13 December 2009

Kindness Brings Hope

I've joined a special holiday Blog Carnival hosted on Blog Nosh Magazine
Loads of Hope for the Holidays

with the theme of "hope". Thanks to the sponsor, Tide Loads Of Hope (link above).


I offer this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye to those in the heartbreak of loss. It is offered in the comradeship that loss forges in my belief that kindness brings hope and saves us.

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then it goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

-Naomi Shihab Nye

Thinking Of A Change

This is part of the 100 word challenge of Velvet Verbosity on "Thinking".

100 Word Challenge


Thinking Of A Change

My writing could be a stretched string
some strokes of black on white that others
have to decipher.

But I'll take a chance write words
that pull souls like rafts toward shore
words that life eyelids and stagger
lovers who swerve and slide
down the slope of those they love.

Words that have affairs with other words
grow gravid with illicit seed
bear new thoughts with primal screams.

Write raw like you do sometimes in a row
with one you love taking the chance
that nakedness is its own beauty
if it can just be seen.

12 December 2009

Acts Of Kindness

Reading the post by Lou (Lou ) made me think about all the generous acts of kindness I've received and how they've touched my heart. One of the great outcomes is that we tell each other these stories and everyone has a happier heart. They're the alternative but real news of the day.

My husband was telling me that when a person does an act of kindness, it raises their immunity level and the levels of the one to whom they are kind and any onlookers as well! I wonder if that stretches to those who hear the story of that kindness? I bet it does. Maybe that's why our heart feels warm when we read them.

I received a "thanks" from American Airlines and it's surprisingly good. I'm sharing it here because it made me feel good watching it. It actually contains profound messages that are pertinent to this post: "There's joy to be found in the moment".

The American Airlines message is below.

Happy Holidays from American Airlines

Happy Holidays from American Airlines

Posted using ShareThis

08 December 2009

Poem Of The Week, Love After Love

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door,
in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the others welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread.
Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your own life.

-Derek Walcott

I love this poem for so beautifully describing one of the most important but oh so difficult tasks to accomplish in this life phase.

07 December 2009

My Biggest Lesson


Yesterday was my daughter's birthday and it got me thinking about the wonders of raising her. I've always liked my daughter and her friends, still do. I'm very fortunate to have a great relationship with her, her husband and her 2 children. I do count my blessings daily for that!

Also makes me realize, though, how much work I (we) have put into this relationship so that it keeps growing, changing, being satisfying. We hit a snag at one point. All right, a gigantic hurdle that I actually feared I wouldn't be able to scale. Kelly was finished college and making (big, major) decisions that I didn't agree with.

We didn't get far on our own and went to a family therapist for some help. The one thing I was sure of is that I didn't want to lose my relationship with my daughter, nor did her father. Anyway, I was sure the therapist would see our side of things, agree and tell Kelly the error of her ways. I really thought this. I really thought I wanted this. It's not what happened.

What the therapist said instead was that our daughter was an adult making her own decisions and that our job was not just to accept her decisions but celebrate them. I was truly dumbfounded! I said to myself: "That will NEVER happen!". Later I cried and carried on to my husband. He heard me out. He's great that way. I came back to my bottom line- I won't lose my daughter over this, or anything.

Well, I did what the therapist suggested. Kelly wasn't asking for advice, she was telling me her decision. I accepted it and her and trusted her to do what was right for her. As for celebrating her decision, I had to fake it until I could make it, but celebrate it I did. Eventually for really real.

And of course 10 years down the road I've come to see the wisdom of her choice, that it was exactly right for her and was/is a blessing for her, for our family, for the world community (really!). I deeply respect and admire her, this daughter, this woman living her life so on purpose.

Motherhood has taught me a lot but I think this was my most important lesson and I'm grateful for the 3 of us doing all we had to do to make this happen. It was the transition from a parenting role to relating as adults in all that that implies. It smacked me up against my wants-to-be-boss-of-the-world side and my don't-I-get-to-be-boss-at-least-with-my-own-daughter side and put me in my place. In a good way. It got me into Codependents Anonymous and boy did I need that! But that's another story.

03 December 2009

RE: The Guest Post


Further thoughts from a new elder on Nan's guest post:

> I like the role she maps out for me as unconditional grandchild lover. Considering how seriously I took my responsibility to bring up their mother "well", I'm surprised how easily I let all that be their parent's job and not mine. Okay, okay I do have my standards but I really see the responsibility as primarily their parent's. It feels good to let that go and just enjoy and help them "feel special and adored" as Nan said. They are!

> "With grandparents, their lives are enriched." My grandchildren are citizens of 2 countries, USA and Trinidad. They live in a small village in the rain forest of Trinidad and their lives are rich in nature, beauty and the love of 2 parents who work from home. (See their home under "Links I Love") All in the safety net of village life. I, too, see my role to further enrich their lives by exposing them to a whole other world that we inhabit. Up to now- Maine, Antigua and Italy. This includes travel to these places (and Florida, Philadelphia, Boston), vacations exploring them and adventures they can't experience where they live. Everything from Disney World to museums and even some shopping excursions. Italy is for next summer and I can hardly wait! Is there a richer place in history, art, architecture or culture? I hope it expands their world as it is mine.

> Nan spoke of the role elders have in her life as well. Of her life being enriched by their education and experience. Hence the importance of continuing to read, learn, have adventures, explore and keep growing myself. Of course for me but also for my family. They can take care of themselves well, my job is to take care of me, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Make my life rich for me and to enrich others. That, and tell the stories, the "gossip", the family history, the thoughts and insights I have. I like her image of doing that over a cup of tea, or in between time together, via Skype, email, facebook and blogs. Communication, staying in touch, is the way the "glue" that holds family together is spread.

> Nan said the "New Elders" are an evolving phenomenon and that we're finding a place in the evolution of the species. I hope so. I think the world needs our voices. I'm conscientiously trying to find that place and speak up. And I'm reading other elder bloggers that are as well. They're my inspiration and support. So is Nan and my daughter, Kelly and my wonderful nieces. I love and admire these young women! Our future is in good hands.

> But my favorite thing Nan said? That we're "groovy young grannies"! It gives me a boost just to say it. Thanks for your gracious generosity and wisdom, Nan. It's good to know we're all in it together!

30 November 2009

Kaleidoscope Children

100 Word Challenge


This post is in response to Velvet Verbosity's 100 word challenge: kaleidoscope.






Kaleidoscope Children

Prophecies come in dreams.
In my dream daughter
ate the tall plant in our house. I
feared it would take her, evolve
her into a new life form. It grew
wild, filled the house.

This greenwoman staked
her place on mother earth, glimpsed
her power connected
to dark rain forest plant people. Spoke
anew "all my relations."

It's specific, this
injunction. Leads to love. Brings
combinations of colors in shifting patterns. Enchanting
Little Ones mirror, mesmerize, evolve us all.

I panicked in my dream. Demanded
"No more plant eating!"
As if I could stop it,
or needed to.

28 November 2009

Guest Post: New Elders (or Groovy Young Grannies!)

I had the good fortune to win Nan's contest (http://thingsivefoundinpockets.blogspot.com) to name the column she's writing for the Bournemouth Echo (Island Hopping). The prize is having Nan as a guest blogger! You'll like her writing.
I seized the opportunity to ask a member of the next generation what she wants from her elders for herself and her children. I like her answer. Who doesn't like being called the "New Elder" or a "Groovy Young Granny". This might start a trend to ask other guest bloggers to address this question. Thanks, Nan.

