Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2019


by cheri sabraw

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

On a day like today, only the victims of Nazi atrocities should be in our minds and hearts.

Any other tangential political topic must be avoided lest we become distracted from the barbaric acts of hatred and torture that occurred not so long ago in countries that counted themselves as civilized but in actuality were not.

There is no positive spin to be put on the events that transpired in Germany in the 1940’s and continued throughout most of the European mainland from Austria to Poland, from Belgium to France, from Czechoslovakia to Lithuania, and so on.

All we can do is educate the young about what took place over seventy years ago for “whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness.” (From the website of Yad Vashem.)

I’d like to think this song by Rachelle Shubert honors those stars whose lights were snuffed out.





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“She has the most sand of any girl I know…”


by cheri sabraw

In Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Huck says of Mary Jane Wilks, a 19-year-old girl he meets and admires and who, along with her sisters, is the object of a failed scam by the Duke and the Dauphin,  …She has the most sand of any girl I know…

My first question to my students after finishing that chapter was “What did Huck mean when he described Mary Jane as having sand?

Eventually, amid answers that ranged from the granular to the universal, someone would observe that Mary Jane had courage.

Ahhhh… I would nod,  You must mean ‘grit’, don’t you? and then I would insist they look up the word grit in the dictionary.

Most of us hope  we have such strength of character, courage, pluck, or grit when faced with life’s greatest challenge: that moment when we face our mortality.


I first met Susie in 1972.

I was a first-year teacher at the tender age of 21, hired as a Learning Consultant  and English teacher by Joe,  my former teacher and principal.

Susie, then 26, was a bouncy confident vivacious blond (those were the days when you could refer to a woman as a blond instead of a guidance counselor.)

We clicked like Dorothy’s shoes in The Wizard of Oz.

I found Susie–a native Arizonan married to Aldo, the basketball coach and business teacher at the high school I attended, to be energetic, fun, and full of life.

Before long, Susie and I were both pregnant and informed Joe, our Italian principal, that we would be taking a leave of absence.

Joe did not take this news well as two of his most popular blonds and brunettes had been compromised and he would need to replace us.

Damn it he said in his office when I told him the news before I almost threw up from morning sickness. Good God! What? First Susie and then you? What’s in the water here at this high school?”


Years passed. Susie and I had two kids each and became best friends. I say  Best Friends but the truth is, Susie was my best friend but she was a best friend to at least 50 other women. I accepted that fact, pleased to have a best friend from my standpoint.

Our families met many Friday nights to celebrate “Friday Night in America.” We would party, drink, watch TV, and entertain the neighbors, who eventually would stream into Susie and Aldo’s home.

If I had a secret that needed working out, I called Susie. Her common sense, willing ear, and sense of play made my secrets dissolve.

As life does, it moved on. Susie’s husband Aldo died too young. Susie soldiered on, eventually moving from counseling to the District Office at our local school district, in charge of the Gifted and Talented Education Department.

Our kids married and had their own kids. We were there together for all of those occasions.

Then, to my disappointment, Susie moved out of California and back to Arizona 14 years ago. Of course, I handled this with maturity. I only cried a bucket of tears.


Last April, a text arrived with an Emoji wearing a stern facial expression. Call me when you have a moment the text said. This cannot be good news, I thought.

And it wasn’t.

Susie told me that she had  early stage stomach cancer and  was headed to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, for chemotherapy, radiation, more chemotherapy, and then, six months later, the removal of her stomach. In one of my more shallow moments, I asked her if we could still have a glass of wine together. She laughed and said, “maybe.”

In September, I visited Susie six weeks before her scheduled stomach removal. We ate out, drank some wine, laughed about old times, took some photos, watched British television, and talked about life, religion, and philosophy. When I got into my bed each night of my visit, I marveled at Susie’s strength and grit, her resolve and bravery.

Of all of the people I have met in my lifetime, with whom I have some intimacy, Susie is the person who has mastered the practice of staying in the present moment.


A human stomach holds between 4-6 cups of food.

Susie has a newly fashioned pouch made from her small intestine and attached to her esophagus, which will hold 1 cup of food at a time. She must eat every two hours to maintain weight. The miracles of modern medicine!

Ron and I drove up to see Susie on Friday.

There she was! Beautiful, smiling, laughing, greeting us at the door.

It would have been easy to pretend that nothing had changed.

When someone we love has survived an illness, a disease, or an accident, their essence seems  palpable and intense.

Their eyes seem wiser, deeper, and instinctive.

Susie radiates with purpose and grit.

Long live Susie, my dear friend.








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The European Onion


by cheri sabraw

In psychological parlance, an onion is a metaphor for the subconscious, a place that often needs to be peeled back, layer after layer, in order to get to a problem.

In most cases, the problem has rested dormant but is set off by an external event, which then causes psychological distress.

In the case of the European Onion, the problem at its inception in 1993, began when a group of 28 countries decided to become a United States and operate one Onion to ensure for a better economy, sort of safety-in-numbers position.

One Onion Under God (No longer just the Judeo-Christian God) Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for All (Except Hezbollah).

One big problem: Cultures are different.

Yep. The Greeks don’t think it is a big deal to go to work at 11:00 am, take a long break at lunch, and leave by 4:00. Their economy has tanked, their international debt has ballooned, but they still want a loan.

Yep. The Germans, well, they are very green, tidy, hardworking  and accommodating (NOW, not in 1939). They work hard, rat on each other’s neighbors if the neighbors leave the garbage can out too long, and have let 1.5 million Muslims into their country, many of whom hate Jews. Talk about historic irony.

Yep. The French. Actually, let’s just bypass the French.

Yep. The Brits. Now there’s a group of brave souls who recognized that signing up for a single currency would not work and now, want out of the Onion. Since the United Kingdom is the 5th largest economy in the world, the Onion is not happy with such a decision and has set up a trench, similar to those in WWI, where the Brits lost over 700,00 soldiers.

The Onion is made up of bureaucrats in Brussels who think they know what’s best for the average Hungarian, Pole, or Irishman, lumped together as if they were the same. They are globalists who want no borders, a single currency, and a kum-bah-ya feeling between all peoples, sort of a John Lennon Imagine moment. One only has to be a junior high student to know that even when most of the student body is homogenous, kids still don’t get along.

The peeling back of the Onion is in progress with tears to shed for the grand theory that really wasn’t very practical in reality.




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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 cheriblocksabrawfineart.wordpress.com 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.


Posted in cheriblocksabrawfineart@wordpress.com, dogs, My childhood, My photography, Nature photography, People | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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!

Posted in dogs, Life, My photography, People, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments


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

Posted in dogs, Life, My photography, Nature photography, Writing and Teaching | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments


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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