To the Dying Man in Playa de Coco

While on vacation with my family and my sister’s family in Costa Rica, this experience happened. I said a prayer for this man, and that prayer slept through the night and today woke to me as a poem

We picked up a passerby as we left the beach
That was yesterday

I could not see him 
Thin man as he was but for his skeleton
And fuzzy head of hair that was barely there

The chemo in San Jose he said
Four hours away has been difficult for me
Too expensive by bus and now he gets no more treatments
It has been very difficult for me

Here, the grocery store is my stop
Death is coming for me soon maybe one month
Can you spare some money?

My husband spoke: Maybe you will live longer
If you don't drink
No alcohol no beer

The thin man turned to my husband where they sat in the front seat
I caught his profile 
Through the cries of my fussy baby
From where I sat in the back

His eyes bigger and clearer than ours  
His sudden gaze beyond the depth
Of any sea I have ever known
Please, sir, I haven't had a drink in 8 years

His words thundered a sober quiet in the car but
We gave him no money and
The lightning was this:
If you can spare none then please pray for me

He climbed out through the pain of his joints
Clinging to his life in the door jamb
As he found his legs under him on the pavement

We could see through the rearview mirror
His slow walking across the street
Long as his life and as slow as his death

Tenderness dressed as horror
Dawned in our hearts there in the passing sunshine of the coast
And the blue of the sky reflecting the water
Or maybe the other way around
Through the window

My heart
My husband's heart and the sudden calm and quiet of my fussy baby
Opened inside of the silence of a primordial prayer 
Of learning and loss
Of giving and not
Of sadness and pain
Of the truth of humanity when it visits you as a dying stranger

As the open palm of God
Inviting the gift of your sight
Of another

Wild Woman

Written in homage to Clarissa Pinkola-Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves

Covered, uncovered
Unearthly pigments staining her limbs
Tall, lithe, long 
Nimble fingers of flame

In nature, in the firewood 
In the herbs
In the speak of the animals
She wanders amid roots and the soil
Luxuriates in a deep waterbath under the kiss of flowers

She is the healer of time
Conductor of seasons of change, now
Screaming, keening, grieving,
Tearing, shredding, ripping at the loss
Bringing to a close
The gap of this cycle as it turns

Praying, crouching low into the smoke
Speaking into the wind and rain the blessing that
Calls in the spirits who fill her hair and breathe her skin

They listen like a whisper
They speak like a void
Guiding the steps birthing the next cycle 
To heal, to cleanse, to raise, to begin again

New life visible through the quickness of her hands
That tend the seeds burrowing into the dark
Below her feet as they
Dance over the earth
Beating out her song

Celebrating ecstasy of breathing this air today
Willing new life to rise
Like the fullness of the moon into the million eyes of eternity
She sings

Touches tips where new leaves
Like tiny tongues begin their speak  
With the adoring eyes of a mother nursing her young
In praise
She spreads her joy wide for the preciousness of Her own Self,
Creator of all things


Poem about a girl and her grandpa

Source: Gazpachot Blog, 2008
"There once was a little girl and her grandpa..."
A story unfolds in a low voice
And the funny face of a character he plays: 
An old guy slightly dopey and chagrined 
Leaning in, he begins,

Speaking softly to the baby of his daughter
"And she was wrapped in a blanket,"  
Telling her tiny listening face
Looking up in rapt attention,
"I don't know what kind," he says. "Her name was Amoryn."

"And she lived in Arenal," he explains. 
My dad and my girl lean in to touch foreheads today, bonk
How does she know to connect in this way, bonk
Deep knowing through crowns tapping, bonk
 As Strangers in a Strange Land who grok*.

With her smitten grandpa
In sweet routine, a joke,
Passing into posterity
A moment in the life of Amoryn
Between the two of them

This time and place
Then quieter, he says, "Are you grandpa's girl? I think so.
Yes I think so, you're grandpa's girl."
How does the story end?
As a grown woman that little girl would then

Know that even as she stood on the lap of 
Her mother's father - herself a daddy's girl -
That in this time much later
When grandpa's forehead is nowhere to be found
But a memory now

Of a sunny porch 
Early in the day 
Early in life
She was still Grandpa's Girl, which can never be undone.
Bonk.

*The Oxford English Dictionary defines grok as “to understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with” and “to empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment.” (Citation here.)

