Canine Prayers etc.

Part I: The Department of Prayers

I saw this posted inside the Duomo of Sant’Andrea (images posted below) in the beautiful mountain town of Carrara. It’s “The Dog’s Prayer” translated from Italian:

Oh Lord of all creatures, see that man, my owner,
is as faithful towards other men, as I am  faithful to him.
Make sure that he is affectionate to his family and his friends,
as I am affectionate with him.
See that he protects all that you have entrusted to him,
as honestly as I protect his home.
Give him, oh Lord, an easy and spontaneous smile,
as easy and spontaneous as my wagging.
Make him show gratitude as easily as I do.
Grant him the patience that I have,
when I wait for him without complaining.
Give him my courage, my readiness to sacrifice everything for him,
every comfort, even life itself.
Preserve in him my youthful heart and my playfulness.
Oh Lord of all creatures, as I am always truly canine,
see that he is always truly humane.

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Part 2: The Department of Well-Being

I had heard rumblings that the city of Milan was now permitting dogs to attend church, but it was just today that I found the proof. Translated from “News Cattoliche,” September 17th Edition, 2014

The Milan City Hall continues its battle in favor of animals, who may soon be allowed to “go to church”–thanks to the new rule which outlines the obligation on the part of those who manage public places (such as churches) to grant them entrance. The Milanese Curate didn’t deny the right of animals to enter holy places in the city: “We have faith in the good sense and education of those who come into the parish.”

The rough draft for the guardianship and well-being of animals has been fine-tuned by Guarantor Valerio Pocar and the Department of Wellbeing for the City of Milan. The document, now under scrutiny by the city’s zones, could become active by Christmas of this year.

For the Mass on the 25th of December, therefore, “animals of small size who are not aggressive” maybe be allowed to enjoy their first official entrance into church, complete with communal blessing.

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Postcard #33: Typical

[Sometimes the planets align, and you find yourself inhabiting a perfectly “typical” moment in a perfectly “typical” place. And so it was in this instance. Long September shadows. Cobblestone street. A chef outside his restaurant talking to a Mediterranean beauty. The red motorcycle. The balcony dripping with ivy. And me, snapping a picture as I typically do, tucked in a shadow out of view.]

POSTCARD FRONT TYPICAL

POSTCARD BACK TYPICALI couldn’t resist the beauty of the moment, and snapped another one for safe keeping. Also typical in Italy, the ochre color you see on the left (below), which keeps us warm when the weather fails.
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[If you enjoyed this post, and want to see more like it, all you have to do is click “Postcards & Kits”in the menu above. Have a good one!]

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The Instant Sunshine Cut & Paste Kit

SUNSHINE CUT N PAST KIT

I don’t know about you, but I need to apply my photoshop skills to real life. This winter is going to be long, and if we can’t mentally apply yellow where necessary, it could get rough.

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Happy with a dog

Last December our dog Luna died. It seems she took an era with her. Funny how animals define and contain entire chapters of our lives. When they go, we see the clear end of a decade or more. We see the whole thing collapsed like an origami balloon folded in on itself, the beginning place lying flat against the finishing place. She was a puppy, and then she was old. And in between we grew and shifted and watched our own eyes change in the mirror.

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Her passage was hard. Letting her wade gracefully through old age was easy enough. (She was grace personified, or doggified as the case my be.) It was watching her suffer wordless, circular canine anxiety as her end drew near that tore our hearts. And when she was gone, sleeping forever, she left a blank space in her wake with a great gravitational pull.

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My youngest daughter asked me every day, no less than five times, holding hands, walking to school, “When are we getting another dog?” And then she’d carefully place the cherry on top of her longing: “Life is sad without a dog.” If this is a true statement in a logical world (someone help me with the philosophical accuracy here), then the following statement should also be true: “Life is happy with a dog.”

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At least that’s how—one day—I heard what she was saying, and I decided to act on the veracity of that claim, though I was not sure how or when I would make this happen. I would have to consult with my husband, make sure things were copacetic. What dog would we get? How old? Where? We’d wanted to help an abandoned one. But sometimes you just do not have to think at all or ponder long. The Universe takes care of the decision-making for you.

