“No matter what happens, always keep your childhood innocence. It’s the most important thing.”
― Federico Fellini
“No matter what happens, always keep your childhood innocence. It’s the most important thing.”
― Federico Fellini
“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.”
“Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don’t
Because, sometimes they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.”
– Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
“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
“We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.”
― Gypsy Saying
“Heaven forbid that we should believe in such a way as not to accept or seek reasons, since we could not even believe if we did not possess rational souls.”
– Saint Augustine of Hippo
Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
I am an advocate of many things – of the arts, of humans, of trees, of philosophy, of poetry and literature, of interaction, of expression and of love. A man whose words have always touched me deeply were those of the Lebanese-American Kahil Gibran. If I could bring anyone back for an evening of conversation over a meal, it would be him. I’d like that – to sit in an olive grove with Mr. Gibran and just listen…
Olive trees, as you may have read in my past posts, hold an allure for me. I like that their gnarly trunks make this bold statement of, “I am here and have been for many years and will continue to do so,” while their dainty silver-like leaves seem to be fickle in their presence..almost blending in to the sky behind them…
“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”
– William Faulkner
I am home, here in rainy Seattle….but not really
“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”
― Lao Tzu
Yesterday I spent some time “talking” to Lucia, the owner of the art supply store I frequent on Corso Cavour. I was specifically looking for a large piece of watercolor paper. Although I’ve no idea what I’m going to paint on it, I’m sure whatever or whoever it is will no doubt be unclothed. Not sure of how to ask for watercolor paper, I spent a good twenty minutes beforehand researching the correct way to ask it in Italian as I’ve explained in an earlier post, Lucia doesn’t speak any English. I even wrote down on paper exactly what to say so I could practice on my way to the store – Ho visogno di carta da aquerello. Going above and beyond, I then prepared how to ask if the paper I already bought may work for watercolor – Sara questa carta ho goja comprato fare bene per acqerello?
Ho visogno di carta da aquerello. Ho visogno di carta da aquerello. Ho visogno di ca……..
Sara questa carta ho goja comprato fare bene per acquerello? Sara questa carta ho goja comprato fare bene per aquerello? Sara questa carta ho goja comprato fare be……
Over and over and over I practiced. I have been working on my language skills for months now and this being my eleventh time to Italy, it’s about time. I was proud of myself. I had it down pat. I’m sure I walked with my head held a little higher than usual. “I can do this” I thought. If there is one gift I have it’s the ability to pick up different accents. Having moved around every few years my entire life, I was able to blend in quickly to wherever I was living because of that gift. I may not really speak the language, but dog-gone-it, my accent sounds good. And if a good accent isn’t “La Bella Figura,” I don’t know what is. Crossing the bridge before coming to her place I didn’t even focus on the sunset – I was hell bent on asking properly for my paper. What I didn’t prepare myself for, however, was her answer – and the conversation that would follow. Walking up to the store I saw Lucia standing outside, enjoying the sunshine and people watching. She smiled when she saw me approaching.
“Ciao, come sta?” I said
“Oh bene, bene. E tu?” she responded smiling and followed me into the store.
Then came my big moment. Although…..I felt on the spot…. and forgot what I was going to say…. so I fished my note from my pocket and re-read it while she stood waiting.
“Ho visogno di carta da aquerello.” I finally blurted out in my best Italian accent. My presentation was perfect.
I wondered if she understood me because she had to think about it for a second. I was sure I had translated it correctly. Then she cocked her head and looked at me and said, “Ah, aquerello?”
“Si!!” I responded, as happy as a clam and smiling big. She had understood me! I pulled it off! I had asked for something besides food items or directions in Italian and had finally been understood! All my dreams were beginning to come true, right there, in that itty bitty art supply store.
