To love. To red. A color story.

Today is one of the great clichés. And as with most clichés, there’s a reason for its existence. We do love and we love passionately. And without love we would be nothing. But our love isn’t wrapped up in hearts and bows and frills. It’s everywhere. All around us. To celebrate the blessed omnipresence of love, I’ve taken a quick trip through the past few months, revisiting things I felt compelled to photograph. In every case, as banal as something seemed, there was Love behind my motivation for photographing it. Love and memory and personal meaning.

To the sensual. The hint of a smile. The beginning of a Yes:

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To a humble chair inviting you to sit and meditate over a coffee or a mood:

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To the red tights on the man in one of my favorite paintings:

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To all the children in our lives:

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To the game of love, which requires skill, stillness, thought. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose; but we stay in the game:

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To wine and chocolate, which remind us that love is in the full, celebratory use of our senses:

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To the animals we love and who love us more:

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To the simple overlooked things that serve small purposes:

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To the everyday, mistreated objects that contain our lives:

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To those things that could speak entire novels of our past, encountered by chance, miles and oceans away from where we first knew them:

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To the escape routes, the ways out, the adventures waiting to happen, the places yet to go and see:

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To the patterns that repeat. Warmth through the generations. A visual reminder of a blanket knitted by my mother:

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To the women we come from, the ones that loved us no matter what, the elders, the wise ones, the ones we can only remember from the photographs we keep. Shrines:

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To the color that contains it all, the lifeblood, the love:

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Posted in COLOR, ITALY | 14 Comments

The ghost post

Hi all. A few minutes ago I started receiving messages that my blog had been hacked. Either that, or my phone posted as it was jostling in my pocket. Smartphone as ghost writer. In any case, the post read as follows (more or less) until I erased it:

Title: Plllly

Text:  Uccujngyjjdngxc

The tusygestyyk* thing is that if I had blogged earlier today, allowing my thoughts to pour into this shared digital space, that’s pretty much what they would have looked like. Between a weird feverless flu and the spate of ever more rughsodigyedst* headlines, that’s sort of where my thoughts are today. I don’t know what to make of it all. Yphheqizz!*

Why does my stomach hurt? Why do my neck, back and shoulders hurt? Why does Trump only seem to purse his lips in pictures? Why do I get that “sshtgfkyly* feeling” more and more, so often, in fact, that I just ignore it? Perhaps shoving down a sshtgfkyly* feeling will make one’s back and shoulders ache.

Or maybe I could have posted a picture of a cloud, because that is what is sitting heavily on top of Milan today. A grumpy, yghujsly* cloud. Grey moist and going nowhere.

Despite all that, and this is the really wwdyggh* part, I have a happy little voice singing somewhere inside me. It won’t be put down, that voice. It just keeps chirping. I think it doesn’t read the paper.

*funny, chaotic, Yikes!, sinking, sinking, opaque, weird

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One wonders…

We can’t know how it would have played out, but one wonders who else might have worn the hat…Eleanor Roosevelt? Josephine Baker? Diana Vreeland? Jackie? Susan B. Anthony? And if they hadn’t, how would they have added their voices to the current struggle? We will all find our voices, I hope, and wear our hearts on our sleeves, heads and our magic flying capes.

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Thank you.

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The truly daily cure

I don’t know what I was thinking when I entitled my blog The Daily Cure. It’s so pretentious. I never intended to mean that I would cure anyone else. I was just curing myself or, rather, acknowledging some of the tiny things in my adopted European life that seemed to cure me. And being creative a wee bit every day is a sort of cure for me. I need to write and think and look and photograph, as one might habitually keep a sketchbook. Or else I get grumpy.

And how on earth I thought I was going to be able to maintain a daily schedule of posting, I have no idea. I kept it up for a good long time, but then it became—over and over again with each life crisis/challenge/unexpected event—quite difficult to keep up with. And then there were all the doubts: Why I’m doing this? What difference does it make? Aren’t there enough voices out there already?” (most of whom are far more engaging than mine).  Etc.

But now, today, I want to talk about what has emerged as a real, true daily cure in my mind:  Eating healthily, normally—to sustain—without prejudice or ideology or perfectionism.

