31 October 2011

Call and Response

This is offered in response to the prompt for a "Call and Response poem" from dVerse- Poets Pub. (before I knew of the time limit) This is a marvelous site for learning about different kinds of poetry as well.

Call and Response

"I've a strange heaviness in my arms, Mac. Can't seem to row at all. Something's wrong. I need to get back to Mae and the baby." 

"We'll turn her around, Angus. We can do the rowing. Should be back by the afternoon if the waves hold constant." 

He saw Mae sitting by the window, the baby in her arms, as he rushed into the house.

"What's wrong, Mae? The baby's so still."

"Oh, Angy Mal, our Donald died this morning. He had a fierce fever while you were gone. He fought hard, poor wee one. I was praying you'd come."

"I had to come back, I couldn't row, Mae, had a heaviness in my arms. What can I do?"

"Best to make a casket to bury our baby in. Paint it white, pure soul that he was."

Angus carried the casket in his arms for the funeral. "Mae, this is the heaviness I felt in my arms in the boat, the very same."

29 October 2011

I Had A Dream

For Kelly

I had a dream when my daughter turned twenty: she began to eat the tall plant in our living room. I knew she wouldn't stop. She turned green like the plant, her lips, her face, her neck. I feared the plant would take her over, evolve her into a new life form. The she/plant grew wildly out of control, spread to the carpet, filled the room, then the house. I panicked, declared: "There'll be no more plant eating in this house!" As if I could stop it, or her, or needed to.

Prophecies come in dreams. She moved to Trinidad's Rain Forest, staked her claim to earth, connected to the plants in this far away land,  discovered the ancient world view and speaks it anew: "All my relations." She gives back in balance as she takes, knows her power, walks in beauty in a sacred way and brings her medicine to mother earth. Earth needs her medicine.

27 October 2011

How to Fish And Not Get Seasick

These odd structures with the odd name of trobacchi are actually an ingenious way to fish without ever going out to sea. Like fishing huts on stilts. They dot the 15 km southern coastline in my province of Abruzzo with their organic, quirky constructions that look like the anatomy of some exotic sea creature. Two or three of their long arms provide a network for nets that project out to sea and take advantage of favorable currents to scoop up fish.

Made from acacia trees that grow behind the beaches and salvaged drift wood washed in by the tide, each one looks quite different. Fishing families since the 18th century used these ancient formations as their main source of income. It took ingenuity to devise a framework for fishing based on a sparse population that needed to lessen loss of life at sea and not be hampered by weather conditions. Indeed, as they are repaired, trobocchi have resisted decades of storms while remaining flexible. Impressive.

Due to the over- fishing in deeper waters, Trobocchi are now cultural symbols, tourist attractions and even restaurants rather than sustainable fishing machines. My Honey and I joined friends for a Slow Food meal on a trobocco not far from us near Vasto and pictured below. The food was fresh, local and typical (the criteria of Slow Food Movement) and we feasted on gifts from the sea. One dish was a local fish soup called Rodetto di Pesche all Vastese made with assorted fishes, tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. Delicious.

There is some food that feeds more than physical hunger. This would be an example. 
How about for you?

22 October 2011

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

It's chestnut season where I live. Chestnuts used to offer tasty sustenance through the long winter months to the peasants in this Abruzzo area of Italy. They are now available at the open markets that dot our region. Look for skins with a healthy glow and a beautiful brown shine.

Chestnuts from our local market were roasted on an open fire right on my stove in a fancy roasting pan purchased in our little town.

Wash the chestnuts in cold water first. Cut an X shape on the flatter end (so it doesn't explode when cooked) but not piercing the skin, then roast on low flame for about 15- 20 minutes. Shake them frequently and put a lid on the pan since chestnuts open up dramatically and with force. Doesn't it look like they've just opened their hearts?

Drop into a bowl when they're all opened and nicely roasted. Squeeze the chestnut before peeling and it will peel easier. Sprinkle with a little salt or cinnamon and eat while warm. Wine is a wonderful accompaniment.