Future tales

My daughter is now 7.5 months old. She is the oldest soul among us. Thomas and I had already sworn off Facebook posting about our private life with our new little family before she arrived last summer, and thus I only share little snippets of our life instead of photos of our baby. Much like our rebellion against the Costa Rican custom of piercing a baby girl’s ears when she is born, we have taken a different road with our daughter’s presence online. There’s a belief I have that when and if Amoryn would like to place her likeness on the internet, she will be able to do so when she is old enough to consent to it. She will be able to tell us that she wants to begin sharing pictures of herself, and until that time I believe I am doing a kind of favor to her by allowing her the choice, by foreclosing on the possibility that she might say, “I’m a teenager and I’ve been online since I was a baby. What you have shared of who I am and my life – I never agreed to this.”

It’s well enough for us that the people who care for and know Amoryn see her in our texts, emails and in person. We may be old-fashioned but we’re totally okay with it!

Here in Costa Rica, my parents are here escaping the 7 degree Maine winter. Tomorrow we go to a beachside place to celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary (married 1973 when they were 23 years old). They are turning seventy this year, both of them, and imminently retiring from their careers in the legal field. Much of our conversation centers around what will happen in the future: my dad’s writing project, my mother’s activism around legislating gun control, and their visits with their precious granddaughter.

She is my mom’s peanut butter. The coos, the sweet cuddles, the songs she sings, the games they play. This morning, I wrote about this while Thomas did his daily ritual of reading books in bed to our baby, giving me the most important personal gift of the time to drink coffee, sit and write by myself. While writing today, I was inspired with a poem to in some way encapsulate, or perhaps better said, to reflect on seeing my mother with Amoryn. It could not be more obvious to me the fleeting nature of today, when Amoryn is so young, only crawling, unable to stand or speak, but still a strong and vibrant communicator and presence. I see her grandparents with her now and imagine when Amoryn is my age. What will she remember of them? Will she know how she captivated, enthralled, charmed? Will she hear the songs my mom sings to her? Will she feel her embrace? Will she know the role my mother played in the world, how she created herself to be a strong and vibrant person too?

This poem is for the occasion:

Pink stripes, well-tailored
The shirt my mom wears as she holds my baby daughter

Whose fingers play at the pearly buttons
Bouncing held close on the knee along to the song
About tonight you belong to me
A happy cooing voice, babbling, belonging to them both and 
I hope in a time far away when Amoryn stands in my shoes
My daughter will hear and know the tune

As the love song from her 
Billie to little peanut butter


Jungle In Rainy Season

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In the chill of that wind
Whose head and tail whips all the trees
Into their bobbing dance,
This morning rises.

It shakes its heavy head and
Rubs its eyes.
What sleep could it find last night amid
The darkness of rain
Its torrents loudly announcing
Their imminent domain?

And now, the wideness of
The sky illuminated by
Some sun, somewhere
On the other side of that blank wall of clouds

Brings freshness to the air,
Lifting our heads and
Starting within us anew
The day we know it can be.

How To Blog … Again

I’m off of social media and no longer plugged in to the greater online community of friends’ and family activities. This blog is thus an outlet for inviting connection from our end. I’m back writing on Joanna’s blog – now with a twist!

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Back to Blogging    

Starting Again For me, this simple, plain blog is nothing mundane at all. Since I began this blog on our honeymoon about a year ago, I wanted to continue writing and sharing about life.  I stopped, however, because I found myself wondering, Who cares what I have to say? I couldn’t find an answer, so it became, No one cares – least of all me.  In crept doubt about my own voice, having simply lost motivation and inspiration to write, let alone share. The sad truth is that I didn’t believe my experiences or thoughts mattered enough to blog about.

Why return to the blog now?  As of this post, I am in the final two weeks of my pregnancy, about to be a first-time mom. I have known for a long time now that I want to be a great mother. To do that, I must be the kind of woman who inspires my daughter to be the fullest and greatest version of herself that she can be. I want her to believe, for example, that she is worthy of participating in the world in whatever way she finds most meaningful. To do this, I must show her the way, and to show her the way, I must do it first myself.  For me, that’s trusting and raising my own true voice. Writing is how I hear my voice, how I know myself on the most true level. I have been inspired all my life by those who chose to know their true selves, and then chose to share with the world. I chose now to flip the script on, Who cares to hear what you have to say?  to  May this effort to speak my own true voice be of benefit.

Writing in my own true voice is to hear myself expound on it on the written page. To be willing to see my own experience as valid enough to spend time hearing and writing is the one place I have resisted going. I know come forward, going deeper into my inner world to unveil what’s true, to let it have light, to breathe life into what I let stay buried or hidden… here I am.  I will write about the “little now,” the small moments of what’s happening in the present moment, and the “big now,” the larger themes, questions and challenges made evident through sitting with what is.  Little Now, Big Now. 

