30 September 2011

100 Word Story: January Child

I've been reading 100 word stories at Mr. London Street this week and was inspired to offer this:

Mother napped me on the porch to be toughened 
by the gales of winter, to cut teeth on New England nor'easters 
and fight the undeclared war against girls. 
Middle child, only girl, small for my age.

I grew to a storm wintered warrior child, 
sight practiced on bare lilac thicket, schooled by wind 
in how the world sounds, cries accompanied 
by jays and blackbirds, layered against the elements.

Perhaps my skirmishes were attempts to win 
that unwinable war but I fought with the fury of calling,
battered brothers' enemies, marshaled anger from hidden fronts 
as I gave birth to myself.

(photo from all-free-download.com)

28 September 2011

Where I'm From

I wanted to explore this topic and found this format as a means to say "Where I'm From" in a more specific, tangible way. It has taken many weeks to finish but I deeply appreciated the process.

I'm from a balcony in Italy these days, from a land where south and west horizon meets in mountains frosted with clouds, and the sea beckons from the east with its sunrise sparkled water, a balcony of lavender that scents the air and reminds me of embroidered pillows my mother gave me to perfume dresser drawers and forever encode that fragrance with her.

From an apartment scaled to cocoon that wraps me, but spiced with the reds and golds of this peppery land, a home faced south with granite tiles that cool my feet in summer and warm them in winter when sun slants in. Books flood this home, sorted into topics that tell my story: celtic lore, poetry, women's studies, travel books, children's tales, indigenous spirituality, historical novels; words that witness a journey.

I'm from begonias, a terrestrial species that collude with this warm climate to grow showy flowers of pink and scarlet in the perennial cycle of thriving, dying and waking back that plots my course, too.

From McLellan's and Harvey's, Tierney's and Donovan's, Scottish and Irish who forged strong women, made  strawberry-rhubarb, mince meat and apple pies, grew tomatoes, rhubarb and concord grapes for jelly and jam, read, argued and held strong opinions.  

          I'm from the bossy that struts in when strong is expected in a child, from you don't air 
         your dirty linen in public, from good girls don't get angry, from staunch Catholics on 
         both sides, awash in Catholic doctrine, from family secrets, subliminal, not yet understood.
         I'm from Massachusetts, from corned beef and cabbage, potatoes and turnips.

From the aloneness of grandmother's first born with raging fever at ten months on a remote farm in Nova Scotia while grandfather was out at sea. He felt a strange heaviness in his arms, unable to row, said to his friends that he must go back. The baby boy died in his mother's arms before her husband reached. Grandfather carried the tiny, white casket in his arms for the funeral, the weight just as he had felt it.
From the grandmother born in Irish South Boston who found and married the only protestant around and converted him. From the great grandmother who came from Ireland, lived with her daughter, doted on her only grandson, wanted only to dance at his wedding and died two days later.

I'm from boxes of photos kept on the shelf of mother's bedroom closet, taken down at holidays to remind us of our family story, photos I fought to claim after she died to pass on to my daughter and grandchildren, the record of  ancestors, all who existed to produce these two Dear Ones. 

25 September 2011

Develop Curiosity

There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable.
A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet.

Pema Chodron
Tibetan Buddhist nun and teacher

A new friend, Christine, visited yesterday and shared a bit about her life journey. She came the day after I received this quote of Pema Chodron. And in a synchronicity, she seemed to me to be a good example of Chodron's ideal of one who has developed her curiosity, not knowing if the results will be bitter or sweet. Christine's been an artist, entrepreneur, furniture maker and wine sales person. She's lived in many places in the US, lost spouses, been seriously ill herself, worries about her sons in the states, relocated alone to the remote village of her ancestors in our region of Abruzzo and experiences all the culture shock that you can imagine that entails. But her attitude is upbeat, positive, and filled with the energy that comes from genuine curiosity. She travels all over Italy drinking it all in. She's fun and interesting to be with.

Chodron praises curiosity, exhorts us to develop it. Then sets up a stark juxtaposition- avoid pain and get comfortable vs taking an interesting, adventurous and joyful approach to life whether it brings us the bitter or the sweet. We just went through the laborious process of renewing our permesso di soggiorno (permission to stay) for another two years and smacked up against the bureaucracy that characterizes Italy. A taste of the bitter. But after five months and two attempts following submission of all documents needed to actually get them, we got them. By ourselves. In Italian. Without the letter we were supposed to have received in the mail setting up our appointment. A sweet outcome.

