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Success, Failure...some of my greatest failures have been a springboard to my greatest successes...the terms are truly fluid.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

32 The Procession

      When Gordon, Spencer, Bart and I were running around Italy that first two weeks before Easter, there were many activities going on everywhere we went since we were touring Italy during Holy Week everywhere. I remember in Siena after dark the town locals emerged with candles and read some sacred sounding texts and the whole crowd knew all the songs that were sung verbatim as they marched in a Procession. I figured I was Latin since I knew absolutely nothing they were saying. A priest was leading them with a large cross in front and above the crowd. He was wearing spectacular clothes of fine fabrics. 

     I was one of the tourists then, wide eyed and quiet as I spied on the families and people of all ages slowly pacing by me down the stone paved streets. The sound of each voice seemed to reverberate with depth and clarity as it worked up the multiple stories lining the roads. It all created a scene of resonance and grandeur for me. I also felt kind of guilty, like I was spying on something. It seemed more like I was watching other people in a private moment….sort of like gawking at them while they were in church. I was painfully aware of not belonging.

     At the beginning of this beautiful town's procession, everyone seemed to appear at a specific time as the church bells started another round of happy peeling. They were all dressed in formal and sunny attire. The priest, who I had met during my experience of sewing on the altar cloth, surprised me by specifically saying hello to Spencer and I in what must have been a very busy moment for him. I felt so surprised since I figured he would not remember me, much less treat me like I was as important. In my mind I had switched to being the tourist I had been while in Siena, since this was now a religious ceremony. Yet he was treating us like we were part of the community, if not the church! I was genuinely touched!

      I felt it was time to turn off the video camera and cover my bare shoulders with my new farfalle scarf that Cherubino’s sister had just given me. I was making my way out of the street and to the side when one of my cooking friends waved Spencer and I over to join her. She firmly grabbed my arm in a loving and tight embrace and now I was in the Procession itself!! I had to bite back tears, I was so moved!! I wasn’t just decorating, but I was in the crowd as we made our way through town with Spencer by my side.

     After we had been walking a bit I couldn’t help but just be part of the experience in every way. I felt like I did when folk dancing. There comes a point when you just have to let the crowd pull you long and soon you just know what to do.

     The next thing I knew I was chanting in Latin and singing along while still clutching my cheerful blond friend’s arm. Spencer in the meantime was oscillating between peaceful calm and making silly faces with one of his friends who was carrying a fancy spoon in a dainty dish.

     We followed the priest as he made his way through town. I was especially touched when he went out of his way to wind around and do a special stop and blessing towards an elderly person’s house where the family stood clustered around the wheel chair. Apparently this person was now too frail and ill to join the yearly happening. The good priest wanted to make sure that they still felt included. What a nice gesture!

     I was surprised that I sensed what was being said next quite often. I think the words might have been repeating themselves or maybe it was so well thought out that I sensed its logical plan. Either way, I was now singing and part of the procession and the spiritual experience unfolding around me.

     My older son told me that Anthropology, his subject at the University, was becoming part of a culture enough to see that the strange is really now your own idea of  normal.

     I realized that while I have been here in this small Abruzzo townfor a month, what had seemed so different before in early April, now seemed like the normal way to live, and I was now living it here and now.

     At the end of the Procession, many filed into the church and for a moment, I really wanted to go in too and just sit in the back row and appreciate the community, the spirituality and the singing. I decided against it in the end just like when I felt it was inappropriate for me to want to go inside the Vatican while so many lifelong Catholics were waiting to go in and celebrate Easter. I chose to side step the service here. I wasn’t even sure if I was allowed to go without a Catholic to take me there.

     Afterward the kindly priest was happy to hear I had been in the procession. He asked what I thought of the service and since he speaks Spanish as well I told him the truth. I explained that I was unsure if I was even allowed to go in and so I did not enter in order to avoid being disrespectful. He laughed easily and told me that the Catholic church is an open place and that wherever I was in the world, I was welcome to enter and join in.

     I smiled after him as he worked his way around easily chatting with children and adults. I think I had just gotten my own personal invitation to attend a Catholic church.

     I always have had this fantasy that it would be cool to pray everywhere I went with the locals feeling the many different languages and expressions of spirit as I circled the globe. I guess in my mind I wanted to “pray around the world.” My friends thought this was particularly funny since I am not always the kind of person who exudes much spirit at all. Sometimes I suppose it would be correct to think of me as exuding a sort of lack of spiritual experience since I am sort of an overly open-minded person who doesn’t like to put down any way of looking at Divine. I can seem like I don’t believe in anything. But it is easy to see here that I believe in the same thing as everyone here does.     


31 Corpus Domini

     I have had such a lovely time here. It is really hard to tell how all the time got used up so fast but now I am on my final week in Valle San Giovanni. Spencer and I have made some great friends here and we are hoping to return each year if we can for a week.