In my writing class, I wrote these instructions on how to begin.

Little Now, Big Now: How To Blog in 4 Steps

  1. Disavow your obsession with your computer. Turn off the internet and all of the distracting displays. They steal your attention from your own blog, like walking through a carnival, the long, loud street of tents and games on your way home at the end of the block.  Don’t stop at the balloon stand, don’t stop and stare in at the cotton candy vendor spinning blue sugar on a paper cone amid a crowd of eager children intoxicated and lost in the comforting smell warm sugar. Don’t return to the clothing tent to try on that dress again that you never forget but also never buy. How can you begin to write if you take all day to get home? Closing your browser window, muting and blinding yourself to the colors and calls of the circus around you, you head confidently straight for our notebook and pen awaiting you on your front porch. The path to your writing has now begun.
  2. Start in the little now  As soon as you sit down at the notebook page, you must befriend it. This page must become extremely captivating to you – an attraction bordering on obsession. A new lover whose mind you long to know. The page, the subject of your deepest level of attention, opens to you. It allows you to know reality, fear and truth – all you can imagine and beyond. The promise of a true friend, a faithful companion reliable, present, there to share and reveal all you would know and hear. So sit, stay, and in your sense faculties, feel your true experience speak to you here on the porch. Today, at this hour, with the contents of your mind and heart as they are, the will of your attention to your page calls forth from you what resides within. Your truth, told in the voice of the little now, flows freely from the pen.  The call of the cuckoo bird mourning the end of the day as the big sky quietly pulls a long blind over the sun. The murmur of voices above tinkling glasses and silverware as a dinner event beyond sight in the dawning evening begins to take off.  This is your moment, when your ears, eyes and the air touching your skin this very evening call forward in you all that means to open. This is where the little now blossoms into the Big Now
  3. Go Deep into the Big Now  The content of your blog goes beyond this evening’s little now. The reason you feel, the little signals of what wants to be known, seen and understood begin to reveal themselves in the Big Now. The theme, the story, the life of beyond what’s known lifts its head to speak in the voice of the birth and dimming of the sun. Reality voices its truth through what we see and feel in the little now – the purpose of why you write, for example, what calls you to be. The great loss of face, and thus of fear. The sadness of being unable to cover the terrible, scary truth. And the unbearable light of bravery wanting to break open what holds you back. As you massage the page with the careful diligence of the pen, pump it for information. What is a piece of writing will appear as your blog post.
  4. Clean and release  The title of your piece arises from the meeting of the Big and little now. Clean and tenderize your piece by taking the pages inside your home from the porch. Let it mellow, soak as if in a bath. Run through its hair the teeth of a comb, straightening the pieces, and freeing the snarls and kinks from from its wild locks.  Clean, rested, well-cared for and developed into is own self it walks freely from your home out into the world. Post it on your blog page in the internet carnival where it lives amid the vast displays.

Bonne journée

En Français

FullSizeRenderIn French, the term for have a good day is bonne journée. “Jour,” of course means day. In English, we say “journey” to mean a trip or voyage.  Many shop owners tell us to have a good day, wishing us bonne journée as we leave the store.  I appreciate this because of the play on words with “journey,” and because when you live for today, the day indeed can be a journey unto itself.

Before our trip, I’d imagined I’d brush up by reading some French literature – or at least a few language program lessons. I did neither. I have been using my French skills to communicate here, and what a lesson to the need to continue learning and practicing the words!  I understand some but not all of what I read and hear, and find that my ability to communicate is mitigated by the words I don’t have fresh at hand in my mind. Now that I know the slow curve of recall while immersed, I highly recommend to myself to do so next time!

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Quintessential Paris

We’ve done all the usual activities in order to experience Paris. We listened to some Rick Steves audio tours recently and learned all about Parisian customs and history related to food, society and certain monuments.

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OF course the  famous Eiffel Tower! An impressive fact we learned is that Monsieur Eiffel constructed an apartment for himself on the top of this tower, built in 1889. Peering into the apartment, we saw an installation with wax figures of the inventor and engineer, Eiffel, with his daughter and Thomas Edison. Thomas was smitten with the idea of a an apartment 1000 ft up.

We arrived to the top area of the tower in part by stairs. While we were chilled by the wind when we stopped, and grateful to no longer stand in an hour-plus long line. (The wait did, however, serve as a great time for us to share headphones to take in more Rick Steves Paris stories.)

