Sunday, July 27, 2008

Like a Bee

I feel like a bee, flying from flower to flower, gathering pollen and cross-pollinating as well. Today is a long journey over changing landscapes from Florence, Italy to Berlin, Germany.
Surprise of surprises . . . Frederique arrived in Florence during my stay. She is in Venice, so took a train to meet me and we went to an evening concert of Carmina Burana by Carl Orff (1895-1982) at the Boboli gardens. As usual, our time together is centered on art. She shares with me ideas for my creativity and the advancement of my career, we go to museums, and walk together through the streets as I take photos. A medieval church is a block from my house that I looked into briefly one day. Later, with Frederique, I walked inside again, and rather than quickly look at the main features, we walked slowly, observing everything carefully, and talking about the aesthetics. A much fuller experience.

Florence, is one of the most beautiful flowers of Italian civilization and culture, and this is because the city encouraged the arts to flourish for centuries. It is firmly rooted in it's grand past that it carefully preserves. Now I leave the past and move onward to Berlin, a wide open city, totally destroyed by the 2nd world war, rebuilt from the ground up and trying to reshape itself. These days, it is the cheapest urban center in Europe to live; a gathering place for artists from all over the world. I will report my initial impressions next weekend.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

River Flowing Peacefully

I have been traveling for six months now, and today I wondered, where am I? Of course I know that I am in Florence, Italy, but there is a part of my mind that blurs places so that, put simply, I sense I am alive in the matrix of the earth, entirely different than a specific locale invented by man. Furthermore, my sense that time is a logical sequence of events, dissolves, so I lose track of the days and hours . . . it is all a river flowing peacefully—I do not hurry it or slow it, only drift in it and observe the changing elements.
After leaving my daughter and her friend in Brindisi to catch a ferry to Greece, I drove to Bari and reunited with friends. Immediately they absorbed me into the life of southern Italy. We ate octopus and watermelon, strolled through streets of polished white stone, and felt the welcome relief of “mistral” winds that blew away some of the summer heat. Italians are social creatures almost to the extreme, so they always act in groups and if they perceive you are alone, they want to welcome you. I spoke with Lucia about this and she acknowledged that Americans are different and can sometimes be uncomfortable with the attention, preferring their independence.
On the way back to Florence, I stopped for a night in Urbino. It is a World Heritage Site and Lucia had suggested it as a place where I could get a real sense of historical Italy. It is a stone city built on a hilltop. I found it enthralling and have included a picture here on my blog.
Friday I returned to Florence and had my temporary tooth waiting at the dental office. For the next week, I am living in a quiet apartment, on a street with many convenient shops, close to the Arno River and near Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
The mistral winds of imagination take me to Berlin next Sunday.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Astonishing Artwork

THE DREAM has re-united me with my daughter Sarah in Italy. I had not planned to return here so soon, but the currents of life and affection have brought me to Florence, and now, the Amalfi coast as I drive her and her friend to Brindisi where they will catch a ferry to Greece.

Florence is simply saturated with astonishing artwork of the past. Two major museums are the Uffizi and Accademia. I am now quite familiar with them both, and always thrill at seeing special masterpieces, such as Michelangelo’s spectacular sculpture David in the Accademia, and paintings by Bottecelli, Da Vinci, Caravaggio and others at the Uffizi. Another artist, Artemesia Gentilleschi has a tremendous painting of Judith, severing the head of Holofernes while he is in bed sleeping. The sword is just passing into the flesh and blood is squirting all over the place. She has his hair clasped in one hand and the sword firmly in the other. He has a look of horror and she is determined. In the same room always are Caravaggio paintings. One is of a snarling Medusa with writhing snakes coming out her head, and another is a relaxed partially nude Bacchus, holding up a cup of wine. Imagine all these paintings together and you have a real Italian experience.

The Amalfi coast is simply stupendous. The drama of mountains and ancient villages spilling abruptly down to the sea is scenery at its best. We have spent a night in hotel called Le Terrazze that is high up on a mountainside, overlooking the Mediterranean.

After dropping the girls off in Brindisi this evening, I will go to Bari and stay with friends for several days. Eventually, a new tooth awaits me in Florence.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I Love My Body, It Has Been So Good To Me

Written Saturday, July 5th, posted Sunday
Several years ago, after a dental checkup, my dentist, an excellent physician, told me he discovered two teeth that had slight cracks. They were next to each other in my upper right molars. He told me I should have crowns placed on both of them, and then gave me a price that I knew was high, and I backed away from the procedure. He said “it is better to have it done now than have them fracture and have to make a more expensive bridge later.” I went to another dentist who told me the teeth did not seem in danger.
Yesterday, I drove with Carol down from the mountains to have my tooth pulled out because the fracture had spread to the root and the area had become infected. As I lay in the chair and the dentist was pulling my molar out, I felt a passing sadness to lose a part of myself, even if a tooth.
Today, I have dull pain, and my tongue often goes to feel the hole left in my gum where my tooth was. I realize something else about this day. It is the anniversary of Naomi’s death, nine years ago (See the website for my book, A Heart Traced in Sand.) Whenever I have pain or discomfort, I remember her, and think that whatever happens to me is not as bad as what happened to her, and she never complained. As I pondered about her last moments, I thought about how she died. Cancer had spread over most of her body, one leg was swollen almost twice as big as the other, and she could not walk. She had lost so much weight as to be almost a skeleton, with eyes like gleaming orbs in hollow sockets. Overwhelming pain had plagued her for over a year, robbing her of rest. Her lungs slowly weakened from disease until she suffocated. Incredibly, some of her last words before she died at the age of nineteen, were, “I love my body, it has been so good to me.” Naomi practiced loving with such conviction and ardor that she overcame all negativity, and this is a lesson that I will always carry inside my heart.
I go to Florence, Italy on Wednesday, 9 July to meet Sarah. I will need to get a temporary tooth put in, so the way things are playing out, a Spanish doctor pulls my tooth out, an Italian puts a temporary in, and one from India implants a permanent false tooth. How is that for international cooperation?