The thread of gold cordial flowed from the bottle/
with such langour that the hostess found time to say/
here in mournful Tauris where our fates have cast us/
we are never bored–with a glance over her shoulder.
-Osip Mandel’shtam (1917)
To be honest, not only was this not the next blog post I envisioned myself writing (this past Saturday, I was all about “Mission Cauliflower.” But due to life’s natural spontaneity getting in the way of things, I will have to wait to report the results of this little experiment only after I emerge from a mission somewhat more pressing these days–Mission Conference Paper), I’ve never been much of a Mandel’shtam fan. And not even because he’s rather difficult to understand. It’s more the fact that his writing seems to revel in its very difficulty. To me, this smacks of unnecessary pretension. However, I can’t deny that, ever since I decided to revamp my syllabus and add in a “Poetry Day!” (what was I thinking? I really hope both they and I are ready for this), I’ve had this particular poem on my mind. Why? Well, having been written by Mandel’shtam, it’s naturally confusing (which fits right into the topic of my class) :), but, more importantly, it perfectly captures the Sunday that I had this weekend when I went on an unexpected trip to Sonoma.
It was one of those perfect fall days when the wind is slightly crisp, but the sun is still shining. And the word that always springs to mind when I think of the wine country is “quaint.” There’s no better way of describing it.
The great thing about the California fall is that the plants and trees manage to bloom even as they’re in the process of dying, which certainly makes for an interesting and colorful landscape…But even as I marvel at it, it’s one of those strange things about life here that I’ll never ever understand–just like how, on Thanksgiving, the east coaster/Mid-Atlantic-er in me can neither fathom nor bear the sight of palm trees on Thanksgiving (they just don’t fit into my childhood conception of Turkey Day and that’ll never change).
Part of Sonoma’s charm stems from the fact that, no matter where you turn, there’s something lovely to see–a little tunnel that leads to shops, murals, fountains or world-class gelato establishments (The Chocolate Cow!), and old buildings on seemingly deserted side streets…
And when you get right down to it, this was just the warm-up. Once we returned to Berkeley, a cooking frenzy began! The Greek’s mother (whom, let me add, I like very much) was making dinner for seven–for all the roommates, me, herself and her husband. It was a true feast, including Greek Meatballs in Egg-Lemon Sauce (Youvarlakia me Avgolemono; maybe I don’t speak the language, but, let’s just put it this way: me + Google = the height of resourcefulness), salad and Greek pastries–honey-drenched and/or otherwise. Since I’m not in the wordiest mood tonight and pictures are in and of themselves an effective means of communication, I’ll let them speak for themselves. 🙂