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A few days later, I was walking down the street, and a young man was walking towards me with a small puppy zig-zagging aimlessly on the end of a leash. The dog-let was darling. Still with a bit of fuzz to him. Wolf-like in his face. A long tail that wagged from shoulder to shoulder. I asked the man where he’d gotten him, hoping perhaps there was a litter somewhere with more puppies still available. He told me that he’d found the dog—rather the dog had found him—at a festival of peperoncini in a small town on the Calabrian coast called Diamante. The dog had escaped a cage (and an undoubtedly ugly future) where he was being kept with 13 other puppies, slipped through the bars (he was only 4 weeks old), pulled on the man’s pants leg and kindly asked passage to Milan and a better life. But now he, the man, realized he could not keep the dog. He was a chef, and work was just too demanding. He was looking for a new owner.

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I volunteered us on the spot (SFX: Universal gears locking into place). Two days later, the decision was made, and the dog was brought to us with equal doses of sadness and relief, along with his bed, his toy giraffe and his name, Pepe. That was one month ago.

We still miss Luna. But the gravitational pull is no more. Puppitude has taken over—a new chapter, a new decade, a new origami balloon in the making…

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Posted in IN THE HOUSE | 20 Comments

Upside down summer

Summer in France was long and wet and cold. I hardly blogged at all. There was work and there were “issues” to deal with and there was that infernal, driving, relentless rain. Closed up in our house, I felt closed up in my head. A reverse hibernation. Upside down and backwards. Sometimes the world feels like it’s getting that way. And yet, it does have it’s advantages:

1. Everyone—man and beast—shares a question: Rain again?

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2. The plants grow like crazy, and look that much more beautiful under a moody sky.

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3. There’s time to read and read and read. This book is beautiful if you dream of being one with nature but aren’t (like me).

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4. The hats look cozy hanging on the wall. And with no sun, that’s where they stay.

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5. The daily bread gets soggy instead of hard. Wait, that’s not an advantage.

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6. All creatures great and small take cover. Sometimes under the same roof.

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7. Snails! Snails! And more Snails! (They’re so cool.)

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8. Winter food regains its appeal: Onion Soup, anyone?

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Posted in AROUND US, FRANCE | 14 Comments

A river runs through me

Once upon a time, August 2010 to be fairly precise, I started a blog. I named it “The Daily {French-Italian} Cure.” The French-Italian part was stuck in there because I didn’t want this to be a generic archive of  things I like. I specifically wanted to collect those things about France and Italy that have, in a very substantial way, “cured” me of some restless desire I had as a young woman to have “more.” And by “more,” I don’t mean more in a material sense. I mean more life, more experience, more depth, more…more of that undefinable stuff that makes you feel connected to your own passage, the Earth, all of it.

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I often felt in the U.S. that I was part of a swiftly moving river of useless change. Change for the sake of change. New-is-better-than-old kind of change. I think, I hope, that the trend itself (which I experienced acutely in Atlanta, Georgia in the mid 80’s) is changing. Maybe it was the media (maybe it was Fox News!) but I felt like American culture was conditioning me to live in a state of anxiety, expecting the worse. Simultaneously, I felt, for lack of better words, “That there had to be more.”

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It’s easy—far too easy—to blame things on cultures and countries, without realizing that what ails you is inside yourself, perhaps buried in your own past, genetic makeup or lack of maturity. As the cliché accurately reports, “Wherever you go, there you are.” So it’s impossible to say whether Europe made me literally feel better, or if I, when I came here, changed in fundamental ways, thereby making myself feel better.  Ah, the things we will never know.

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But it’s nice to think that I found a home here. And that it did, in some way, speak to my soul in a language my soul could better understand. For whatever reason, I feel part of some great flowing energy. More than ever before.

When I started this blog, I remember being in a heightened state of gratitude about all that surrounded me here in Burgundy. It is, for me, one of the most beautiful corners of the earth. It makes my heart ache.

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A river runs right by our little town. It is called, appropriately enough, La Cure. The Cure. It rises in the Morvan and merges into the Yonne. I have no idea what the origin of its name is—if, in fact, it was considered a cure of some sort—but our pilgrimages here, every year, are definitely therapeutic. We cross the river and enter into another state of mind. We watch the little river flow by, and let ourselves flow away with it. Rivers don’t wait for you to find your meditative state; they take you to it without hesitation.

