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.