Guest Post:

The word “Elder” used to refer to a precious few people. In the days before antibiotics, retirement and central heating our lifespans were so much shorter than they are now that few people ever knew their great-grandparents.

My children have been fortunate enough to know two great-grandmothers well: They have told their stories of life in the olden days, the first car they ever saw, breaking ice to wash their faces in the morning, watching buildings bombed during two wars, getting a “new” dress cut down from three previous sisters. The great-grandmothers are the “Crones”, the storytellers.

Mary has asked me what I think of the New Elders, the groovy young grannies. Mum and I have also talked about the way the world has changed. When I was little we spent, as far as I remember, EVERY SINGLE Sunday with my nearby grandparents, and distant grandparents would come and visit for months! Grandparents nowadays are a different breed. They have a busy schedule and projects galore which keep them busy and make them interesting. My generation do not expect our mothers to be on-call babysitters. What DO I think of this? How do our parents enrich our lives now?

My youngest son Max seemed to hit the nail on the head recently. He told his Grandmother that he didn’t have any jammies. Now this was not strictly true, he has plenty of perfectly fine jammies. But what he really meant was “I need special, different jammies handmade by my Grandmother.” These are jammies that no-one else has. They are funky and when he wears them, he knows that he is loved especially.

The special love that my kids get from their grandparents has helped to make them what they are. An interest in plants leads to gardening expeditions and botany lessons. Grandparent “playing” on the potters wheel? The grandchildren join in the game. Special, favourite food? Grandma will cook it best. We all need to feel special and adored, and grandparents fill that role nicely, while parents to do the “dirty work” of discipline, carrots and bedtime. With his parents, a child’s needs are met. With his grandparents, his life is enriched.

What about me? I am enriched by my parents’ education and experience. If Mum has read a great book or spoken to a great person, I can get the rundown, the information. My parents (and in-laws) notice things about the kids that I might not, and give valuable advice. Even if I don’t agree, the discussion is good. I’m lucky. My dealings with my Elders have been almost entirely positive. I need the experiences of my Elders in a rapidly changing world. I need to be reminded what it was like to raise a child thirty years ago, when TV only existed for a few hours a day. I need the family gossip and history. I need a thousand cups of tea and information.

The Elders are also the ones who glue the family together. Who is in charge of Christmas Lunch? Certainly not me, though I file the recipes away (recipes for stuffing, seating and calm) for the day when I am an Elder myself.

Looking online, I find HUNDREDS of excellent websites by Elders, for Elders, wondering what their position is in this new world. Many of those sites have discussion forums where young people flock to ask questions or find a listening ear. We young people seem to know intuitively that the Elders have the answers. Or if not the answers, then the right questions. I suspect that the New Elders are an evolving phenomenon. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next generation. I wonder what sociologists think? The New Elders need a place in the Evolution of Man, and I think they’ve found it.

27 November 2009

A Time I Had Magic

This was written in response to the prompt "give" by The 100 Word Challenge of Velvet Verbosity in the belief that there are many ways to give life.

100 Word Challenge



A Time I Had Magic

I saved a life once.
On a Nebraska Reservation
a baby boy was born
blue, limp, silent.

The doctor, a stranger
to these people and tired
said: "Leave him,
he will die."

His mother turned
her head, refused to hold him,
said: "Take him away,
he has eleven fingers."

I was his nurse.
I focused on him,
massaged his feet,
stroked his still chest.

Life loitered,
crept in slowly.
He breathed,
he moved,
turned pink.

Connected to life,
I fed it to him
like milk.
Whispered: "Welcome, little boy."

It was that kind of magic.

25 November 2009

Becoming




In October, my husband, John, and I were asked to be the celebrants for a Ceremony Of Love for our niece, Judith, and her partner, Kim. We'd not done such a thing before but our love and support for these wonderful young women prompted us to say "yes".
I'm glad we did.

Like many things, it was after the event that the fuller meaning of it filtered in. The experience itself, the feedback from those there, the talking about it afterwords, the thinking about it has occurred and now I feel ready to write about it.

My goal/obsession lately has been to find how to become a wise woman, a crone, an elder in my community, to find a way to give back for all I've been given. I see it as the purpose of this journey I'm on in this life phase. It's my work of this life phase. It's important to me. I get surprised when I realize not everyone my age is obsessed with this. It's why I'm keeping a blog and trying to link up with other seekers for inspiration and support. It's the reason I make the choices I do in my reading at this point.

It's connected for me to our family's 6th woman's gathering (see Nov 7 post, The Gathering, 2009), which took place in Philadelphia just before the Celebration. It was a time of deep sharing. It marked a turning point in our gatherings and showed that we have become a real working personal growth group and profound support for one another. My daughter, her 8 women cousins and my sister-in-law have gathered every year for 6 years. I admire them for their commitment! I set this gathering up originally as a way to provide a forum for healing for the young women in our family. It has become that. I never really thought about how this would change me. Or how it would change my daughter's or nieces' view of me.

And then a simple thing happened. I was asked to be a celebrant at my niece's Celebration Of Love. I felt it as an honor, a sacred responsibility and a joyous opportunity to serve. But now I think it also means that I am already seen as an elder by the women of this next generation in my family, maybe a budding wise woman/crone, too.

Maybe this is the way things happen. I saw what needed to be done - in this case to heal part of my family - and did it. In the process others noticed and acknowledged it. My self-perception changed when I listened to them and caught up with myself. That's less important, though, than doing what needs doing, being a leader when leadership is needed, finding the way in front of us to serve.

24 November 2009

Giving Thanks


A number of years ago when I was having a particularly hard time and feeling really awful about my life I read a suggestion to keep a gratitude log listing 5 specific things every day that I was grateful for. I thought it was hokey but I was desperate so I got a spiral notebook and started writing. I felt awkward at first but I kept writing 5 things I was grateful for each day thereafter. Some days it was a pitiful list of things like being grateful I could write at all or grateful that the day dawned after the night. But it taught me gradually to see the blessings all around me rather than just the problems. Actually, before too long, I did start to feel strengthened and grateful for my life rather than overwhelmed by it.

I kept this practice going for a year and liked the discipline of having to be very specific about what I felt grateful for that day. The discipline to train my eye to see all that was there that day rather than just where my fear led me.

Now I find myself more easily recognizing all there is to be grateful for. Today, for instance: 1. I'm grateful for the sun shining into the apartment and warming the living room and kitchen so deliciously. 2. Which brings its corollary- I'm grateful for a temperature of 60 degrees on Nov 24. 3. I'm grateful for the begonia that keeps right on blooming its beautiful red flowers although its siblings have stopped. 4. I'm grateful for the 2 elderly women who delighted in waving and greeting me as I ran by them this morning. 5. I'm grateful for John saying he thought I looked sexy in my outfit today.

Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Italy but I think it's one of the better things the USA has come up with. So, I'm reviewing my gratitude list and realizing it's long. I hope yours is too or that you try keeping a gratitude list until it is.

p.s. On an ongoing basis, I'm grateful for this role of grandmother and for these new little lives in our family. They help me to see the wonder in each moment.

20 November 2009

Silk Dress

This is in response to the 100 word challenge on the topic "material"
by Velvet Verbosity.