The view on the top of the tower looking over the city gave us a grand perspective on the sheer scale of the city. Apparent to us was the grear amount of green spaces. So many trees in the city, largely in the wide boulevards made by Louis XIV to allow for a procession to the castle for all to see.

We saw the Louvre from above, with its palatial arrangement of castles and the world’s oldest (and biggest?) art gallery.

FullSizeRender-15We visited the Louvre on our first day in Paris.  This visit was on my bucket list in life, and we were thrilled to spend the day there covering almost the entire area. We learned that only 30% of the collections are on display – the remaining works (70%!) are in storage or restoration. We saw old paintings of people in the Louvre in the 1800s looking at the old paintings we were looking at today. We saw classic works including the Mona Lisa. We didn’t unfortunately take the time to fully absorb the power and mystique of this painting widely held to be the greatest of DaVinci’s work. Even having seen it now, I still don’t fully grasp why the painting is so acclaimed. It’s good but not better than some other masterpieces there in the exhibit. If you really think about it, curious to wonder how a piece becomes so revered as to take a life of its own.
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On the other hand, after absorbing the depth and character of so many works, this piece brought us a moment of levity. Here, we found a painting that stood out from all the other portraits with staid expressions, and discovered this guy. Thomas and I had a telepathic moment as we took out our cameras to capture Thomas’s rendition.

In sum, we absorbed certain pieces more than others, such as exquisite portrayals of the Last Supper, the collection of Rembrandts (largest in the world), Sumerian artifacts (including Hammurabi’s Code). For me, the splendor of the Louvre was the building itself: the Grand Hall was the most spectacular place to see art I’ve ever known.

Dehors

On the way home from the Louvre, we found a soccer ball in the Luxembourg Gardens. We’d walked 5 miles that day so far (including around the museum) and yet something inspired us to get a little sweaty playing soccer.

Being outside is a major element of our time here. Thomas is a true nature-lover and gets lost in the gardens. We talk often about our home in Costa Rica and our farm and trees there.

IMG_4431Throughout this trip, we have spent a long time perusing gardens. We both deeply enjoy botanical gardens, trees and learning in nature. We saw parks and gardens in each city we stayed in! Like here, in Florence’s Boboli Gardens (thanks for the recommendation, Rhoda!).

Today, we admired the herbs and placard descriptions of various beds. That, and wherever we go, we deeply inhale the flowers. Irises are Thomas’ favorite to behold, and roses are mine.

We walk everywhere not just because we aren’t wasting money on taxi rides all over town, but because we get our bodies moving and see more of the city. We refer to a map before leaving the house each day, and while we walk through the streets, parks and gardens, somehow Thomas guides us to our destination with very little map consulting.

We enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Seine, inspired in part by a long walk and lunch along the river. This experience was a bucket list item (who doesn’t want to have a romantic, rainy French dinner on the Seine with their dearest love) and we ticked that one off with a chin-chin!

Last, the miles of walking and hiking up and down stairs and all over the city (to Notre Dame, to parks, to markets) is a great way to work off the Paris pastries and wine!

Thomas can’t get his fill of the pastries – they are truly works of art. I’m not a huge sugar fan in general but I have to say, the pastries here are on another level of taste.

FullSizeRender-20Thomas goes out in the morning to find pastries. The classic croissant is my favorite (yet I still have a cream-and-fruit-filled treat waiting for later day after our walk!). The butter, sugar and flour mixture in these edible art pieces are majestic. Even the local bakery near us  , the most banal of bakers can create treats exuding such layers of flavor and taste delightful on the tongue and palate… we really appreciate enjoying French pastries here at the source!

Also, the wine. We’ve had lots of it.  We had our last wine in Europe last night on the dinner cruise, and have enjoyed several bottles at home. We have a thing where we speak a toast to something, like a blessing. We toasted like this with Kim & Michael when traveling a few weeks ago. With them, we started a spontaneous toast in which each person fills in part of the sentence about what we toast to. So, in the spirit of fun after opening our last bottle of wine in the living room at home the other day, Thomas and I began a spontaneous cheers. I started: “Here’s to the eternal flourishing of…” and he ended with, “our love for each other.” Cheers to that!!  ❤

Bon Voyage

IMG_4618Travel for a month in Europe and being on honeymoon together is incredible. We are wrapping up our month of Italy and France tomorrow to head to Costa Rica. We look forward to the house being done and to setting up our home there!  We enjoy the sweetness of our honeymoon  and, by contrast, our home.

With the ins and outs of a life of travel, we’ve have cultivated an appreciation for what it feels like to be at home.  At some point while in Provence, we tapped into a realization of how we prefer to travel.