   For me this has been a very positive spiritual experience. To have the lovely bells of the church ringing out daily over our schedules smacks of a friendly way to remind people that there is more to life then the usual stuff. I felt like it was a cheery reminder that you are never truly alone as you go about your life.

     When I tell people here that it is rare to hear bells in daily California life, and certainly not all day long like here in this small town in Italy, they have a hard time picturing it. When I tell them that occasionally you hear bells in a city in California, it is even more clear that my world is very different from their world.

     For the entire time I have been in Italy, from my tourist stage back in the beginning to the Abruzzo life life I am living now, every day in Italy has always had the church bells ringing. Usually in all of our video footage Spencer and I have caught the bells starting or stopping at some point, they are so common all day long.

     After just the first two weeks of the Song of the Bells being the sound track to Italy I found my system startled by the lack of bells in the UK, where I can’t say I ever heard any at all. If they had been ringing in Porth where we were living for the month, the chilly weather and rain might have prevented me from ever hearing it anyway. When I think of Wales now I think “cozy” since Miss Kimberley’s well kept home really made daily life cozy, sort of snug in our homes and withdrawn from community....sort of like life in California, where I only attend community activities on occasional weekends.  

     Here life is conducted in the opposite way, with the entire community feeling like your large family. Everyone’s life interacts with their neighbors on a constant basis through large group activities like the Fava Bean Festival I missed in the beginning of my stay here. I see now that NOT going was American of me and not very Italian.

     So when Corpus Domini came up it was something I really wanted to be a part of, if possible.

     When I asked if we could help gather the flowers early in the morning, I was told that they drove out at 5 in the morning and cars would be involved. I pressed them about it really wanting to go but in the end I was afraid we would be a bit of a burden while they figured out whose car we would go in. I could have very easily though completely misunderstood. I have messed up nearly every set of plans while here. You have to remember that all my conversations are in Italian and even though some of time I understand 80% of what is being talked about, other times I miss the bulk of what is going on. (Come to think of it that is how I feel about everyday life back in English speaking America!) I had no idea how much I had missed though, until later.

     In the meantime some nice friends that we had met back in the beginning of our stay here called and invited us to lunch. I was excited about seeing them since this couple was both fun and very easy to comprehend since he was an amazing communicator. They spoke only in Italian but he acted out much of what he said in such clear and animated fashion that it was really easy to see why his daughters were excellent students and highly successful people in their own right. They probably share that excellent communicator trait.

    I was delighted to hear his voice and know I would see his wife’s sweet smile again before leaving next weekend.

     And to be honest, Spencer and I had been having a difficult time keeping up the supply of food in the house since each transaction has to be in cash and we have no car here and must resort to a bus ride into town for each ATM withdrawal. Try imagining how you keep up with all of those prohibitions on your daily round. It means here that I am always buying the next set of bus tickets first. Gathering up any supplies we could not get in our little town….. and then figuring out food arrangements.

     When we were invited to lunch I had been sure we could run out of food before Tuesday which was our next chance to get money. I was glad to jump at the chance to see our friends but also recognized that this was a gift to get us through another day of  food survival. I was just glad that I thought we were told to sleep in and not to help collect flowers in town, which meant that I was free to zip off and return in time for the afternoon festivities.

     Of course you have to remember that I was thinking I was understanding all the Italian that I was hearing. Apparently though, I had it all wrong.

     In the meantime Spencer and I had a fun car ride to Cherubino’s house and loved getting to meet his sisters and seeing his really kind sweet wife, Silvana again, who reminds me of an Italian version of one of my best friends back home, Ann.  

      Cherubino’s sisters were perfect examples of the quintessential Italian lady. One was dressed to the nines, perfect heels and tastefully matched jewelry and style. She was pristine and elegant looking and it was easy to picture her as being a product of her home city of Rome. Her walk alone screamed “sophisticate” and her friendliness made her a rather charming package, and easy to listen to or talk with. She was so opulently kind that she gave me a beautiful farfalle scarf when I pointed out the classiness of the Romanis and their cool walk that she represented. The other sister was calm, deeply intelligent and clearly more of a practical soul. She had that poise of one who spends a lot of time in spiritual pursuit. It would not surprise me if I were to learn she had a background at some time with a convent. She was not dressed like a nun but she had all the kind, calmness of one. Her nature made her sister seem even more like a butterfly in her brightness as they sat side by side. And to me, each fit exactly what every good Italian girl would strive to be when they grow up. And how fitting that one of them gave me a butterfly scarf!

     Along with Silvana’s witty older father it was a marvelous afternoon full of conversation and tranquil moments of friendship and insight. Cherubino has a wisdom about him that is startling. He is like me in that he does not mind trying to get pretty big concepts across a language barrier, even if it risks the possibility or probability of being misunderstood.