100 Word Challenge


Silk Dress

"Come into my room
help me choose the dress.
Is it too morbid of me to ask?"
Your first choice a fuchsia dress
silk, long-sleeved, belted.
"Is it too garish for a funeral?"
You decided:
wear what you liked,
bright color a deliberate
counterpoint to your fading.

Final statement
by a legend of stylish dressing.
"Perfect choice, Mom."
"Guess what? It's a size 10!"
We laughed at your perverse
pleasure, loss of weight
even to cancer
size 10, even in your casket.

It had its intended effect.
Mourners said how lovely
your dress was, how so like you.

(Mary H. Warren in loving memory of Mary M. Harvey)

18 November 2009

Traditional Irish Blessing - E-Water

Traditional Irish Blessing - E-Water
I received this in an email from a friend and it made me savor the memories of Ireland. I've traveled to some of the places pictured and I have the music on my ipod. It's a lovely blessing and a counter point to yesterdays post. Beauty surrounds us whether it's goddess made or person made. Either is capable of moving us to tears if we let it into our heart. Both make us glad we showed up and paid attention. Both inspire us to do that more.
I send this in the gratitude of the Thanksgiving season.

(click on the title within this box to view)

Paris






Really- where do I start? It's Paris and this was my first visit. LouCeel has a wordless Wednesday and maybe the photos alone will do it, but just a few words, please! 1. The Musée du Louvre, 2. Musée d'Orsay, 3. Aphrodite, 4. The Winged Victory of Samothrace, 5. The Mona Lisa. All in one beautiful place? Paris, sigh...

08 November 2009

Thoughts From My Balcony


Our balcony was in sunshine this morning after my run. It spilled into our south facing living room, dining room and kitchen warming the tiles and us. But there is snow on the mountain tops in the distance. Saw a sprinkling the end of October but this is extensive and probably kicks off skiing season up there. It's beautiful on these clear days but I like looking at it in the distance rather than the up close and personal of Maine. I'm eager to know first hand what winter is like in this part of Italy. So far so good.

Been doing a lot of thinking about where to go from here with the profound experiences I've had and my involved family members have had in our yearly woman's circle (see previous post). I've been searching for a way to contribute to my community. In terms of what I'm passionate about- this is it. But how do I bring this to the wider community?

07 November 2009

The Gathering, 2009


About the whole quantity/ quality time together thing: quality takes quantity. I saw this year how 6 years of gathering has lead to deeper sharing more quickly. Let me explain.

6 years ago, after moving back to the east coast from California, I wanted to reconnect with my then adult nieces. I had fallen out of contact after 14 years on the west coast. I had no relationship at all with the younger ones.

I also wanted to set up a forum where we could heal the wounds of our family. Grandchildren were coming so the cycle of violence needed to end. I hoped we could end it together.

I joined with my 2 sisters-in-law (my husband's sister and my younger brother's wife) and we put out a call to my daughter, my older brother's 5 daughters and my younger brother's 3 daughters. I wasn't sure how many would come since they lived all over the USA and in Trinidad. I explained what I hoped to initiate and, to my amazement, all 9 young women came for a 3 day gathering in Maine. I called it "the nieces gathering" and they called it "the cousins gathering" but all agreed on the importance of healing ourselves and our family for our own benefit and the benefit of our next generation (1 daughter in each family had a child by then).

We had a theme (Celebrating Women in Family) and an agenda to facilitate sharing. We also had fun activities and down time to just hang out and reconnect. It was a fabulous time. We shared our stories, laughed and cried together and made ceremonies for our healing. Everyone either came early or stayed late to extend our time together.

Well, against all odds, we've all met every year since! 3 times in Maine, twice in Florida and once in Philadelphia. We've Celebrated Love, Generations, Change, Transitions and Passion. We've grown closer, helped my husband's sister die, had more babies, loves, divorces, and a marriage. Both crones turned 60. I've grown closer to these amazing young women and admire their commitment to themselves and to one another. They've grown closer to one another and support each other during the rest of the year as well. They're friends.

And, yes, healing has happened along the way. From the first year when most of the talk was about past hurts to this year when the past hardly came up. Everyone is now focused on herself and growing in the ways that each one thinks is best. And have I said how remarkable they are? How I have come to treasure my relationship with them? How fortunate I count myself?

The photo above is our latest gathering (October, 09) and the one above that is the first. I'm grateful for this gathering. I'm glad we've taken the time together.

03 November 2009

3 Weeks With Family and Friends


I need to find a way to publish posts in the midst of 3 week vacations. Otherwise, here it is, too long since my last post and so much to share. It was a happy whirlwind of a time in the USA. Some things I learned:

- I hope I have my father's constitution. He's a sharp, healthy (except for some unsteadiness on his feet) 93 year old who knows more about current events than I do. He goes dancing twice a week leaning on his cane and his dance partner!

- Rings worn for a long time can carry the energy of the one who wore them. My Dad gave me my mother's engagement ring, which she wore for 54 years, and I felt her presence when I put it on.

- Old friends are the best when it comes to deeply sharing. Had a wonderful time with friends of 35 years in New Hampshire. It started the vacation well to just hang out and talk, really talk, about what's going on, where I'm at and where I'm going. There's a kind of listening that good friends can bring to a conversation that supports, challenges and brings clarity.

- Some girlfriends are great to go shopping with.

- Fall in New England is nature in her most spectacular colors. This year the leaves were gorgeous!

- It's fun to party with friends from a few years ago to check in and see where our various paths have led us.

- People are generous by nature when given the chance to be.

- Whoever made the distinction between quality time being better than quantity time missed the point. We need quantity time to achieve quality time. More about that in my next post but just having a good stretch of time together without a heavy agenda can lead to deepening relationships.

- Grandchildren are surely sweet rewards from the goddess! Is there anything better than early morning snuggles and giggles with a 7 and 3 1/2 year old?

- Love is the generous gift of the universe and inspires awe in its presence! It brings hope, joy and never gets old. Helping young lovers celebrate their commitment to each other is a privilege and a duty to support our loved ones as others supported us.

- 6 years of circling together and sharing deepens the bonds among the gatherers and the personal growth of each participant (more about this, too, in the next post). Can families heal themselves so that the present and next generation can be healthier? Yes they can!

- Being with family that love and honor you changes your perception of yourself.

- It's good to be home and now have time to mine the deep meaning of this rich time. I sense it holds important answers on my mission and role.

21 October 2009

Read Blogs!

I saw a quote by Jay Rosen: "Blogs are little first amendment machines." I like that! The more blogs I read the more I realize the truth of that. People are sharing their world view directly with each other. We're showing up, paying attention and telling the truth. Put them all together and get the bigger ( and truer) picture of what's going on in our world of ordinary folks than the news can ever portray. So, do your part to preserve freedom of speech- read blogs!

11 October 2009

Elderbloggers

I'd like to introduce a new group I'm part of: elderbloggers. I'm excited to find peers who are sharing their journeys and to show just how many there are of us. Makes me feel less alone in this process and gives me good ideas of how others are negotiating the challenges of this life phase. Take a look and prepare to be amazed! Just click on the button to the side of this blog site that says: "Elderbloggers".

