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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Color story #14: Spring, Spring the Flower Thing

This being a fashion town, yesterday’s Corriere della Sera had a lovely article about the Spring colors this year, and the “it” color for 2014. Turns out that this Spring, as for many, the in colors are principally based on flowers. I’ve scattered them throughout the post. But the winning flower (and its related color) are the orchid. “Radiant Orchid,” to be exact, according to Pantone—a rather astonishing cross between fuchsia and violet that I see often in France, but less here (below, right).

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The article was accompanied by a beautiful graph showing how the season’s colors crawl around a chart of cool and warm colors, mostly related to plants and flowers. I couldn’t reproduce it well enough, here, but I found that images I’d been collecting to share with you (both fashion and flowers) were sort of doing the trick anyway. So I’ve used them instead.

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The overall effect is  a “feeling” that I’m happy to say is infiltrating my own cloudy mood after a very long, very gray, very wet winter (sorry to repeat the theme of the last post, but it’s impossible not too).

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Pinks are popping, for sure, but there’s also a lovely current of deep, sort of “off” colors, more pronounced than what Spring is sometimes about. If only these had been around when I was picking out Easter outfits as a kid…I remember one Easter wearing a pale dress (light blue, I think) with smocking and a sash, and an easter hat (yes, a straw brimmed hat)…Playing tag with my brother before church, I fell and skinned my knee. Think Pantone True Red 19-1664 TCX (at bottom of post).

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And in the center of it all, a “Flowerhead” (above) by Olaf Hajek, featured on the cover of the section of the paper that addressed this issue. I love this illustration, and I have learned that there are many others where this came from. Oh to see the world in flowers!

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Color story #13: The blue of blue

(Yes, Linda! Spring, blessedly, is coming!)
The other day, my daughter asked me what my favorite color was, and I irritated her the way I sometimes do by answering this question with one of my own: “To look at, or to wear?” Because it does make a difference, or it should in theory…even though after the bothersome question had slipped my lips, I realized that in that precise moment it made no difference at all. The color was one and the same. “Blue.”

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Often my answer is some shade of green. Sometimes it’s a specific shade of gray—”mouse.” Yesterday it was joyfully and unequivocally, blue. After the winter we and so many others have had, I could have added “And by the way: any blue will do. Even the smallest, weeniest littlest, palest-faced patch.” But I didn’t need to qualify it, because as we were playing this little game, the sky outside was shouting a very decisive answer of its own.

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Electric blue! Clean blue! That precise blue that gave birth to the very concept of the color! That oscillates spectacularly—at lightening speed—between being a frigidly cold color and a flaming hot one. The blue of a cold wet winter giving way to what will, if we hold our breath, become another summer that children’s dreams are made of. Nordic and tropical all at the same time. Polar and equatorial. Shallow, deep. Frivolous, dead serious. Cruel, profoundly benevolent. That blue that seduces people out of their homes, underdressed, just to catch a ray of light even though the temperatures are anything but worthy. The blue of all blues. There’s no way I could have answered her question otherwise.

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Italy still cracks me up

I’ve been here—OK, we figured it out a couple posts ago—seventeen years. And in all that time, there are still things about this country that make me laugh out loud. Particularly when I compare them to their American equivalent. No, it’s not at all that I find the American equivalent superior. It’s simply the sheer difference that’s entertaining in and of itself.

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Take pharmacies (one of my favorite things to take into consideration here in Italy as they can be almost museum-quality beautiful compared to their American counterparts.) It seems to me, that in the U.S. along with many other business, pharmacies are there when you need them, 24/7. All bright lights and row-upon-row of “whatever you need” whenever you need it.

Here, things are still clinging, to the best of their ability, to the old way. Though not always the case, pharmacies generally observe the half-day chiusura settimanale and are often opened on Saturday in the mornings only, closing at 12:30. Sunday? Forget it. Except—there are always exceptions (and this one is very useful if you are traveling here)—for the

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or, the pharmacies which have been designated to remain open over any given weekend so that people in need can actually get what they need. 

I’ve wandered off task. I wanted to talk about something which makes me laugh, and pharmacies being there when I need them doesn’t make me laugh at all. In fact, as you all know, it’s quite a relief on occasion. No. What I wanted to show you, was our neighborhood pharmacy when it’s its turn to be di turno. You’d think perhaps the door would be thrown open in a welcoming fashion with a sign inviting you in even on a Sunday, but no. It’s not like that at all. It’s like this:

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You see that little hand-made hole in the night grill? That’s where you go, after you ring the bell, as instructed by the handmade sign pointing to the right. The pharmacist appears at the hole (he has to bend down as he’s rather tall), asks you what you want, and several seconds later comes back with your parcel. You pay (through the hole), and that’s the end of that. No muss, no fuss, no risk of the pharmacy being robbed, no having to actually—God forbid—cross the threshold and go inside. Nope. If you want that luxury you’ll have to wait for Monday.