Our move here 2 1/2 years ago came from a desire to explore Italy and Europe. To experience a different culture, language, environment and history. It has brought in its wake the self-doubt, the uncomfortable, even painful experiences Chodron describes but also the joy that comes from doing something interesting and adventurous that expands curiosity in the process. Chodron uses a strange word in her juxtaposition- kind. Maybe that's her true wisdom, it's kind to ourselves and to others to develop our curiosity. It grows us and enables us to taste the world of another. Sweet.

23 September 2011

Friday's Photo - Phone Caddy

Made in Italy and amazingly helpful. I like the color, too.

Where do you put your phone while charging it?

20 September 2011

250th Blog Post

This is my 250th blog post and I'm sitting here amazed. When I started this blog to attempt to stay aware  on my journey as an elder, I really didn't think of how many posts I would write or for how long or if I could continue to write. I just wrote a post and another day I wrote a post and another day I wrote a post and so on until today when I write my 250th. In the meanwhile, I've made new and wonderful friends in the blogosphere, been inspired by them, and shared in significant ways with them. Writing has become deeply important to me. My world has expanded in ways I couldn't have predicted.

Running is similar. I started to run in my 60's. After the initial process of getting used to it, working through the kinks, hating it and wanting to stop and eventually, loving it, and not being able to think of my life without it. Now, I run three times a week, every week. At some point my Nike + iPod announced that I had run 250 miles since I started to wear their chip that keeps track of my runs. Then, a while ago, it announced that I had run 500 kilometers and I was surprised. One step at a time. In the meanwhile, I've run races for good causes that matter to me, met fascinating people who are vital and healthy and I have a way to stay fit. Running has become deeply important to me.  My life has been enriched in ways I couldn't have predicted.

Maybe a lot of life IS about showing up. Doing what we say we will do. Doing what we know to be good for us or important or what we love. Until we find that we're writing our 250th blog post or running our 500th kilometer or, in some other significant way, celebrating a milestone that's important to us. And feeling good about ourselves. More in love with our lives. With richer, fuller lives than we could have imagined.

17 September 2011

Gimme Shelter | Playing For Change

I saw this on Grandma's Briefs and knew I wanted to play it for you in support of this unifying cause.
Today is the Playing For Change Day for 2011. Playing For Change Foundation is a non-profit organization raising funds for music education programs for children around the world. Listen to musicians from all over the world as they sing "Gimme Shelter" in their communities.
You'll be glad you did.

A great quote shown before the song is an Irish proverb:
"It is in the shelter of each other that people live."

16 September 2011

Irish Pasta

When this basil needed pruning, I looked at my husband, "pesto" we said together:

First, take the leaves off the stems:

Add pine nuts with some walnuts:

Add garlic:

Add olive oil from olives we picked. Mix it in the blender. Stand in the kitchen, close your eyes and breathe in the tang of basil that fills the room:

Add freshly grated aged parmesan cheese:

Which altogether becomes this:

Which, because the pesto and beans are green and potatoes are added to the butterfly pasta, becomes what my husband, chef extraordinaire,  has named Irish pasta:

Eat outside and savor the fresh flavor with a glass of crisp, white wine. Add avocado drizzled with lime. Enjoy.

13 September 2011


Slowly evening takes on the garments held for it by a line of ancient trees. You look, and the world recedes from you. Part of it moves heavenward, the rest falls away.

And you are left, belonging to neither fully, not quite so dark as the silent house, not quite so sure of eternity as that shining now in the night sky, a point of light. You are left, for reasons you can't explain, with a life that is anxious and huge, so that, at times confined, at times expanding, 
it becomes in you now stone, now star.
Book of Images

Because at times we are confined and at times expanding, 
now stone, now star.

Photos from our next door neighbors' balcony two nights ago 
(thanks Lucia).
Poetry from "A Year With Rilke" kindly hosted by Ruth and Lorenzo.

12 September 2011

The Wine of My Own Poetry

Because the teacher comes along exactly when needed, 
these quotes came to me in the last two days:

The Wine of My Own Poetry

I didn't trust it for a moment
but I drank it anyway,
the wine of my own poetry.
It gave me the daring to take hold
of the darkness and tear it down
and cut it into little pieces.

