Auspicious Blackbirds

Yesterday while walking my dog, a flight of birds flew over our heads and I stopped to watch them. There seemed to be hundreds of them but I couldn’t tell the variety. Five minutes before the bird dance I had been listening to Eddie Vedder’s version of Blackbird while doing my dishes. “Auspicious” I thought to myself. Or perhaps hoped.

They moved in complete synchronicity with one another; darting one direction and then another. The movements seemed playful to me and I envisioned smiles on their little beaks as they followed the leader before filling a tree close by.

I dream every night and have since I was a child and many of those nights I’ve been flying like a bird. I’ve never dreamt I actually was a bird, just that I can fly like a bird. Not surprising, if I should come back in another life, I’d like it to be as a bird. You may be thinking, “Oh she wishes to have freedom,” as the bird is so representative of freedom. Although that’s only part of it really. My desire is much simpler than that – I only wish to see things from a bird’s perspective and I like the playfulness of the little creatures.

In my bird-like dreams, after my air exploration, I always have a hard time landing back on earth…and if that isn’t a complete representation of my essence, I don’t know what is.  And so in honor of the flock of birds, my bird-like dreams and auspicious events, I give you Eddie Vedder —

 

Still, A Watercolor with Pablo Neruda

“Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.”
– Pablo Neruda
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The American | In Italia: Living: Lost in Translation: The Deep End, A Prose Poem

Below you will find a link to my column Lost in Translation and my most recent piece, “The Deep End” which is not a typical article, but more-so a prose poem. Anyone who knows me, knows that poetry is near and dear to my heart. Although the magazine does not typically publish poems, this particular prose was allowed – this one time.

http://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?article=4326

Couple Holding Hands Underwater

Deep, A Photograph

“There’s no value in digging shallow wells in a hundred places. Decide on one place and dig deep. Even if you encounter a rock, use dynamite and keep going down. If you leave that to dig another well, all the first effort is wasted and there is no proof you won’t hit rock again.”
– Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras
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The Path, A Photograph of Spain

“Let each man take the path according to his capacity, understanding and temperament. His true guru will meet him along that path.”
– Sivananda Saraswati

This church, sitting on a hill in the middle of a small neighborhood, was possibly the prettiest place I found on Ibiza. I can’t remember where it was as it was found during an exploratory drive. The beaches, coves and sunsets were lovely too, but I’ve found them other places as well. However, this church on the hill, with all its white walls and cobbled pathways was special.

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Aimless – A Journal Post

Travel

The first 24 hours after arriving home is always the most exhausting for me. I’m lethargic, I’m tired (I don’t sleep on airplanes unfortunately) and I tend to either wander my house aimlessly (something I am prone to even when not tired) or lay down. Upon this return, I charted my 24 hour life. For fun. Maybe you can relate. Maybe not.

6pm
– plane lands in seattle. warm and sunny day. summer is here. feeling worse for wear i find my car and drive home.
– call parents to check in. mom tells me she knew i’d fall in love with france.
– wishing i would have given my fruit away before i left. the smell of rotting oranges and bananas stinks up my otherwise clean house. there are starving kids in africa and i selfishly let my fruit go bad. guilt
– take garbage out and open windows. discover the rotting fruit was possibly the only food source in the house.
wander around aimlessly, dreading unpacking. neglect suitcase
– hot shower.
– walk across the street to the market for coconut milk, fresh fruit and pasta
– notice i have new neighbors in the townhouse beside mine. they like cats. their windows are full of ‘cat trees” – weird
– hug and talk to boys
– suitcase? what suitcase?
– can’t keep eyes open anymore. curse time change
9:00pm
ignore suitcase and wet hair. head falls on pillow and lights out. blackness

3:30am
– wide awake. trip on suitcase heading to bathroom. curse. make mental note to move it later.
– after lights on glance in mirror. wet head the night before not a good idea. look like a member of an 80’s hair band. another glance shows that i’ve shrunk slightly. make mental note to research how eating cheese and bread in france actually makes one thinner.
– wander downstairs. only half-dozen nespresso capsules left. have lots of coconut milk though. decide i now like hot coffee instead of iced. weird.
– take double cappuccino to bed. almost spill from tripping on suitcase. curse suitcase.
– respond to emails ignored for weeks. order nespresso capsules. pay bills electronically, and otherwise read news via computer. decide i am behind the times in world events. shameful
– another cappuccino
– research cars online. decide dorky volkswagon will need to last. new car not worth it. money better spent living in europe a few months next year. research flats in nice, france. much better than cars.
– try to wake younger son.
– try to wake son again.
– try to wake son again.
– lay in bed. eat banana. consider another coffee. stomach says no.
– wake young son.
– take son to school.
– wander the house. ignore suitcase. tell myself i’ll unpack later. knowing i won’t. back to bed
– pick up dog from daughter’s house. drive home with dog. reminded how much i missed her. decide never to get another dog again because of her shedding all over my car. dog looks at me, knowing I’m full of it.
– walk dog. realizing as she drags behind, she is getting old now. tell her i love her and walk slower. apologize for nagging her about all of her hair
– remember plans to see girlfriends tonight for drinks on the waterfront. decide to take nap.
– phone call with girlfriend while laying on couch. make plans for summer road trip
– nap on couch
– lay on couch
– consider brushing crazy hair. too tired. stay on couch
– decide to unpack tomorrow

Something True, A Photograph of France

“if you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone.”
– Richard Yates

I leave Europe in a few days, although take with me wonderful new experiences and a few new friends. I’ll return soon, no doubt. Eventually I’ll just move here I’m sure. However for now, it’s time I go back to my daily life instead of photographing the daily lives of others (which I love so much.)

