The Honeysuckle Jasmine of it All


Charleston Rebel

by cheri sabraw

I took this photo last May while visiting Charleston, South Carolina.

This grand Percheron, tasked with pulling a carriage load of tourists, stopped for a bite of tender shoots.

He was doing something he shouldn’t–leaning in, off the public road, for a boutique bite of someone’s honeysuckle jasmine vines.

As with all animals, he was living in the present moment and nosed his way over to the residence where such dessert grew. I suspect it was not the first time he had done this, clearly off bounds for carriage horses.

The present moment!

The present moment is 99% elusive to most of us tasked with the vicissitudes of daily life.

And yet, in that 1% of time in which we are aware of the beauty, aliveness, or humor of the moment, we come as close to contentedness as we are able.

The goal is to stay in the moment whatever it may be.

Go for that honeysuckle more often than not.



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A first world problem

by cheri

Three days ago, on the 23rd of this month, I marked my day by dredging up the banal fact that it has been eight weeks since our kitchen and family rooms were “demoed” and the Judge and I moved our operation out to the garage, which has now come to be known as my “cocina con automobiles.”

At first, I was game, like a coquette who realizes that the night is long.

I made lattes for the contractor, the electrician, and the contractor. The weather in Northern California at that time was heavenly, a mild fall when leaves decided it was best to stay on the tree. My remodeling decisions made (but not paid for), I felt optimistic about life in the garage with my dog and my husband, mentioned in no particular order of importance.

That was before the drywall team spent 2-3 weeks getting the ceiling right in the family room.

In case you have not lived in your home while a drywall team enters it, it is tantamount to nuclear winter. Dust and particles squeeze under closed doors and cover even the privacy of a bathtub. The drywall team wears N-95 masks to protect their lungs from the machine that whirls paint splats all over the walls.

While ripping off sheet rock, earlier in the project, a tiny leak which had been wreaking havoc for years and years, unbeknownst to us, was suddenly cast into the spotlight. That leak created another project, the complete redo of our upstairs deck, a small space that once fixed, will never leak again, not in our lifetimes nor in those who live here way out into the future.

Bang, bang, bang. Whirrrr, whirrr, whirr.

So here I sit, along with the dog and two cars, an old heater,  and a host of bugs who love the fact that the flourescent lights are on much longer than usual, giving them ample time to crash into windows repeatedly until their carcasses dot the windowsills and workbench like small dessicated raisens.

The painting, the cabinets, the tile work, the plumbing, the electrical–all we await with the enthusiasm of the Messiah.

The accoutrements of a civilized couple envelop the garage: a scented candle, a Swiffer, an old flat screen television lying dormant by a noisy refrigerator, a Nespresso machine, a Dyson vacuum, Triscuits, and Wente Wine bottles, empty.

My brother reminded me that I will look back on this time with happy memories.

He’s probably right.





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Thy Will be Done

by cheri sabraw


One of my most memorable dogs was Maggie, a gorgeous liver and white Springer Spaniel who coped patiently with my typewriter, my stacks of uncorrected essays written in awful cursive or those typed on thin paper with many keyboarding errors.

Maggie, by her nature, was about as enthusiastic as a dog could be. Her docked tail–the kids called it a stump–wagged like a metronome set to allegro.

When her exercise needs had not been met and running in circles around a small backyard  didn’t take the edge off, she would plant her muzzle on my leg, wherever my leg might be, and rest it there, staring at me, rarely blinking, with her luminous brown eyes. The muzzle became heavier, weighted down by her head and long ears, which looked like strips of shiny mink.

At times, I felt like a pheasant, something she ached to flush out of the underbrush.

But work is work. Papers must be corrected. (Those were the days when most English teachers actually corrected student writing.)

Now, many dogs later, I find myself in Portland, Oregon, taking care of grandchildren and their puppy.


Typewriters have been replaced by a computer, iPad, and iPhone: hobbies such as writing for my own entertainment or oil painting replace those stacks of essays of yore.

Now, my Grand Dog, a  Labradoodle puppy named Matty, insists on my undivided attention. She is smart enough to figure out the best strategy: get up close and personal.


Let’s go for a walk. The leaves are falling. The sun is out for the first time all week.




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New Mexico, again

IMG_2761by cheri sabraw

Every time I anticipate a journey to New Mexico, in particular, a trip to Santa Fe, I picture the unparalleled beauty of the skies. And despite the snow and rain predicted for today, the show yesterday rewarded my reverie.

I have written widely about New Mexico and my early years here as a child when my father Hugh was the Army dentist at the White Sands Proving Grounds in 1952.

Yesterday, while my husband took a class on The Brothers Karamazov at St. John’s College, recently featured in Frank Bruni’s opinion piece in the New York Times titled The Most Contrarian College in America, I and my trusty Panasonic Lumix camera hit the uneven and at times dangerous sidewalks that hash mark along the streets of downtown Santa Fe.

