Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Saint Anthony and Legos

When I was in the beautiful church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, there was a statue of Saint Anthony that struck me because it looked so much like my grandson Marcus.  I took a picture of it and also bought a small magnet with the image from the gift shop.  Once home, it went on my refrigerator.

Ethan was over the other day and saw the magnet.  He wanted to know why I had a picture of Marcus dressed up like that.  I told him it was a statue that I'd seen that looked a lot like Marcus.  And I told him a little about where I'd seen it and why the statue had so many little pieces of papers tucked in around it.  I told him that Saint Anthony was someone that many people asked for help when they'd lost something.  "You know when you lost your Lego people that Nana had bought you?  Well, that's a situation where someone might say, 'Ask Saint Anthony to help you find them.' "  And we went on about our day. 

I had forgotten about that conversation.  But the next day, Teah told me that the boys had received a package in the mail that afternoon from their grandfather's wife.  It included several Lego sets!  I LOVE that kind of serendipity!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rome in the Ordinary

Seeing the "major" sites is wonderful when travelling, but I also love spending time doing ordinary things: shopping for food, walking through neighborhoods, listening to conversation - even when I can't understand much of it.  Those times help me make bonds with places and people. For a little while, I am not just a visitor, but someone who is sharing a moment of our lives.

Even doing laundry in another city can be interesting.  Maggie and I had a washing machine in our apartment in Rome.  A nearby store sold detergent in large boxes.  We only wanted enough for a load or two so we stopped in a Laundromat down the street and asked the owner if we might buy a small amount of detergent.  He was very accommodating and we came away with more than we needed.

Maggie put the clothes in and got it started.  A little bit later I saw her parked on a chair in front of it, watching it closely. She was quite taken by how it worked - different from our machines, even front loaders.  We laughed - "So what did you do in Rome?"  "Oh, we had the most marvelous time watching our washing machine!"

We spent a morning in a market, looking at all the gorgeous produce, the fresh fish, the meats and cheeses and eggs so attractively displayed.  You could get wine our of barrels; the man would pull a spigot and pour it into a clean plastic water bottle. The breads and pastries!  Flowers and plants!

Art is everywhere.  A lovely mosaic icon was displayed on the side of a building.  Doorways, windows, balconies, fountains, offer opportunities to display creativity and beauty.  There is graffiti, too - some whimsical, some darker.

And there are always signs of poverty, difficult situations - beggars, homelessness, hunger.

One of the things I really loved in Rome was the abundance of fountains - the water is almost always safe to drink and delicious and cold.  It is available to everyone.  Some people even set out little dishes next to the fountains for animals to drink.

People ask me what I found to be highlights of my trip.  It is hard to answer.  How do I compare my awe in the Sistine Chapel with the delight of good clean water on a hot day?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Other Mornings, Other Places

I have just returned from a most marvelous trip.  For the past three weeks I've been in Italy and France, moving around from city to country, seeing art, architecture, eating wonderful food, soaking up memories that will become a part of who I am.

My friend Maggie and I discovered a couple of years ago that we would both celebrate decade birthdays this year.  When we found this out, we said, "Oh, we should do something to celebrate!"  At first, our vision was small - maybe go out to dinner.  Then it expanded: "Maybe we would go to the city for a weekend."  And then one day, Maggie asked, "Have you ever thought of going to Europe?"  When I replied, "Oh, I've always wanted to go to Italy!"  she asked, "How long could you be away?"  I said that I couldn't stay longer than three weeks.  And the planning began.

We decided to divide our time between Italy and France.  She particularly loves Paris.  Since I'd never been to either of these countries, I was up for seeing whatever we could see.

We met many times and talked about how to arrange our time, how to focus.  We knew that we primarily wanted to see art and eat local food.  We knew that we didn't want to cram our days full of running from one site to another.  We wanted to have time to sit and draw, to watch people, to walk neighborhoods, to experience flavors.  Gradually, we realized we had to whittle down some of our ambitions - we skipped Venice; we added time to Sienna.  We asked friends for suggestions of their favorite surprises in the areas where we would stay.  We made reservations for our lodging and transportation ahead of time, and did get some tickets for big things like the Borghese, Vatican, and Uffizi Galleries. And then we drifted.