09 October 2009

Acorn Teachers


I was listening to an interview with Angeles Arrien today about her book: "The Second Half of Life". She talked about the importance of coming back into nature's rhythm of medium to slow in the second half of our life. Deepening and integrating, two of the tasks of this life phase, can only happen at this pace.
I passed an oak tree full of acorns at that point and saw the medium-to-slow analogy graphically. I picked a few to bring home and remind myself of this message. Italy is a good place to learn this.

07 October 2009

It's In Hand!

We have our Permesso di Soggiorno! Only 5 months from the time we applied. It is the official "permission" to stay in Italy, in our case as elective residents. It gives us what we need to apply for our residency through our town which is the final, final thing we need to be residents of Italy. Hooray! It gives us status, eligibility for the health care system and a sense that we now belong. All good things.
We got it with a lot of help from a lot of people (you know who you are but a special THANKS to Emily and Enzo, our mentors, guardian angels and all around good buddies!).
You have to rely more on friends when in a foreign country and thus operating out of your usual knowledge/comfort zone. It's humbling but I think it's important learning for me in this life phase.
I'm reading "The Second Half of Life" by Angeles Arrien, subtitled "Opening The Eight Gates of Wisdom". The first gate heralds the mystery of a new beginning or adventure and offers an opportunity to reexamine the wisdom we have gathered over time. I'm loving this book! In her questions for reflection after the first chapter, Angeles asks where we experience the spirit of fluency in our lives. She uses that word: fluency! Right away I thought about the fact that I'm learning a new language and feeling very unfluent. But I got excited that this process of learning Italian will teach me vital things about myself and the spirit of fluency in my life. I really needed this insight to motivate me just now to be a fluent Italian speaker.

03 October 2009

Comfort Zone


"Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone."
I'm there, at the edge of my comfort zone. And, of course, it's uncomfortable. Everything is okay until something goes a little haywire and I worry how I will explain it or how it will get resolved or if it will. I'm the outsider here in this different culture with it's different mores and different language that I'm just learning.
So far, things have gone well and everything has been settled as it needs to be. (Wow, it's powerful to see that in print.) Then why am I concerned? I think it's about this vague but very real lack of comfort that comes with being, well, at the edge of my comfort zone.
I don't know any way around this. Other than to stay in the present, remind myself of the truth of how things have gone and be grateful for what is. I espouse the values of the Damanhur community in Turin, Italy: sensitivity, optimism and friendship. I have the opportunity to live these out here in Italy on this new journey. These are important things to learn out here at the edge. Maybe this is the best place to learn them.

02 October 2009

Joy




As I was sitting in my favorite chair reading, drinking tea and feeling the sun on my back, I turned around and caught these photos of the beach glass. This simple thing brought me such joy.

30 September 2009

Take Time



Today was a lovely day. It's the last day of September and we went to the beach. It started busy with shopping at the open market in town, meeting friends for coffee and putting up the LAST light fixture in our apartment (what a great satisfaction that brought!). Then John said: "let's go to the beach". So we took the time to go to the beach, take a long walk, have a swim and collect sea glass.
Made me realize the importance of taking time for favorite things. It was so relaxing at the now uncrowded beach. I've always loved collecting sea glass. I have some from every place we've ever lived. When I came home I took a photo of the pieces I found today because they were just so pretty. Then I added it to some I already have. I bought a hand made glass jar, filled it with the beach glass and put it on the top shelf of the bookcase to catch the sun during the day.
I felt happy when I looked at it and remembered the beaches we've walked, the treasures we've found and the memories we've made. They're the things I take with me always.

25 September 2009

p.s.

Please read the elderwomanblog on "Turning Green" listed in my blog list and watch the amazing video by Paul Hawkin. It will make your day and make you feel part of something big!

Ireland


Ireland- land of my ancestors, land of the people I look like, land of my husband's ancestors, land where my daughter spent a semester abroad, land of my deep, deep roots and where I feel at home on a cellular level. Even the weather cooperated with all 12 days sunny or fair except 1/2 day.
Some highlights: County Clare: a visit to John's great aunt Eileen who is a treasure trove of information about the family. She's in her 80's, sharp as a tack and full of stories with all the particulars about John's genealogy on the Kelly half of the Warren/Kelly grandparents. Next time- bring the recorder!

A visit to a pub in Doolan where we heard traditional Irish music played by locals and drop in visitors to this famous site of great trad music. And an opportunity to see up close and personal our favorite fiddler, Martin Hayes, who takes traditional tunes and fiddling to a whole new level. We love this music and live is even better!

Watched Zoe, John's cousin, Aiden's, daughter, launch her singing- at- weddings career with her friend accompanying on the violin. Her voice is a tiny taste of heaven.
Saw Aiden's other daughter, Dawn, who's almost finished her studies and is in love with her new profession of midwife. It's such a joy to hear the stories of someone who loves what they're doing, whatever the profession. Met her son, Noah, for the first time and got reminded of how much sheer fun a 3 year old can be!

Drove around with Aiden and his newly retired wife, Geraldine, (we swapped beginning impressions of this life phase) and took in again the unspoiled beauty of this county Clare. Photo is Lissycasey, County Clare.

County Cork: Good friends, Tom and Ann, are just fun to be with. We laugh a lot. Ann is also newly retired and we started our conversations about what this phase is all about for us and how we'll discover more of what it can be. How rich to have friends with whom to talk about this, friends on this journey. Did our mothers ever ask these questions?

Traveled to Kilarney and Kinsale, 2 jewels of West Cork. Kilarney is altogether lovely! We took time to walk a park and castle grounds, take a boat trip on the largest of its lakes, visit the renovated central church, eat, see an ancient waterfalls, and stand at the point overlooking the lakes named for the Queen's ladies who also liked this spot. A delicious day that by no means took in all there was to see and, so, set the agenda for our next visit. And Kinsale is a picturesque historical village that is charming in itself and set in this gorgeous coastal spot that kept us oohing and aahing the whole day. And to find a sunny place to sit outside a pub overlooking the town at the end of a beautiful walk was perfect!

Because I'm learning another language, I was very aware of how rich English, as spoken by the Irish, is. And is it just me or are Irish drivers relaxed and polite? They also queue up in lines in such order. I knew I was home when I went to my flight to Rome and the Italians rushed en mass for the front of the line. Boundary tapes were removed and everyone jostled forward. Okay, that's the spirit!

Made me shake my head and smile but I did have to wonder (again) about this whole St Francis calling us here rather than to Ireland. Do saints make mistakes? I've had glimmers of a call to craft a new role for grandmothers as respected elders in our culture so we can bring our wisdom to the issues of the day. Now wouldn't that just be easier in a country whose language I speak? I'm just asking. Hmmmm.

23 September 2009

The Long Way Home


It started as a short and simple itinerary on Ryan Air: Dublin, Ireland to Stansted, England to Pescara, Italy. Monday, 0630 to 1200. That changed when the first flight was delayed arriving in London, I had to reclaim my bag and recheck it for the second flight (even though it was the same airline) and the designated time for boarding that flight was closed, although it hadn't yet left and wouldn't for another 20 minutes. Since this was the only flight to Pescara and I really wanted to get home I changed my ticket to the 1815 flight to Rome and planned to take the bus to Pescara from there. That's when my adventure began.

In Stansted I noticed that my phone needed to be charged in order to call my friend who was picking me up at noon. I emailed her first and found that computer access costs 3 Pounds Sterling for 10 minutes! I then bought an adapter, found an outlet, since the ones with the comfy chairs provided by the airport for that purpose were too small to accept the adapter, and plugged it in. Nothing. I went to the fellow in the adapter store who said the airport doesn't let their outlets be used to charge phones. He whispered conspiratorially that there was one outlet I could use in the ladies room. So I stood in the (very busy) ladies room for an hour while my cell phone charged enough to text my friend.

