How Was Your Trip?

Fabulous. Amazing. Wonderful. I’m not given to sports analogies, but Martin knocked it out of the park. And then some. I won’t give you a day by day description, but will offer somewhat ordered stream-of-conscious impressions and memories. In the Bookshelf, Martin mentioned Firebird Tours who provided the tour.  They get huge shouts out from me as well. This was our third attempt to take a trip that had been in the planning since early 2019.  They went above and beyond; every staff member responded to our concerns patiently and with good information. I cannot recommend Firebird highly enough.

Traveling during a pandemic
What was planned for a spring 2020 40th anniversary celebration finally happened in the fall of 2021.  There was a lull in Covid cases. Italy’s vax stats were much better than those in the U.S. We set off with some trepidation and yet once we arrived we felt more at ease than in the States. Entry into the country required proof of two vaccinations and negative Covid test results no more than 72 hours before arrival. Proof of vaccinations were requested in restaurants, shops, and museums. In addition to verifying our vax status, the hotels also took a quick temp check before we could register. Mask compliance inside any building  was universal.

The Vibe
Everywhere we went, we were thanked for coming to Italy. The country was hit hard, fast, and early in the pandemic. Tourism evaporated. During our three weeks, we encountered no other Americans save for those on our trip and two couples in Como.  As I write today, the overseas travel situation has changed. We hit a sweet spot for which we are eternally grateful.

Language was no barrier. Everyone spoke English and with my French and Spanish I was able to decode what was written.  I could understand directions, order in restaurants and even make out bits and pieces of conversations. My attempts at speaking Italian were appreciated even when I guessed at a cognate from French or Spanish. One of our guides complemented my Italian accent, saying that most Americans she encountered couldn’t manage it. Made me feel like a million Euros.

The Weather
All I can say is that is was flawless. Sunny nearly every day. Two hours of rain one day. Warm to cool needing only a sweater. Perfetto!

The People
Italians are delightful. When they speak it sounds like champagne bubbles. They are warm, welcoming, and their  joie de vivre is contagious. We clicked nearly immediately with one couple on the tour. Randy and Katrina, who were close to our ages, were on their honeymoon. They were as enthusiastic about walking and exploring as we were. Enjoyment is always multiplied when shared with others and the two of them added so very much to our experience.

The Trains
Like the hotels, the trains were first class. Never crowded, complimentary treats (sweet, savory, and wine if you like), and fast! My ears popped a time or two. If only we could do this in America.

 

Quiet time on the train.

What a delightful way to travel!

 

Read on — How Was the Food?

Photos courtesy of Martin Darvick

 

 

How Do You Wrap Up Your Day?

Since Covid’s first spring, a group of women and I have been meeting for study, meditation and conversation. Last week, one of our members said something about wrapping up her day and how she tries to pay attention to how she does it.

I thought it was such a wonderful phrase: “wrapping up one’s day.” Do I have a practice of doing this? Not really. Before Martin and I say goodnight, we sometimes review the day. Or go over the next day’s plans. Some families go around the dinner table and offer up a rose and a thorn, ie something good and something less than stellar that happened during the day. But that’s not exactly the same as wrapping the day up, sifting through one’s day to review its entire contents. And then after the sifting there is the considering, the measuring, the assigning of gratitude and regret, perhaps remembering a close call or even a spirit-lifting surprise.

Do you have a ritual to wrap up your day? What is it?  How did it come about?  I’m thinking maybe I could wrap up my day while I am brushing my teeth, linking a new intention to a lifelong habit.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

photo courtesy of Martin Darvick

 

 

A Conversation With My Younger Self

I was nine or so when this photo was taken. The girl that was me looks into the camera a bit peevishly. I’d likely readied myself for bed and was reading before lights out.  My mom had bathed and put my sisters to bed. Seeing me in my room as she left theirs, she probably went for her camera. She would have asked me to look up, wanting to capture the sweetness of of the moment and her bookish daughter’s face in the lamplight. The moment I saw this photo I remembered the nightgown. It was made of a cotton that was not too soft nor too starchy. For some reasons the apples were pale blue, not red.