I think that’s funny.

[If you enjoyed this rather silly post, you might also enjoy "Postcard #2: Farmacia Milanese."]

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A late Valentine, Italian-style

Heart-day was an infinite five days ago, but still it’s on my mind. Rummaging through my file today, I discovered some pictures I’d been saving to post on the occasion, but had somehow neglected to follow-through on. Must have been too busy eating all those chocolates I received and breathing in deeply the heady perfume of long-stemmed roses. As if… Oh well. My Italian stallion is forgiven. He was far, far away working hard for a living. There’s always next year.

BRAZZI 1Perhaps you know him, perhaps you don’t, but this year’s Valentine’s post features Italian heart-throb of days gone by, Rossano Brazzi. I’ve seen him in one and only film, Summertime (1955), with Katherine Hepburn, and was inspired enough to do a bit of digging. These are the findings that amused me the most.

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[If you enjoyed this post, you might also like: Abbracci e baci]

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Reposting: Bells du jour

Sorry Everyone, I was having technical difficulties with the video. Have run it through YouTube and it seems to be working now.

When I first moved to Italy seventeen (God, was it that many?) years ago, I noticed church bells all the time. They sounded exotic to me. Haunting. Indisputably beautiful. I never found them offensive or “polluting” or any of the adjectives that were ascribed to them by people who debated (and continue to debate) their presence. They were part of Italy. Part of the past. Part of a culture that was opening its arms to me. A soundtrack to a new life on foreign soil.

In our second apartment together, we heard them particularly loudly and clearly. Our building faced onto a beautiful park which was situated between two basilicas, Sant’Eustorgio and San Lorenzo. We had a labrador, Luna, who sang whenever the bells rang. (Or was that lamenting? Or was it something more desperate?) We never figured out if the pealing of the bells hurt her ears or tugged at her heart, but we think the latter. She would throw back her head, lay her ears flat and relaxed down the back of her skull and form her doggy lips—try to picture this—into an O-shape. Ah-Oooooooooooooo, she sang with more and more dog-emotion each time the tolling repeated.

Now, for some reason I cannot explain, I haven’t heard bells in a long, long time. I don’t know if the sound-pollution camp are winning their war, or if I’ve simply, with time, grown inured to the heart-rending, clanging plea. But yesterday, as if being awaked from a 100-year dream, I heard them! I was in the middle of Piazza dei Volontari, and the sound surrounded me completely, bouncing from wall to wall to wall, finally fading fading fading into the low-vibrational, constant thrum of the city.

Posted in AROUND US, ITALY | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Bells du jour


When I first moved to Italy seventeen (God, was it that many?) years ago, I noticed church bells all the time. They sounded exotic to me. Haunting. Indisputably beautiful. I never found them offensive or “polluting” or any of the adjectives that were ascribed to them by people who debated (and continue to debate) their presence. They were part of Italy. Part of the past. Part of a culture that was opening its arms to me. A soundtrack to a new life on foreign soil.

In our second apartment together, we heard them particularly loudly and clearly. Our building faced onto a beautiful park which was situated between two basilicas, Sant’Eustorgio and San Lorenzo. We had a labrador, Luna, who sang whenever the bells rang. (Or was that lamenting? Or was it something more desperate?) We never figured out if the pealing of the bells hurt her ears or tugged at her heart, but we think the latter. She would throw back her head, lay her ears flat and relaxed down the back of her skull and form her doggy lips—try to picture this—into an O-shape. Ah-Oooooooooooooo, she sang with more and more dog-emotion each time the tolling repeated.

Now, for some reason I cannot explain, I haven’t heard bells in a long, long time. I don’t know if the sound-pollution camp are winning their war, or if I’ve simply, with time, grown inured to the heart-rending, clanging plea. But yesterday, as if being awaked from a 100-year dream, I heard them! I was in the middle of Piazza dei Volontari, and the sound surrounded me completely, bouncing from wall to wall to wall, finally fading fading fading into the low-vibrational, constant thrum of the city.

Posted in AROUND US, ITALY | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments