God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Photo of the Week

Along the Road--Somewhere

(The answer to the Photo of the Week quiz last time was....a vine sprayer; although, I thought it was straight from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Walking with Ghosts

Roma--Pompei--Herculaneum--from such places ancient spirits speak of lives lived long ago. Lives filled with laughter, sadness, love and hate. Lives spent searching for a God who listened, who cared, who could be known as a friend--who was something greater than Zeus or Apollo or Venus or an emperor--someone who promised hope. The temples are so many and so empty.

It was fun for us to share these places with our son Jeff--an avid watcher of TV programs which chronicle events and people of the past. Anyone who has listened to the ghosts of the Colosseum or walked the Via Appia into the Imperial Forum or studied the plaster casts of victims of Mt. Vesuvius, or been entertained by the artwork at the Casa da Vettii knows the thrill that doing these things brings. The sense of being suspended in time, of trying to know what it was like when that place was the now, of trying to see the colorfully frescoed walls which today show only traces of the beauty they once were and finally being in speechless awe of the architectural wonders created by people of long ago. How did they do it? Could we do it today?

Ken and I have been in Rome many times and yet never tire of being there. There is always a place we haven't been, something new to find--this time it was watching young archaeologists methodically scrape away layers of dirt and mud from new excavations in the forum. As a child I fantasized of being an archaeologist who would discover a lost Egyptian tomb filled with gold and glitter, but, really, what a less than romantic occupation it is unless and until a new engraving or shattered object is found. Then it must be heart stoppingly exciting!

We did go to a new excavation at the Vatican--a Roman Necropolis which lies under two Vatican parking structures. This area , which requires reservations, provides a fascinating glimpse of life and death from about the 3rd century BC through the 2nd century AD. The e-mail address is: visitedidattiche.musei@scv.va When mailing specify the date you would like to visit, the number of people in your party and the language you prefer. (For those of you who have been to the Scavi, it is much easier to get reservations for this new area.)

Then there is Pompei and Herculaneum--where you walk into another dimension as you become the guests of lingering ghosts and spirits, waiting for release from the moment of their terrifying, fiery, smothering deaths. In startling plaster casts you see the faces and sandals and clothes worn as the last breath was drawn--it is being face-to-face with agony as you look at features that lived, partied, squabbled, loved and cried 2000 years ago. This is not a National Geographic special--you are really here and it is true.

79 A.D. Seaside Villa--Herculaneum
We had a great day in Pompei--a nice, cooling breeze blew. We could wander and roam as much as we wanted. In the past when Ken and I have been there, the weather has been hot enough to be almost unbearable so this time was a delight. Casey and his idolized Uncle Jeff were appropriately intrigued and fascinated by the fast food stands, houses, bakeries, laundries, graffiti, tombs and temples left for posterity on April 24, 79 A.D.

Pompei Forum--Mt. Vesuvius in Background

Pompei Villa

And then, Jeff enjoyed sitting in the amphitheater where Pink Floyd has held a concert. His only wish being that he could be there at dusk listening to the music on his IPOD. This sounded like a pretty nice idea; although, my selection of music would have been different.

We were staying at the Hotel Diana in Pompeii (which, by the way, I very much recommend) so we were able to wander back and rest after the day and before dinner.

The unexpected treat of this trip was staying in Pompeii--a real town of southern Italy. What a difference there is between this area and other parts of the country. We have been south before--Naples and the exquisite Almafi Coast--but neither of these adequately reflect the spirit of the non-tourist little towns and villages. Interestingly, once you get away from the archaeological site with all of its vendors, parking lots and buses, there is a simple town of the people. We were there on the weekend when the passeggiata (strolling and people meeting which happens each evening in Italian towns) seemed to last from morning till late at night. The air was alive and vibrant with laughter and good friends.

Young people ride the train in from neighboring towns and spend the evening eyeing each other and forming relationships. Cars--some filled with boys and other with girls, but not mixed--circle the piazza much like a scene from the 50's. Romances are born and die in the course of the evening.

Couples push baby strollers; old men and women sit and share stories; school children run and play; neighbors meet and greet. And we, feeling invisible, sat at the outside table, drinking caffè, watching life pass by. How fortunate we felt to learn more of the country we love so much.

So, this was a wonderful 6 days spent with three men I love--husband, son and grandson. I am blessed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bye for A While

In two hours, our son--Casey's beloved Uncle Jeff--is arriving. We are so excited to see him and to show him our soon-to-be-over life here. It's been a long time without him.

He has been being a wonderful son in our absence from San Diego. He moved into our house, has been looking after all the things that a house needs, paying bills for us (those we can't pay anyway but directly), spoiling our outside dog who is now an inside dog, keeping the pool and barbecue company with his friends and running any errands we need. I love him as only a mother can love a son and I can't wait to give him a great big hug.

I have young friends here checking to see if any of their single woman friends are interested in a good looking, well-positioned, fun man from the US. I figure that language can take care of itself. Of course, he would not appreciate this effort on my part at all and so it is probably best that he not know of it. Oh well.........

Anyway, I will be too busy to write anything the next two weeks. Along with showing off this part of Italy, we are going to Rome and Pompeii for a few days--at his request. Not only is this his first time to Italy, it is the first time to Europe. So, he is calling the shots. Casey, of course, will go with us with his maestra's blessing.

So--ciao for now. A dopo! A presto!

My Boys in the Pool Last Year

Sunday, May 06, 2007

God's Spring Cleaning

Today as we left to stroll an awesome annual flower market in the piazza, I was stunned by the intensity of the greens on the hills surrounding us. There were so many shades and such a variety of colorations that I was totally mesmerized, wishing that a camera could capture God's palate.

Then I knew why we have had such torrential rains the last two days here in the Chianti. It is time for spring cleaning; time to rinse off the dust and cobwebs; time to make all things fresh and new; time to prepare for the influx of guests that will be arriving during the next few months, time to show off.

And, rain has been needed. Drought is on the horizon here in Italy, particularly in the fertile north where even the Po River is drying up. Casey's disappointment at having no snow this year is rather overshadowed by what could be the tragic effects of a winter without adequate precipitation. So, it is time that God address the problem and provide more water for crops and animals. But, in doing this and in His graciousness, He is adding the extra gift of beauty and renewal that spring rains bring.

Last week we packed up most of our winter clothes, cleaned out the pot-belly stove, took the wood back to the wood pile and got out bathing suits and pool towels in our bow to spring cleaning. Yesterday, we retrieved the sweatshirts, restocked the wood, once again started the fire and the pool stands alone. But, with each glance out the window we see the trees sparkle with diamonds and the grasses stand high. It is truly lovely.

And, today--as if to accent this beauty--the rain stopped for a while and the piazza came alive with the flower market. People came from around the countryside to buy lush and gorgeous flowers--soon to be seen in terra cotte planters, window boxes, yards, everywhere and anywhere. The color of the carefully tended plants will compliment the greens of the forest and vines and trees. It will be a magical time before the heat of summer begins to reclaim it all--except for the red and yellow vines.

It's becoming grey again now--tonight will bring more rain, probably accompanied by a sound and light show. Then the freshness and newness will start again in the morning and we will drink it in, savor it and enshrine the memories. It seems that beauty is more pure, flowers more spectacular, simplicity more embraced than the world we came from and return to. Flower markets are simply more fun than Home Depots and Lowe's and Nursery Lands. But I remind myself that home will be good, time with friends we have missed will be a joy, the dog will be ecstatic and our son will be there for us. Maybe we can live with feet in both worlds!