Friday, March 30, 2007

Letting Go

The moments when I am conscious of the presence of grace are mysterious and powerful. Before it happens, ego control must be abandoned, a difficult matter when control is greatly desired. The other day, I took up the task of a 2-hour journey to the center of Sicily, to visit Villa de Casale, a Roman estate of grand proportions built in 3-4 AD. It is famous for its extensive mosaics, well preserved because the place was flooded and encased in mud until only recently when excavations revealed the splendor.
The drive to Catania is a bit hectic, and the city is even more so. The chaotic streets had me desperate to find the highway towards Caltagirone, an inland city which is on the way. I let go of trying. Instead, Spirit would do it—a higher power to make the crooked way straight. I pulled into a busy gas station, then went inside, map in hand. The girl behind the register spoke no English and could not help, so I turned to the young fellow next to me. He said, “I am going there. Please follow me.” The trip out of town was convoluted, and I followed him for about 45 minutes until we came to Caltagirone.
It has happened before, that the first person I approach, a complete stranger, has offered to guide me exactly where I want. Furthermore, it seems a larger hand is at play. When ego is not involved, angels can direct the drama.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lost and Now Found

Sometimes my plans collapse as conditions dictate, then other forces come to play and bring possibilities. Today, I anticipated painting early. As I drove with my supplies on the narrow roads through tiny towns, it seemed I was not finding what I wanted, so I kept driving. Soon I was at a town called Zafferana, written about in a travel guide, and stopped at a nice plaza with a baroque styled church as the centerpiece. Going into the church, I was surprised to be the only one within the soaring and ornately decorated interior. Sitting down in a pew, I meditated in the silence, and said prayers. The weather had become colder and grayer going inland into the mountains, making me unsettled and frustrated about painting. The time alone praying refreshed me. Still not knowing exactly where I was going, I drove in the direction of a sign marked Etna. At this point, I gave up my plans so that a bigger force could operate—which took me up into the snow packed south base station of Mt. Etna, the volcano. Driving, I felt a bit doomed to be in cold, drifting layers of fog that obscured the views. Something kept pulling me forward and eventually the road broke through the clouds near the top, into dazzling light. The snow, brilliant white, made an incredible contrast with black lava rock, exposed in places by wind and sun. As I started walking upward, I thought, “how did I get here, and now that I am lost in this foreign landscape, how is it that I am now found?”

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Place In My Heart

The weather has been blustery, tempestuous at times. Nonetheless, I venture out, seeking adventure. The Riserva dello Zingaro is about 1/2 hour drive from Bonagia. It is a nature reserve along the northern coast, near the city of Castellmare del Golfo. Despite some rain, I visited and had the blessings of sparkling light and sun as I walked. Along the way was a small path leading to a tiny sand beach among the cliffs. A grotto offered a nice place to sit and watch the waves crash upon rocks. I realized, that whatever the conditions externally, the place in my heart is always safe and secure.
At the end of the day, sitting on the fortress walls of Erice, gazing at the sunset, I realized how impossible it would have been for a companion to have journeyed along. I drove through rain and hail, walked in mud, and never had a convenient toilet so used nature, meandered aimlessly, got lost in unfamiliar towns and often detoured off course to just have a look. Then, at the end of the day, in a silent reverie, I kept going, up to Erice where the cold wind chilled the rocks. But, it was the light that called. The light that I had to see—glistening upon the wet stones of empty labyrynthal ancient streets.
For more, go to Steven Boone Fine Art

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I almost cried when I found the temple at Segesta after being lost, despairing it was not easier to find. After driving over flat land, the terrain became mountainous, and the hillsides, covered with vineyards, orchards, and masses of flowers was totally distracting. Signs indicated it was not far, then, making a curve on a tree lined drive, suddenly it loomed straight ahead above me. It was if I had found the mystical ship, an ancient vessel set to give me passage into a misty past. Nothing in my American existence could have prepared me for stepping so far back in human civilization. Part of the potency of the immediate impression is the size and beauty of proportion of the temple. It seems a miracle.
The theater, built two centuries later in 3 BC atop a nearby mountain, looks out above the temple site. The row of seats form a steeply inclined semi-circle, viewing the central stage area, with an incredible view over the far reaching landscape behind. It is as if sitting at the throne of the Gods.
In places like Erice and Segesta, it occurs that the ancients, chose not to build in places merely from convenience, but more importantly, for power.

As The Days Unfold

As the days unfold, my life follows like a blank empty tablet, being writ upon by an invisible hand. There are no set plans, and decisions come from momentary inclinations.
This morning, Erice beckoned so I returned, driving the long winding road up to the mountaintop. To build a town on this setting was a brilliant consideration. It overlooks every direction so as to dominate the region. The views are breathtaking. Pieced together with stone and mortar like a giant jig-saw puzzle, Erice has been painstakingly woven together—a mosaic tapestry of pure medieval poetry.
Often, I had the streets to myself. Oddly, even the homes lining either side of the narrow passages seemed empty. This Sunday morning, I walked slowly, going inside churches scattered about along the way. At times, it was only Jesus and myself inside. The walls held the prayers of all those before me. I threw mine in with the rest.


