramarine. Portable radio (boom box) with speakers at the sides—plus the rounded corners, something Chinese…

Exhilaration of simply being able to see the color…or just seeing, period…

Later—overpainted with layer of warm green-white, not too light, part abraded… so that colored shapes hold better in the atmosphere…

Ha-Melech ba-Sadeh

From September 19, 2006, Tuesday. Ha-Melech ba-Sadeh--The King Is in the Field. The month of Elul, leading up to Rosh Hashanah. A time of reflection, of looking inward--and yet the image itself is pastoral. A phrase from the Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch, in 18th Century Russia--an interpretation that's consistent with so much of Jewish folklore--set in an unnamed time of palaces and plowmen. We imagine the scene today, inevitably, in a kind of medieval garb--but as described in midrashic sources, simply an agrarian world. As always, the multiple levels of symbolism--evocative--as in the word king itself... ruler of the earth, ruler of heaven. Back, perhaps, to Adam Kadmon--the Primordial Man--an image of the universe, cast in human form--and from there all the rest comes forth...

Rosemary and Bay

From 21 September, 2006, Thursday. Kristi this afternoon—arrives with sprigs of herbs from her cabin garden. “The first place I didn’t feel like moving from…” Long talk, many things. Bakersfield—the bowling alley breakfasts, Merle Haggard’s mother—“I Failed” on the mailbox… “I didn’t tell them I was from Berkeley.” She brings the Jerusalem book, for me to sign: “For my dear Kristi, many stories, in both directions, sharing…”

Painting, later. Rosemary and Bay, western lands—dry as dust, sometimes, water hidden… Panhandle. Roundup, at Thanksgiving. Work on her writing, there at the ranch. And then?

Heaven's Gate

From September 20, 2006, Wednesday. Yesterday, later in the day—blue-gray ground, quite wet, with warmer gray-green painted in, dried down in veil-like fashion, just right. Began to paint in the image of a bird, but it was unnecessary—just the veiled color alone--enough. Heaven’s Gate. Something Chinese, of course...

All the world seen in water...

Heart of Palm

From October 1,2006, Sunday. Gray morning, quite beautiful. From last Friday: Heart of Palm, why this title I don’t know. Open-ended ground, I think that’s what I like best—when the thinner paint runs in a particular way—reticulation.

From October 17, 2006, Tuesday: Unguent umber, salmons and brown. An open hand... The fish taken, a runner carries it fourteen miles--a full day's run, up stream, on willow trail, narrow leaves dipped in sun, along water's edge--in his arms...

Sea of Reeds

A history of western grasses--low-lying dunes, where water and sky reside. Light blue wash, chalky and opaque--the pull of the earth, even on this delicate veil. Marsh grass strands--each one delineated--from some hidden childhood lagoon. Sloughs, we called them--the slough of despond (no, that must have come later) but a strange word, nonetheless. Netherworld, all water, drifting towards the sea...

This week: Bereishis, In the beginning...