I walked down the Paseo de Peralta, past the cathedral, headed for the farmer’s market.


The colors in New Mexico remind the child within us that life is bright and hopeful, even when the shadows come, as they always do.



The rich and sandy adobe graciously provides contrast for man’s colorful expression.







As I always do, I headed to the square, touristy as it is, to visit Lucchese Bootmaker.


Unable to get a seat at Pasquale’s for lunch,  for the second day in a row, I head down to the Railyard, where, I understand, the farmer’s market is taking place.

On a small street outside of the tourist area, I visit some small art galleries. Here is Santa Fe, the dogs are not designer.


I continue on, wondering just how many steps I am taking. You do have to watch your step in this town.  Finally, 17,000 steps later, I arrive at the farmers market.

The people and the produce do not disappoint.



On my way home, I stop at the Owings Gallery, which features what I call Old School Art, painted by old masters, many from the Taos Group, paintings that take your breath away.

On my other blog I will write about the Taos School of Painters, but before I do, I shall post a picture painted by W.H. “Buck” Dunton (1876-1936) titled Five Broncos, painted in 1920 and for sale for $85,000.00.


Now, THIS is fine art.


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Happy Birthday to me

by cheri

Today is my birthday. I am very grateful to have reached older age in pretty good shape and with an optimistic demeanor.

In honor of my birthday, I am posting several of my favorite photos.



Here at the Rancho courtesy of Hurricane Rosa


The calm before the storm

IMG_2370 2

The Golden State of Mind


The Joy of Puppyhood


For my dear friend Susie. Our time at Oak Creek last month was peaceful and glorious. May the bridge over the creek remind you that your current journey has another side–a return to perfect health. God Speed, Susie!

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by cheri


Cambria coastline

I’m taking a break from trying to dress up my new “garage” kitchen, which the Honorable Honor and I are now sharing with a yellow Labrador, her hairy and stinky bed, the cars, two refrigerators, box cutters, and assorted garbage baskets and cans.

You may remember my writing about the days that the Honorable Honor and his lovely honoree (me) and a large Rottweiler named Elsa lived in a 5th wheel trailer on our newly acquired untamed property while our house was being built by one contractor and a host of subs who arrived at night and on the weekends.


One World Trade Center, NYC, September 2018 photo by cheri sabraw

Never mind that my father (God rest his soul)  told me privately that we were insane for buying land we couldn’t afford, building a house we couldn’t afford, and to add insult to injury, living in a space with a large German dog. Hummph!

Those days in the trailer were some of the happiest in my life, albeit the most cramped in my life. The Honorable Honor and I watched Tool Time and the Love Connection, ate microwaved popcorn (ahhh, the days before diverticulitis), and continued to work by day as English teacher and a Judge.

The Honorable Honor looked, as usual, like a million dollars, stepping out of the trailer with a flashy tie and colorful socks. Like Harry Truman, natty and upright, he stepped into his clean car with polished shoes and a spring in his step ready to dispense justice to all.


Grand Central Station, NYC September, 2018

I, on the other hand, looked more like a girl who has been to an all-nighter, a slumber party if you will–tired, wrinkled, and confused about which day it was, what I had eaten for dinner, and worst of all, what I was teaching that day.  I was only 43 years old back then but at the time, I felt, well, older. Ironically, I was teaching The Grapes of Wrath that quarter and what a job I did! I actually felt like a Joad.

That was 25 years ago. The house has aged, as we all do. His Honorable Honor, still full of optimism and style, decided that it was TIME for a remodel of the kitchen. As these types of things often do, the remodel has grown to the entire downstairs, two bathrooms, a tile entry, and the faux beams in the living room which, I might add, when upgraded, will still be faux…they just won’t look it.

I have packed the entire downstairs and things are well, somewhere. In five days, I have walked upstairs or downstairs or double-downstairs to our basement, putting stuff somewhere.

The dog is thoroughly confused. Since when do I have to sleep in the garage? her eyes seemed to say last night as I gave her a small biscuit and said, “Ok! Time to go to bed!

This morning, as fall begins her subtle entrance into my life, I stood up and stretched to welcome the day.  (Ouch! my back! my legs! my poor huddled masses of muscles yearning to be pain-free!)

I padded downstairs through the dust and the plastic wrapping designed to keep it out (yeah, right) to my lonely coffee pot, way out there in the garage, under the Honorable Honor’s tool belt.

Honorable Honor? He left early, dressed like a king on the way to his coronation.

I sat on the uncomfortable chair with the hairy dog at my side, staring into my Cup of Joe.


Photo by cheri sabraw September 2018

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P1110583 2by cheri sabraw

We amateur photographers take joy in the little things like the light coming through the turkeys’ wattles.


Then there are the accoutrements of a grandson studying hard at our house.


The light from air,  filled with the smoke and particulates of last month’s fires, caused our oaks to sympathetically shriek in orange tones.


A table in Vail, Colorado, calls out to us, “Have your picnic here!”