I'm sorry that a blog can't contain smells because roasting chestnuts have a gorgeous, abundant, open- fire scent that made my mouth water before I ate one. European chestnuts are larger, sweeter and easier to peel than American chestnuts.

But it's the taste that is most remarkable. Chestnuts, freshly roasted, have a smooth, substantial texture. I knew I was eating a tree gift with in its essential treeness intact. Their taste hints at cinnamon (before adding it) but nutty and sweet with a full on, ample chestnut taste of their own that kept me popping them.

It seems like such a bounteous gift from the tall ones, an extravagant sharing of tree substance with us two-leggeds. Have we lavished this kind of plentiful love back on them? Or offered gratitude for this all- inclusive nourishment? These sweet chestnuts are part of me. My strength redolent with this tree gift.

21 October 2011

Talking is Good, But We Knew That

My Honey and I were reading about stress reduction the other day. We knew the secret from experience: "talk to each other." Turns out that we were right all along. You've read all the suggestions for handling stress: exercise, meditate, breath. All good. But now they're finding that talking to your spouse or loved ones reduces stress the best. 38 years of marriage taught us that, but it's good to have research back us up. We should have written a book.

It seems too simple, doesn't it? Just talk. Tell folks that care about you and that you care about how you're feeling. Women do that with one another fairly easily on a regular basis but it's good for men too. Talk to your spouse, talk to another trusted relative, talk to a close friend. Do it often. They know you and love you. They hold your highest good in their heart. We're made for that love. It's good for us.

Have a great weekend.

20 October 2011

100,000 Monks

100,000 Monks pray for a better world.
Let us join them.
All our energy toward a worthy goal.
What might we accomplish?

19 October 2011

Steve Jobs, Rilke, Monet

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

                                            Steve Jobs
                                                    Stanford University Commencement address, 2005

You carry within you the capacity to imagine and give shape to your world. It is a pure and blessed way of living. Train yourself to this, but also trust whatever comes. If it comes from your desire, from some inner need, accept that and hate nothing.

Worpswede, July 16, 1903
Letters to a Young Poet


17 October 2011

Soft Air and Cartoons

I sit on my balcony as the day turns to evening and the air is soft from a lovely slide back to summer temps. It reminds me of an Irish poem I read that admonished me, as I remember it, to "let him be, he is growing, the air is soft above his head." I love that image of soft air above a child's head. The air feels like that this evening and lets my mind wander. I no longer remember the poem's name but it sounds like it was written by a grandmother.

I remember an incident with my grandfather when I was about six and trying to mow the lawn with his push mower. The details are long gone but he said to me: "You're a disappointment." I felt the sting of that remark like a slap. I didn't know then what I had done to cause it or why he thought that. I couldn't ask him nor could I slough it off. I thought about it for years, turned it over and over in my mind wondering if it belonged to me or not.

One of the blogs I follow, "in search of white space" by erin, had a poem today about a young girl with cancer. Do yourself a favor and check out erin's elegant poetry. It stirred up these thoughts from long ago. Also made me remember the months I spent working as a nurse on a children's cancer ward in Boston back in the 60's and how I ended up appreciating my time there among these brave little ones. I heaped my inadequate aids on the side of healing as disease ravaged their small bodies and they lived as best they could. But what surprised me was the amount of laughter we shared. We watched cartoons and would dissolve in giggles at the slapstick absurdity of cartoons in those days. The kids would try some of the moves themselves and laugh all over again. They taught me how to stay in the moment those wise ones who's names I can still call.

Seems remarkable, this play of presences, past and present that stir up the rich stew of our lives and let us taste it, maybe savor it, once more.

14 October 2011

Way To Run

I've been asked by a few friends in the blogosphere what kind of program I use for running. Jeff Galoway's Run Injury Free program makes it possible. I was aged 62 when my niece invited me to run in the National Marathon To Finish Breast Cancer in Jacksonville, Florida. Since my sister-in-law and good friend, Peg, had recently died of breast cancer, I wanted to run. But I was not a runner at that point, just a walker and hiker. The marathon organizers recommended Galloway's method of training as did my niece so I gave it a try. Eight months later, at age 63, I ran and finished the marathon.