     He perceptively pointed out that now that he had met Spencer and I, Santa Cruz and California had leapt from an abstract concept into a real world reality.  He pointed out that now if he were to hear of something bad happening there, like our ever present earthquakes, he will worry about us and our friends and family. He deftly pointed out that having friends around the world makes the world smaller and more caring. I knew he was telling the truth because my feelings about watching the Euro situation with fascination have been slipping since now I know many people who can be directly effected by any changes in the economy here in Europe. The collapse of the Euro isn’t so fascinating now it makes me feel unsure and sick to my stomach.

     I felt that the lunch was the equivalent of eating in San Francisco’s best restaurants. All home made and cooked by our hostess, who was one handed at the present time and had 2 fingers in a sling! Italians don’t ever seem to let anything interfere with food times being perfect are highly spiritual endeavors. Not even injuries can interfere! It was a simply amazing pomeriggio.

     Cherubino got us back to Valle San Giovanni just in time for the street decorations. We started in right away on helping those who lived near us on our via. It was so nice to just dive in and put greens down as an outline for the flower spreading part to come. We frittered away lots of time in videotaping and interacting as much as possible with our friends and neighbors as they switched from outlining a path to spreading a yellow layer of Scotch Broom, Genesta flowers, with buckets and buckets of other colors mixed in. there were the bright red poppies that grow all over the green hillsides here and white and red roses also mixed in as well.

     I was completely enthralled at watching the locals all gather around and carefully tend to the task of making their own section of the street ready for the procession that was coming up later.

     Some were straightening the leafy green outlines, while others worked on the flower layers. Everyone had a particular and exact way to go about the process and it was obvious that this was a time worn, lovingly expressed ritual. I felt like the community was giving the church the equivalent of a hug.

     It was strange though since Spencer and I seemed like part of the process. We kind of just knew what we were supposed to be doing and jumped in and did it. If I was bungling everything as I went along it wasn’t obvious to me who was cleaning up my mistakes. It felt so nice to be a part things. Spencer seemed to just know who needed help spreading flowers and he always seemed to be in the right spot to help too. It gave me a sense of belonging that I rather enjoyed.

      I had felt so confident that I couldn’t help but laugh at the ample length of video we shot when I watched it later before bed. I totally misunderstood one of Francesca’s daughters as she carefully asked me in Italian, “Where were you when we were working this morning?”

     I stupidly answered that I did have a nice run this morning.

     She politely repeated herself patiently, and I told her, “Uhhh, I am no longer angry.”

     She asked me again why I hadn’t come to help this morning and I proceeded to answer with another nonsense phrase, that frankly everyone here has gotten used to getting from me.

     She acted as if she were used to dealing with silly people who didn’t always care or have a clue. I think she is a school teacher by prfession.

     When Francesca’s other daughter came up I asked where Francesca was and when she would be appearing. I was horrified to find that Francesca was apparently waiting for Spencer and I to help spread the flowers in front of the Bar. Apparently she had held the task for us since I was so excited about it.

     The video camera pans wildly as I flat out ran to find Francesca who was understandably a bit hurried with me. Everyone else’s section of the road was done and here her section was completely bare except for the green outline!!

    I did not turn off the camera but ran to get Spencer, calling out his name loudly and in that annoying tone that only mothers can do, “SPENCHERE!”

     He dropped his handful of flowers and ran over asking, “What happened?”

     I breathlessly told him, “I don’t know, we were supposed to be here. We have to spread the flowers for the bar and Francesca!”

     It was a whirlwind of excitement and responsibility as we carefully laid out the yellow layer as we had been shown already by our neighbors on our street. Then we filtered in the bits of color that the roses and other layers created. In minutes our section now matched the other sections that had been completed long before. I realized that we had become sort of knowledgeable about how to decorate the pathway for Corpus Domini  since we had done it twice now in an afternoon.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

30 Quando e il Tempo Cucinare?

      When it is time to cook people can feel many different things. My mom always made it look so easy. She seemed to luxuriate in cooking the family meals when I was young. She made cooking look fun and effortless.

     When I cooked for my ex-husband, I loved cooking. Since then it has been both a joy and a burden. Two of my three children are grown and no longer living at home. I have also noticed that whatever man is in my life has a tendency to lower my cooking self esteem. They have their own sense of the way things should be cooked and even this last time I found that the dictates of another person can somehow change my own feelings of what is OK to cook.

      While here in Italy I am regaining my love of cooking through being with women. Everyone here seems to be quite particular about mealtime being a highly prized time of the day. I was excited that Francesca has been treating us to succulent local cuisines she is feeding her own family.

     Spencer and I were invited to pizza last night. I had visions of round Boboli pizzas in my head that now seem canned and premade. My friend, the Sophia Loren Look alike sent us over to the big house that has a large wood fired cook stove in the main floor next to the large dining room. There the room was warm and there was a cheery feeling as women breezed about in bright aprons making large square pans of pizza. The dough had been cooked earlier by a happy looking cook with a short and very fashionable haircut. She was pulling out the thin crust dough pans and placing them on a large wooden table that was piled high with bowls of toppings for the pizzas.