I found comfortable places in Stansted to sit, passable places to eat, a good book to read and hunkered down for the wait. At the appointed hour I flew to Ciampino airport, Rome. When I went to find the bus for Pescara, they said it actually leaves from Termini but that there was bus service to there. I bought a ticket and off I went once the bus was full enough to leave. At Termini I saw a workman who told me the bus actually leaves from Tipiturno but that I could take the train there. Not easy with 2 suitcases one of which weighs 33 pounds and the train is down 2 long flights, up one and down a third with no escalators.

What I didn't know was that the last bus leaves at 2300 and I finally arrived at 2310. A helpful man suggested that I try the train station for a train to Pescara so I returned to the train station which looked big, dark and closed. I walked around however and found some workmen out back and the night foreman, Ricardo. It was about midnight by then and he said the next train to Pescara was 0445. I saw some benches inside and said I would wait in there. "No, no, no signora! You cannot stay in there and your bags won't be safe there." I had thought the men I saw laying on the benches were waiting for morning trains too. Sometimes I can be naive like that. He let me know they were vagrants and various dicey characters.

He was very solicitous and quickly stowed my bags in his office. He showed me a bench not far from his office that I could sit on. Unfortunately, it was located outside so I dug out my sweater and jacket to stay warm. Fortunately, it was Italy and warmer than Ireland at this time of year. A group of homeless men wandered in and decided to have a party on the benches next to me. Lots of story telling, singing, laughing and surreptitious drinking ensued. Roberto checked on me frequently, invited me to have coffee with him and his co-workers and in general took good care of me until the train arrived. He was sweet and hospitable and when I told him how much I appreciated his kindness, he said: "But of course, I'm Italian! This is what Italians do". He was right in my experience. Have I mentioned that I love Italians?

At train time he walked me through the tunnels to the train and gave me over to the conductor after telling him my story. The conductor said that the train to Pescara was actually later in the day and his train was going to Avezzano but that I could get the train to Pescara from there at 0950. So off I went yet again with the elusive goal of getting home.

Although the train made frequent stops and therefore took a long time (Pescara is only 2 1/2 hours from Rome), it was such a beautiful trip. It winds through the mountains and I saw all the lovely towns and even a castle up close that I had seen in the distance on our car trips. The day dawned sunny, clear and perfect for sight seeing. We were so high at one point that we were looking down on an old, pretty town in the early morning light. Some of the stone houses and churches along the way seemed carved into the mountains. The hills, vineyards, groves and gardens were right out of a National Geographic program and so beautiful. I'd drift off and be surprised by gorgeous vistas each time I opened my eyes. I made myself stay awake to enjoy it. I felt so glad to be living in this part of Italy. When we got to Avezzano, the conductor was replaced by someone else and he walked me to the station, showed me where to buy my ticket, where to eat and wait. Another kind gesture.

The next leg of the journey took until 1215 and did indeed get me to Pescara- just 24 hours later than I planned! A short taxi ride to Cittá Sant'Angelo brought me home with so many unexpected impressions and experiences.

When my grandson was 3 he used to start every walk outdoors with the excited exhortation: "Let's go have an adventure!". Once I got over the shock of not getting on my plane, I remembered his words and consciously decided to see it as an adventure. I did and it was! Added cost to the trip- a lot; the trip itself- priceless.

17 September 2009

Travels

I'm in Ireland seeing family and friends and more of this lovely country. But I don't have consistent access to high speed internet. I'll post when I return. Travels put things into a whole different and wider context. It's good!

10 September 2009

My Cape




Got it! My cape is purple with red triple spirals on it. Purple and red since my preoccupation lately is about becoming an elder/crone and aren't we supposed to wear more purple? A tip to the red hat women by making the spirals red. That and I'm breaking out of my usual colors choices since moving to Italy. Red is not a color I ever used before in a home and now I have a red couch and red accents in our home. I like it!
The triple spirals are an ancient celtic symbol found on the tomb at Newgrange in Ireland. They represent the 3 stages of a woman's life- maiden, mother and crone. I can claim all 3 now!
What have you come up with?

09 September 2009

What Would Your Cape Look Like?

I love my friend, Annee! I'm reading her email to me and all of a sudden she says that's she doing a "sketchbook project" in which the books will travel in 2010 and then be archived. Annee is an artist and she's randomly chosen the subject of superheroes in superclothes. Her question: "What would your cape look like?" She's serious!
That's why I love her. What a great question. No one else I know asks that kind of question. So I'm thinking... what would my cape look like? And, while I'm thinking, I thought I would post it as a question for my readers as well: What would your cape look like? Post it here and we'll share!
Some examples Anne gave: Mother Teresa's is white with two blue stripes bordering it. Coco Chanel's is black and white with pearls. Her friend who has an alter ego named Pinky Vinyl is...well, pink vinyl.
I'm all about entering elderhood these days so I need to have a purple and red thing going on but I'm still searching for the detail to go on it. I'll keep you posted.

05 September 2009

Let's Make a Cake



Our plan was to clean house yesterday and go to the beach today. But in his fun way when we finished the clean up, John said: let's go to the beach for the couple of hours left in the day." Off we went, had a great time and made it home to a spectacular sunset. The photo is from our balcony. As luck would have it, it rained today and I was glad we took the time for fun yesterday.
Although we had a different kind of fun today. Our neighbor had 4 out of 5 of her daughters visiting with their spouses, boyfriends or friends. It's her youngest daughter's birthday and she was not feeling up to the job of making the cake along with everything else that needed doing so we volunteered.
John made a yummy tiramisú (his first and learned at his cooking class in Tuscany. [Yes, I shamelessly give him cooking classes of all kinds as well as cookbooks, anything to keep him in the kitchen!]) We bought a fruit pie from the local bakery as well and also served varieties of berries with vanilla yogurt. The other photo is of the goodies. Everyone had a great time and we enjoyed contributing to the festivities and spending time with such nice people. It is, indeed, the simple things that make life so rich.

31 August 2009

Social Life

Our social life has never been fuller! I've made more friends in a shorter time than any other place I've lived. People I really like, enjoy and want to get to know better. People who have introduced me to new places, new experiences and the life that this part of Italy has to offer. They're mostly bilingual or have spouses or children that are and this blending of cultures is fascinating and fun - American, English, German, South African, Dutch, Venezualan, Irish, Scottish and, of course, Italian. It opens the world up in such an interesting and personal way. I've had invitations to meals, strolls, festas, card playing, site seeing, beaching or just visiting. It makes for a sense of belonging, a glimpse of the future and a full heart.