What would this girl think if we were to meet? Would she want to play a game of Scrabble for old times’ sake? I’d gladly share my great new set of Crayolas with her. She’d want to trade me periwinkle for cerulean. I’d trade her magenta for red violet.  She’d probably thank me for still liking licorice, dancing in the rain and jumping in leaf piles. She loved to do that when her father raked fallen oak leaves each fall. What would she think about having become an author?

She might well envy me that my hair is long enough to braid.  Back then it was the pageboy or a pixie; she settled for the pageboy and wouldn’t get to grow her hair out for another few years. “Thank you for taking me to Paris,” she might say.  “But I didn’t care much for the running of the bulls. The bullfights were gory and oddly mesmerizing.” Yep, she knew words like that back then. “I loved hiking in the red rocks and I love those red cowboy boots; you should wear them more often. Be sure I get to have some pretty dresses, OK?” Our mother bought her wonderful dresses. I wish I had pictures of some of them. Around this age Mom bought her two dresses for a wedding in Florida. One was a long-sleeved A-line in a white taffeta strewn with flowers, akin to a Gucci print. The other dress was cut like a smock, long sleeves gathered at the wrist and shoulders. It was made of moss-green sateen printed with rose and blush colored peonies. I bet she’d be surprised that I still have Godfrey, the little plush monkey our parents bought her when she was four. Maybe she’s glad she got frozen here in time, a book in hand with several years to go before her family fell apart.

I’m glad I found this photo. I keep it on my desk where I can look at her, smile and take in her expression of indulgence and patience. “I love you,” I tell her. Sometimes, in the quiet, if I wait long enough I hear her reply, “I love you, too.”

But Isn’t Today Beautiful?

How many times have you heard someone say, “Well, tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful.”?  Maybe the sky’s grey. Or it’s raining buckets. Or the mercury plunged unexpectedly. I heard that phrase last week felt sad on behalf of the day at hand for having been summarily dismissed because it wasn’t living up to someone’s idea of a beautiful day. And what if tomorrow isn’t “beautiful”? Will it get dismissed too?

There are plenty of days that are truly ugly, horrific and filled with terror, grief and fury. I’m not denying life here. I’m merely suggesting that when those oh-so-easy words of dismissal begin to form, we take a moment and find beauty. Today.  On this day. If we’ve been given the gift of breath today, surely we can discover something beautiful and proclaim it.

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And now something else to share.

I had a poignant upsetting experience yesterday that has stayed with me.

Martin and I were out for a walk when we came upon a baby robin that had fallen from its next. But it wasn’t a robin yet. It was a bird-to-be: wet, cupped in its turquoise halfshell, eyes sealed behind dark grey lids, bony wings plastered to its side. Its beak was a good half an inch long.

I stood rooted in place and began searching for something to scoop it to the grass edging the sidewalk. And then I saw its tiny chest pulsing.  The birdling was alive. What was I supposed to do now? Surely its mother wasn’t coming for it and even if she did, for what? Other than mourning?

I couldn’t bury it. It was alive. I didn’t want it to be stepped on, either. I grabbed a couple of sticks for a makeshift travois and scooped it onto the grass. Its beak opened in silent protest or perhaps pain. The life of this pitiful near-bird was ebbing before my eyes. Maneuvering  it onto the grass I placed a curved piece of bark over it hoping it would stay undiscovered. I placed a small stone upon the bark. “You held God’s breath for such a short time, little bird.” We resumed our walk but it felt terrible to leave it dying alone. 

Don’t ask me why I went through such motions . I just had to do something to mark the bird’s brief time on a sun-baked sidewalk in a random midwest neighborhood on this third rock from the sun.