Friday, March 2, 2018

Italian Vision

Travel affords us a unique perspective. At least it does for me. Travel keeps me in the moment, without cares and concerns to distract me from soaking in my surroundings.

I am drawn to Italy, as are so many others, by one's immersion in its history. Antiquity rubs shoulders with the modern world. Here, unlike anywhere else, present and past meld together. There is a sense of rightness to it that transcends analysis. In fact, it is best to avoid thinking too much and just savor its blend.

There is no 'before and after'. No chapters. No division. It feels as if history is one continuous flow and that you are part of it all, no matter where you came from or where you are going.

The wavy glass in the windows of Palazzo Altemps enhances the view. Old and new blend under its spell.
Rome's cobblestone streets are adaptable. Repairs are easy. Pile up a heap of cobblestones, repair or level what is underneath, put them back into place. Dig deeper and you find remnants of a previous community, one that sidles up to you and caresses your thoughts with the possibility that all flows continuously through your veins. Between the stones, reminders of a party, a gathering of revelers.

Wish you were here.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Snow in Rome

I thought it was supposed to be warm? That's what the weather predictions said for all the months leading up to the trip. That gauze shirt I brought? Didn't see much wear. My sweater, though? My constant companion.

You know how, once in a while, you are in the right place at the right time? Who knew it would snow in Rome? The last time was in February 2012, six years ago. To be there for such a rare occurrence made me, it made me grin like a fool.

Now, some may bemoan the inconveniences, but we reveled in the uniqueness of the scene. Waking to the crackling of crispy white flakes falling on the roof and several inches of snow covering the terrace was a delicious treat. How exciting!

While I got dressed, my daughter went out to take take photos of Trevi Fountain while it was still snowing. When we set out for the Vatican to be on-time for our tour appointment (silly us), we found the taxi stand around the corner barren, the Spanish Steps almost deserted. Only a few people were gingerly ascending, and most everyone was walking in the center of the deserted streets.

We suspected that they were mostly tourists. Any sensible Roman would still be at home, sweaters on and a hot espresso between their hands. It has a lot to do with what you are used to, I guess. Being from New England, four to six inches of snow is not an crisis. But since our boots were in the closet in Massachusetts, our toes began to feel the icy effects of the snowy streets in short order. Still, we plodded on.

The tour had been canceled, St. Peter's was closed, as was the Vatican Museum. Hundreds of visitors walked the snowy streets trying to figure out what they were going to do with their day. Most probably didn't have the luxury of an extended stay. 'Wasting' the day was not an option for them. They were moving on or going home in short order. I am glad we had the time to linger.

As we left the tour check-in point and headed back across Piazza San Pietro, laughter and singing greeted us as priests, parishioners and students flung snowballs, slipping and sliding in the wet snow. It was glorious. Nuns created a snowman complete with a real clerical collar. After months of bad news and governmental strife at home, it felt like a cleansing breath to see and hear such carefree joy.

The third attempt was the charm and we took our special Necropolis tour the next day. It offered us a different view of Rome, one that was reverent, meaningful in a different way. Deep underneath the Vatican, we explored streets of the dead with two-thousand year old 'houses' built specifically to honor members of Roman families who had passed on. Rather than feeling macabre, it felt peaceful.

As history's events flow in a tidal wave of reminiscences, so do its people. We each have our place in the river of time with recollections and stories passed down the line until we are also included in the telling.

We are born into families whose history spans the millennia and beyond. Whether we know all the details is not important. The history is there regardless. We grow, we learn, we age, and we eventually die. Some will miss us, others might have cause not to be concerned. So be it. Perhaps our contributions make us seem remarkable beyond the family and honors are bestowed. A statue marks our spot and our story is told. We provide inspiration for generations to come. Over and over, people flow in and out of life's river. They grow our society, contribute to its welfare, and if we are lucky, impart their wisdom, art, and compassion for others to build on.

Finally, we blend back into the grains of sand of the universe. We are once again part of the realm of earth and sky. We are carried on the wind and find harbor in the hearts of those who loved us. Memories hold us dear. Stories keep us alive.

When I think of the works of the great writers I have enjoyed, I know that each have given me insights that have shaped my thinking. When I see the creations of nature and man, I am inspired. When I hear music, I am soothed. The embrace of God, the hands of craftsmen, the minds of the thoughtful, and the curiosity of the explorers are the silt that runs along the bottom of the river of man. They are our foundation.

They are our salvation. Learn or weep.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wants and Needs

I am reading a book called The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. At first quaint, somewhat frivolous, but then its characters fill out and its messages become deeper, more meaningful.

Which means I am now writing down phrases – snippets of wisdom that provoke further contemplation.

‘Love may come and go, but the caring goes on.’ Oh, yes, it does.

‘It only takes one word to hurt a woman, a matter of seconds, one stupid, impatient blow…but winning her trust back takes years. And sometimes, there isn’t the time.’ Life feels shorter under the task or maybe, one perceives they have little left and therefore there isn’t time to figure out how to regain her trust.

‘And that is why it hurts so much. When women stop loving, men fall into a void of their own making.’ Yes, they do and it is horrible to see because it becomes obvious that they don’t comprehend, don’t acknowledge, that their new-found feelings of loss are the result of their own actions. So they do nothing.