     My nose went into overload at how wonderful all the mouth watering scents were…was it the fresh bread dough cooking that I smelled or the tomato sauce? There were bowls of small cuts of mozzarella, and zucchini sliced so thin that you could see through them (also mixed with olive oil) with some tiny pieces of onion, and sauces of fresh tomatoes and another of peppers in a tomato sauce as well as a few slices of hot dog on the top of some. They took the straight olive oil and spooned some lightly over the individual slices I noticed.

     The donne were making pizzas exactly as their own families liked them by dividing the large pizzas into segments and filling them in for their own tastes. I loved the atmosphere. They were bustling in all directions and I was told to “mangia!” in a loud friendly voice repeatedly. They didn’t have to tell me twice. I ate several pieces of the delicacies while still in the kitchen. I was completely engrossed in the scene. It was just a lot of fun to be in here. I wondered why this room wasn’t filled with kids. There were little potato delicacies with smiley faces and fluffy homemade puffs ready to eat now.

     Then without fanfare, they were all bustling with trays full of colorful arrangements of pizza as they whisked out of the room and over to their individual houses. At least 4 households were fed by my count and all the women returned to eat together when they had finished feeding their families. I was surprised at that since I had already eaten 5 squares of different kinds of pizza, making sure Spencer who was outside playing also had his share of pizza as well. I had no room left when dinner actually started.

     We sat down at the big table at a quarter to nine, a full 15 minutes after my normal bedtime back in California.  This is when the restaurants start filling up in Levanto, Firenze, Siena and Rome. Italians eat until late. Really late by my standards, but I am getting better. We ate and drank Giovanni’s velvety homemade wine, beer and frizzante, (fizzy water), until at least an hour later. After the dessert, they started cooking again. This time they had a large pan of white almond slivers and sugar mixing over a burner. They were making crochette. I haven’t been able to double check the spelling but it is the most amazing carmelized almond candy.

    I got to hold the pan while the blond Italian woman, who seemed about my age deftly stirred the mix with 2 wooden spoons as it darkened and the sugar liquidified. As soon as she was done she dumped the mix on a wax paper that had been prepared with oil drizzlings on it. She kept stirring the almonds as the others took spoonfuls and shaped it into a larger stand to use for a festivity for this weekend. I was so happy to be involved in this experience that I didn’t realize how much the wine and my serious overeating had combined to make me extremely sleepy. It took all of my concentration to walk past the Bar with some dignity…that was where I realized I was definitely tipsey. I handed Spencer our plate of leftovers.

     Every act of generosity seems to be helping me rebuild my own sense of who I am and what version of me will be returning home to California next week when I get back. I feel as if I have been a building that needed earthquake retrofitting. I was all but torn down and now I am being rebuilt into a much better, stronger building as I get geared up for a return to a life that will be completely new when I return. One thing is for sure. I am going to cook more. And I am going to appreciate everything I eat instead of cooking and eating without a sense of pleasure. Here in the Abruzzo, I have learned to eat with my heart and soul included. I think I lost that along the way sometime after my divorce.

     When I get home, I know it is time for me to cook, and eat with everything I have got involved.

Friday, June 8, 2012

29 Time to Pause…

     Spencer was catching fireflies gently and setting them free last night when it hit me how much our life has changed from Santa Cruz, CA. I think we are 2 very different people now. We have played hard as a family and run around Italy, we have lived a full month in my family’s old stomping grounds in Wales, and we have lived for over a month in a rural and lovely place in the middle of Italy where there is not much English spoken.

      I also left a secure house setting and a man I was willing to marry only to have both the house and man disappear before I could return. Oddly, I find that the most intriguing change of all. He must not have matched the new person I have become. I had been complaining about the cost of living along the coast, as being too high for me since last October. I am an online student, I remember telling my Ex-Fidenzata and I can live anywhere where the internet is a good connection. I recall he talked me out of moving then saying I could afford it later. I never did see that day come around. And now my problems have corrected themselves while I was away.

     It really is a dream situation I found myself in since I am a person who loves to avoid conflict. I wasn’t even there to bring things to a head. The first day I was gone things fixed themselves. The good man, showed a darker, less reliable side. The house did not drive me into debt while I was gone, but instead was emptied in a month and a half by my caring family.

     And I was happily insulated by being in Italy and Wales. Wales was interesting since some of the things I truly believe in turned out to be true there. I found out that we are products of our environment. Years ago my uncle brought us a long list of our family pedigree on my dad’s side. We Hughes were in Wales going back to King Arthur’s time.

     And while I was there in Wales, I had the best time. My skin grew milkier and fresh looking like my relatives there. My thinking was very clear. It really seemed the whole package of eating the nutrition of my forefathers and being in whatever weather my body is bred for seemed to make me healthier. My hair was soft and silky. My eyes were white and clear all the time. My body loved Wales and the food there. (My nose did not though, my CA side protested the chill by perpetually having a runny nose!).