While on honeymoon we have looked at each other in awe and gratitude at our amazing good fortune to be here. We have taken in so many historic, inspiring, beautiful and awesome places, people, experiences and food this month. In the midst of experiencing so many things – from art to artists, architecture to appetizers, avenues to apartments – we became aware of a certain ungroundedness given the periodic changes of location.

Skating from home to home in different cities, settling in, packing up, setting up new kitchen, new living space, new work space, orienting to the local resources, etc. takes some energy. We no longer underestimate the stability and healthy lifestyle of having our daily routine available regularly.  In the future extended or shortterm travels, we will plant: stay in one home for the trip and take side day trips to see sights.

FullSizeRender-2We are so excited to hit our stride of home again – waking up early, meditation, yoga, breakfast, sight-seeing, work and above all, eating healthily! I listened this morning to Doreen Virtue’s reading on YouTube about health and just as I was, Thomas came in and discussed his fitness aspirations for these coming months. The turning leaf is near for us both. For me, veganism and no alcohol feels like a great return to my base to detox after this trip!   We’ve begun, starting at breakfast this morning! Sitting at the table with my matcha latte and my fork in a plate with the kiwi, salad and I told Thomas, “look, my dream of a green smoothie each morning again is starting to come true!”

(And then, as I finished writing this post, Thomas plied me with a delectable almond croissant… the man loves his pastries!!!)

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Well, we wave goodbye and say bon voyage à Paris! We can’t wait to come back one day and are starting the pack up from our honeymoon to go home!

Winds of Provence

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While in the south of France, we’re renting a flat in Aix-en-Provence. Much to our dismay, Aix feels like any small city anywhere but French. During our stroll around town we appreciated the quaint and historic mix that seems to be a European speciality: ancient city blocks and metro shops… it rings familiar…  I think Italy spoiled us, having already gotten a full dose of “old European city” in Florence. Aix therefore feels a bit old hat.

A major difference here is that English is not as commonly spoken as in Italy. As a result, I’m having fun dusting off my conversational French to get us around – and Thomas is happily reliant upon me to do so!

While Aix hasn’t fulfilled all we’d hoped, my main desire for coming to Provence was Seguret. I’ve been so excited to share this area of France with Thomas.

Today we explored Seguret, known as one of France’s “most beautiful villages.”

I visited Seguret with my family when I was 14 years old. I remember this place for the ancient yet living quality of a village built into the side of a mountain.

IMG_4507The doorways open from narrow lanes into homes built inside castle walls. I saw many people inside their homes as we passed through the town. Peeking in the open doors, I saw hearths, arts supplies, flower pots, boots.  I imagine artists live here.  Their homes – along with the hotels and restaurants – have a spectacular view of the Provencial vineyards below.

Séguret-vue-vignoble-_-ChisBefore coming to France, I asked my sister and father to help me find the hotel where we stayed twenty-two years ago. I’d hoped Thomas and I would stay there and experience Seguret’s charm as I knew it. The dining room of our hotel had a plate-glass window overlooking the countryside, and inside the building was rustic and humble decor. Despite the research we all conducted online, no such hotel could be found in 2017.

Not to be deterred, Thomas and I ventured to Seguret.

We departed from the Seguret visitor parking area down a dirt road on our 9km hike to the ruins the Prébayon monestary. Each whiterock road led to the next. Our path wound down in the valley among fields of grapevines. Eventually the roads gave way to trails lined with trees and wildflowers. 

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At the bottom of the valley, we came upon a statue, some plaques and these old ruins.

The Prébayon nunnery was established at the bottom of the valley by the Dauphin in the 7th century. A natural flood occurred in about 962AD causing most of the nuns to die. Since about 1750, the Catholic church has continued to hold an annual service at the ruins site on the first Saturday in May (a few weeks from now).

The hike was peaceful and gentle and remoteness rejuvenated us.

We barely passed any cars or people in the 3+ hours while we walked. We spoke little and gratefully absorbed the wildflowers, light breeze, young trees, the gentle sun and the fresh air blowing the scent of earth and flowers. We’d come to France from Italy on Mistral Air, and the word “mistral” struck us both. After seeing the word around Aix, we researched its origin. “Mistral” is the term for the wind coming from the north in winter and spring:

The Mistral, a cold dry north or northwest wind blows down through the Rhone Valley to the Mediterranean, and can reach speeds of ninety kilometers an hour.

Provence has a name for its breeze! Who knows if we met le mistral today, but the air certainly rang of spring.