About a year ago, the specter of anorexia entered our household. I have hesitated to say anything about it, because I didn’t want to violate the privacy of anyone I loved. It’s fair to say, though, that my hesitation hardly came into play as, in actual fact, the disease so turned our lives upside down that I had no desire or energy for blogging at all. As it was unfolding, there were many things I could have written/shouted/wailed about, but I just couldn’t do it. Couldn’t talk about it. Couldn’t rise above the fray with any sort of perspective. I still don’t want to discuss these very private things, but I do want to share with you some of what I have been learning. Anorexia strikes families, not just people. So for me, this story is about us as a group, and no one person. And I know that we are not alone in dealing with this.

bm4h-square-origShortly after we discovered what we were up against, a dear friend sent me a book with the caveat that if I didn’t feel like reading it right then, she would understand, but maybe, just maybe it would help. To be honest, I didn’t want to read it, but I love her and I know she loves me, so I read the first page. I didn’t put it down until I was finished. It was an amazing (enthralling, entertaining, enlightening) book, and it helped me understand that the journey our family was on was very complex indeed. I could breathe deep and forgive myself, for being a mother is complicated and fraught, even when it comes to navigating what to put on a plate. I would have loved the book no matter what I’d been going through, and I wish I’d had it by my side years before it was written.

The book is First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson, and while Ms. Wilson does address the issue of eating disorders, she talks about so much more. Food culture. How we grow up with food. How our relationship with food has changed over the past generations. How deeply intertwined food is with our mental and emotional states. How fundamental every bite really is, in its own way. It’s not about eating healthily or organically; it’s not preachy. If there is a lesson in there, for me anyway, it’s that—as in most areas of life—puritanism and fundamentalism don’t, in the end, serve us well. We must tread sensitively and with common sense, especially where children are involved. The book issued me an irresistible, silent invitation to meditate on my own relationship with food and my own tendency toward “perfectionism” which has its own roots in family issues that go way back, the desire to be good enough, to be deserving, to patch things up (something I tried to do even as a very young girl, when adult relationships around me were wobbling and, eventually, falling over).

When the Italian medical system answered its call and swooped in to help us (gratis! I must add in this politically charged moment), I finally learned, after living in Italy for 20 years, what – according to the medical community at least – constitutes a balanced Mediterranean diet. I thought you might be interested in this information as well. I was given six photocopied pieces of paper which changed my life. They are now dog-eared from being referenced over and over again. I am not saying that this will dictate how we eat for the rest of our lives; it probably won’t. But it played a crucial role in getting us out of a very deep, dark, difficult situation with no backlashes and no extreme or sudden weight gains.

I’ve been enthusiastically eating Italian food for years, but I had no very precise idea of how the Mediterranean diet really worked. Yes to legumes, yes to fish, yes to whole grains and cereals. We all knew that. What I didn’t know was what was considered the right flow over a 7 day period, for example. We were urged to sort of follow the guidelines and not follow them at the same time. That is, we needed to learn to do it all intuitively. No measuring. No weighing. Just moving forward, sensitively, more or less eating accordingly. Eating balanced. Eating everything that was prescribed without prejudice. And mostly, eating enough carbohydrates. I thought I’d been doing that all along, but I hadn’t.

I remember realizing, with a sinking heart, that I would be spending a lot of time shopping and cooking and cleaning. We had rarely eaten primi and secondi in the same meals, and now we would be eating both twice a day. I thought too that I was doomed to gain a lot of weight myself—something I would accept if it would help the person in need—but I didn’t. I ate roundly and squarely and remained pretty much the same. It is worth saying here that the Italian approach to anorexia is slightly different than the approach of some in the U.S. There are no high calorie shakes or foods designed to make someone gain weight quickly. On the contrary, they are only to eat what everyone else in the family eats, slowly re-wiring themselves to accept what is “normal” without risking any rapid weight-gain that could throw them into a painful relapse.

Slowly, magically, invisibly the situation has sorted itself out and continues to do so. It has forced us to grow, opening our minds and hearts in ways we didn’t know they could expand. It has also showed us how strong we are when we think we’re going to break. We didn’t. And I don’t think we will.