      The lush green atmosphere seemed so wet that sometimes I felt like I did when I went swimming for too many days in a row in Santa Cruz at the beaches during the summer. I had a happy waterlogged feeling. Because of the daily heavy rains, Spencer and I were saturated in TV time and indoor activities and computer time and lovely Sunday dinners and family time.

     In Wales, I understood everyone’s humor since it was my own and my family’s. I had no idea that our sense of humor was part of the Welsh sense of humor until I got to experience it first hand. The self deprecating humor was classic Welsh fun. Everything on TV that was local Welsh programming almost resonated with me in a deeper sense. I suppose that it was like being immersed in your home culture and being rather surprised to find that you even had one at all.

     Then there were the moving church experience…I never walked into any churches in Wales. The outside was enough to make me really feel peaceful and at home. I had the sensation, more then once, that my ancestors were reaching out and giving me a hug from another time. I especially enjoyed the cemeteries. Being in a lovely green Welsh cemetery felt oddly like coming home.

     And the humor of the Welsh extended to more then the family I was staying with in South Wales but also included their friends. I was slow on the uptake due to the big difference in accents, but the Welsh friends were so funny and so easy for me to understand. The keen use of words with many different meanings belied a complex and intelligent humor that cracked me up sometimes 10 minutes after the joke had been said. It was like the Thanksgivings of my childhood in California. The same sense of humor was preserved all the way in Oakland, decades after my family had left Wales.

    When I see Spencer and I on this trip, I see that we also transformed over the time we were abroad. When I was in tourist mode while here the first two weeks in Italy before Easter, I was in my element, getting to finally use all my Italian and hear it spoken in the Florentine dialect that is probably what my text book was based on, thanks to Dante. I was a scholar, working hard at my classes even while I had very little access to the internet while in Rome, I diligently turned in assignments.

     While I was in Wales, I scored really well on a mid term and was pulling a B or better in all my classes, even though I had to hire an online proctor to turn in my other midterm on time. I was still harboring hope that my Ex-fiance would come to his senses and become normal again, even while he moved out with a female co-worker and broke into my accounts to read my private emails with friends and family.

     In the end it was easy to outgrow the urge to wind up with him or my classes in tact.

     When I moved to this lovely rural village, I found that a lack of internet would give me a level of schoolwork that would be seriously below my standards. I am not accustomed to doing my work in the hour a day method. I would never be able to read my assignments and watch all the videos necessary to finish my classes with 2 hours a day of internet to share amongst all of my classes.

     I opted for immersion instead in Italian, which was the whole reason I came to Europe anyway. And the urge to connect at all with the boyfriend faded away with my schoolwork. All of it seemed to slip away and I have become so happy and strong here in Italy that I can’t imagine a situation that will make me weak again. I have missed trains with an 11 year old counting on me and survived. I have lived without a car and access to the internet and Jon Stewart, as well as my politics for months now.

     We, as a team, have figured out many airports and complex ticket situations, (like Heathrow, trading our seats to window seats and next to each other was Spencer’s brilliance!), as well as figuring out bus and train tickets in Italian! I can text message and be involved in complex conversations in Italian. Spencer understands a lot of Italian and I think my comprehension has gone through the roof compared to when I first got to this lovely Italian mountain town a month ago.

     I think I am a stronger, more interesting version of who I was, even in Wales. I think Spencer and I will figure out where we are living with ease in the states when we return in a week and a half. It can’t be harder to rebuild my life there where I understand all the conversation. When I compare it to negotiating a missed train on the Bologna train station platform, life at home sounds easy, no matter what complications I face.

     Oddly, I feel as if I have had all of my dreams come true. I was built for this kind of daily excitement. I love not being able to use the words I am used to but instead struggling for an appropriate word that is close enough in another language. And having no idea what is going to happen next suits me.

      Yesterday I finished and turned in the lovely white linen altar cloth I made for the church here. I only worked on it when I was feeling happy and appreciative since it was going to the church and since it represented my appreciation for the church and the people here. I was nervous though. I had not pulled out the single thread like they had showed me. I had indeed added the lace I liked for the 2 side sections. I had ironed it 6 times, for a look I thought was perfect. While working on it, I carried around a laundry basket that was piled high with metres of snowy white linen that looked like clouds to me. Other ladies kindly asked me if I wanted to use their machines but I insisted on doing it by hand, since it was my idea of an offering.

     When I showed my Sweet Barkeeper friend, she assured me that it was time to take it in to the church and that afternoon Mass was over. I rushed over with my heart pounding. I had a hard time with my comprehension in the church, I never seemed to understand what was being discussed and it gave me the sensation I had done something wrong.

     Instead I was greeted with affection and appreciation. They liked my work! They were grateful! I needn’t have worried at all. I almost had bought Spencer and I tickets to Rome thinking that it was my responsibility to try to find and buy the red lace they showed me that could only be purchased near the Vatican. In fact they had been showing me what they would sew to it in time for Pentecost. I was so relieved. I have no idea when Pentecost is but my part is done and it was done well. They said they will get me a picture of the final product.

