“There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.”
– Muhammad Ali Jinnah
“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.
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.
– 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
ignore suitcase and wet hair. head falls on pillow and lights out. blackness
– 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
“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.
“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.
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.”
“Rather than a tale of greed, the history of luxury could more accurately be read as a record of emotional trauma. It is the legacy of those who have felt pressured by the disdain of others to add an extraordinary amount to their bare selves in order to signal that they too may lay a claim to love.”
― Alain de Botton
“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
– Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
Charlotte: I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.
Bob: You’ll figure that out. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.
A few days ago I watched the movie Lost in Translation again. Only this time I understood it so much more-so than ten years ago.
I travel back and forth to Europe often. Sometimes for a week and other times for six weeks. Not for business and not for family. I go for inspiration and experiences. Eventually I’ll just plant myself there and not leave. Seattle will become a place I come only to visit.
Each city around the world has an independent culture of it’s own.
What do I do? I make friends. I get to know the local businesses. Sometimes I’m alone and other times visiting friends and loved ones. I become comfortable with the languages and my ignorance to the languages; accustom to misunderstanding or not understanding entirely. It’s almost as if I am partially blind and deaf; unable to read, write or hear everything around me. I relish this feeling. Maybe its the INFP (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving) in me. You see, introverts, I believe, travel well when alone.
Interestingly enough, it’s when I come home to the states, to Seattle, that I feel the most lost in translation. After weeks of being only able to understand a portion of what is on the radio, the television, written all around me and spoken to me, I suddenly understand everything – the good the bad and anything in between, and I’m not so sure I like it. Being blissfully unaware suites me just fine.
It’s these moments I feel the most like Charlotte – “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.”
Where’s Bob when I need him anyway…
“This is my country, that is your country; these are the conceptions of narrow souls – to the liberal minded the whole world is a family.”
― Virchand Gandhi
I grew up without grandparents. Well, not exactly – I had one grandmother. Unfortunately she didn’t like the idea of being a mother, let alone a grandmother. Therefore she was unavailable.
I never much thought about it before; the whole no grandparent thing, until about eight years ago. I met a woman named Doreen. She was in her late seventies, British, strikingly beautiful and full of fire. We sat on a non-profit board together and I got to know her well. Sometimes she would be gone for a month or two – taking her grandchild to far off places like Africa and Thailand.
I once got a butterscotch life-savor from Katherine, my “grandmother” when she was staying with us a few weeks (until she got enough money for another apartment.) My mother always helped her. Us kids gave her her space. She needed a lot of space.
Don’t get me wrong, I grew up happy with the butterscotch life-savor. I had a very loving family life. I didn’t need Africa or Asia. Although after meeting and spending time with Doreen I concluded that I should like to have Doreen as MY grandmother. She was so cool, so interesting, so devoted to her grandson who happened to live thousands of miles away. I felt gipped all of a sudden. It wasn’t fair.
And so began my search.
From that moment on, every place I visit I’m secretly looking for my grandparent. When I meet them, I daydream about what it would be like to have grown up with them. To have eaten their butterscotch candies. To have been told all of the family stories and secrets while we ate homemade soup.
I’ve compiled a short list of perspective candidates from my last trip to Spain:
The sweet Lebanese man from Vancouver, BC sitting beside me on the flight to Seattle yesterday: He wore a light grey suit. Not enough men wear suits anymore. His white hair was thick and combed neatly with a side part. His face was calm; serene. He didn’t watch movies or do anything but rest his eyes softly beside me. He had a special diabetic meal so they served his meal first. I hadn’t eaten much in days and when I looked to see what food he had been given he tried to hand me his utensils and asked if I would like to share. I almost started crying. The nice old Lebanese man who’d never met me was offering to share his food. I declined and he asked “sure?” and then waited until my meal was served before he would begin to eat. I worried about his diabetes.
He and I would meet on Saturday’s at the local Lebanese restaurant for lunch. I would take his arm afterward and we would go for a nice walk – my Jidi and me.
The old woman with dyed brown hair and burgundy lipstick who helped me when I was lost in Eivissa: She was a small woman, with a stern face. She spoke no English. I showed her my map and pointed to the hotel that I was staying at. She pointed her crocked finger in the direction and then gently touched my arm and began her march with me. She had been going the opposite way before I asked her. Once in a while she would say something and then point. I felt protected by her. She stopped suddenly at an apartment building and another woman came out. She was heavy, with a sweet face, a hunch in her back and a bad limp. The old woman looked at me, said something sternly to her friend which made her look softly to me and smile and we were on our way – all three of us. She left me only when I was safely in front of my hotel. Her face soften again before she turned to march away.
She and I would cook together. Me following her directions and her sternly telling me not to cook the potatoes so long. Although a hard woman, I would see that my Abuela loved and protected me.
Mary Lou – The old woman who lived down the road from the finca I stayed at: After being introduced to Mary Lou I was immediately in awe. She was in her eighties, loved her garden, originally from France but had been living in Spain for thirty years. She also spoke no English but invited us in her house to see the photo of her husband that hung over her bed. He had died almost thirty years ago and she was still very much in love with him. She never remarried. Her eyes were as blue and bright as the sky. I was captivated by her beauty and her sweet energy. She would touch our arms to follow her to her windows, to her photos. She was so obviously proud of all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I longed to be in her photos too.
Mémé and I would sit for hours while having tea. She would tell me stories of growing up in France, of meeting my grandfather, the man of her dreams. I would take her to the nursery to buy more flowers and she would insist I stay longer.
Today I’ve been invited by a dear friend to visit her in Sicily. I wonder how my Sicilian grandparents will be….
“Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
“We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.”
― Gypsy Saying
“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”
– Francis Bacon
“That love is reverence, and worship, and glory, and the upward glance. Not a bandage for dirty sores. But they don’t know it. Those who speak of love most promiscuously are the ones who’ve never felt it. They make some sort of feeble stew out of sympathy, compassion, contempt, and general indifference, and they call it love. Once you’ve felt what it means to love as you and I know it – the total passion for the total height – you’re incapable of anything less.”
– Ayn Rand
From red to green all the yellow dies away
Paris Vancouver Hyeres Maintenon New York and the Antilles
The window opens like an orange
The beautiful fruit of light
- Guillaume Apollinaire
“Where’s your will to be weird?”
– Jim Morrison
“It seemed an advantage to be traveling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others…Being closely observed by a companion can also inhibit our observation of others; then, too, we may become caught up in adjusting ourselves to the companion’s questions and remarks, or feel the need to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.”
– Alain de Botton