What a fabulous time we had! I'll write posts about some of our adventures over the next couple of weeks. 

The morning after I returned home, I lay in bed, listening to my neighborhood birds, watching the day come.  It occurred to me that after this trip, I now know what morning looks like in eight different places.  I've heard the birds, the garbage trucks, the Vatican bells, the neighbors chattering.  I've seen the light changing, smelled the pastries, felt the warm humid summer air becoming sticky.

What I hope to share is the excitement of discovery, that my experience might encourage you to plan such a trip for yourself.  Where have you been longing to go?  What mornings await you?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sufism /Cooking

I was recently privileged to spend some time with a most remarkable woman, a Sufi teacher, Thea Elijah.  You know how there are events in your life when you can look back and say "This was a very special opportunity.  This is something that will change me for the better."  This is what being in the presence of wisdom can do for you - but only when you have an open heart.  And Thea has a way about her that helps you open to receive  wisdom.

The past two years have been a period of considerable upheaval for me.  There have been many joys, many teachings, but challenges that have been really hard, too.  Thea describes these life events that we all go through as "cooking".  She has a wonderful video clip entitled "Chick Pea" on her website that you can watch:  As I go through my days and difficult things come up, I think, "Oh, I am cooking."  I will be different.  I don't mean this in a myopic way.  I find the perspective comforting.  I don't fight as much.  I feel softer.  I feel more ready to get out of my own way and wonder.  "What is coming?  What is the work I am to do."

Perhaps you will find this metaphor helpful, too. 

Friday, April 17, 2015


Ethan wasn't feeling well the other day, he had a little cough.  He was sitting at the table eating his yogurt and he suddenly says, "I don't like being four." 
"Why not"
"It's not the best."
"What do you want to be, what's the best?"
It turned out he wanted to be three again, to be little, to be cuddled and pampered.  We talked about how there are times when we all want that, and that's ok.  And we talked about how it can be good to get older, too - there are things he can do this year that he couldn't do last year - like play soccer.  He's been eager to play like Marcus does.  But then he says, "But I want to be Argentina" (Marcus' favorite world cup team).  "Well, you'll have to be a lot older to be Argentina."

A couple days later when we were together we practiced soccer outside.  Before his mom left for work she said "Don't tell Nana that you want to write on your soccer ball, because you can't."  He pointed out that he'd tried to write his initials.  He got the E, but he said "I tried to make a B but I made a cupcake.  It did look like a cupcake.

Later he asked if we could practice letters on paper.  We did.  Then he wanted to tape them to the ball.  His mom didn't say we couldn't tape letters on a ball.  So we did.

We went for a walk at Vassar pond, looking for signs of spring.  We found beautiful skunk cabbage coming up and I told him that insects like to live in there to get out of the cold and rain.  He imagined them having little beds and tvs in there so they could be cosy.

We saw pollywogs (which he called hollywogs), and crayfish and minnows, and geese - and garbage people had thrown around.  We'll have to go next time prepared to carry some of that out.  He was rightly offended that people throw their trash in such places.

Spending time with a four year old, experiencing how they see the world, is one of my favorite things to do.  Sorry, Ethan, but I have to disagree with you.  Four is the best!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Crow with Valentine

Thing a Day is an online creativity group that happens in February.  One year I chose crows and pomegranates as my themes for the work I'd do and came up with little paintings each day.  On Valentine's Day I'd been busy and shortly before I went to bed, I remembered that I hadn't made anything.  I grabbed some paint and paper and made a quick crow, flying home to her sweetie with a little pretty to line the nest.

I like this crow.  I like that it feels like my life sometimes - that I am flying through turbulence and trying to keep up with the small honoring that each day deserves.  No perfection here.  But a gift.

I hope you find a way to celebrate all the loves of your life, including yourself; you can make it little thing.  Happy Valentine's Day!

For a different Valentine treat, you can see this older post.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

poetry and crows 2

Walking the first snowfall
 we dream drifted past the pond;
ducks edged away
 from  thin icy rims.

This morning
in a brittle dawn,
only reflections of sun fetching
swim across the gleaming