26 August 2009

Everything Is Growing




John said to me today: "Look, we're growing things!". It's true, our balcony has healthy plants galore- hot peppers, parsley, basil, small leaf basil, rosemary, marjoram and mint (has to have its own large pot because it's such a weed!). They smell so wonderful. And that doesn't count the beautiful begonias of all colors that are thriving as well. They remind me of my mother who grew them and loved them. And the rainbow colored coleus's are just exploding. All this is a first for us (other than the community garden in Maine which was really more our daughter and her husband's doing than ours).
It happened gradually but here we are and everything is obviously very happy on our balcony which faces south (but I do find shade for my coleus plants). We harvest the herbs and peppers and use them in our cooking. (Okay, John uses them in his cooking for us. In case life wasn't already good enough, my husband is the cook in our family!) He makes pesto, roasted hot peppers in olive oil to flavor anything and everything, roasted potatoes with rosemary, garlic potatoes with rosemary, basil on and in anything with tomatoes, and all manner of sauces and flavorings with the various herbs. He even makes his own tomato sauce for pasta with our herbs and fresh tomatoes from our weekly farmer's market. Plus, we make both green and black mint tea in the sun as our summer drinks.
Wow- how did this happen? We're now in sync with the open market and have our favorite "fresh vegetables and fruits from the fields" vendors. That and the fresh bread we buy at the local store and I'm in heaven! Or at least I can see it from here...

25 August 2009

A Quick Visit

I love Italians! John and I went up to our neighbor's last night to bring them fresh figs (so sweet and delicious) to thank them for the gelato they had given us (nice to have a neighbor who works in a gelateria!). We thought we'd be in and out in a minute. No way! They immediately invited all the other families in our apartment building (3) to get together = instant party! Social and gregarious people are a lot of fun! Also, they got to know us a little more, we got to know them a little more and we became a little more part of the fabric of things here. It was a good night.

24 August 2009

La Dolce Vita


I thought it would be big and glamorous, this Italian "sweet life". The great art, architecture, history, culture. That's here, of course. But, it turns out it's actually very simple. Yesterday was a good example. I took some time in the early morning to read a wonderful book, "Sara's Key", that broke my heart (open) once again. Then some snuggle time with my honey before heading for the beach. It's been hot these days and the Adriatic is close by. After a long beach walk and swim, I sat in the lovely pine forest that abuts the beach in Silvi to cool down further and read. Some friends came and joined us for a picnic in the woods- a Sunday tradition in these parts. Then back to the beach (30 yards away) for another walk and swim.
Other friends came and we sat at their stabilimento (section of beach with umbrellas and amenities) and played cards in the breezes of the porch next to the cafe. Since it had cooled down by about 7:00, we headed home for a delicious meal John made.
We walked up to our town at 10:00 for a fun music festival and booths of local crafts and food. There were plenty of music styles to choose from and everyone seemed to enjoy their choices best (mine was a celtic group). We again met friends to walk with and others to greet. It's thrilling to have more and more folks we can call by name and friends we like to share time with.
It was a perfect day filled with simple joys. A sweet life.

20 August 2009

All Ages Included



We had a great block party for our neighborhood the other night and something struck me about it that has been true at the various festas and gatherings that I've attended here in Italy. Always there's such diversity of ages in any get together, from babies and young children up to elderly men and women and all ages in between. Makes me realize how age segregated we've become in the states and how the young don't get the chance to hang out with the old and vice versa. Here, all age groups are present and the folks at any age get to see examples of what to expect for themselves at the next age phase as well as enjoy one another. The socializing, singing, dancing or celebrations of local produce, saints, history or customs so prevalent all summer long brings everyone together in a rich way. It's fun having teenagers singing along with elders and children line dancing with parents and grandparents. Our block party was a blast! Even the evening passegiata brings out the whole community to stroll and greet one another and just be together. It feels good. From my perspective at 63 it is nice to be valued.

18 August 2009

Palio delle Pupe

I was speechless! My mouth hung open the entire evening since I was just flabbergasted! It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. It's a yearly contest of pupa (puppet) dancers. 14 of them compete for the designation of best pupa dancer to bring glory to their area of the city, Capelle sul Tavo. The costumes, the choreography, the fire works displays are planned, decided and made all year long. The palio (prize) happens on August 15, a huge feast day in Italy called Ferragosto, before an enormous crowd that fills the stadium bleachers, the surrounding hills and the grounds next to the contest arena.
The papier maché puppets are fashioned as beautifully decorated women and have large frames around them. The frames are embedded with various kinds of fireworks. The whole thing is heavy enough that it takes 5-6 men to lift it onto the man who is the dancer. A fuse is then lit to start the fire works and the man starts dancing around the stage to music. He continues dancing the entire time the fire works display is being shot from his frame. Some fire works shoot high into the sky in traditional fashion and some shoot out around him in synchronized displays that get the crowd hooting and hollering.
At times it looks very much like the stage is on fire as the still lit fireworks fallout showers down. The stage has to be swept off by 2 men in between dancers to clear this debris.
We went with friends who go every year and tried to tell us about it. But, really, how can you verbally explain something like this? It was astounding and the crowd loved it. We got some footage of one of the dancers, so you can see a little bit of it for yourself. Enjoy, we did! video

16 August 2009

A Magic Moment


It was a such a simple but magic moment: Early in the morning of August 15 on our way to a family celebration in Rocca de Mezzo in the mountains with another couple, we stopped at a castle in Celano. We were marveling at how large and beautiful it was as we walked around it. When we reached the back of the castle we saw an elderly woman in her 80's standing in front of a cafe with jewelry in her hand. We said "Boun giorrno" feeling the friendliness of the great feast day of ferragosto being celebrated all over Italy. She held out her hand and asked if My friend would help her put on her earrings and necklace. The simplicity of her trusting gesture was touching. She said she hadn't been able to wear her jewelry for 10 years because she isn't able to fasten it for herself any longer. But today, she too felt the specialness of the day and wanted to dress up by wearing her gold earrings and necklace.
Of course my friend helped her and we told her how lovely she looked. The woman then invited us in for morning espresso. Turns out she has run a local cafe for 50 years, never married and regaled us with stories about her girlhood in the mountains, including having to ride a donkey to Rocca di Mezzo to get fire wood. She wouldn't accept our offer to pay for the coffee and we walked away knowing we had just had a very special encounter- another Italian moment.
It probably made both our day, hers and ours. The 4 of us talked about it all day, marveled at the simple good we can do for one another and how we affect each another. We shared it with everyone (like now!). Sometimes you just know you've been part of magic.

10 August 2009

Practice Curiosity

I just read a wonderful article by Alexander Green in "Spiritual Wealth" in praise of curiosity. He describes curiosity as as essential attitude toward living and a lust for learning. Curiosity urges us to seek new friends and experiences and to pay attention to all that's going on around us and, more importantly, why.
You know when you read or hear something and your mind goes tilt? Something that organizes the world differently and makes you feel better about yourself? I had that kind of reaction. I love it when that happens.
Of course it covered the obvious facts about curiosity driving explorers of all sorts and even our own greatest discoveries coming from our giving up our status quo. But he also had fresh insights like his challenge to practice curiosity. It reminded me of my grandson's favorite refrain when he was 3: "Let's go have an adventure!" It makes life fascinating! Do we have to lose that as we get older?
Curiosity keeps us in love with life. It opens our minds to other ways of looking at something and it opens our lives by our trying something new. Curious people are fun to be around. Their interest in the world or in us shines through.
I remember a communication workshop that John and I went to years ago where the presenter advocated a way of resolving conflict. He asked the question: "Do you want to keep defending yourself or do you want to learn something new?" I've thought about that ever since and although in some arguments I really really really want to defend, ultimately, it profits us, and even me, to learn. 36 years later (August 11 is our anniversary), I'm still learning and ever so glad to be. It occurs to me as a result that marriage gives me a unique way to see the world through such wholly different eyes. How rich!
So let's support each other in this ultimately satisfying was to live. Let's practice curiosity and get good at it! How have you done this in your life? Have you done something new, listened to a new opinion, seen something you've never seen before? Have you felt your energy increase in the process? Share it. Curiosity is infectious.
Let's be willing to experiment with our life. Let's go have an adventure!