-- Lala, a 14th century Persian poet


"There’s a reason that you can learn from everything: you have basic wisdom, basic intelligence, and basic goodness. Therefore, if the environment is supportive and encourages you to be brave and to open your heart and mind, you’ll find yourself opening to the wisdom and compassion that’s inherently there. It’s like tapping into your source, tapping into what you already have. It’s the willingness to open your eyes, your heart, and your mind, to allow situations in your life to become your teacher."

Pema Chodron

My Inspiration

And that's to say nothing of the collective wisdom of my friends in the blogoshere whom I treasure, whose words I find to be words to live by, who reminded me of what I had forgotten: We have enough, we are enough, we are perfect just the way we are and when we are true to ourselves, our very lives are poetic. My deepest gratitude.

09 September 2011

In Search of Self

I sit here on my balcony. It's 82 degrees and the breeze flaps the awning. I listen to Sarah Brightman on the iPod as she sings "Nella Fantasia" in her high, clear voice that lingers on those lilting Italian words. In front of me the Majella Mountains are dimmed by the heat haze to a blue outline jutting into the sky. The clouds, too, are indistinct, a white gauze against the lightened sky. The Adriatic has lost its two toned aqua/turquoise summer coloring and is a single shade of blue more intense than today's sky. Next to me, new stalks of lavender shoot up in defiance of September's date and sweeten the air with their characteristic scent. I feel a vague restless yearning that I want to put into words to better understand it. And so I write.

I retired two years ago. At that time I thought I would provide some kind of grand service to humanity, then undefined but important none-the-less. I presumed it would appear, this new vocation, and I would grab hold of it, dig in and never look back. Only it didn't and I haven't. Instead, I sometimes feel uneasy that I don't do enough or don't do that thing that I'm meant to do at this life stage.

These days, I read and study Italian daily, write most days, run three times a week, travel with my husband to explore Europe, talk with him and foster our relationship in new ways, currently by exploring some different ways to enjoy sex at our age. I stay in touch with my daughter, my grandchildren and close friends and plan for the yearly gathering of the young women in our family with me and my sister-in-law. I used to write poetry but the inspiration for poems that I had years ago seems gone. It leaves me bereft.

Well, that popped up unexpectedly! Like my hand knew something my mind didn't. Bereft at losing poetry? Hmmm. But wait, I read "A Year With Rilke" every day. I'm eager for new poems by Ruth at "Synch-ro-ni-zng" and read them again and again to feel her words in my mouth and hear them as she (online) or I read them out loud and they sing around the room while I melt in admiration. I haven't told her that. I'm so envious. I haven't told myself that. Writing poetry is so elusive now. I feel inadequate to the task of crafting such exact descriptions that I say: "Yes, yes, that's how it is; that's what I want to say."

Poetry, where are you? I miss you. You make my heart beat faster. I invite you back. I will listen.

07 September 2011

Convergent Evolution

I thought I was looking at a tiny hummingbird with his long proboscis in our red geranium. (Look where yellow and orange meet about a third of the way down the photo.) I've seen hummingbirds as small as this in Trinidad's Rain Forest. The smallest of the hummingbirds, the Bee Hummingbird, lives there and measures just 5cm. But my neighbor's daughter told me that Italy has no hummingbirds and that instead it was a hummingbird hawk-moth. Who knew there was such a thing?

(image from Wikipedia)

Wikipedia said that the Hummingbird Hawk-moths that are loving my plants are a good example of convergent evolution. Right on my balcony! Ever a sucker for new facts, I skipped to the info about convergent evolution and found that it "describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages." They cited the example of an owl and a cat which are "distantly related predators that share keen, night-time binocular vision and targetable ears to help their night time hunting."

(both images from Wikipedia)

But back to the Hummingbird Hawk-moths and the hummingbirds. My tiny visitor  is distinguished among moths for his rapid, sustained flying ability. In fact he is one of the fastest flying insects clocking in at 50km/h or 30m/h. He and his species hover in midair while they feed on nectar from flowers. Like hummingbirds, they are specialized nectarivores. Imagine! 

Anyway, their hovering capability has evolved only three times in nectar feeders: in hummingbirds, certain bats and hawk moths (family: sphingidae). The hummingbird hawk-moth's hovering is similar to, but distinct from, that of hummingbirds. Both have long and mostly straight bills for their specialized nectar feeding and drink it with their trough-like tongues.

It seems the plants that are pollinated by hummingbirds or hummingbird hawk-moths produce flowers in shades of red, orange and bright pink. My geranium is an almost neon orangey-red so that's evidently why I'm seeing so many of these hawk-moths. It's okay with me, nature is an awesome teacher!