Monday, April 29, 2013


Last Wednesday afternoon found me seated in the front row at the Centerville Historical Museum.  I had come with a friend to hear Daniel Klein, a visiting author, speak about his book  "Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes".  I had not read the book nor had I ever heard of Daniel Klein.  I was soon to learn about both and grew fond of the author within moments after he began his talk. His words about philosophy and his notes on life, especially his own, were so beautifully interwoven.

I've been thinking about something that Daniel talked about and have already found it to be useful in my life and, perhaps in the lives of others with whom I have shared it. As he spoke about the process of growing old,  he made some salient points......

We need to slow down, especially as we age
Now is not the time for goal-setting
We should no longer be striving for anything

Does this sound like a man who is giving up?  If you stopped right here, you might think so.  But, before us was a man in his early seventies, who clearly has not given up.  After all, he was talking about his latest book, autographing copies, greeting the people who came out to hear him and buy a book.  He is very much alive, actively engaged in his life and by no means what one might call a washed up old man.  So, how did I interpret what he was saying......

It's okay to slow down.  The Italians and inhabitants of the other Mediterranean countries know that and they make living slow an art form.  I have a few problems of my own related to this.  I spent many years of my life rushing, needed always to feel as if I were producing something of value.  I still have that feeling and still wonder if it's okay to sit down to write or to read a book, for no "reason" other than pleasure.  I think it very funny that years ago, I taught relaxation techniques.  Albeit, they were associated with "work", in my case, the work I was preparing my students for was childbirth.  I was, and still believe I am, a subject matter expert on the art of attaining full relaxation through a progressive set of exercises.

Goal setting?  As one of my friends recently said, "my goal is to get up breathing every morning".  That person got it.  I had years of corporate life.  My job as the Lead Occupational Health Specialist for one of the largest consumer products companies in the world, was considered to be a plum.  While there were many perks, there were also a fair share of down-siders, not least of all, the annual setting of the goals that accompanied the annual review.  They don't call this "Velvet Hell" for nothing.  I've set all the goals I'm ever going to set and I agree with Daniel Klein.  All those goals in my life have led me to this time in my life, the time when I meet my own expectations and do my own performance reviews, realizing that "good enough" really is.

Finally, this resistance to "striving".  That can be a hard-sell.  Aren't we, as decent human beings, always supposed to be striving to be better?  Better at what?  I am the best I'm ever going to be.  I'm not, at my age or anytime after, going to "become" anything so I think it is time to agree with my inners and assume that the time has come to use all of those things that in the past I have "striven" for, and to be the person I set my goals at being.  What could I be waiting for?  This is the now that I had wondered about when it was time to get things all neat and tidy.  I come here, to where I am, with an arm load of the skills that I have as a result of having met my goals and my annual performance review is looking like an "Exceeds Expectations" this year.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Yesterday. Wild Writing

I spent the day with a friend yesterday, one who has been a huge and gracious supporter of my fledgling writing activities from the start.  She asked me why I haven't written anything lately.  Had I stopped writing, dried up?  I reminded her that I did write......over a week little piece called "Twilight", one of which I was very proud.  Yes, she acknowledged that I had done that but she said that she looks for new pieces every day and......

I have been looking for new pieces every day too.  There simply are too many.  I think about them as they happen and forget about them before I sit down to record them.  Is this a sign of old age or am I just overloading, trying to get as much into one daily life as I can, every day?  My fellow writing friend Barbara B. claims the same thing happens to her.  Funny.  She mentioned it in class just this morning without having been prompted by me. Weird.

So, I really had to think about this.  Really hard.  Am I dry or have I had too much sensory input? Or is it that I am too alive, too alert and too  in need of constant stimulation to sit down, and weave it all into something that will please me enough to make me do it over and over again until it all comes easily?


