A man sitting in a park in Arezzo…

In the Summer of 2006, the day before I returned to New York after using my entire year’s vacation to study Italian at the Università per Stranieri in Siena, Italy, I took an early bus to Arezzo and spent the morning roaming the city taking pictures. After the cool early hours had morphed into lunchtime, I found a little trattoria on a small piazza where I could have a salad and a cold glass of Prosecco to ward off the heat that had begun to rise from the cobbled vicolos. As the daily “riposo’ approached – between 1:00 and 4:00pm when Italians traditionally go home to prepare lunch before returning to work well into the evening hours – the only sounds to be heard came from a church where a funeral was about to be held. The grievers, mostly clad in black, filed past a hearse parked by the front steps, out of which was being lifted a coffin, its glossy ebony surface draped with a bounty of intensely colored summer flowers, their bright beauty a betrayal of the gray solemnity of the moment. It was late August, and it was hot. Tired from walking, I wanted nothing more than to sit and pass the time watching the Italians be Italian, but I knew there would only be one bus back to Siena after riposo, and if I had any more wine there was a chance I would not be on it. So I pushed myself back up onto my blistered feet, downed the last sip of no longer cold Prosecco, and walked toward the church, its massive wooden and bronze doors shut tight against the blazing sun. As the church bells rang, the driver of the hearse paced back and forth beside his funeral chariot mopping the sweat oozing from… Continue reading A man sitting in a park in Arezzo…

A Room of My Own in My Father’s New York…

I ought to have been born between the World Wars, when it was romantic to be sentimental, when having an attachment to the past was normal, when lovers would hand-write nostalgia-filled letters whenever apart, when taking a journey down a memory lane strewn with tales of adventures and friends and events long gone by could rouse a spontaneous and unembarrassed launch into Doris Day’s and Les Brown’s rendition of A Sentimental Journey. Gonna take a sentimental journey Gonna set my heart at ease Gonna make a sentimental journey To renew old me-emories… My parents, unapologetic romantics, loved Doris Day. They listened to big band music, wrote long letters and took countless black and white photographs of people long passed into the Al di là, which my mother tucked away in envelopes or framed and hung on the walls of the house I grew up in – the house my father built for her with his own hands, the ultimate amorous gesture – with a multitude of framed memories from their individual and collective lives. Artworks suspended on stuccoed walls next to pen and inks of places I thought I would never have an opportunity to visit conjured imaginary blueprints of the imaginary house with the imaginary rooms I dreamed of building for myself one day, the walls of which I would hang with art and photographs curated from my own memory lanes.

Pt. Reyes, California: The power of the natural landscape

Arriving, I remember everything exactly as it was – the sights, sounds and smells of a place I have often visited in my memory these past 37 years.  White Calla Lilies tucked among the wild grasses alongside Stinson Beach in winter, hawks kiting into the wind, wings outstretched, suspended above the surf.  Fog, guardian of seaside mysteries, shroud for molting Eucalyptus, billowing a warning to stay off the winding mountain road, yet beckoning one onward.  Sunglasses lightly misting over with sea spray, ears cooled by the coastal wind, dry lips salted and licked.  Sea foam and kelp bulbs, children giggling and dogs digging, and cold wet sand rising up through painted red toes. On leaving, my need to remember certain sensations and vistas verges on desperate.  The last bit of sun faded by haze as it slips beneath the horizon.  The last bit of warmth on my skin before goose bumps rise.  The last turnout at which to contemplate staying forever.  The last lone cyclist hugging the cliff’s edge, as reluctant as I to turn his back to the sea and head for home at the end of the day. I do not have the ability to say goodbye, I never have, to any person or any place, really, but particularly to landscapes in which I’ve lived.  Scattered traces of my soul linger like ghosts across the countryside, over the sagebrush strewn deserts of Northern New Mexico where I grew up, in the valleys and ridges of the Shenandoah Valley where my husband and I have a home, in Kentucky where I too have soared like a hawk, the wings of my small plane outstretched and kiting into the wind, in the Po River Valley of my father’s agrarian ancestors, and in New York City, where I have lived for… Continue reading Pt. Reyes, California: The power of the natural landscape