Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spills and Thrills

A good fairy-tale has spills and thrills, twists and turns, darkness and light, a bit of fear, salvation, and lessons. My sojourn in Europe has taken me unexpected places and on a course I had not planned. I have made friends and also have been alone for long periods. I developed a new series of paintings and also my street photography. This evening, I travel to Africa. The primeval in me looks forward to a safari, wide-open spaces, wildness and viewing exotic animals in their native habitat. Also, I will experience the streets of modern Africa.
Before leaving European civilization, since I am in Rome, I visited the Villa Borghese to see the priceless collection of sculptures and paintings. I remember their effect from previous visits in years past. Especially, the life-sized marble sculptures of Gian Lorenzo Bernini take my breath away and I find I can’t take my eyes off them. They are so heavenly, I wonder how they could have come from a man, but rather, must have been crafted by a divine hand.
Just the other day, Luca asked me about low points in my journey and I could not think of any to speak of. Well, I just now have a low point. I missed my flight to Africa and have had to book another. I had it in my mind that I was leaving around midnight tonight when in fact the plane departed at 12:55 AM this morning. I feel stupid for this expensive mistake. Time references are in 24 hour increments in Europe, so they do not use AM or PM. Anyway, I am now going to Nairobi, Kenya instead of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and will stay there, since my safari begins and ends in Nairobi. Before, I was going to meet up with the safari in Arusha, Tanzania. A crazy twist, and I try to see it as a little darkness in my fairy-tale . . . nothing more.
This week, I updated my artistic photography website,, so have a look. It has the best of my around-the-world photos, and they are not typical tourist snapshots.
Next week I will be on safari, so will have to catch up on the blog when I can.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

How Awesome Is The World

I have been traveling across continents for 6 ½ months since leaving Santa Fe last February. I am using the same two suitcases, with some different contents now. My energy is good and I don’t think about stopping. The time will come eventually, but I do not know when. I feel stronger and my creative possibilities have broadened along with my knowledge of the world. The biggest challenge has been intervals of isolation without friends or anyone to share with. Yet, this is my freedom as well, since I move in any direction and follow my whims. Now I am in Rome, and it was only a few weeks ago while in Paris that I decided to come here. The streets enliven me, and sometimes I feel incredible to be living in fantastic locales. Thankfully, despite my brevity in places, I meet great people and develop friendships. Last night, the owners of my apartment invited me to their house for dinner. Their son, Luca, has an incredible talent for languages and speaks eight fluently although he is not yet thirty years old. I felt right at home at the dinner table . . . we began at 9 PM and finished around 11 PM with a four course meal, good conversation, laughter, philosophy and drink. Later I walked with Luca into nearby Trasteverde and mingled with the weekend crowds.
In Italy, the Roman Catholic Church has been a powerful presence since the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 313 AD. Every city has churches (over 900 in Rome), and some have so many that it is hard to imagine there are enough people to fill them. In these modern times, they are tourist attractions, because of their architecture, ornate designs and materials, and the art that is found inside. You have to be here and see it to believe it. It is amazing and probably why visitors from other parts of the world, when they are in Italian cities like Florence, Venice, or Rome, sometimes swoon and feel like they are maybe losing their minds. This malady been studied and there is a scientific name for it, called Stendhal syndrome.
I like to browse into the churches, which are open and free to the public. As an example of Italian spiritual exuberance, in the center of Rome, the Piazza del Popolo with its circular plaza, has three major churches and there are two others within a couple blocks. The other day after I visited the Pantheon, a block away, I walked into a church, San Luigi dei Francesi, and was stunned to find it contained three major Caravaggio paintings that any museum in the world would die for.
Countless images and myriads of varied sensory experiences have gone into my consciousness and now live in memory. I have international friends. As I ponder this, I realize how awesome is the world and that I have a small understanding of it. Going inward, I do not comprehend the dimensions and working of my own body. Outwardly, even as I travel and gain new insights, I realize I am just touching an infinitesimally small portion of the earth and its life. Looking into space, I realize that the earth is only a speck in the universe and our universe is only a speck in eternity.
Next Saturday I leave for Tanzania.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Eternal City

Rome is called “The Eternal City”, and there is a saying that “all roads lead to Rome.” These days, routes through the air bring travelers here and this is how I arrived from Paris. The weather is warm enough that I sweat during the day and cannot have any covering in bed at night. My apartment is within walking distance to St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican. There is so much to see and immediately I went into the streets with my camera to get a dose of Roman life.

This is not my first time to Rome and yet, I  had the same experience of sudden awe and swooning when, as I turned a corner in the maze of downtown streets, I glimpsed the Parthenon, looking too big for its surroundings, nestled in a small plaza among newer buildings. It cannot be seen from afar. When suddenly, I turned a corner and arrived, it was like finding the lost ark—the presence of something different, special, and of major proportions; an important architectural antiquity over 2,000 years old in it’s original form. I had a similar experience at the Colosseum, but it stands next to the Roman Forum, towers over the neighborhood, and can be seen from afar, so the surprise is different.

Even though Rome is old, it is also trendy and stylish. I was amazed when I arrived out of the Metro at the Spanish Steps on Via Condotti and saw the luxury designer clothing boutiques lining each side of the street. Names like: Valentino, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Prado, and Ferragamo. I saw my reflection in the windows of haute couture shops and felt almost embarrassed seeing myself dressed in blue jean shorts, safari hat and sandals. But then I thought, I am an artist and getting down and dirty on the streets . . . not trying to impress anyone with my looks (at the moment anyway.)

I have sixteen days in the “Eternal City” before leaving for Tanzania.