     I think that is the way I am doing things from now on. I learned with that project to trust myself and just do the best I can. And that is what I plan on doing in my future. I trust I will iron out my problems with my school, find a way to support myself, and live happily in the here and now. If I could figure out this trip…I can figure out anything I have waiting for me at home!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

28 Midnight Surprise

     One night I heard something before the moon came up. It was pitch black outside as I threw open the front door. My heart was pounding from having jumped up out of bed so quickly but the calm scene outside did not reflect what I had expected. There were no wild creatures or cat fights to break up but instead I saw surprising and silent flickering lights flitting through the yard.

     Now my whole life I have wanted to see fireflies. I had no idea where they actually dwell. They just show up in stories about the south or what looks like the Midwestern US. I had no idea they might be here in Europe!!

     I traveled to New Orleans and my only regret was being told that I was too early in the springtime to see the fireflies there.

     I watched here in Italy as the two lights danced and zoomed about, sparkling in and out. When they disappeared, I went back to bed vowing to see them the next night.

     I of course, forgot all about them.

     After Spencer and I did our nightly Sudoku puzzle that his sister gave to him for the trip, we went to sleep, before the sun had even finished setting here.

     In the dark part of the night, I was roused again by animal sounds to find myself staring at the yard outside again. I found the same 2 fireflies fitting around marvelously.

      This time I called Spencer outside. He popped awake and was out with me in an instant! This time the two of us ventured to the edge of the yard, the wall…that is where we usually sit and just appreciate the view. When we reached the view of the small clearing under our terrace we were shocked at how beautiful the view was over the edge! We were staring at hundreds of fireflies silently flying about. It was as magical as having Tinkerbell bring all of her friends for a visit! We were clearly dumbfounded! They flew between trees and through low bushes looking absolutely wonderful.

     I ran and got us each a sweatshirt so we could stay out for a while since it was cold.

     The little creatures, with their light up rear ends are called lucciole here according to our dear friend here who seems to know everything.  They were in a state of movement so it made the flickering even more difficult to monitor with my eyes. I think I made it seem even more dazzling then Christmas lights. We were spellbound for a full 30 minutes when the cold wound up driving us inside.

     Tonight we are tempted to sleep outside and just watch the lights come out after dark down there. Better then watching he stars appear back home I’ll bet….

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Spenchere e io siamo il tempo della nostra vita. Carla e Francesca ci fanno sentire sicuri e sani di mente qui. Ieri Spenchere ha veduto la dottoressa....e lei dice Spenchere ha tonisille!! 

Per mi, ha senso per che Spenchere si fa un sacco di rumore russare durante la notte.

Grazie molto la dottoressa!! E Francesca e Carla per aiutareme quando io sento paura. Voi essere molto bone amiche!!

This has not been written carefully so it might not last...but Spencer was diagnosed as having tonsillitus yesterday and it was a bit rough except for the wonderful help of my friends here...I have to admit that Italy is much better then America. We would have never gotten a doctor to visit us at home...and take care of everything in minutes. He could have even gone to the ospedale!! Why did my school charge me alot of money for health insurance I wonder?

I thought I was just finding out what medicine to ask for in town for his allergies...but he has been making so much noise at night...his snoring has been louder then loud!! Now I know why!! He has been very uncomfortable! Poor thing!

Thanks to my good friend, Francesca and her daughter, Carla...and all the other mothers here...Spencer is fine and dandy today and was able to go for a walk with only one sneeze here!!

And the wonderful doctor here has 2 daughters studying medicine in the states...

Monday, June 4, 2012

27 Contact

27 Contact

      I had fun trying to figure out how to write to Carlo via text message, even though we all know that it is a probability that with the language differences there was bound to be difficulties that would end in a misunderstanding. I mean texting my loved ones in my own language has gotten me into communication problems in my home culture. If I have irritated my family through texting, and I still jumped on the chance to text with Carlo, probably the thrill for me was playing with the words as much as Carlo. Besides I understood that here there was no real possibility of a romance….I mean I am leaving in 3 weeks and who knows when I will be able to swing getting over here again? And every moment my son and I are enjoying this experience together…I have no real intention of a wild romantic tryst. I always think of myself as Eliza Doolittle wailing, “I’m a gooood gooorl, I am!” ….E io sono una buona ragazza. No punto in cambio oggi in Italia.

     But I luxuriated in talking to Spencer about my careful phrasing and using my Rick Steve’s Italian phrasebook to give myself some pretty good borders of Italian to work with and also maybe make some sense with my little messages. I had written and rewritten each response on paper before putting it into the telefonino. Carlo and I sent nice messages over the next day back and forth. I asked what genre of books he liked. I enjoyed carefully writing out my responses and spent hours making sure I answered with some sense. He was charming up to the moment he disappeared.

