28 April 2010

What's It All About?

I've not posted in a while and I've been thinking about what I really want to post. This started as a blog about my journey into elderhood, keeping as aware of the process as I am able. My move to Italy happened at the same time and that's been amazing in and of itself for me. So, sometimes my posts are travelogues and sometimes more about the journey. Which brings up the question of what to focus on.

After 1 year in Italy (this month) John wrote a newsletter for family and friends that summarized the biggest lessons we've learned in our first year: 1. The people are amazing! 2. Developing a network of friends is critical (corollary of #1). 3. Everything in Italy takes longer than expected. 4. Learning a new language in our 60's takes longer than we imagined (corollary of #3). 5. It is wonderful to be surrounded by such scenic beauty and rich history. He sat down and whipped those out in a short time. He's like that.

Just the writing with him of lessons learned made me wonder- "What's it all about, Alfie?" for me? Where am I on this journey 1 year down the line? What makes me the happiest? In my writing? In my life these days? What gets my juices flowing? Have I developed the focus I wanted when I first retired 1 year ago? Good questions but not many answers, though I wish there were. Meanwhile, I spent the entire day in Rome yesterday and saw such achingly beautiful paintings (Carvaggio), such beautiful places (Trevi Fountain, St. Peters, Piazza Navona), and such ancient history (the Apian Way, the original walls of Rome) that I wanted to weep, laugh and sit quietly to take it all in- all at once! Which keeps on happening this year and makes me want to write about it and makes me wonder if I've lost focus and....

So here I am, feeling awed, grateful and a little lost. I thought I would have more of a sense of what my next step should be by now. I love my life and I sense there's more expected of me, more to give. Is that left over catholic guilt or premonition? I don't know. I don't like not knowing so I'm more tempted to fill up the pages with adventures in Italy, but it's not just about adventures, is it? Isn't there something more important than adventures? Or should this be in praise of adventures? And isn't it unseemly to be this unsure at my age?

I'm doing the things that are in front of me to do: 1. growing with, loving and traveling with my husband, 2. becoming a full resident of this new and lovely country, 3. becoming closer to and cheering on my amazing daughter and nieces, 4. being an unconditional grandchild lover, 4. reading and writing on topics I find inspiring. Meanwhile, I'm cultivating presence to uncertainty and ambiguity these days and paying attention to what else comes my way. I hope I'm paying close enough attention so I find the way for me to serve, to find what else is to be born from me. I want to leave behind a too little self and allow full emergence into my self.

Is it just me that thinks this way? What do you think?

18 April 2010

Books, Kindles and True Love

Our other favorite art pieces are up now (finished today) and it's fun to see how they look just a little different in their new environment. I get to see them in new light (literally) and appreciate them again.

The books have their new cozy homes and are already inviting me to peruse them yet again. I'm going to accept that offer for sure. When something has saved or changed your life, it's important to spend time with it and maybe reap further benefits. They beckon me: "come, sit awhile, cherish the words, the turn of phrase, the stories...". They think I'm two-timing them because I bought a Kindle while they were away. And I love my Kindle but it's still books, right?

And that reminds me, I LOVE my Kindle. It links to the internet so I can buy books right off Amazon, dangerous but so convenient. It will hold a thousand books, is the size of a book and has the same heft to it. It has a dictionary built in so I just put the cursor in front of the word and get the definition without having to get up. That's the best! The screen is such that I can read it in the brightest sun with no problem. I can earmark pages, underline and retrieve my notes when I want. It has a keyboard to write notes or change font size. And even I learned to use it quickly and I'm no techie. All this and the sheer joy of reading too- like I said, I'm in love.

Goes for days on a charge and can be recharged via computer or plugged in an outlet. I like to read multiple books at a time (anyone else do that?) and the Kindle lets me do this without an armload of books. When I went to Trinidad and Antigua this winter, I carried a ridiculous number of books to keep me supplied while there and ran into weight overage on Ryan Air! No more. Yup, it's true love!