FRIDAY, MARCH 17 One way to quickly become initiated into Italian life is to drive anywhere. The streets for the most part are narrow, sometimes with barely room for cars to pass. This is why motorcycles and smaller vehicles are the norm (some with only three wheels.) Traffic signals are few and far between, perhaps because they would only make people mad, interrupting the vital flow containing its own irrepressible logic. Most people want to get where they are going as fast as possible. Quickly passing others is a serious game. If you are the least bit slow, forget it. In Palermo, sometimes the streets are entirely clogged with cars and cycles, all within inches of each other. Miraculously, there are no collisions, but then, this is the only rule. Palermo sprawls from the Tyrrhenian Sea upwards into the steep hills and valleys inland. It is the fifth largest city in Italy. When I arrived I had only a faint idea how to get to Monreale, a locale adjacent to Palermo with a famous cathedral. Lost, I parked on a corner and got out to ask directions. Spotting the first person, a swarthy man with stubbly beard and rotted teeth, dressed in work clothes, I asked, “dove Monreale?” He smiled and said, “O di qua, Monreale.” Amazed at my luck that he was going there, I watched him get in his midget car and followed closely behind for a memorable chase through twisting streets, up steep hills and around hairpin turns until my little Fiat, giving all it had up a vertical incline of cobbled stones, spilled out onto a Piazza, where my guide pointed to a grand old cathedral. I waved thanks as he disappeared. From the cathedral are breathtaking views out over Palermo. It is amazing that the soaringwalls were built on a mountain ledge 800 years ago. Inside are stupendous 12th – 13th century mosaics occupying the nave and aisles, choir and transepts. They illustrate scenes from the old and new testament.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Initiation Into The Rhythm

Having arrived in Sicily, I am getting quickly acquainted. For initiation into the rythym, every morning, bright and early, a singing sheepherder with his dogs and flock pass by my little house on a hillside. As sun floods in the windows and I step out on the shaded veranda, I look below and see the little town of Bonagia hugging the mountainous coast.
My first painting is at the shipyard, among rotting hulks of old boats lined up on the shore. The view I choose is out across the harbor to a spectacular promontory called Monte Cofano, a mountain that looks like a colossal castle rising from a point jutting into the sea.
Although I finish my painting late in the day, excitement gets the better of me and so I get in my midget car, and race up the winding hills to find Erice. As the road climbs, and the sun sinks, the scenery becomes eerie. With each kilometer, it seems I go further back in time. Wisps of cool fog envelope the rocky slopes dotted with spindly blackened pine trees standing in sparse clusters.
At the top, I park near massive stone walls, older than Christ, that surround the town. It is eerily quiet, except for the occasional laughter of groups of Italian teens on visits from schools. The narrow streets hold the same polished stones from centuries ago, painstakingly placed in attractive patterns between neat rows of stone buildings. No cars are allowed. With my first steps, immediately I want more time to explore, but the sun is now almost set, and I know if I go further into the maze of labyrinthal passages I will be in danger of getting lost—like Alice falling into a rabbit hole of time, and might not get out.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Priceless Necklace

It would seem that one week would be ample time for preparing to leave on a trip. It is not if the trip is for three months. I have two days before leaving, and still feel pressed despite devoting almost all hours to being cleared for take off. I need to deal with mail collection, and arrangements for bank deposits and bill paying. I acquired euro’s and an international drivers license and put software on my laptop so that I can keep my website up to date. Magazine subscriptions had to be suspended and my art supplies gathered together. The cost of shipping my supplies turned out to be way too expensive, so I am taking them along in an extra suitcase, (ughh!) I have had to take care of tasks at Jean’s house, and then at my house, get personal items out of the way and make sure everything is spotless for the person coming to rent when I leave. I ordered and received an international cell phone, and lost my glasses but don’t have time to get them replaced, (will get a prescription filled in Italy.) The tasks keep coming non-stop. Saturday at 6 PM I will get on the airport shuttle, and surely there will be things left undone. But once I am in Italy, I won’t look back.
This evening I went to an auction benefiting sick children and their families. I am on the board of Friends Forever, an organization that affords help to seriously ill children, especially by offering them, their parents and siblings, all expense paid vacations. One of the auction items was an exquisite silver, gold and diamond necklace. It came to the table where I sat, and as I held it in my hand and gazed, the light from it’s finely crafted, faceted surfaces danced and gleamed in a glittering display of dazzling beauty. As it left the table, I kept thinking of it, and then I thought of the children it was to benefit. These kids are pure and innocent, yet the dazzling light of their gem-like lives are clouded with pain and uncertainty—it is not known if their talents and gifts will unfold. They have to be warriors when those around them take pleasures for granted. For their efforts, they each deserve to wear necklaces of exquisite beauty. The children's preciousness cannot be matched by all the world's wealth.
My next blog will be from Italy, but the date of the posting is uncertain.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Living in Spirit

Growing up in Washington DC, my best friend Lonnie and I spent endless hours of adventure with each other. In 1968 we worked during the summer on the Navajo reservation in Arizona as volunteers, then hitchhiked to Los Angeles and up the coast to San Francisco—following the hippie trail. When I went away to college in 1970, and returned changed because I had adopted a religion, the Baha’i Faith, my friend was perplexed. As we walked together in our neighborhood he confided his concern, and I have remembered this exchange through the years; “Steve, you tell me you don’t drink (booze), smoke (dope) or have sex anymore. What do you do?” At the time, his question left me momentarily speechless, and I could see that he thought I was living on air.
Today is the beginning of the annual period of fasting that Baha’i’s observe for nineteen days. No food or water from sunrise to sunset. This year, I am living alone, practicing chastity, and perhaps to some it might seem that I am living on air. It is 35 years since Lonnie’s comment, and now, I could more easily answer his incredulous inquiry.
It is fun stripping away desires of the flesh, because living in Spirit is to invite a state of blessing. As to the question of what do I do for enjoyment: being in grace, and feeling every moment is perfect, complete and wonderful, well, that is mostly enough.