 

At lunch I told Thomas, “this, as opposed to Aix, is the Provence I wanted to share with you.”   

We finished our hike just in time for our lunch reservations in the village of Seguret.  I booked a table at the restaurant, Le Mesclun because of its reviews – and especially because of the view overlooking the countryside of Provence.  Our several courses on the terrace were accompanied by fresh bread and more mistral, with a view of the vineyards from which we partook. We had the best glass of red wine I’ve ever had. It came from a local “domaine” in Seguret. Possibly from the same grapes we passed earlier that day.

This being Thomas’ first trip to France, he describes Seguret as the quintessential French vineyard country.  We both had fallen in love with the countryside of Italy (Lucca in Tuscany, in particular), so I was curious how Provence resonates.  For him, the hike in the nature was quiet, steeped in history, off the beaten path and pleasant. He prefers Tuscany for its less arid climate, and yet we dream of returning here to rent a Seguret villa one day!

Tuscan Dreams

You get a Honeymoon, and you get a Honeymoon, and here’s one for you…

Waking up in our flat in Florence for the past few days, I’ve had wild, detailed dreams. We came to Florence after parting with Kim and Michael.  I am not sure if my wild dreams are from the noise of partyers on the street seeping into my subconscious, detoxing from no wine after day after day of indulgent dinners, or the darkness of the room bringing my body into deeper rest.

FullSizeRender-4Many friends tell us Florence is their favorite city in Italy. Florence is in Tuscany, and yet I don’t feel this is “Tuscany.”  I’ve come to associate Tuscany with a living dream of a farmhouse in the countryside. But first: how we got to Florence.

Taking Time Alone with our Sweethearts During the Couples Trip

Kim and Michael went to Florence for a few days while Thomas and I wrapped up our stay in Venice.  We stayed with them in Florida last year and have a tradition now, since we live so far apart, of coming to stay with each other. Michael brought his great-grandmother’s ring (they were married 50 years) to Italy. He polished it up after it had been locked away for a generation in a safety deposit box. He presented the ring to Kim on the rooftop balcony of their Florence flat the day before we all met in the countryside of Tuscany. He wanted to start the next chapter of life, have babies together and spend his life with her. They shared tears, committed in their love and are now engaged to marry each other!

The four of us had planned to travel together before Thomas and I called this our honeymoon. This being a month-plus of travel post-wedding, Thomas and I decided this is our honeymoon. We are doing work and visiting friends so it’s a honeymoon-like vacation, but it’s become a funny joke that Kim and Michael say they “crashed” our honeymoon. In that spirit, Thomas and I are standing by to book our tickets for theirs.

While Kim and Michael committed in love to each other in Florence, Thomas and I lingered for our last few days in Venice enjoying our time together. We met with the arts residency friends to explore the Basilica di San Marco, as well as a few other amazing cathedrals. A few stand out moments were the horses and the views from the San Marco balcony.  No one knows who made these gilded copper statues. Replicas overlook the square from the balcony, but these originals live upstairs inside the basilica.

We took an opportunity to enjoy photos from the top of the basilica. I’ve always wanted to be in 2 places at once, and Thomas found a way to make that happen overlooking the Piazza San Marco via the magic of iPhone photography!

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With the throngs of people below, we were ready to go to the countryside for some nature and quiet!

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Across the square we found the Correr Museum.

I can’t load the video of Thomas and my ballroom dance together, but imagine it: us lilting across the floor while Thomas hums a waltz and I’m laughing. An amazing place to move!  Here’s my ballet move, for example.

The old Correr home has rooms furnished in period style from the 1600s. Each has a different feel, and art and old coins from the many doges ruling Venice.

The old world style is alive in Venice!

Lucca, My Love

The four of us, two couples, met up together to go to Lucca. We rented a farmhouse outside Lucca, gratefully without internet on our laptops. The universe wanted us to soak in the countryside before returning to the city rather than do work!

This home was founded abandoned by a worldly and artistic family. The mother is writer and daughter of nationally renowned novelist, Rosetta Loy. The husband, Nicola, is a painter and Buddhist. They renovated these homes over many years, and have created a Tuscan paradise.

We enjoyed our time, two couples celebrating love in Tuscany!  Kim, Michael, Thomas and I dined on the patio looking at the countryside, and I meditated with the buzzing bees nosing into the blossoms surrounding me.

The farmhouse is perfect for stepping back and seeping into nature.The home had a fireplace which warmed us in the cool evenings. The family greeted us and let us enjoy the rich olive oil that comes from the property. Thomas and I plan to return, perhaps for a novel-writing adventure on this auspicious property. The piece of land surrounded by farms is a Tuscan dream, and we’ve been thoroughly spoiled for the rest of Italy!