     Of course there came a point where he stopped writing! I am not sure if I sounded like I wished his job was with the government when I was in fact telling him dream jobs I would like when I graduate. Either way, it was great for my Italian and way more interesting then a class on Italian. I couldn’t get over how much easier it was to learn out here in the real world rather then in the classroom where I had originally planned to go! What was I thinking before?! How could I have ever been so angry with my school for having a funding glitch which cancelled my school? A couple of months ago I was mad over not being able to go into debt another $13,000 for Italian classes in Siena!? It is so much more wonderful to have this experience with real people and a great dialect in the Abruzzo with a multitude of teachers and experts who are gently correcting my huge missteps with a smile on their face. And they are carefully teaching me the differences between dialect and use-anywhere Italian so I am not learning a rare dialect and missing the chance to learn Italian. I am getting the highest quality education right here with the front line experts who are using the language!

     The contact might have ended with Carlo somewhere in my text messages, but my contact with Italians grows stronger with every day of shopping in the local shops or chatting at the Bar. I love listening to conversations and being part of them with all of my friends here, oscillating between being a quiet fly on the wall and chatty Patty.

    I was most excited about one of the card players from a few posts back. His voice is just lovely to listen to. He seems to trill the rrrr’s longer then the others. There was a commercial for Taco Bell years ago, in which the announcer rounded out the rrr’s in that lilting fashion. I remember liking that voice too. I like this guy’s smile and his Italian manner. I know absolutely nothing about him. He could be married or anything.
      But my interest is completely innocent…I just love listening to his voice. Actually I love listening to all the men’s voices here…I do tell them that they sound like music to my California ears.

    In deference to my healing process from having a bit of a bruised psyche, I have to allow myself little luxuries. You see my Ex Fidenzata, who I was devoted to when I left California, to the point of even wearing a bracelet with his tiny picture in it my first 2 weeks in Italy…well, he is now living with a female co-worker last I heard. He is a good man who has been a bit erratic due to huge difficulties he has experienced in his life. It all happened while I was gone…and I feel somewhat distanced from its occurrence since I was not actually there. I could be kicking myself, searching in vain for something I did to bring this on, but I oddly feel that his implosion had little to do with me. It made me feel a bit like I was shunted aside and prevented from feeling the brunt of it all while here in Italy frankly having the time of my life. I mean I am in my own Indiana Jones style, adventure of a lifetime.

     So for me, I have to admit that listening to the masculine sound of Italian men and enjoying my Italian experience sure feels like a successful way to have fun in the aftermath. And it is completely clean cut good fun.

     In my cobbled together Italian, (that is the way it is with every language, you kind of cobble together words you know…into getting close to what you were trying to say!), it felt good to finally explain why I had an Ex Fidenzata who is so gone from my life. I said it out loud yesterday and in Italian and my girl friends here completely understood. Even in Italy breakups happen. But just because I picked out a man who now seems obviousy to have been a mismatch for a choice, I have to admit that contact has not been something I have shrunk back from. In fact I feel stronger about getting out there and talking to people. It feels like the best way to rebuild my self esteem. I think it is important when you have been kicked around to smile and become a part of the human race instead of shrink from it.

     And it is rather easy when you are in the most beautiful culture on earth…the Italians make everything seem so easy! Eating, relaxing and rebuilding my self esteem…sort of the way of this culture…if you can’t get your confidence back when you are amongst confident people, where are you going to find it?


26 Side Stories Going On

     I have had a couple of snags on the altar cloth for the church. Remember? I volunteered to sew something to honor the Madonna that touched me so deeply  a few weeks ago here in the town church?  There was the problem of needing to borrow an altar cloth they already have to make sure I had the measurements right as I cut out the new cloth. I wrote it out while my back was in pain in both Italian and Spanish since the priest here speaks Spanish as well. After I finally got to the church at the right time I found myself totally confused by the conversation taking place. Apparently there was a problem with the altar cloth and me. I don’t know if it was the borrowing that was my problem or what but I was shown a complicated sewing job where a filament of thread was pulled out of the edging and the edges folded over and aligned with it. This is not an easy method for even the professional seamstress and I had only seen it done once, and that was here in Italy at the fabric place I bought the linen from in Teramo.

      Also I translated linen as the material but maybe it was supposed to be cotton. The ladies almost seemed to be arguing over something and more then one looked at me uncomfortably as if they were embarrassed. I don’t know what was said for sure but I wanted to do all I could to make this cloth right, since now it also symbolized a chance to leave something for the people I love here so much. At that point, I think I agreed to doing the work with the complicated filament-removed style. Then they took the cloth and washed it for me. I wasn’t sure if they even wanted me to work on it anymore, to be honest. A few nights later one of the ladies kindly showed up at the Bar and dropped off the cloth.

    I spent a day ironing during the thunderstorm and 4 more days trying to pull out the single filament on the cloth…on just ONE edge. After a week I had to admit that though I feel I can see fine work without my contacts in…my eyes, are almost 50 years old. Here I was trying to hand sew in a technique that I had only seen and my eyes were not up to the task.