In February of this year, my daughter joined me using the same Galloway method. We trained together in Trinidad, where she lives, and finished the half marathon hands held high at the end. She was gracious enough to go at my slower pace. It was exhilarating. Two of my nieces did the half marathon walk at the same time.

Galloway's method is a run-walk-run, low mileage, three day a week program that I find both doable and sustainable. He's now trained more than 200,000 ordinary people to set and reach specific goals, including finishing a marathon. He has a pre- conditioning program for those not yet ready to start a training program.

He recommends choosing a run-walk schedule, for example, 1 minute running followed by 1 minute walking which is then repeated for the whole run. Do this for as long as it takes to move to the next split (2 min. run, 1 min. walk) or just stay at that split. I ran both my marathon and half marathon at that split and did fine. Check out his web site for a full explanation as to all the reasons why this method works. There are groups and marathons all over the country using it.

Galloway himself is a marathoner, my age, and wanted to run to age 100 injury free. That intrigued me since I also wanted to be injury free if I was going to run. I'm now almost 66, still run three times a week and will compete in my next half marathon in February of 2012. I love to run. I've had no injuries. I got Galloway's book and followed it faithfully. I met him before the FL marathon. Nice man.

Secondarily running is a way to stay fit and healthy. This particular marathon is important to me so I'm glad to raise money for breast cancer treatment and research. 10,000 ran last year and it was an amazing atmosphere. The whole city supports the marathon and the runners. They call our names as we run by and cheer for us. Runners who are survivors get even louder cheers.

On the web site for the marathon, the runners are invited to say for whom they run. Besides Peg, I run for my daughter, granddaughter and nieces so that we finish breast cancer before any more family members are lost. And I run because I can, for all those who can't.

13 October 2011


The whirl and swirl of the Willow Ball are sweet memories now. What a grand time I had, but all the extravagance, all the glamor, gorgeous as it was brought me back to bedrock today. It certainly enhanced friendships and forged new ones and it struck me how important this is, even in a virtual world. But more I thought of the ways that the friendships closest to home shape and sustain us and how vital it is to nurture and be grateful for these, our most precious relationships.

C.S.Lewis said it well:

“It seems no wonder if our ancestors regarded Friendship as something that raised us almost above humanity. This love, free from instinct, free from all duties but those which love has freely assumed, almost wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual. It is the sort of love one can imagine between angels.”
                                                                                                              C. S. Lewis

Here's to the angels in my life. Here's to friendship which sustains us. I'm so grateful.

12 October 2011

The Willow Ball

A sumptuous invitation to the fist virtual ball of the season, The Willow Ball, started a whirl of shopping for the perfect gown and jewels and endless discussions with my friends about whom to invite. The Lady of Willow Manor has made this generous invitation to all of us in the blogosphere and who could refuse? This gracious lady sets the mood with abundant candle light and arms full of yellow roses that make us all beautiful. The grandeur and magnificence is simply unequaled these days. The finest of foods.

Since this is also my first time at the Willow Ball, it became paramount to attend the premier in grand style. After searching the four fashion sows in New York, London, Paris and Milan I found the dress of dreams. The dress, white, of course, and stunning, is from my favorite Italian designer, made in Milan. I feel opulent in it, like a fine art painting of the masters. The flow of the gown as I dance is a thing of grace as it catches the music in its very fabric and swirls it around

One can never underestimate the role of accessories. The jewels from Tiffany provide the merest embellishment to the center stage of the gown. Important, but just a slight sparkle of diamonds in platinum, the faintest blush of Morganite pendant to catch the light and play it across my skin. Facets honed to quietly enhance rather than grab attention to themselves.

And that most vital of accessories for a dance- the shoes. In this case a simple pair of Valentino Satin Sandals. But head turners all the same. Notice the touch of silver skimming the bow, understated eye candy.

