Sunday, October 25, 2015

Portal Experiences

Within the church of San Pietro, Corniglia, Italy
I am so happy, this life is so beautiful and intriguing, there is no room for being sick . . . this is what I said aloud, as I coughed and convulsed, walking along the narrow main street of Vernazza, Italy. The crowds were out in midday bloom, laundry hung to dry from lines strung by windows above, shops lined every inch of the passage to the city harbor and of course no traffic and no motor vehicles. I walked and thought, this cough has been going on too long. 

The illness began in Venice and was so surprising because I have not been sick in 15 years; not even a cold. I had developed an attitude of impermeability to sickness. A friend I have been corresponding with in the USA, noticed I was not getting better, so wrote that I must see a doctor.

When I arrived in Vernazza, the apartment owners, a darling older couple, Giacomo and Maria Capellini, helped get me settled. Giacomo speaks English and when the discussion turned to a doctor, said that the clinic up the street was always open—including weekends. He walked with me and I was immediately seen by a physician who took tests and heard my descriptions, then pronounced I have bronchitis.
Now I am on antibiotics and should be much better in three days.

I have been having what I am calling “portal” experiences. These are surprising moments of occurrences that usher in such sublimity that some ancient remembrance of a pure state of bliss results. A few examples of the last few days: Being alone in a 500 year old church at night, long past the time when tourists were going to and fro. Walking up the steps into the dark cathedral and passing over the marble floor to sit at a pew next to a beatific sculpture of Jesus, arms outstretched with nail holes in the palms of his hands, looking down serenely. At his bare feet, candles still burning from earlier visitors. The silence so evocative, and on the wall nearby, a painting of the virgin mother, with the dove of heaven arriving to tell her of the heavenly life to grow inside of her.
Another time, just a couple days ago, in Monterosso, outside my room in the street, a man passed under the window, singing in such a marvelous and melodious voice. Then later, he came back, still singing. It awakened my higher sensibilities.
And of course, the church bells that ring, and sometimes their ringing takes on a melody.
So I finally wondered if my cough could possibly be a “portal” experience.
In some simple way, I think it could be. But I am more inclined to dwell on the sublime experiences that lead me to consider writing a book.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Alive In A Fantastic Dream

Sometimes, when we are hiking in challenging terrain, we stumble, but get up to keep going. We are thrilled to be traveling, exploring and expanding.

I am on a train heading toward Corniglia, a little village in the region of Cinqueterra, a group of tiny towns that hug the steep cliffs of northeastern Italy and look out to the Mediterranean Sea. I just spent a month in Venice and it cast its spell as usual with plenty to sway the senses, and for an artist like me, inspire with subject matter worthy of my paintings and photography. Venice—the aristocratic and storied European city with deep history that is unique for its absence of cars or street traffic. To go anywhere requires walking or a boat ride, and this way everything is seen leisurely, not just a blur. In the end, I found myself particularly captivated by the ephemeral flickering and trembling reflections of the city that were cast upon the water in the canals. It is like an emblem of the dream that Venice represents.

A week ago a friend from America visited and we went to a concert together. She was ill, and I paid no heed since I have always had the attitude that I don't get sick under any circumstances. I got sick. For a week now, I have had a cough with upper respiratory discomfort. Last night I barely slept for all the coughing. I had to wake early to catch an early train. My alarm did not go off but I woke at the last minute and managed to get my considerable luggage to the train station on time. And here is the kick: I dozed off and at Florence missed getting off to switch trains for La Spezia, so had to travel all the way to Rome. I am now heading back north to Pisa, La Spezia and then Corniglia. All while sick and at more cost. I managed to notify the people who are expecting me.

Somehow something has shifted in my mind that allows me to stumble without it ruining my outlook. I am sick, so what? I missed my train? So what . . . I am a smiling being alive in a fantastic DREAM.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Free To Wander

Piazza San Marco on a Sunday—with empty tables because of slight flooding.

To be free to wander is a ravishing pleasure that feeds my artist soul. And in Venice, to wander is extra pleasurable since there are no cars to threaten a person who is dreamy and in an altered state of consciousness. Altered states occur since it is a “floating world,” much like a dream. Accordions play, church bells ring, boats drift by on the labyrinth of canals and one cannot walk far without coming to one of 400 bridges that span the city.

Reflections—Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
 I have had a remarkable 24 hours. A friend from the United States arrived yesterday and we met at my apartment to have dinner and catch up with each other before leaving to meet with two Venetian ladies. My American friend, Neely, speaks Italian and immediately was conversing with her Italian counterparts as we walked together to a free baroque concert in a 700 year old church—Chiesa della Madonnadell'Orto. The concert was a fundraiser for ebola victims in Africa, and consisted of recitals from Antonio Lotti (5 January 1667 – 5 January 1740) an Italian Baroque composer. The massive church with soaring architecture and paintings by famous Venetian painter- Tintoretto, (Italian, October, 1518– May 31, 1594) soon filled up and we sat together in pews as the conductor and musicians came forth and stood facing us. The music and singing was sublime and as I closed my eyes I was transported through the ages to other times.

Stevie, self-portrait in Venice
Today, I have been walking with Cristiana for two hours, and amazingly we chatted most of the time, while she occasionally waited patiently while my muse stopped me to photograph something or other.

I realize that when I am in the artistic zone, it is an altered state where I am not really seeing people as personalities and buildings as shops or homes. Rather I am responding to light and reflection, texture and space, intriguing positions of humans in interaction or alone within the environment.

Cristiana recognizes me as an artist and says that anyone who is to be in relationship with me must understand this is who I am. I agree totally.
Venice . . . double exposure

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Friendships Have Deepened

"Gondola, Moored Along the Grand Canal." Oil on board
One of the most satisfying aspects of travel is being introduced to people and sometimes becoming friends. All it requires is being open and willing. For instance, when I arrived in Venice, I was immediately introduced to the woman in the apartment next door. She works for the owner. Originally from Columbia, she has lived in Venice about thirty years and does professional work as a translator of Spanish and Italian. She speaks hardly a word of English and the same goes for me with Italian, but we smile at each other and our eyes meet in friendship. She has brought me hot food several times, and we have shared photographs on our computers and become Facebook friends. Thanks to an app called Google Translate, we can speak into my iPhone and have instant translation.

Last night I went to her place for dinner. She had invited me and had a friend of hers, and I brought my friend Cristiana who is good with English. Everyone was comfortable and we sat together and ate the delicious food. For two hours of conversation, I must say I could not understand most of it and a few times I became a bit tired. But mostly, I picked up what I could understand, shared our presence, and simply enjoyed the animation and intent. Throughout, we all had plenty of eye contact and felt at ease, and happy to be meeting.

At the end, everyone came to my flat to see my paintings and admire. I was given a big plate of leftovers, and my friendships have deepened.