04 August 2009

Differences



Things I'm getting used to:
1. No clothes driers (they use too much electricity): Clothes get hung out to dry. It poses a little problem when living in an apartment since the (small) balcony is the only place to put the clothes rack. But, that's what I do. Of course, everyone else does too so it's just understood that's it okay to have your personals flapping in the breeze for all the world to see. In apartments with no balconies clothes are hung out the window. It's a common sight and a good use of all the sunshine we have.
2. Small refrigerators: food shopping is done daily or every other day in order to have what's freshest and in season. Fresh produce drives the menu. No need for gigantic fridges (they use too much electricity) and freezers. Open markets abound making local food readily available.
3. Bread boxes: bread is also bought fresh daily. Even the local chain supermarket bakes bread every day and puts it, fresh and crisp, in about 25 bins to be chosen by shoppers and cut to order by the woman who holds up large loaves like a hawker. It's always the longest line in the market.
4. Stores close daily at 12 or 1 until 4pm: it calls for an entirely different time management system to juggle this fact. I'm still figuring this one out and it catches me short more times than not.
5. Ditto eating dinner so much later and trying to get 8 hours of sleep and still be able to run early since it's so hot during the summer. Don't know how people who work do it either!
6. Making time each day to study Italian and still feel like such a novice in its use. It's just odd (and frustrating and sometimes isolating) to have a primary language and not be able to use it with most people.
7. Deciding what to do each day when work is not the organizing factor. The search for meaning in this new life phase is ongoing.
8. Distance from loved ones: I'm trying new things to keep in touch- regular emails to the grandkids as well as my daughter, facebook presence, blogs and blog reading, SKYPE, longer vacations when we get together. Any other suggestions?
9. The sheer beauty of where we live. It takes me by surprise on a regular basis.

28 July 2009

Taking a Tour




We went on a tour of our town offered to visitors during the recent festa and loved learning more about Paese. Built in the shape of a fish, it is set amidst the hilly area of the province of Pescara, overlooking the Adriatic Sea and close to the peaks of the Apennine Mountain. Cittá Sant'Angelo is the quintessence medieval hill city of the Abruzzo region. The town contains an ancient culture and tradition visible through the architecture of the city. The monumental architecture of the churches and palaces blend with the poorer architecture of small streets, hidden passages and tunnels that are still part of the old borough. Add to that the piazas, courtyards, community theater, stores, restaurants, trattorie, apartments, villas and even a hotel and you start to get a flavor of this historical center. The city as it is today was formed between 1240 and 1300 after its destruction in 1239 by a neighboring power.
We wandered narrow streets and back alleys that we hadn't yet seen and saw the 6 churches that are in our small town. The oldest one, the Church of St. Agostino was built in 1314 on top of another ancient building and is located on the highest part of the hill of Cittá Sant'Angelo.
We walked on a part of a street built around 1008 that hasn't been changed or updated since. Imagine the history of the feet that have walked those same smooth stones!
It turned out to be a great idea- we came away with more knowledge and a deeper appreciation for our new home.


26 July 2009

Welcome Home



We hung the treasured art pieces, photos and collected personal items yesterday and today. We commented on each of them, when we got it and where, how much we love each one. Where will it look best? Do we still cherish it? Some things got retired, some thrown out, some given away. The rest are just right. It's the final step in the moving in process that makes the apartment our home. We are in Italy 3 months and it feels more and more like home. We love our space, walk around touching things and sit contentedly surrounded by it.
We had friends over for dinner last evening and they commented on the relaxed but lovely feeling of our home- I knew what they meant. Made me very grateful. I felt happy as we walked in Paese last night and greeted friends and neighbors.
This morning as well as I found a new stretch of country road for my run. it's close to our apartment and has beautiful vistas around every corner. Olive trees, gardens laden with tomatoes, green beans and zucchini, grapes hanging down from the horizontal branches characteristic of our area. The ever present mountains were in the distance and clear today after the windsweep of last night that also cooled the summer heat a bit. It's a good place to call home.

23 July 2009

International Evening

It was a simple invitation- "come to dinner" from a couple that we had met at our friends house and liked immediately. You know the kind- warm, friendly and interesting. So we went. Dinner was served outside since the weather has been warm (hot during the day!). Their garden was lovely and fragrant and the night air soft. Their hospitality was gracious- focused but fun.
What was amazing was the mix of people there. 2 Germans married to Italians, 5 native born Italians either spouses or boy/girlfriends of people of other nationalities, an Italian born and brought up in South Africa but now living here and married to an Italian, their 2 young adult children born in South Africa and now living in Italy, an adult child of the host couple who is Italian living in England and trilingual (Italian, German, English), his English girlfriend, his 2 teenage children who live in England, 2 Americans (John and me) and 1 little boy who spoke to his mother and our hostess in German and his father and everyone else in Italian!
What a fabulous evening we spent! The travels, languages, perspectives, experiences of those present made for fascinating exchanges. The conversation was stimulating, of course, and good natured sharing and laughter ruled the night. It was one of those evenings I so enjoyed that I didn't want it to end (and, indeed, it was almost midnight before we left). As we talked and marveled afterwards, I realized that this sort of experience was one of the dreams I had in moving to Italy. I hoped for the mix of people and cultures present this evening, inspiring and enriching all. Surely this inter-nationality is the future of our species if we are to survive and we had a tantalizing taste now. It was good, deeply nourishing.

20 July 2009

Tradizioni in Festa



This week is one of the biggest yearly festivals in Cittá Sant'Angelo celebrating the relationship with our sister city in Sicily. The rich history of both are shown in costume, cuisine, theater and crafts. The parade on the first day was splendid with traditional costumes, instruments, music and dance of both provinces. The Sicilian horses in their finery pulled carts depicting the history of Italy in uniquely intricate and colorful drawings. Visitors fill the city and booths for food, art and crafts line the streets. It's very enjoyable and involves young and old alike. Some of the ceramics of the Sicilian province (near Mt. Etna) is made with the lava from that famous volcano. Gorgeous items hand painted with traditional designs are for sale.
Our city opens up areas not usually open to the public, for example La Antica Cisterna and enclosed courtyards. That cistern, by the way, is like an underground cathedral- huge and with arched columns holding water at some incredible depth. There wasn't information available about the amount of water held so it's left to the imagination of the observer. Since some of the buildings date back to the 1200s, the underground or inner structures are awesome. The sheer surprise factor makes for great fun and new appreciation of our city.
Every evening has plays, musicals, concerts or shows together with the sale of characteristic foods of both regions. The beautiful views in every direction while taking part in such a grand festa is one of the reasons Cittá Sant'Angelo is known by all as a "bella cittá".