Lucca, the nearby town, is a walled city  and the only one to not have been invaded in the region.  We all had our first tandem bike experience coursing the walls overlooking the city and countryside and enjoyed checking out the Pisa town.

On a day when Kim and Michael went to explore Cinque Terre for a day, Thomas and I did yoga in the grass with the birds chirping, ate a leisurely lunch and took a hot bath in the pristine water .

FullSizeRender-3We wandered at sunset through the olive groves and found a path carved into the hill called “Percorso della Beata.” The sign had the image of a saint on it, and the path was lined with lights. We saw a footbridge and a spring coming from the hillside. We touched the water flowing from the hill into a basin, and held hands as we walked the path. I felt we truly were walking the path of the blessed, calling in the nature and healing from the country to our minds and bodies.

I have been reading and writing about receiving energy and guidance, and have experienced many beautiful coincidences and moments confirming intuition. Coming upon this path appears to be another lovely and sweet gesture from the universe gracing us with the love and beauty of the natural world.

Firenze

Writing now from our Firenze flat

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“Firenze” is “Florence” in Italian. Now that we are here, Thomas and I have been enjoying time to decompress. We’ve been in Florence for nearly 3 days and have only gone to the grocery store and the Galileo Museum. Between phone calls for work, time to sleep eat and write, we talk and read. On our first day, the rain streamed outside our window.

IMG_4365The Galileo Museum provided quite a look into the deeper connection between mathematics and art. Part of me felt like one of the fourth graders wandering the exhibit lost in the idea that mathematic calculations could be mapped onto a moving, gold instrument carved with images of constellations and ships.

A person who crafts a tool like that has an eye to reflect reality in images and lines. The ship and images are well-drawn. And further, the time-space-energy relationship between stars, moons, planets and rotation of the earth must be seen so clearly in the mind for a globe, or astrolabe, to show your thinking. Such a person was Galileo.

 

IMG_4370Thomas has a mind for this. He loves math, and sometimes calculates thoughts according to equations and natural law, in scientific, astronomical and mathematic terms. We were absorbed in both the profound understanding Galileo had of the world around him to create instrument after instrument measuring properties of the galaxy that many of us haven’t ever had a single thought about. The globe to the left shows the complexity of many axes and planes working at once to reveal a celestial globe, meant to measure the movement, timing and spatial relationships between planets and stars.

What’s wild to me is Galileo was busting up the comfortable ideas of our place in the world through his quest for knowledge. He invented new theories about how the stars, planets and earth related. He was  I had the beautiful song by the Indigo Girls, “Galileo” in my head:

Galileo’s head was on the block

The crime was looking up the truth…

Galileo was found by the Catholic church to be a heretic for the work, inventions and discoveries he brought to humanity. He was arrested and locked in his home until he died.  The lyrics of the song seem to understand that he was a visionary, calling on the “resting soul” of Galileo, the “king of insight” to “reach that kind of light.”

Reaching the Light

Today as we go out to venture in Florence, we eat again at home. Here’s what happens when you’ve overdone it with the rich cheese, wine and pasta of Italy day after day (note that Thomas’ salami and our cheese still appears in order to pair with green olives and Marcona almonds):

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Hidden Gifts

Secret Venice

In Venice, the alleys and walls, the art and the people have layers upon layers.  Like a living museum, the city retains its ancient function amid modern hubbub. For example, the gondola ride used to be a way to get around in 16th century Venice. No longer is this a way to get across town: this quintessential Venice experience is just for the tourists.

merchantGondolas took on a different meaning when I saw them in an ancient light this evening. Our artist residency hosts screened Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” at their home, reviving a sense of Venice in a different dimension. Being a period film, Venice and the canals in the 1500s invigorated the imagination. The merchants and party-going Venetians felt like real people here with us from another time.

When we took a gondola ride, I had the moment several times, “we’re doing this!” For some this is a silly tourist attraction – for me it was a moment in a timeless age. Gently rocking on the canal, our boat coursed through the veins of Venice. We saw algae-covered canal walls and the decaying steps to private alleys and homes. We were backstage at the production, seeing the place at its grimy roots, behind the shiny facade of shops and souvenirs. Here being newly wed, feelings of marriage and love come alive within the spirit of romance on the canal. There is love.

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17883777_10102161090768822_6519381393271106091_n.jpgWe are sharing love being enjoying sights with our friends as well. There is a special joy in having your close friend whom you share so much memory and longevity with. To see a new place together forges a deeper connection and different perspective.