    Today I get to visit the church and Bar and relay the honest truth. I can sew it in simple style and be done before I leave…this more complicated way though, I cannot guarantee ever finishing. I have to remind myself I already spent 60 Euros on this project. It is OK if they say they will find someone younger who can sew in the tiny old fashioned every 5 strings of linen style, or I can do it the simple sew the hem method.  I must admit that I absolutely dread telling them this, but I am down to my last 2 weeks as of tomorrow and much of the last week will be getting geared up for leaving again.

      In the meantime the mornings are warm here and the afternoons are a deluge of exciting thunderstorms. Spencer and I have a regular habit now of gathering the chairs from outside and pulling them right next to the door along with the table. We pull a blanket over both of our laps as we watch the clouds build up over the mountains, getting darker and darker until they are close to us. Afterward comes the inevitable gusty winds where we can watch and sometimes see distant lightening as it works towards us until we can hear the thunder.

     This causes a flurry of activity around the town as everyone pulls in all the brightly colored tablecloths and clothing from the dryer lines outside.

      Our favorite part of this pattern is the deluge of water that seems to drop all at once, sometimes peppered with hail. All the locals say that this is unusual and that the weather is always warm from April on. I haven’t even pulled out my sundresses yet and Spencer and I are only 2 weeks from returning to California. Back in Wales, our relatives have also kidded about us being “weather jinxes” since they had unseasonable rain that lasted until the day we left. Before us and after our departure, they had warm weather.

     I am not sure what to think. I am finding that Spencer and I are really missing our family and friends back home but we had alot of fun in Wales and here in Italy. I am going to have a hard time leaving. It was very hard leaving Miss Kimberley and the Welsh family and I think it is going to be very hard leaving our really wonderful friends here, Francesca and Adriana, Gabriegle, and our other Gabriele, our bus buddy who takes the same “Pullman,” or bus into town with us.

     I decided that it was time to figure out possible details on the last leg of our trip that can bring us into the last 3 days before we land at SFO. Oddly enough it was strange to pull out my worn tickets that were handed to me on February 12 back at the travel agent’s place in Santa Cruz, (Santa Cruz Travel-Teresa’s part of everything worked out excellent so I can vouch for Teresa and Santa Cruz Travel as being the only way to go!!).

     I felt myself feel a bit calmer going over the details of the tickets home. We must get to the Airport before 7 am. We know that airport really well and are quite comfortable with where we are even going to eat breakfast! We reach Paris by lunch and eat there. And oddly after leaving Paris at 1,30 in the afternoon, we are supposed to travel over 11 hours and land at San Francisco Airport just in time for dinner!! Gaining back our 9 hours we lost when we left will catch up with us on the flight. I am a bit nervous about whether they are even feeding us much. I hope so. I like to eat during 10 hour stretches of awake time. I am figuring they must have something practical set up. We haven’t been on a flight yet, no matter how small that forgot to feed us.


Friday, June 1, 2012

25 Karaoke Party…

     The music was so loud that it only deadened my ability to hear anything or even worse understand much of the conversation. I took to writing little notes to the others at the table about Roma and asking about song names. I usually write better Italian then I speak…but that might have changed here. I am not sure.

     Anyway, Spencer wound his way over to us and the children started disappearing though there were still a few left. Carlo got him a soda before I could object. Then he proceeded to act like all the Italians do…he tried to talk to Spencer and engage him in conversation. I love the way kids here are so much a part of things. There is no separation between the ages we have in American culture. The teens walk in and love and kiss the nonna behind the Bar and are not ridiculed by their peers at all.

     I also noticed my beer had turned into a never ending beer…Carlo was adding to it for me. That also effected my spelling in Italian which became another obstacle to my speech.

     We stayed until after midnight. Carlo had asked me to dance more then once, but I knew better since my back was only now feeling good enough to let me walk with less of a hunched look. I explained in shakey Italian, that I could not, and I stuck by it. I knew better hen to spend another moment of my time in Italy recovering from back pain.

     At the end of the evening, I realized I had a phone number! An Italian telefonino. I told Carlo on my little recipe cards that I could give him the number if we walked back to the house together. I had no idea…you don’t memorize a number you just got. But I knew which book it was written in at the house.

     Now I had asked him to walk Spencer and I back in all innocence, not at all thinking through if this was conveying an appropriate on inappropriate message to him. Spencer and I chattered happily and noisily as we made our way through the quiet town back to our house. It is conceivable that everyone in town heard us as we made our way to the house with a strange man from the next town.

     I don’t always think through stuff like that. I guess that is a reason for my family to worry about me sometimes. The nice part is that I did not misjudge this man. He was a perfect gentleman. He didn’t even cross the threshold as Spencer and I rummaged around inside for the spot where we had our number written down. He was politely gone within 3 minutes after I found the number.

     Spencer and I were dead tired…we were in bed in minutes. I think I was already asleep when my unfamiliar telefonino sung out its text message tune.   

     The next morning I was surprised to see that it had only been 34 minutes after midnight when Carlo had sent, “Goodnight, Terry.”