But a ball, especially the season's first ball, is all about dancing. The chance to finally dance, to flow like silk across the floor. to melt into the music and my partner's arms and move in graceful, effortless steps. To choose a partner for such an extravaganza is to choose a dance partner first and foremost,  cool and cosmopolitan. I  called Fred and was excited when he was free for the evening. Ah, the dance, the romance, the possibility of amore.

Also essential in this inaugural ball, Fred's a fashion icon. He wrote the book on classy dressing. His advice on what you gentlemen will need for the Willow Ball?
1. A jacket with tails
2. A white bow tie
3. A buttoniere
4. A handkerchief
5. A crisp white button-up
6. Shiny black shoes
A fashionable cane
8. A top hat

Ladies and gentlemen, the classiest dresser of them all and my date, Mr. Fred Astaire:

The Willow Ball provides many venues of music in an extravaganza of ball rooms. You'll find me in the perhaps old fashioned but ever so cultured Willow Waltz Room. The decor is divine, the people beautiful and the music oh, so danceable. The polish and politeness are evident, the refinement and sophistication, the splendor and style. Fred has been running through routines with the men pictured above who came early and wanted some of that smooth polish for themselves. They were not disappointed.

I hoped to post Fred dancing a waltz with Ginger, his usual partner, but he thought it would be too intimidating and suggested instead a short, lovely slow waltz by the Baricchi couple. Those Italians are so classically chic in their moves. Fred assures me anyone can master this. Give yourself a treat during the Ball and take a spin with Fred when I need to sit one out. He's a great dance partner and likes to sing the tunes in your ear. He has some other interesting moves that you might have to watch out for but it's all in the spirit of ardor engendered in the atmosphere.

I Imagine what we'll look like floating across the floor to waltzes by famous composers like Chopin, Schubert and the "Waltz King", Strauss. I'll be the one draped over the arm of the best dancer at the Ball and I'll be in heaven dancing cheek to cheek with Fred and the memories, well, they can't take that away from me.

(The gown is from Google images- formal ball gowns. The necklace is from Tiffany & Co.- diamond necklaces. The shoes are from Net-A-Porter Shoes.)

11 October 2011

Early Morning Walk

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.

-Henry David Thoreau

The first snow has fallen in the mountains that I can see from my balcony and town. It leant new beauty to my morning walk/run which, as Thoreau suggests, is a blessing for the whole day. 
The rest of his words are inspirational too and seemed just right for this day.

08 October 2011

The Books You Love

Live for awhile in the books you love. Learn from them what is worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be returned to you a thousand times over. Whatever your life may become, these books—of this I am certain—will weave through the web of your unfolding. They will be among the strongest of all threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys.

Viareggio, April 5, 1903
Letters to a Young Poet

I just read the post on Synch-ro-ni-zng about Ruth's excitement of sharing wonderful books  with her yet to be born grandson. It's delightful with her choices and her joy and her anticipation. Memories of doing that with my grands flooded through me. Those exact books and more  and how much we loved them together and how we snuggled and they'd squeal or cry or laugh or beg to have it read again. And then this quote  of Rilke rang so true.  Because it keeps happening all through our lives.

Have books changed your life? Of course. Share them with your grands, or adopt a grand to read to or a whole Kindergarten class in your area. Pass this love on to the next generation. It will change their lives, too. 
Books "will weave through the  web of your unfolding" .

06 October 2011

Celestial Fireworks | ESA/Hubble

This image from Hubble Telescope of "Celestial Fireworks" was posted in the app "Star Walk" on my iPad the same day that Steve Jobs died.
In part, the accompanying script says: "This…is from a massive star that died…This filamentary material will eventually be recycled into building new generations of stars."
So true. Good bye, Steve. Thank you.

Click on this:
Celestial Fireworks | ESA/Hubble

05 October 2011

Sex in Our 60's

Never mind Sex in The City, how about sex in our 60's?