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Comfort, A Photograph of France

“Comfort has its place, but it seems rude to visit another country dressed as if you’ve come to mow its lawns.”
– David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

This is my first real visit to France. I’ve stopped in a time or two on the way to somewhere else, but never stayed long enough to truly meet the people. The only French man I know happens to be one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet though as an American, I was told virtually my entire life that the French would be rude should I visit. I should’ve known better and tsk tsk on me. How is it that I can go my entire life defending us “obnoxious” Americans while abroad, yet, because of what others say, have a preconceived notion of what the French are like. I feel rather stupid, to say the least. 

In fact, having been to Italy more than a dozen times, I never quite fit it. Don’t get me wrong though, I love the country. I love the history and I love the people. Although my Italian friends tell me that I don’t look or act Italian. I stick out like a sore thumb; I don’t wear that much make-up, my personal style (which I do love fashion) has always been more conservative or “vintage” and lastly, I talk and smile with people – I’m friendly. Here in France though, nobody stares at me like they do in Italy, I dress the same as most women here and when I smile – they smile back, they hold doors, they say thank you and even the women wish you a good day – and no, you don’t need to be purchasing something to gains smiles and chatting.

This morning at breakfast I sat and chatted with a nice German couple on their way to see the areas around Grasse. The owner of the Bed & Breakfast, Monique, showed them on the map how to get to their destinations. I found myself envious of their plan – I had none.  After they left, Monique asked me what I’d be doing today. I told her I had no clue, maybe Cannes, and asked what she recommended. “Cannes is full of tourists. You don’t look like you would like that. I see you don’t like those things. Let me show you where I go.” she responded. Music to my ears.

By the end of the day I had driven through the beautiful countryside, chatted with numerous locals and in some villages, felt I was the only one in the streets – completely safe and decided that my trip to France would be the first of many yet to come. My relationship with Italy is by no means over, it’s just a good friend now, instead of a lover, that’s all.

Below are a few photos I took today while exploring. They show the simplicity, yet elegance of the French style.
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Mi Perdoni?, A Photograph and Plea in Italy

“I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

I leave Verona Saturday with plans to drive into France. I’ll stop in the coastal town of Noli, here in Italy, for a few days first and plan a route from there. It very well could be that I stay on the beach writing and hiding, or perhaps return home a few days early. I’ve decided against a plan and instead, do what I do best – or used to do best – just feel my way about.

I took the photograph below while on a late afternoon walk along the river. I like the graffiti here in Italy. It’s either words of love, words of politics or desperate pleas. So many words. It’s not so prevalent as the miles and miles of graffiti in Rome, but it still carries mostly all the same messages.

Maybe the Veronese will be offended that instead of showcasing the beautiful pastel colored city in photos, I chose to showcase the graffiti. But please, good people of Verona, Mi Perdoni? I promise to share the bright, beautiful ones as well. Eventually.
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Mary

This morning, while sitting at the kitchen table having a coffee and working on an upcoming article about yoga, a strange man came into the kitchen to make himself coffee. I wasn’t startled though. I knew he was also a guest of Mary. He politely introduced himself and shook my hand. Severio, a journalist from Florence, was visiting Verona to write a piece on the reactions of young fans to a famous musician giving a concert at the arena last night.

Severio left soon after our conversation and Mary and I ventured out for a bit of shopping and lunch. The weather today was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold – just plain perfect (a word I rarely use – perfect) Mary, like me, loves to walk, shop and explore. I met Mary by chance while visiting her yoga studio during my last visit to Verona. We became fast friends and when she invited me for a visit, it was much-needed. She’s Sicilian, so extremely open, friendly and warm. Before entering the world of yoga, Mary was a freelance writer for Cosmopolitan Magazine, covering fashion and the runway in Milan.

These days, when not teaching yoga she runs a bed & breakfast – hence the strange people coming and going. The job is perfect for Mary. For every ounce of me that’s introverted, there are ten ounces of Mary that are extroverted. Although we are very different, we’re also very much the same with regards to our yogic path and introspective nature so we gel nicely, know when to say, “Okay, I’ll see you later, I need some alone time” and generally respect one another.

When we got home later in the afternoon she went to take a nap and I went back to writing. The doorbell rang and soon the kitchen was full again with guests. Ken and Jennifer, an older gent and his adult daughter were also traveling through Verona. They came from Dublin, Ireland and with them brought smoked salmon and black pudding as gifts. We chatted in the little, but full kitchen for quite some time before they were on their way as well.

I’m finding that the Bed & Breakfast/Yoga Studio Mary has is a bustling energetic ball in little Verona. I don’t mind at all. Although I’m sure when I leave for France Saturday afternoon I’ll be needing the quiet of the car and countryside, but for now I’m enjoying all the different cultures, the company and Mary. In fact, maybe the quiet will be too much after all the bustling.

This evening after our aperitif I left her to take a long walk and photograph the river before the sunset. There was a strong smell of jasmine in the air as it’s blooming everywhere, as well as exhaust from all the scooters rushing home after work. Crossing the Ponte Scaligero I came across the man in the photo below. I smiled thinking about Mary hitting me on the arm today, getting my attention, telling me to quit looking at all the architecture. “The monuments and building will always be there, Jennifer, but the beautiful men you are ignoring won’t be.”

So this photo of a man and his hounds resting by the monument, Ponte Scaligero, is dedicated to my friend, Mary – so I can show her that today I looked at a man.
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Together, A Photograph

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You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
– Kahil Gibran