Then came Lucia’s response. It sounded something like this to me…”Si, questa…akdjfadsjflhdslkfhjadslkfjhds kfjasdkfjad pui grande skfjds;lkfjdslkfja;d e media slfkjalsk es bello djfdskfhldsakflaksdjf;dslkf j;asdlkfj;sdlkfj;asdlkfj;sdlkfjasdkfjk dsjfkas dljfadskjfkdsfjhdksjfkds fjkasfjksdfjds;fkjd skfd;fj asd;lkjfd;kfj sd;lk f;dlskj l;adskjf l;sdkjf;lkdjf;ladkjfl; kjd;lkjdlkjfdlskfjds;lkfjdlksfjdf f al;fdjdflkjdsflkjdfj dsf fldkfjd;lfkjd;lfkjdf aldkjlkd lakdj oajfdkjfl a a;ldkjfdaj fl; f;adkjf dadfljdflkdjf;lkdjf;ldf;jflsdkfja;kfhladhgfkldafdsk akdflkdjf;asdkjf;dsakjf Capice?”
“Cosa? What?” I said; my brow furrowing. It was then, in that split second, that I realized something very important. Because I had memorized a sentence; a tough one no doubt and had pulled it off brilliantly with my accent, I had given Lucia the impression that I’d actually know how to answer with as much fluidity as I asked with. Apparently, I have much to learn about “La Bella Figura” because I most certainly didn’t pull it off yesterday.
I laughed a little and she smiled and slowed everything down for me and used her hands to show me the words/items. She’d say a word then point or make a gesture. In the end, we actually had a long “conversation” and even finally exchanged names. I learned that she spoke German, but didn’t feel the need to learn English, that she didn’t like her name (but showed me how my name would be written in Italian) and that she likes old paintings. She of course didn’t charge me what was on the shelf and even covered my “carta da aquerello” in a pretty wrapping paper so it wouldn’t get anything on it; a perfect presentation.
I left with my paper and as I walked home I thought of one of my favorite books, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. In the book he moves to France with his partner Hugh and begins to learn the language. He describes it like this, “On my fifth trip to France I limited myself to the words and phrases that people actually use. From the dog owners I learned ‘Lie down,’ ‘Shut up,’ and ‘Who shit on this carpet?’ The couple across the road taught me to ask questions correctly, and the grocer taught me to count. Things began to come together, and I went from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. ‘Is thems the thoughts of cows?’ I’d ask the butcher, pointing to the calves’ brains displayed in the front window. ‘I want me some lamb chop with handles on ’em.’” ….. I thought it was funny when I read it a few years ago but walking home from the art shop, I clearly understood exactly how ridiculous and frustrating it is – the whole language thing. Although I’ll continue trying, I’m still in the “evil baby” phase of the Italian language – Just ask Lucia.
P.S. While out this evening with my friend Michelle, her husband Eros and a few of their friends I happen to mention my little language fiasco. Michelle teaches English to doctors, lawyers and other professionals and has lived here in Italy for twenty-four years. Needless to say, she knows the language well. Her response to me was, “Well they speak with a different dialect here, so not all Italian words will be the same anyway.” She then gave me the book, La Bella Figura by Beppe Severgnini as a gift to read so I can “understand Italians.”
Really? I mean really? Now I have to think about dialects?? Ugh?
Each evening I take a long walk no matter if I have plans or not. For instance, tonight I’m meeting a couple of new friends for an aperitif in the center. Fortunately for me, Italians meet late and I can still take my walk. This walk I do for many reasons. They are as follows:
1. I Am Boring – Being rather a boring person, I can become somewhat of a creature of habit no matter how much I like exploration or what city I am inhabiting – yes, very contrary.
2. It’s Good For Me – Even if I have had a tough yoga practice during the day, I still love walking in the evening, always have.
3. The Cute Little Boy – I begin my walk along the river, which is just a stones throw from my flat. Around the same time I leave my flat; 5:45ish, a young father is usually taking his little boy on a bike ride. The boy, who can’t be more than four years old, has white blonde hair, the tiniest of bikes and always the biggest of grins on his face. He rides his bike like Evel Kniveil; giggling over the bumps in the sidewalk and clearly giving his father, who runs behind him shouting directions, a series of mini-heart attacks. I fear his Papa will have many a heart attack in his life as his son seems to know no bounds. He is one of the highlights of my walk. He also has me seriously considering having another child someday. He’s that cute.