Recently my Honey and I have been trying out new things to keep sex in our 60's fun and satisfying. As you know, there are challenges associated with aging that call for some creativity. We've made some discoveries that I want to share and I'd like to hear what others have found for themselves.

1. We're taking advantage of retirement's lack of time pressure to choose the best time of day for sex. Morning has won for us. Once I've really woken up (takes me longer than my Honey), we feel fresh and energetic but the daily "to do's" haven't yet taken over our focus as they do later.

2. It's never to late to buy nice lingerie. This year, I started a process of replacing my "functional" under garments with lingerie that I find lovely. By buying one or two items a month, it didn't hurt financially and at the end of the year, I have beautiful lingerie that I love to wear and look at and that my Honey likes to look at as well. On me. It's a little thing that makes me feel sexier.

3. We set up time to talk about how to improve our love making. We read before hand, free associated, said anything that comes to mind, and got lots of possibilities out before making choices of what to try. This is our time to experiment, indulge each other's desires and see how it feels.

4. If affairs can spice up a love life, why not have one with each other. Periodically. How would I dress if  meeting a lover? What kind of ambiance and what meal would I prepare? Or, since my Honey is the cook, where would I rendezvous with a lover? Why waste those wonderful moments, that exhilarating energy on someone other than our one, true love?

5. Speak well of each other in front of family and friends. I love and admire my Honey so I let others know. His most endearing feature today is his sending our family and friends birthday or anniversary
e-cards. He has a couple of e-card sites that he chooses from to make the card right for each person. He's thoughtful that way. And kind.

I interviewed my Honey on this topic to get a man's perspective and he had three suggestions:

6. Let go of inhibitions that you had, whether raised with them or culturally imposed. Carpe diem or do it while you still can.

7. If your partner is willing, explore fantasies you've had but not acted on up to now. If not now, when?

8. You get extra pleasure from giving pleasure to your spouse. Find a new way to give pleasure.

What have you found to spice up your love life?

03 October 2011

Hike to Corno Grande

Saturday dawned clear, sunny with temps in the high 60's. Perfect weather for a hike. Seven friends gathered and we set out for Campo Imperatore Wilderness to hike the highest peak of the Gran Sasso massif in the Apennine Range, Corno Grande (9,554 ft.). The parking area is at about 7,000 ft. and the trails fork off from there. The temp at that elevation was a delightful for hiking 57 degrees. One friend decided to enjoy the already wonderful view from there and six of us set out, four men and two women.

This is where we were headed, Corno Grande. See the people ahead of us on the trail?

The sky really looked like that when we started, utterly clear, deep blue, remarkable. We came to a fork with the left trail marked "normale" and the right for the "Alpinistas" who do technical climbing. We took the left trail.

Looking back at the trail. See that thin ribbon of trail in the center of the photo? That's our trail. Steady elevation gain with a few scrabbly places of loose rocks, little purchase and steep drop offs. In other words, the thrill of good hiking spots.

The other woman in our group dropped out just below one such place and headed back to keep our other friend company. The four guys and I hiked on. The sky continued to amaze us and the views in this rocky, moon- like landscape were sureal but cool.

The four guys and some of the little vegetation we encountered.

We stopped for a late lunch at a spot about 8,500 ft up and were awed by the vistas. The peaks all around us seemed to go on forever, like they've been there forever.

This was actually an opportunity to sit on a relatively high rock pile once we decided to stop.

Me with my Honey feeling exhilarated. Since the days of owning two Alaskan Malamute dogs, hiking has been a shared passion- California, Colorado, Banff, and now, Italy.

Views from the other direction.

At which point some clouds started to roll in.

But, oh the views…

As the white cumulous clouds gave way to darker ones that brought a drop in temperature, we talked it over and decided we had left too late to make it to the summit this day and still get back before the weather deteriorated further or we lost daylight.

We'll go again. Start earlier. Reach the summit. But sometimes it's just about the hike itself, the camaraderie of friends, the heart stopping vistas and the secret joys of being with your Honey and leading a hike up new mountains at age 65.