My blogging took a hit, and it may continue to limp along for a bit. I feel my energy for it returning, but it will always take backseat to the bigger jobs in life. I’ve missed being here with you all.

Hope you’re having a lovely day. C

ADDENDUM

Okay, so…here are the guidelines, and remember, this isn’t about perfect eating or puritanical eating or current trends. It’s about eating. The snacks are designed to help an anorexic person give themselves calories steadily throughout the day. They need to eat about every 2-3 hours. Later, once they are weight-restored, they, like everyone, need the snacks to keep them from becoming overwhelmed with hunger to avoid over-eating at meal times.

Breakfast:

  1. Partially skimmed milk or low-fat yogurt
  2. PLUS: Cereal or fette biscottate (this is a common breakfast food eaten in Italy, which is a cross between grilled bread and melba toast) or whole wheat bread with marmalade or muesli or plumcake. (Another Italianism, plumcake refers to simple loaf cakes, somewhat like pound cake, which are not overly sweet or fatty).
  3. PLUS: Fresh fruit or fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Mid-morning snack:

  1. Fresh fruit

Afternoon snack:

  1. Lowfat yogurt
  2. OR Whole wheat bread with oil or tomato, or a small piece of focaccia or a fruit sorbetto.

Lunch and dinner:

  1. Un piatto unico (a plate which combines your protein and your rice/pasta/grain carbohydrate) – examples follow
  2. PLUS a vegetable (contorno)
  3. PLUS a fruit
  4. PLUS a piece of bread

OR

  1. Un primo piatto (a rise or pasta or grain dish)
  2. PLUS un secondo piatto (meat, fish, legume, cheese or egg)
  3. PLUS a vegetable
  4. PLUS a fruit
  5. PLUS a piece of bread

(You’ll notice that this is not the 6-10 servings of fruit and vegetable recommended in the US. It is more like 5-7, taking into consideration that most primi piatti are served with vegetable based sauces/accompaniments.)

The diet plan goes on to explain that the week’s meals should deliver, more or less, the following variety:

  1. Pasta or rice or grain at every main meal.
  2. Fruit and vegetables: 5-7 portions a day (if you consider sauces)
  3. Milk and yogurt: 1-2 portions a day
  4. Meat: 4 times a week (this is assuming you are not vegetarian, obviously), preference: chicken, rabbit, turkey, veal, lean beef.
  5. Fish: 4 times a week with a preference for pesci azzurri (sardines, herring, anchovies, mackerel, shad to name a few. “Poor” fishes, rich in Omega 3)
  6. Legumes: 4 times a week
  7. Cheese (as a main): 1 time a week
  8. Eggs (as a main): 1 time a week, maximum 2

Sweets are strictly discouraged during the re-feeding phase and beyond, as the consumption of sweets creates the desire for more sweets, and eating sweets can be tough territory to navigate for someone with an eating disorder.

They then tell you what things to not combine, as follows:

  1. It is not suggested that you combine meat and potatoes, and that potatoes should be eaten rarely. Meats should also not be combined with legumes or cheeses. (In other words, all those green beans I ate as a “vegetable” as a child, would have been better served with a bowl of rice.)
  2. Milk is fine combined with cereals in the morning and OK with a piece of whole grain bread, but it is not suggested to be eaten with meat, fish, egg, cheese or legumes.
  3. Cheese is to be eaten with vegetables, and is tolerable with bread or pumpkin, but should not be combined with meat, fish, egg, or legumes. (This is not to say you cannot grate some parmigiano over your ragù.)
  4. Yogurt with morning cereal and/or fruit. Never in combination with meat, fish, egg or legumes.
  5. Legumes are best eaten with pasta/rice/grains, vegetables (not potatoes). They are tolerable with fruit. They should never be served with meat, fish, egg or cheese. (And as I said, legumes includes green beans.)
  6. Vegetables can be eaten in any combination of themselves and with pasta, meat, fish, egg and cheese.
  7. Potatoes should not be eaten more than 2 times a week and go well, when eaten, with vegetables but not legumes. They are acceptable with meat and eggs, but not to be served with grains, milk or cheese.
  8. Tomatoes are fine with other vegetables, grains, meat, fish, eggs and legumes, but should not be eaten with milk, cheese or fruit.