Boston.  Blue sky.  Flowering trees flowering. On the T.  Confused and angry at myself.  I used to do this stuff all the time, how could a ticket machine confound me so easily?  I am not happy with the fact that I have allowed myself to be so out of practice.  Away from city life too long.  Not good and has to change.  Agreed.  People on the train, where are they going?  The MFA, T stops right in front. What could be easier? On line.  Toilet stop and almost walked right into a woman I knew thirty years ago. No recognition on her part, I pretended nothing on my part.  Who needs to review all that past when the now is now?  Michelangelo, his drawings from architecture to figures.  He never did anything on canvas until he perfected it on paper.......proof.  Miles of beauty, lunch in serenity, sun filled room, soft classical music and a Dale Chihuly to stare at in between bites of the most wonderful "tart" I've ever tasted. Mario Testino portraits of the Royals.  Easy to make Harry, William, Kate and Diana look beautiful but true genius in making Charles and Camilla, especially Camilla, look radiant.  Wow. Walked into yet another woman I knew and have always held fond.  Huge hug, didn't want to let me go from her embrace.  Both of us recently left motherless.  Her earrings were so similar to a pair of mine. They were her mother's.  Nothing is ever a coincidence.  Nothing.  Back on the T.  Everyone, and I mean, everyone tuned in to something.  Texting, listening, looking at tiny machines held in their hands.  Earbuds.  You text me, I text you.  Ipads. What ever happened to books.  Back packs.  Why aren't people looking at them?  They should.  I do.

A back pack simply is not a back pack in my eyes.  Not since 9/11. Okay, so not after what happened last week.  I learned my lesson in 2001.  What did you learn on April 15th, this year?

Open your eyes, overload your senses.  Know who is standing next to you.  Tune out, shut it down, take out the earbuds. Look, look, look......  Can you remember as many things as I have about your yesterday?  What if you never got another one?  What if you simply were careless and missed something,  Anything?  Are you out there?


Monday, April 15, 2013

Twilight Time

Il crepuscolo, the twilight time.  The time when the earth sighs a farewell to the day as it parts and the beauty of the sunset yields to the dusk.

The shadows begin to lengthen.  Traffic slows, people start to talk in hushed tones as the final bells from the churches are heard, calling the faithful to vespers.  The doves respond.  "Heavenly shades of night are falling"

"When purple-colored curtains mark the end of day"..........  

It's hard to write about my personal feelings on a morning such as this, the day after yet another threat to our society.  I had intended to write something dramatically different, about how each day of my stay in Assisi was punctuated by the arrival of sunset and then the magic time of twilight when I was reminded each evening of how safe and at rest I really was.  This was the view that I enjoyed from the windows of my apartment at 20 San Paolo.  I never failed to take it all in, to derive a sense of all being right with the world. My plan was to write something sweet and uplifting, an addition to the pieces I am collecting as I move toward the writing of a memoir.  A time and place that sanctified my existence and filled my heart with only goodness. 

But yesterday, twilight brought us a different view.  A beautiful day that should have ended with the slowing of traffic, ended instead with the blare of sirens from hundreds of ambulances, the shock and horror of witnesses, anything but hushed tones as people greeted the evening.  As yesterday's sunset gave way to dusk, a country's people welcomed fear and anxiety once again. The celebration of a day well spent, a day of triumph to so many, ended with grief and unanswered questions. A finish line that marked instead, the end of taking so much of life's pleasures for granted.  

The shadows, they have lengthened and again, purple-colored curtains are marking the end of day, a day that will burn into our memories for a very long time.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Objective Subjective Describe it and Tell Us How Your Feel About it....

It comes in three parts, all aluminum..  There are a wide variety of sizes,  metallic finishes and colors.  It’s called the Moka pot and it is a coffee maker.  It makes espresso coffee on the stove top.  The name most often associated with these pots is “Bialetti”, an Italian maker.  The bottom is a chamber that holds water.  It has a base that is wider than its top part.  Into the base, an aluminum coffee basket is dropped.  The size of the basket varies in accordance with the size of the pot.  All of the parts are the size necessary for the number of cups desired by the user.  The basket resembles a funnel in that it has a narrow tube at its base and it is up this tube that the water from the base travels as the water boils.  The bottom of the pot, basket in place, is filled with coffee and screwed together with a top piece that has an internal rod coming from its base. The rod has a hole in its top and as the water boils and comes up the basket tube, it flows out into this top chamber as coffee.  This chamber has a spout and a handle and a little top ornament, usually colored black, despite the color of the chambers.  One of my Moka pots is lavender colored and it sits on the shelf above my kitchen sink when it is waiting to be used. It was a gift from a friend who lives in Umbria. The other, a larger model, sits on the shelf above my stove.  It was a gift from my husband.