13 July 2009

View From My Balcony



The view from the balcony is spectacular the last few days. The sky is clear from a hum-dinger thunder and lightening storm the other night that washed the foschia ( a haze that's not quite fog) away. The remarkable blue serves as a perfect backdrop to the mountains that are visible down to the smallest feature which is amazing given that we can see the whole Apenine range. The sea on the east is such a lovely color, deeper than the blue of the sky and shaded with 3 distinct hues. I was reading at the table yesterday and got absorbed in my book. When I looked up it took my breath away.
Sitting in silence in the presence of this view fills me up, much like the workshop did, and gives me courage. I had my fist conversation with a friend to ask her about getting together to talk about what our role is as women elders. I had some trepidation doing it since we hadn't really talked at that depth before. But it went well and she said she had been wanting to talk at a deeper level with other women. We're discussing now about who we might include for our first gathering. It's a good start.

06 July 2009

Take Time for Inspiration


Last weekend I went to a conference entitled "Cultivating Women's Spiritual Mastery" led by 3 contemporary women spiritual masters from the Buddhist, Christian and Hindu traditions. They were the featured speakers and guest teachers. What a rare treat to receive inspiration and guidance from these amazing women each of whom has forged a unique spiritual path based on her heart's calling. They were, nonetheless, down to earth and fun with great stories about their work!
It was a packed schedule of talks, meditation, prayer, sharing, exploration and inquiry. 70 women attended from 13 countries. It was a good way to connect with like-minded women from Italy and beyond.
I think the most remarkable thing besides the sheer humanity of the teachers, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Sister Lucy Kurien and Swami Ambikananda, was their emphasis on service. They were very practical in having their beliefs inform their life work, manifest through work.

Some highlights for me:
> Become the one you've been waiting for.
> Listen to your inner voice in trust that she knows.
> What is to be born from you?
> You don't just stand for you but for all women who have no voice.
> Cultivate presence, even to uncertainty and ambiguity.
> Become your own point of reference.
> We must take up this struggle because women exist outside the power structures so only we can change them.
> Why are my daughters still in the street begging, or being stoned or burned to death, or left uneducated, or floundering not knowing their calling...?
> We must ready the next generation for spiritual growth and service not war and work.
> Our icons are important. What icons do we offer to women today? How can they see themselves reflected in all their glory and amazing strength?
> Devi is the divine feminine of god and the devi is being called today.
> We must come back to our true selves- good, kind and generous warriors.
> Conflict is within me not "out there". The fight is to leave behind the too little self and allow our full emergence into our warrior selves.
> The demons within are anger, laziness and too small a vision of myself.
> Share what you already have with others and realize you are on the path.
> Grandmothers' responsibility is to the 7 future generations. Share your love, be that love, share your flame. Get serious and take time for your own spiritual practice.
> We're not in competition with men but redressing the balance.
> Stop refusing leadership and giving it to men.
> Step up to the plate with urgency- the planet is dying!
> Set up times to get together and re-inspire each other.
> Our life must be our spiritual practice in order to transform.
> Emotions can lead to transformation. What are you going to do with this energy?
> Breath is the bridge to stillness.
> Gather women around issues, not around spirituality. Invite women from different groups to address the issue. Then go to work.
> We're not a fragile gender. We give birth to the next generation and risk our lives to do it. We're not weak.
> When you work from the known, you're in the ego. When you work from the unknown, you're in the divine. The ego never goes into unknown territory.
> Let's re-introduce spirituality even if we work out of the framework of religion.
> How do you change men? You change yourself.

It was a rich, challenging weekend. It was certainly on point for me at this time. They asked 2 questions of us on the last day: 1. What am I being called to do?
2. What can I commit to now?
My answers: 1. To craft a new role for grandmothers as respected elders in our culture so that we can bring our wisdom to the issues of our day.
2. Gather some grandmothers together and start to discuss how to do this individually and collectively.
It makes my hands sweat and my stomach tighten, especially since I live in a country where I'm still learning the language, but I can start with women who speak English too. And there's always online communication. I can start.

24 June 2009

How To Make Someone's Day

One of the frustrations of the last 10 weeks has been the sporadic, spotty and slow internet connection we've had (or not had!). Well today that got fixed and what a difference! Everything had been taking great hunks of time to do. But we now have both a home phone and ADSL. I jumped on AOL and was on and off in minutes- same with Facebook and now the blog. What a joy to have it quickly and surely available. How fabulous to have an idea and execute it immediately. Made my whole day.
The nicest man from the telecom company was at our neighbors, had a tight time schedule but was willing to come over and look at ours (which wasn't working despite having been installed 2 days ago). Well he walked in, saw and remedied the problem in minutes and showed me what to do to register with the internet server. I told him he was my hero and how grateful I was. He smiled and even gave me a high 5! He also told me how to register John's laptop on his return from CA. He then refused any compensation. And he was able to do that because an electrician who was at our other neighbors came and set up a second live phone jack in our home office (which the original installers hadn't done). He did it willingly and wouldn't take an offer of payment. Have I told you how generous and willing to help these Italians are? Just two more examples.
Made me also realize how important we are to each other in this complex world. How the act of reaching out, both by neighbors and workman, and doing a little extra for someone can make such a huge difference in their quality of life. What a great example. What an important teaching.

23 June 2009

Improvements

Things did improve at school. A couple of days later, another student was talking about something funny that happened and we were all laughing and talking and I was understanding most of it. Gave me hope.
Now that school is over I still set aside time to study since I have so much to learn. Today I set a hair appointment over the phone and went to the bank to pay a bill all by myself. It felt really good! I couldn't go much further than what I rehearsed but I got the job done both times.
People are very forgiving and try to help when they see I'm not a native speaker. There's this certain oh- I -get- it- you- don't- speak- the- language look usually accompanied by a smile that comes over their face. They get so kind at that point. It touches my heart and it helps.
I'm reading the newspaper (dictionary in hand) and listening to the radio. There's a classical station where the announcers speak more slowly and clearly. Very useful for me- plus I love the music! Movies are next.

16 June 2009

Scuola di italiano

For the last 2 1/2 weeks I've been taking language lessons at an Italian language school in the historic district of Lanciano, a lovely city not too far from where we live. The 2 teachers are terrific and very patient with me. I'm not as patient with me and it's slow going at best. I feel discouraged when I forget today the lessons learned last week. Some days are better than others but if I'm tired, like today, it's a disaster! I want to communicate with those around me but I get so frustrated when I don't have the words to give voice to my thoughts.
Today I struggled with the word londra the teacher was using. Is it a verb I don't know, a noun not in my vocabulary yet or one of those impossible prepositions? I asked her and she said it's the word for london and she was really emphasizing another point altogether! We all had a good laugh but you can see how it goes sometimes. Everyone says:"Just talk with people and you'll improve." But that's the point- I don't know how to say what I want to say so how do I converse! I want to shout: "I can speak well in my native language, really I can!"
I sometimes think there must be some basic thing I'm missing that is the key somehow to having it all click into place. Meanwhile I slog on and do my homework faithfully. And now I'm panic stricken when I realize school is over for me the end of this week. I thought I'd be doing better by now! If this is one of the life lessons I need to learn- I don't want to learn it!
Maybe I'm trying too hard and I need to relax, keep talking and believe it will come. I look at others who have done it - if they can I can...I hope.

09 June 2009

Passeggiata


Our italian neighbors have a wonderful custom called the passeggiata, the public walk or stroll. Each evening, or most of them, individuals, couples or families go to their town center, or the beach promenade, and stroll along. They greet one another, chat and catch up with neighbors and friends. It gets folks out and walking, it takes time, it slows the day down for the coming night, it renews bonds. They're is really no other agenda. How lovely.