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!

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


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.