The memories of the acting studio and her experiences in the acting world invigorate creative passion in me that I don’t experience with many people.

 

unnamed.jpgKim brought us to one of the most fascinating places in Venice. This prosperous and debaucherous city-states was ruled by dukes at one time. They ruled from a waterfront monument containing the most majestic courts – Doge’s Palace. Not surrounded by moat or surrounded by walls but part of the city. We went inside – I have never been surrounded by more depth and opulence in my life. The height of the ceilings of gold and endless oil paintings.

We noticed that on one wall, the paintings had hinges. That means they swing open. I have to know: what is behind there?!  I have researched a bit about the possibility of secret passages in the Doge’s Palace and the best I can come up with is the Secret Itineraries tour. The tour explores “the rooms and chambers where the delicate work of some of the most important bodies in the Venetian administration was carried out.”  I think that’s a nice nod at secret spaces in the palace, yet something tells me there’s lots left unexplored there. One look in the haunting cells of worn stone and iron bars cast a darker tone to the inner workings of the palace.  We don’t plan to take the secret tour, which is fine. The imagination is sometimes more powerful than real experience. Plus, the experiences we’re taking rom the trip have many layers of their own.

A Gift

I am not one for souvenirs.  I like bringing home art or an item I can wear to remind me of a place… so I do like souvenirs. I am not into “stuff:” keepsakes that gather dust. Give me a functional item for the kitchen or in daily life, and I’m interested.  Being so inspired by the art in Venice I can’t imagine what I would take home that would remind of this. IMG_4244 (1).jpg

We’ve visited so many sights and experienced the most profound art. I wept hearing Vivaldi’s “Le Quattro Stagioni” (Four Seasons) by Interpreti Veneziani in the San Vidal church the other night. The beauty pulled a vulnerability out of me. Part of me recognized itself in the adagios and the musicians. They let their violins sing to them so beautifully. Their faces, nestled against the body of the violin, torqued and smoothened in deep listening. I remembered what passion is. What that really means – I felt it in me. I remember acting, and being so in tune with my instrument. To feel moved to tears to live fully in expression of life, to feel emotions without resistance and to share it so that others may feel it too.  I shared with Thomas I feel inspired to remember what art feels like again. I guess Venice does that. I have within me the love and fascination with drawing, dancing, painting, making music, throwing ceramics, acting, writing.  “Do you think you can dedicate yourself to art again full time?”  My mind meets this thought with serious contemplation and a drive to commit and expand in art.

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Seeing others in their craft certainly inspires the drive to make art. We visited the quiet and crisp island of buried families, a cemetery whose inhabitants’ lives were summed up in some cases by a crumbled tombstone. Some artists rendered paintings here, the greens of grass and trees and the greys of sky and stone.

The sights awaken the senses and imagination. Making memories are like souvenirs. And they inspire creativity. When it comes to creating ourselves, we found a chance this week. A Venetian artist, Marina, offers a journal-making workshop to the artists in the residency. I wouldn’t have thought much about it without the positive reviews by John, the organizer, and his descriptions of how meaningful the journal is for him. That did it.

Making journals is meaningful to me because I am such an avid journal-writer.  Buying a journal from Venice didn’t occur to me – taking one home that we made had special significance.

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I took step-by-step notes with diagrams to retain the nuances of the technique. Surely the Venetian approach to making journals has its own approach that define it.

Thomas and I loved the process. We began by working with nice Fabiano water color paper sheets. The paper was to be cut and folded by hand (or by knife but never scissors, in order to preserve the rough edge). We used needle and twine to sew English Cross stitches to bind the booklets together. We made paste and bound the booklets together with parchment. We handcut the leather. The attention to detail, care for the materials and the fine points of measuring led to a beautiful experience inside the journal itself. In addition to gaining an especially personal souvenir and creative experience, we are empowered with a bit of knowledge and skill.

Oddly, this photo of us upon completion shows the colors of our journals and somehow the colors of us.  Thomas with his transporting blue eyes chose the one that reflects him. I was in the back room before the workshop and passed the leather shelf. The red strip partially hidden under folds of leather on a shelf spoke to me. The material stopped me in my tracks and I had to touch it. I didn’t know this was the leather we were to work with and yet I claimed it when I learned there was only enough for one journal. We were meant to be together. I couldn’t be more in love with the journal, and with the ability to share the process of making one.  Thomas and I agree of journal-making workshop would be a wonderful souvenir gift for our friends when we return to the U.S.!

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