17 April 2010

Welcome Home

While I lived in Antigua for the 2 1/2 years before moving to Italy, I left some art, photo albums, books, dishes and personal items in storage in Maine. Either I just didn't need them in a furnished rental or they might get damaged in Antigua. A few days ago, the shipment of these items arrived. It's the last of our goods and it feels wonderful to have them around once again. It's like being reunited with treasured friends. Seeing again how lovely they are, how they bring back a flood of warm memories, how they make me feel at home. "Oh, remember this? Was she ever that little? Remember when we got this and the artist we talked to? This is the book that changed my life. Remember when this poetry saved my life?"

Old photos celebrating 36 years, books that couldn't not live with us. Poetry books collected through the years and serving as life rafts more than once. Our original set of dishes given by my mother and godmother when we got married, hand painted in Scotland, witness to countless meals with family and friends and life changing conversations. I think the dishes hold that energy and bring it to new friends and conversations. I'm sure that's why family and friends linger over the table when the meal is long done.

My commitment to keeping only what we use and love and using all that we have means I pared down to what fits in our small apartment. Magically, it all fits! And what's here nourishes my heart. Welcome to Italy, welcome back, welcome home!

09 April 2010

A Remarkable Adventure

It started as an adventure to show Loreto Aprutino, a picture postcard hill- city nearby, to my husband's cousins from Ireland. Well, it ended as an adventure, too, but not the adventure we planned. It was instead the "oh, oh, we've driven our car down the wrong narrow street and it ends in stairs and now we can't back it out because it's soooo narrow and curved and steep" kind. So, the adventure had to do with experiencing the generosity, kindness and persistence of our Italian neighbors. Big time!

Alone, we just succeeded in making yucky smelling smoke pour out the front of the car while we tried to back it up the very steep incline, around the corner 6 inches wider than the car without going over the stone wall in front of us. Really. So the nice young man out walking his dog stopped to help and then went to get the town policeman to help who then called the local mechanic to help who called the servicio assistanza man to help. All of whom were advised and encouraged by the local older men who get involved in whatever is going on anywhere. And, when all else failed, a local guy with a tractor was called and hauled us out inch by inch by a rope tied to the end of the car. All of this took about 1 1/2 hours.

In the end, there were back slaps and handshakes and grazie's all around and everyone refused any other kind of compensation. Everyone. Absolutely. The policeman then led us out of town and waved good-bye. I think we gave them a good story to tell in the cafe! But, we had a great story to tell as well- of people taking time out for strangers and sticking with it until the job was done and continuing to call for help until the job was done and finding all the satisfaction they needed in the job finally well done and the strangers finally okay. Remarkable.

02 April 2010

Buona Pasqua

Easter is huge in Italy! This whole Easter week has been amazing and yesterday was one of those lovely days with a little bit of everything good to savor. My neighbor suggested a mountain hike and picnic in a park nestled in the mountains and surrounded by ancient hill cities seemingly carved into rock wall. Mother nature cooperated by providing the kind of spring weather that begs frolicking outdoors.

The rushing stream, full with spring snow melt, kept me company as I walked. An old pump in the picnic area let us sample the delicious water. And why does food always taste better outdoors, even simple picnic fare? Afterward, we explored a couple of the medieval cities and met again the hospitality famous in this area of Italy when a man and his wife offered to make us coffee when the local cafe in one of those towns was closed. We sat and chatted as we availed ourselves of their generosity.

Then, back to Sulmona for the second time this week with its festive confetti everywhere to pick up gifts for our neighbors. Easter (Pasqua) has feast day ceremonies galore on all the days leading up to it and gift exchange is common with family and friends. Flowers of all colors made from almond candies were fun to pick out and have arranged. To top it all off, we heard a concert by the Kiev String Orchestra that we happened to see advertised as we walked around. It was a wonderful, all women orchestra who, together with an Italian soprano and a Russian mezzo-soprano, performed a program of Easter sacred music. Their strong, sweet voices blending with the gorgeous strings were world class. Vivaldi, Puccini, Mozart, Handel and Franck - heaven! It was an awesome and very special way to end the day, all the more perfect because it was unplanned. A gift.

But we weren't done, because when we returned home, we heard about a new fish restaurant opening in our town. Off we went to dinner with friends in our tiny but rich town. My heart was full of gratitude for my life as I went to bed. New life just like the season celebrates.