And she can do nothing more than continue the caring. Because she wants to.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trying to Understand

My words are stuck in my throat this morning and writing is my only solace for the welling of emotions careening in my head. I can't seem to stop writing. I feel like someone or something died and I need to make sense of it. 

I hardly slept for checking the updated election results throughout the night. Got a few hours towards morning. While my forty minute drive into work this morning looked the same, it sure didn't feel right. 

I have always felt so proud of my country and this election has uncovered things I never even contemplated about how half of our citizens may feel and think.

One can only hope that the rhetoric of his nasty campaign was the result of the heat of his battle, but it is hard to forget his words or actions when contemplating his true nature or to imagine his plans for our country and our relations with the world.  I am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that there are so many people in this country - who are so different from the people I know - who feel such hatred and bigotry. I am stunned. It has been quite the revelation. 

On the other hand, half our society feels strong, responsible and open to diversity of both people and thought. I'm with them. If nothing else, this has pushed me to dig deeper, be better, be stronger, and more involved.

Rambling, I know, but just trying to work things out in my head and having an awful time of it. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016


The assault is insidious and completely over-the-top. More stressful that one could imagine. Consumerism, media-hype, claims and counter-claims.

Why, you can't even go to a public toilet without looking at an advertisement on the stall door. Grocery cart? Yup, ads there, too, in case you need a funeral home or a bottle of wine.

I just perused my Pinterest account, one of the few places sans ads. Nope, as I cursored down, a stylish pic of fruit popsicles showed up, sponsored by Outshine and 'picked just for you'. Seriously? Shame on you, Pinterest.

I have Sirius Radio in my car to avoid ads and listen to the music I like best. I pay for it. A lot. If I want ads to disappear from my phone's Solitaire game, I'd have to pay for that, too. Even my email account has a line of ads running down the side as I try to pay attention to my incoming correspondence. I can't pee without seeing an ad, drive without staring at the back end of a heavily emblazoned vehicle touting its company's finer points. Even bumper stickers sell some kind of message.

I rebelled. I watch little TV. Frankly, that was also because I have better things to do that I have been neglecting for too long. Fun things like reading and painting and being outside soaking in what nature provides (for free). I don't miss the box. I certainly don't miss foot-tapping through commercials or fast-forwarding and still seeing them as I try to spot the next segment of the show. I got rid of magazine subscriptions. They had more ads than articles. The ones I really liked closed down because of lack of advertising. Of course, they did. I choose my news for its content, not sensationalism. There are ways to do that but it takes effort. It is worth it.

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I want to be childlike again. Outside more than in, exploration and conversation trumping entertainment via electronics. Laze in a hammock, pull a few weeds, make America beautiful and fulfilling.

Because it is beautiful, it is fulfilling. We don't have to sold a bill of goods to know that fact in our hearts. Go forth, ad-less, and enjoy.

Friday, April 8, 2016

A Penny for Your Thoughts

      "A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. …
      Else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another."      -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bits and bytes of information bombard every one of us every day. Each single seed can also be deposited in the minds of millions of other people. Everyone’s thinking is influenced by what is seen, felt, read and observed. We process most information on a subconscious level. It becomes a Dagwood sandwich, wrapped and stowed for later consumption.

In sleep, some of those random thoughts gel into dreams; recent impressions form the scenarios. If aware of it, we can even smell and feel in our dream state which always startles me when I experience it. The devil of it is that when the curtain comes up in the morning, another good dream is obliterated. Poof!

Its impression, most likely, remains in our subconscious. Hence, the reoccurring dream. All these thoughts swirl, lay claim to lockers in our storehouse of a mind. The combination is lost, found, lost again. The bits gather with other bits, form communities of thought.

There is a lot of simmering going on under the surface. And simmering is also going on in the minds of others, too. Even those we have never met may have the same thoughts we do. It explains the scientists on two different continents coming up with the same premise or similar research results. Happens all the time.

"Gee, I thought of that years ago,” a young man laments when he reads of a new discovery. “If only I had acted on it, I would be the one in the newspapers. I would be the one who made millions.”

“He stole my idea.” Ah, no. No, he didn’t. He just was more intrigued than you were about the idea batting around in his head and did something about it. A missed opportunity for one, growth and satisfaction for another.

A penny for your thoughts?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Perspective Requires Much Consideration

"The universe is transformation; our life is what our thoughts make it."  
Marcus Aurelius

    I picked up a neighbor to give him a ride part of the way to work this morning. I often do this and we mostly talk about the weather, or he does and I listen because I think each day's weather is interesting. Today he talked about a job posting and that it only paid $10 hour. He griped about it and the sad state of affairs in America and had told the interviewer that times were changing and soon it would be $15. Perhaps so, but I imagine it didn't further his cause.

    It got me to thinking of my recent experiences in Hungary where I was surprised that the American dollar bought so much more than the Hungarian populace could afford. They would, perhaps, be excited about $10 an hour instead of looking for more from the get-go.

    We all want to live a good life, a prosperous one. Most do their best to achieve it. Some complain endlessly and get nowhere.

    Personal perspective forms from your own particular point of view and your thoughts are, of course, its basis. Others may sway your thinking. Nasty little inroads of doubt may creep in. But just as often, fresh air may flow through your thoughts when the stars align and things are going well. Life is like swaying on a swing. Sometimes you reach the sky and sometimes your feet get muddy as you hop off.

    "Our life is what our thoughts make it." Yes, it certainly is.