Hence “The Daily Cure.” Not a grand promise that I can cure you of anything at all. But an attempt to feel the river’s flow even when it’s not running at our feet. I don’t always succeed, and recently I’ve not even been able to carve out the time to write, but I wanted you to know the reason behind the name. The reason this experiment exists.  I can’t take the beautiful Cure back to Milan with me, but I try. The river keeps flowing…

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Cherries and cold cherry soup

Forty-eight hours in France and there was something I was craving pretty badly. Cherries from this region—l’Yonne. We’ve got wonderful cherries in Italy (Vignola, Ferrovia, Durone etc.), but nothing—I’m not sure why—quite compares to these almost black beauties that are sold by the road and go out of season before you’ve had your fill. IMG_8350

As the Italians say, “Una tira l’altra.” One pulls the other. Dark, glossy, densely juicy, sweet, tart. You think you’ll eat two, and before you know it you’re well on your way to a stomach ache. It takes true discipline to stop. That said, they’re best when fresh from the picker and don’t improve with time in the refrigerator drawer. So we get small quantities to eat immediately. Then repeat.

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When our eyes are bigger than our appetites, which is too often the case, and we end up with cherries in più, we like to make cold soup out of them. Once upon a time there was a recipe, but it went from stained to dog-eared to lost. So now we just play it by the senses. I’ll share the basics with you, because I’m sure you can’t go wrong. And if you do, there are a thousand websites to set you straight. But, really, you won’t go wrong. With ingredients like these, it’d be a challenge to produce something less than delicious.

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You take your cherries (about a kilo, or just under 2¼ pounds, but I don’t even bother to weigh them), and you pit them. Nasty job, but someone’s got to do it! Next, I put the cherries in a pot with a bit of sugar and a small amount of water. Not too much, because the soup can tend towards “too sweet” depending on which wine you choose to add next. Cook and stir your cherries until the sugar is dissolved, then add a bottle (if that makes you squeamish, use a bit less) of lovely white wine. Dry, not sweet. Or red. Or, as we often do here, a combination of white wine and Ratafia. (Ratafia is a red, sweetish wine leaning toward a Port flavor, so we use less sugar when cooking with it.) Bring just to the boil, then simmer until the alcohol has cooked off and your liquid has reached a consistency you like. You can add cinnamon sticks, cardamom or clove during this phase according to your tastes. Remove from heat. Let cool, then refrigerate. Eat as is, or with a dollop of ice cream or crème fraiche.

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NOTE: Some recipes call for thickeners—a bit of cornstarch or flour—but I’m not big on those additions and have had great success ignoring them. The soup gets adequately thick and syrupy on its own. Another thing I like to do, especially if I’ve got too many summer stone fruits lying around, is add chopped apricots, peaches or nectarines right before I put the cooled soup in the refrigerator. Delish.

Posted in FRANCE, IN SEASON | 13 Comments

Small

Walking about town the other day, I allowed myself to veer in the direction of Society, a bedding store that I’ve only ever let myself admire from outside. I usually salivate a bit at the beautiful linens just out of my wallet’s reach, and opt instead for a more reasonably priced espresso. But this time, it was not so simple to walk away. The window display was outdoing itself. There was just too much luscious stuff to take in: texture, color, softness, roughness…dyed, natural, deep, light…carmine, slate, ecru, cerulean…

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And
it
was
all—MAGNIFYING

In fact, the window was full of 30 or so miniature iron beds (custom made), each accompanied with a magnifying glass, so that you could observe not only the finer points of the “bed linens” arranged upon them but the mission statement behind the effort. Embroidered on tiny tags, tucked into the edges of the bedspreads, were the words, “Details never sleep.” (The following two images are from the store’s site.)

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Half the store space was dedicated to this unusual showroom, which had been created for the Salone del Mobile back in April. The back half of the store had absolutely nothing on display. Just shelves full of the actual-sized blankets and linens waiting to be purchased.

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The “vision” belongs to stylist Beatrice Rossetti. If I ever have a chance to work with her, I will. I think she’s a genius. Maybe it’s because I agree with her obsessive nature when it comes to one’s profession, art or craft. Or maybe it’s because I can’t resist all that reality translated into a scale too small to accomodate a Barbie doll.

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The amazing thing was how effective the display was at actually selling the merchandise. I’ve walked by the store many times and, as I said above, moved on. But this time, I couldn’t. The tininess of the merchandise forced you into an interactive and deeply imaginary role with it. You were sucked into a minuscule world of comfort, of ideal homey-ness. And there, the imagination went wild. I fell for it and bought a bed spread. There you have it: desire created out of scraps of fabric too small to line a pocket. Gazing at Lilliputian luxury from my Gulliver-world of cars and cobblestones, I couldn’t resist. As Tiny Fey said on “30 Rock,” “I want to go to there.” And so I did.