4. The Piano Music – Waving goodbye in my head to the little daredevil I cross the Fiume Adige at the Ponte Nuovo and turn left on at Teodorico. If I time it just right, somewhere between Via Ponte Pignolo and Piazza Giovani I can hear the sounds of someone practicing classical piano music from the building above me. Each night, for just a few minutes, I stop and look out at the river while listening to the music surrounding me. It is there that the perpetual believer in me tosses a note that I have prepared wrapped outside of a cracker (so as to sink and feed whatever finds it) into the river when no one is looking. I find this extremely cathartic, although sappy…of which I am fully aware.
5. The Sunset – After tossing my note and listening to my private concert I’m on my way once again. Walking all the way around the city center I reach the Ponte Scaligero and before I cross to enter the center, I watch the sun begin to set and the river and buildings absolutely glow. It’s a beautiful sight and although I don’t always take photos of it, I have my camera ready.
6. The People – Turning left onto Corso Cavour I stop at a little art supply store that I happened to find while initially lost. I browse while the older woman who owns the store chats with me. Mind you, my Italian is limited and she speaks absolutely NO English. However, even though I have told her that I only speak a little Italian and it’s not that good, she goes on and on – and fast. Some of it I understand (when she slows down,) but when she goes into detail about the charcoals or paper – I get lost. She also never charges me what the price on the shelves say, because she says, “sei un artista” and apparently I have “occhi profondi” (which I had to look up the word “profondi”) I don’t always buy something because I don’t always need something, but I’ll stop in and smile and listen to her tell me about this tool or that tool. If I ever were to have a Grandmother, I’ve decided I’d like it to be her.
7. The Weather – Since I have been to Italy the weather has been so absolutely gorgeous. I’ve grown weary of the grayness the Pacific Northwest fall carries, so I have to say that the weather here in Verona is much appreciated. So much so that in fact, a new friend of mine has offered to introduced me to her friend who is wanting to rent his flat long-term, of which I can rent out to friends……hmmmm….more to come there for sure.
8. The City Itself – I pass through Piazza Bra, with it’s mimes, men dressed as King Tut, Roman Soldiers and even little babies. With all of my walking to and from the yoga studio, as well as my evening walks, I’ve come to know how to avoid the popular Via Mazzini as best I can and weave my way in and out of the side streets like a Verionian. I find this city and size to be much easier to maneuver than Rome; in which each time I have visited; felt perpetually lost in…on many levels. Even with all the people I enjoy ending the walk in the city. Although the first night I walked by Giulietta’s Balcony (as I live so very close to it) I avoid it at all costs now. It’s so full of people – and cameras – and pushing – and sticky gum – and vendors selling love. I wouldn’t have thought it would affect me the way it does but I never knew what it was really like there – under the balcony. After all, I fully admit to being a sappy romantic, though experiencing it….I feel it almost bastardizes the love story. It all seems so shallow and lacks depth. If I get an apron with my name and my lovers name in hearts does that make us more romantic than anyone else? If I stick a note on the wall for the world to see does that mean I love more than anyone else? Need more than anyone else? Feel more lost than anyone else? Maybe it’s because I find love to be so intimate…quiet – and the loudness of it all surrounding Giulietta’s balcony disrupts my psyche somehow. So you see – all of these questions emerge within me when I walk by the site and honestly – I have enough in my ever inquisitive Scorpio head without adding that to it every evening. So I avoid it.
9. Lavazzoler Chocolat. I only eat the extremely dark, almost unsweetened chocolat. Her’s is the best tasting I’ve come across and literally two minutes from my flat. When my son comes to visit in ten days it will be the first shop I take him to. He is a chocolat connoisseur.
10. It Makes Me Smile – Finally I end at my little piazzetta near the park. At the park I pass teenagers making out on benches, people walking their dogs and older couples chatting. I like to see them all. They make me smile too. It’s always a good ending to a long walk.
Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my…
bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my…
Bicycle races are coming your way
So forget all your duties oh yeah!
“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”
― Claude Monet
While taking a break from writing today I sat at a bench and sketched what I saw instead of just snapping a photo… Here is a piece of my sketchbook.