A  Labra-doodle pup surveys her new surroundings.


A race mule approaches the track at the Alameda County Fair.


On our graveyard tour in Charleston, South Carolina, the spirits glow.


Orange is a marvelous color, isn’t it?

All photography by cheri sabraw and may not be used without her permission.

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A Giant Loses a Limb

IMG_2053by cheri sabraw

We were lying in bed yesterday morning, listening to the delightful sounds of a morning coming to consciousness: Turkeys stepping through dry leaves, finches singing to their mates, blue jays squawking at will and the 6:30 am Southwest Airlines jet heading into Oakland to land.


I heard a crack. That was it–just a deep sound in our oak forest. Oh well, I wonder if my coffee is ready downstairs…

Within minutes, that crack opened up at the angle between two branches that must have weighed several tons or more; we heard a booming cracking thud, as one enormous arm of our beautiful  old oak tree crashed down on a lower branch, equally as large.

IMG_2058I shuttered to think of all of the birds’ nests that sat up there in that oak.

IMG_2064This photo does not concern the part of the tree that broke off. I’ve included it so that you can view the immense canopy at the top.

We called our friends from Newark Tree Service–Felix (in his 70’s), his son Miguel and  their friend Ephraim, all of whom have taken good care of our trees for many years.

Although they had already worked a full day elsewhere and are completely booked through the end of the year, up they came this afternoon to help.

When my husband got home from work, he joined in, as well.



Felix is a living testimony to the old adage that work is good for man. Look at that guy in his mid-seventies!

IMG_2080 2

Miguel, Ephraim, and Ron feed the chipper.

Losing a part of a tree this big reminds us that these gentle giants are vulnerable to age and an imbalance of weight (like we humans are…)

The smell, however, of oak branches and acorns being shredded through a chipper is fragrant.


Efraim, Ron, Felix, and Miguel

But not as delightful as all of those handsome men whom I am lucky enough to call my friends (and husband.)

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The Bayeux Tapestry and the Channel Crossing

212F2471-B9C0-4B9D-986A-761D429DDD6FPainting a sassy little filly this past week took my mind back to this post, which I repost in case you missed it the first time.

Notes from Around the Block

imagesby cheri block sabraw

In the dark winter of 2010, I listened to an engaging lecture on the Bayeux Tapestry given by Dr. Linda Paulson of Stanford University. On the screen behind the professor, colorful photos of the Tapestry moved from left to right reminding me of a medieval comic strip. The brightly colored panels of embroidery, depicting among many other things, the oath that Harold Godwin took  in 1064 in the presence of Duke William of Normandy, captivated me.  When Harold became King instead of Duke William, the oath became central to William’s decision to invade England from across the channel.

To accompany this segment of her class entitled War, Dr. Paulson assigned British  historian David Howarth’s short novel  titled 1066.  As the course progressed, she selected a number of insightful and well-written  books about war from Agincourt to Hastings, from Waterloo to the Civil War, and from World…

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Edna Mode


by Cheri E. Mode

My new, young dental hygienist told my brother, the dentist, that I scared her.

I was, well, shocked beyond shocked. OMG. A kind, funny, focused person like me–petite, interested, interesting, conversant, curious, and focused (did I say that already?) person SCARED her?

She did not tell me face-to page-boy, owl-eyed face.

No, scared people rarely do that; rather, they tell someone else.

The next visit to the hygienist, I said, ” I hear you are afraid of me. Why?”

To her credit, she stepped into the picture like an animated Hun.

“Have you seen The Incredibles movie? “she asked, and then offered her reasoning as a doctoral student would do to the committee of which it is so petrified.

“Do you know who Edna Mode is? From The Incredibles?” and with that, whipped out her cell phone and produced a picture of a little woman dressed in a black dress, black tights and sporting large round black specs.”

“No, I have not seen The Incredibles, ” I admitted, already making plans with Netflix for the night.

“Well, Cheri, Edna is focused and doesn’t take any S_ _ _ from anyone,” she stated so matter-of-factly that I clamped down on the whirling whizzy tool she was using to polish my focused white teeth.

“So that I may better understand you, am I correct in saying that you are not afraid of people who are scattered and malleable? ” I said, in between spitting in the bowl.

I watched The Incredibles, studied Edna Mode, and returned to the dental office, dressed in black, with a pencil behind my ear and a spring in my step.

As the hygeniest entered the waiting room to call her next incredible patient (me), I jumped out from behind the fish tank, just to the left of the coffee machine, and before the coffee table filled with dental implant magazines covering an occasion USC Trojan sports schedule.

” Are you still afraid of me?” I teased, ” and to her point I stated, “Don’t you see that Edna Mode is perhaps the best character in The Incredibles? She’s not scary at all! Rather, she has opinions, a work ethic, and a soul.”


(Let it be said here that Edna Mode, I understand, is patterned after the Hollywood Legend of fashion design, Edith Head)



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