We had quickly become friends.  My interest in her beautiful silk scarves brought me to her shop window and she invited me in.  Within moments, we realized that we had so much in common.  The loss of a loved one, the appreciation for life and the love of color made us kindred spirits.  We came from two different cultures.  She, an Italian woman who spent fourteen years of her life living in France before returning to her country as an adult, me an Italian-American woman who had come to Italy seeking a unique experience.  It wasn’t long before plans were made for a trip to visit her home and her studio where I would see firsthand how she produced her art pieces.  We started out early that Monday morning, two of us off to Perugia in her car, en route  to her apartment  which was located on the outskirts of the city.  I was surprised at how modern the apartment complex was but not at all surprised at the simplicity of the entrance hall and the dimly lit rooms.  As soon as we entered her home, I was offered a cup of coffee.  Here again, no surprises.  Hers, a two cup aluminum colored Moka pot , was placed on the stove and two tiny cups, on the kitchen table. A few moments later, the aroma of  Italian espresso coffee filled the air. The dark brown elixir was poured and suddenly  I felt as if I had been in this same room hundreds of times before.  My senses were aroused by this, a familiar little ritual and as I looked around this humble kitchen, I felt my grandmother’s presence, as if she were the occupant of the home.  A flood of memories came back that morning as we sat for a few moments, drinking our coffee as if we had known each other all our lives.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Jean Dunard Lacquer Portrait C. 1920

Assignment:  Write a piece based upon the picture.
Art, imitating life.....just this week, in my Creative Studio Class, two of my classmates told of the new strengths they have recently acquired.  Both, left by husbands who, after years of marriage, decided that they no longer wanted to be married.....

My Inspiration - This piece, dedicated to those two beautiful friends.......

She sat, staring out the window. Her hair was perfectly coiffed, a  classic style, one that allowed her steel grey locks to float, as if waves upon a sea that gently caressed a shore at the nape of her neck.  The hair color gave only the slightest hint of her age as her face did not reveal more than a glimpse of her youth.  Her make up, as usual, was perfectly done, eyebrows arched, lipstick, the shade of the American Beauty rose.  Blue-grey pearls of magnificent quality and size nestled on each ear lobe,  punctuating the look of sheer elegance and gentility.

She sat, her arms resting gently on her knees, making for a relaxed curve to her back and a revelation of the beautiful folds that made the gown so elegant.  The gown, royal blue.  The gown, the color of the sky, the sea.  The color, her favorite perhaps for the fact that it from time immemorial has been synonymous with love, romance, strength and stability.  The very essence of who she was. Silence waved over the room, interrupted only by the  five soft chimes of the antique clock in the next room.  The clock had been a wedding gift from his parents.

She sat, a freshly picked gardenia gracing her shoulder, creamy, white, fragrant.  The gardenia, the flower of love and romance, fragile. How many times had he pinned one such as this on her waiting shoulder, perhaps as a prelude to a gentle kiss.  Her soft blue silk blouse, visible within the folds and pleats of the magnificent gown she had selected for this evening, echoed the beauty of the flower, with repeating patterns of blue gardenias throughout the garment.  Blue, the hue of power.  Power within a gracefully willowy body.  Blue Willow perhaps.

She sat, looking out her window, as her thoughts brought her to familiar places if only for short visits at a time.  A glance backwards in time that brought a tiny but perfect smile to her still youthful lips.  As she sat, she looked down at her garden, filled with bushes bursting with gardenia blooms.  The air arising from the open window brought with it the most memorable perfume experience and she thought back to the time he pinned the first corsage on her shoulder, before the waltz, before the courtship, before the proposal and the years that drifted by as if they too, were magnificent and memorable scents.

She sat, looking out at the garden of  her life on this, the evening of their fortieth wedding anniversary.  She watched as he drove away into the distance, parting after his announcement.  He no longer wished to be a married person.  It was simple and direct, his end to their once beautiful union.

She sat, and she thought about her life, her love and the gardenias.  Fragrant, fragile, memorable and short-lived. Again the silence was interrupted by ten soft chimes of the clock, this time telling her that she had sat too long.

As she arose, one by one, the delicate petals of the shoulder corsage fell to the floor, landing gently around the hem of her gown as if they were the foam left behind from the gentle ebb of a tide and she was reminded of their short moment of bloom.