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Two-ness, Part 2

With my big toes dipping into middle age (okay, okay…I’m up to my ankles) and a house full of domestic rubble that attests to how my life is happily and fortunately shared, I’m not one to complain about that all-so-precious-when-I-can-grab-it “alone” time. That said, when I’m experiencing solo bliss, my first thought is often how badly I want to share the sensation. I think we all have that experience: sharing is a reaffirmation of how happy we feel and a way of giving thanks for the chance to feel it.

Spring in Milan, this year, was something to be shared. The person closest to me, with whom I share most everything, has been keeping a head-spinning travel schedule since December, and few were our chances to just look around us, hands held, and breathe that dual sigh of contentment. Stereo Joy. When he and I had decided that I would move to Italy, he’d said, “I want you to come in the spring.” And so I did. This is—first—for him. And, secondly, for you.

Around the time I started thinking of this tiny little piece, I began listening to Raphael Gualazzi’s album, Happy Mistake, particularly, “L’amie d’un italien,” (also entitled “Rainbows”), featuring French singer Camille. And since I myself am “the girlfriend of an Italian,” I couldn’t resist it. Perfectly captures that tripping along way we live through springtime and through romance. Carefree. Lightly. And in love with life itself.

NOTE:  Happy Mistake  is imported to the U.S. and can be purchased on Amazon.com. A digested Italian version (4 songs only), entitled Rainbows is available at Amazon.it. I hate to shameless flog stuff to buy, but this is so, so worth it.

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Two-ness, Part 1

It is spring.
It is impossible not to think of love.
Everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere you look.              
Hiding. In the open. There.

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Peanut butter sandwiches without crusts were the foundation of my first “love.” He was 3. I was 4. We were neighbors. There was no declaration of affection, no kissing, no nothing. But we were a pair, nonetheless. Two is a such a lovely number.

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I’ve always been attracted to symmetry, to balance. To the spaces that emerge between things and people. “Negative” in the graphic sense, but anything but in reality. You know what I mean. The glue. The nameless, invisible matter that comes spontaneously into being between ourselves and the people we love. When we’re at conflict this matter wriggles and writhes, pulls and punches. When we’re at peace, it goes all clear and reflective like a deep, deep wordless pool.

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How beautiful it is, in life, that we are drawn to seek each other out. To pair off. To hold hands. To share the seasons of each year and of our lives. And it is indeed the season of Two-ness. The mating, the pollinating, the searching, the finding: the race is on. The air is full of love. And if not of love, lust. And if not of lust, the plain, primitive desire to stand by someone’s side. To hold hands. To stand squarely in two-ness instead of one-ness.

I was photographing the tree, and look what I saw when I checked the picture. Down there, in the corner, lower right. Quite by accident—

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And from the back they look like two birds, huddled together. One form. And then, there, are their bicycles, parked easily under the tree which spreads overhead like a protective yenta. “There, there. Forget school. Be here, together. I won’t tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me, carved into my skin. I’ll keep it forever.”

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The park is full of loves and alliances—romances that bloom innocently or heatedly under the trees. Or, here, under the protective auspices of the “Sirenette,” the mermaids, that have been guarding this, their bridge, since 1846. They never glance down to spy on the lovers but gaze resolutely, respectfully into the distance. They too are excellent at keeping secrets.

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And what happens beneath their tales? Couples leave notes, locks, dates, hearts. Signs of eternal love which will likely never last. Undying undying undying. Until, of course, it dies. Out there, in the real world. But here? Here on the bridge, it lives on and on.

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TVB. Ti voglio bene. I want the best for you.
Amo. I love.
Per sempre. Por siempre. Forever, and forever again.
Je t’aime.

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All this love breaks my heart in the best possible way. I love it. I feel it bending and breaking and bonding all around me. One great universal force pulling us forward—Natural Selection’s greatest of all trump cards.

Va bene. Such were my thoughts this morning as I finished my walk. And then, just as I was about to exit the park, there behind the bushes…another couple enjoying their two-ness, quietly beside the basketball court. Alone. Together. ‘Til death do them part.

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