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Some suggested primi piatti:

  1. Pasta with pumpkin (I made this for the first time and it became a family favorite. Above.)
  2. Pasta with zucchini flowers
  3. Pasta with “five herbs”
  4. Pasta with cime di rapa (turnip greens) – this is also a favorite
  5. Pasta or risotto al limone (with lemon)
  6. Pasta with artichokes
  7. Pasta with carrot sauce
  8. Crema di cavolo (a smooth cauliflower soup)
  9. Pasta with endive and saffron
  10. Pasta with broccoli and cherry tomatoes
  11. Spaghetti with uncooked tomato
  12. Pasta with zucchini
  13. Pasta with peppers
  14. Crema di carote (a smooth carrot soup)
  15. Rice with mushrooms

There are all manner of risotti and yet they mention none of them. Not sure why.

Suggested piatti unici:

  1. Cannelloni di magro (which means cannelloni with a non-meat filling, usually some combination of spinach and ricotta)
  2. Pizzoccheri valtellinesi (a pasta dish from Northern Italy with buckwheat pasta, cheese and beet greens).
  3. Pasta al ragù. (With meat sauce.)
  4. Polenta pasticciata (which is sort of a lasagna dish made with polenta instead of pasta).
  5. Melanzana alla parmigiana.
  6. Pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans)
  7. Lasagne
  8. Pasta salad
  9. Pasta with tuna
  10. It’s wasn’t on their list, but I like to cook a dish I picked up on the Tuscan coast which combines farro (spelt) with seafood and grilled vegetables. Delish!

15-20 grams (3-4 teaspoons) of olive oil per meal.

If you are interested in any traditional recipes I will find them and/or translate them for you. Just let me know in the comments section.

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Life on Mars

I suppose you noticed that 2016 was weird. And perhaps, like me, you’re thinking that 2017 might be, um, weirder. So when I was walking down the street several weeks ago and saw this miniature marquee in homage to Bowie in the window of a chic-y chic-y clothing store, I thought:

Ah, yes, it no longer is life on Earth. It is life on Mars.

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Because I mean, really—doesn’t it seem like we’ve been transposed to a different planet? It looks like ours, but it sure doesn’t feel like ours. When I’m not downright horrified, I’m curious. How will this play out? Matt Damon, in a recent address to the graduates of MIT, asked if perhaps we weren’t in someone else’s simulated game, as has been suggested by some very learned types. I suspect we aren’t. It’s just that things are so weird, one does grasp for an explanation. He sort of lamely tied things up by saying that whether we’re pawns in someone else’s game or not, it matters what we do, and he sure hoped those geniuses at MIT would sort everything out. Well done! Pat on the back! Ciao!

It’s odd too, to be exactly middle-aged when all this is going on. As if that particular passage weren’t jarring enough on its own, now the whole world is conspiring to make you aware that you are truly in the middle. 1. What was, is gone. 2. What lies ahead is a mystery. And  3. You are somewhere between 1 and 2, and by the way, your hair is doing that funny thing again.

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The saving grace, once more, is that I’m curious about what will happen. In the world. In my life. Etc. Almost every day. And as unsettling as it is, it is also invigorating. A wake-up. A call to be alert, to be smart, to use all your tools, to NOT lose your head in the swamp of loudmouthed opinion and speculation, and, maybe most of all, to nurture those good loving relationships.

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The other aspect of life that contributes to my feelings of being an alien are my two teenage daughters. Nothing like having youth erupting under your very eyes every day to remind you that you are not exactly young (at least not in that sense) any more. And the differences between our brains and how they approach life are sort of astonishing and comical. And yet, it is these two funny, irritating, brilliant, observant, quirky young ladies who are at the top of my list of people to love and nurture going forward. This is their world, by God, and I intend to make the most of it for all of us! And as horrific as so many things are, they are also golden opportunities to teach these two something about humans’ need to behave. Even to them, the need for civility and “how it’s done” are glaringly obvious.

