I was born in Frankfurt Germany. One of my great grandfathers left Italy for the United States via Elis Island and the other left Ireland via Elis Island. Europe is in my blood. When I was a child my brother and sister would tease me; saying my parents had bought me from the gypsies. I’d fight them (I was a scrappy little kid) and although I have nothing in common with the modern gypsies of today there is this part of me that wonders why I’ve so obviously been such a misfit most of my life.
When I first landed in Italy four years ago I instantly felt as though I was home. Home not as in a house you grew up in, of which I never had just one. Home as in the place I could expand; the place of learning. A place which would represent love and hate. Pain and pleasure. Sadness and happiness. Peace and Chaos.
Why Italy then? Why not Germany? After all, it was my birthplace. Although I tend to live my life while wearing my rose colored glasses and I am fully aware of that fact; Italy has taken off my rose colored lenses and replaced them with a pair of expensive Versace spectacles the color blue. Sky blue to be exact. My ever complicated and artistic soul which opposite to what some believe, houses the rest of me is sated in italy. You see, my body does not house my soul; my soul houses my body. I am and have always been – a woman turned inside out. Much like the way I see Italy.
I don’t pretend to know Italy, or even understand Italy for that matter. I only claim the feelings and expression I am gifted with when there. Although most would think Italy as an extremely patriarchal country, I prefer to see it as a she. The mother. The matriarch. She is not a warm woman who gathers you unto her bosom to protect you however. Instead, she is a feral cat; bitchy, protective yet aloof, always preening herself and very aware of the claws she hides underneath the pretty furry paws she stretches in the warm sunlight.
Also as a child, I collected animals; stray dogs, injured birds, snakes my cat Sabrina would catch; you name it. I was a virtual clinic for animals. I’d hide them, force feed them, shower them with attention, love them and cry when they would die and swear I’d never recover.
When about seven years old I found a kitten in the flower garden of my house in Virginia. She hissed at me and tried to run, but I was lightening fast and caught her. She was feral and scratched me, leaving stinging little marks on my tender skin. I named her Sabrina (after the character from the show Bewitched) and begged my parents to let me keep her. They warned me she was a bit wild, but conceded anyway and she became mine. Sabrina was a bitch, but I loved that cat with all my heart. She loved me too – so long as I let her love me and didn’t force my love on her. I was her muse, so much as she was mine.
I had Sabrina for fourteen years – or should I say that she had me for fourteen years. She was the kind of cat that would scratch at the door to come inside and when you went to let her in – she’d look at you and run away. Unless you were very very still like an alabaster statue….and pretended as though you weren’t waiting by the door and didn’t care whether you she entered your house or not. After entering the door she would stop mid-stride and turn to hiss at you, letting you know she was watching…then slink behind the couch.
At night she would come to me and sleep by my side. She’d let me rub her rabbit like fur (even her belly) and lick my cheek. If I rubbed her for too long she would claw me and run away, only to return five minutes later for more love. Every morning I would wake to her purring and rubbing my head and our day would begin.
Sabrina embodied Italy. I see that now. She taught me early in my life to let things come to you, instead of always running after them – be it a country or an animal. I’ve never cared much for things that are easy per say. Even my current pet, my German Shepard Cella, is aloof in her love for me. Always watching me, yes, but never begging my attention (well, almost never.) I am her muse, as much as she mine. Likewise, Italy is my muse so much as I am hers. I prefer them; the country and animals, let me be alone – then come and love me up when I am least expecting it.
As I return to the United States I’m not sad at all as It’s a wonderful country. I have been loved up by the feral female of Italy that I let examine me and find me worthy. I have a permanent flat in Verona that I’ll return to often, so home to me is now all relative as it’s been most of my life. I’ve met people in Italy that I’ve found instant kinships with and we’ll remain close friends, others that have so sweetly given me butterflies of which I wondered existed anymore and still others that have shown me that when you leave yourself open, gifts appear. I’ve been asked to show my work in a small gallery in the North next year and with the showing I will remember….. to wear my sky-blue shades, watch for the claws, stand like an alabaster statue while she examines me and most importantly, let her come to me……