The images in this post all relate to my daughters in some way. They see the world with clarity. They see beauty and curiosity where I often miss it. They remember to have fun. They are fascinated by themselves and what’s going on “in there.” They look out when I look in, and vice versa. No matter how weird 2017 gets, I’m sticking with them. We’re family. We’re in this together. We’re gonna get through it. No matter what planet we’re on.

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Analog cure

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Posted in AROUND US | 17 Comments

Color Story #16: Winter warmth

Cold has come. And as we all sort of thought it might, it came hard. We were so lulled into the warmth, so used to it, that when the cold came it took us, sillies that we are, by surprised.

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Hunched and huddled, we walk the pavements, looking for warmth wherever it might be. My eye zooms to yellow, and thankfully yellow is abundant in Italy. Metaphorical warmth wherever you look. Palazzi, bicycles, the last window box flowers, clinging to fading glory.

img_5758 img_5760Even renovations in progress catch my eye. A splash of yellow paint. The words BAR on an awning. A tea label displayed outside a café in Brera. Yellow, yellow, yellow. The sun is doing a pathetic job, but we will find what we need where we can.

img_5763img_5766img_5770I hope you find warmth wherever you are, and it finds you.

 

 

Posted in AROUND US, COLOR, ITALY | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Summer

When I was young, my Mom used to take my brother and me to the public pool when it opened around 10 in morning, then pick us up when it closed around 6. They had a loud boomy speaker, and as our parents arrived at closing time, our names would be yelled out one by one. We would dawdle our way to the car, preferring to stay in the water as long as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I got burned, peeled, then burned again. We didn’t give a damn about sun screen, SPF’s, or what if. We just played.

Version 2

Those were long days, broken up only by the occasional errand-day or car-trip to my grandparents’ in Virginia. There, summer felt like something else. The smell of chlorine was replaced with the smell of ivy on old brick walls or the odor of freshly caught fish, slung into the boat from the waters of the Rappahannock River. The energy spent flinging myself from the high dive or cartwheeling off the low one, was spent running around with my brother, pulling our wagon over the bumps in the sidewalk where the tree roots pushed it up. Packed sandwiches and Icees gave way to my grandmothers’ amazing cooking. One, classic Southern with Smithfield Hams and homemade pickles. The other, continental or Creole. She was from New Orleans. But even with the change of location, there was a certain beautiful monotony to it. That was, after all, what summer was for.

Version 2

These are memories I can smell and taste and hear. I wonder, often, what memories my children will have of their summers. We have spent many summers in France, but what is beautiful for one person, isn’t always for another. One man’s relaxing is another man’s boring. I love the long walks and bike rides, the working in the garden, the observing the tiny changes that appear in the landscape and the village from year to year. It’s like a meditation. But that is me.

Version 2

My Mom was a big believer in boredom. She didn’t go out of her way to keep me busy. She figured it was my job to figure out how to fill my time with my head and my imagination. I remember being so bored it hurt. So listless I wanted to hurt her. (How could she let the precious minutes of my life go by like that?) I am grateful to her now.

Version 2

And yet, sometimes, it is still hard to be still. Difficult not to pick up the phone or the computer to check the latest polling results. Challenging to take a deep breath and say, It’s OK to be bored. It’s OK to relax. It’s OK not to accomplish anything right this minute.

Is this hard for you? What do you remember of your childhood summers? What did you do to fill your boredom? I wish all of you the summeriest of summers.

Version 2

 

 

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Brexit

Can’t tell you all what a sad, sad day it is over here. I think that over the years, so many of us have begun to feel part of this giant, messy, but courageous and, in my mind, necessary European project. To have Britain walk out, abandon the younger generations who already feel part of a larger world, to give into fear instead of the desire to be part of a community designed to nurture the well-being and the security of all concerned (remember WW2 anyone?)…well, I just feel sad, angry and, weirdly, personally hurt, because this will affect all of us.

I’ve had it with politicians taking people’s understandable fears and using those fears to further their own power and agenda. And I’m afraid I’ve had it too with people not being educated and aware and plugged-in enough to know how their collective decisions are going to effect those far outside their own neighborhoods and countries or how it is they are being manipulated by politicians who peddle in anxiety instead of humanity.

I hope the US doesn’t follow suit.

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