Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Countdown Begins.....

  The eve of the New Year. 
  I'm going out and dancing my way into 2012 so I can shake off some of the energy that is building in me day by day. The Panicale countdown will officially start at midnight! With this knowledge firmly wedged in my back pocket, may I take a few moments to share some of why I can't wait?
  I know, I know, be here now... but it's sooooo hard. This morning we were watching the little movies we made last year, like we hadn't seen them already dozens of times. Oooo-ing over the sounds of the birds and the churchbells, while reliving the moments like they were just happening.
  When it gets like this for me, it's time to whip out some beauty shots, and just climb right in. These are  pictures that really convey what comes to my mind when I dream of Umbria. The light, the subtle textures and colors of the season, that smoky haze from olive trimmings being burnt. So much beauty that my heart wants to stop, just thinking about being back in it again. It does skip beats, I swear. That feeling of excitement mixed with a kind of poignancy. 
  I need a soundtrack.

View across the valley towards Lago Trasimeno, barely there in the upper left corner.

A stunning ruin on the walk to Paciano. The colors in this floor me.

The other-worldly landscape of the Italian countryside.

 Painting in process. Can't wait to see what paintings come from the 2012 trip!

Sunset from Panicale. 

Panicale skyline.
   Sometimes we come across little vignettes...moments in time that just need to be captured. We really like to walk the back streets and white roads, peek into abandoned buildings, generally poke around as much as we can. As I've posted before, there is an incredible sense of freedom to roam where ever you want to. Always with respect, of course. Never know what you may stumble upon...

Really? Can't I sneak just one into my rucksack to put in my garden at home? (No, I wouldn't...)

My kind of decorating..

Another find as we wandered a back pathway behind the main part of town.

  When I imagine the countryside around Panicale, I see these dream-like scenes, shrouded in a hazy elegance created by the nearness of Lago Trasimeno, and the olive tree clippings being burned. Early in the morning, the effect creates an incredible opportunity for photos. It's all about the light, man.

The geometry of the agriculture is pure photo heaven.

Monochromatic magic.

  And we can't wait to be back in our favorite watering holes, whether for due bicchieri di vino at sunset, or due cappuccini in the early hours of the day... Such a good way to catch up with the locals, or just relive the day we had. Nice to know there is this sweet routine. We love our regular spot in Panicale, but also have fun discovering little places in near by towns.

A favorite of ours at sunset time. We can take our glasses up to the nearby veterans memorial park to watch
the sun go down over Lago di Chiusi.

 Bar Gallo in beautiful Panicale. Our local spot, and the heart of this small town.
 We'll be seeing you soon...! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

On December

  Several years ago, December started to be my least favorite month of the year. It crept up on me like that... over a few years, it just became the month I wanted to sleep through, hoping to awake sometime mid January. Why, I'm not 100% sure. 
  When we were kids, for my brothers and me, Christmas was the beginning and the end of everything. First came the Sears-Roebuck catalogue, with all the goodies any little tyke could possibly dream of. We would scour that thing, dog-earring pages that had especially fine gift ideas, circling the Incredible Edible set,  MatchBox Car racetracks, and the always popular Walkie-Talkies. We wanted bikes, we wanted kid size kitchens, we wanted microscopes, we wanted huge stuffed animals, we wanted table top football and pinball sets... we wanted, wanted, wanted. For the most part, we received most of the things we asked for, thanks to our parents, grandparents and various aunts and uncles. It was the 60's, and all was good in our little kid world. What we didn't receive at Christmas, we would work for, instilling an awesome work ethic into each of us.
  On Christmas Eve, neighbors and relatives would gather at our house, passing around gifts and eggnog. The parents would spike it with, what? Brandy? Something....and we kids would be bouncing off the walls from eating cookies and chocolates. Plus the unbearable anticipation of the Big Guy coming down the chimney. The night would be like magic, all colored lights and presents waiting under the tree. Cookies and milk for Santa at the ready.
  Then, just as everyone was about to conk out, or pass out, we would get in the car and head down to midnight mass. Catholics, you know. It was tough, man. All the little old ladies dressed to the nines, and heady with too much perfume, parents starting to nod out, kids barely hanging on...can't we just GET TO THE POINT?!?!! Always seemed like the longest mass ever. 
  My poor parents would then have to try to get us home and to sleep, put together whatever big gifts needed putting together, get the stockings stuffed with little goodies, drag out whatever gifts were hiding away in closets... Saints on Earth. The final touch was the wrapping paper taped across the hallway entrance, so we couldn't sneak into the living room and see "Christmas" before they woke up. Now I know this was because they only had an hour or two of sleep, and needed all the minutes they could get, before we became crazy with the wanting.
  On their mark, we would come busting out and through the paper, Dad filming it all on 8mm. I remember being blinded by those lights on the camera-and that overwhelming happiness at seeing that yes, you did get a kid sized kitchen. I loved that freaking kitchen, all pink and made of, well, cardboard, really. But it rocked my little world. Just my size. My other favorite gift was the "Horrible Hamilton" toy I got one year. It was this green plastic monster/bug thing that walked on it's 6 legs when you pulled his long string. Even way back then, I loved my monsters. The wooden circus wagon filled with all the cool wooden circus animals lasted for years. Loved by all of us kiddles. 
  As we got older, it was all about record players, reel to reel tape players, guitars, drums, and record albums,(6th grade it was Neil Young's "After The Goldrush") and, of course, cash. Sweet thing was, even into our adult years, we still got a stocking filled with fun little gifts...tiny mustards and cheeses, funny pencils, bags of chocolate "coins", silly wind-up toys...and always, always, always walnuts & tangerines. Good times, good times.
  Some years, we would have all the family, cousins and grandparents, for the sit down dinner of 25 or so. Honestly, to this day I do not know how my Mother did it. She, a professional working woman, would not only bake several types of cookies, but shop, wrap, cook, write and send cards, etc., etc., etc. In earlier years, we would all be at my Mom's parents, Grandma & Grandpa Dottie's house. They lived next door, and our L.A. family would be there, too. All us cousins would play ourselves silly in the yard, trying out our new toys. Grandma Dottie had a silver tinsel table - top tree with a little village in the snow underneath- trees, deer and everything. It enchanted us all. Grandma Bea had a big silver tinsel tree with one of those slow turning round lights on the floor that made the tree change color every few seconds. Oooo. Love the Grandmas. 
  Then there were the years we would drive down to my cousin's house for Christmas day. It was so cool because the house had this great space to hide in. We were awkward pre-teens in those days, so having a place to escape to was the bomb. Also, there was the boa constrictor.... Being a kid is such a trip. So many sweet and fractured memories of family.
  And that's what's so odd about my rather gloomy feelings on December. True, it's also my birthday month, but I would rather that just slides by under cover. Just not into the birthday thing. (And yet, I do try to honor other's birthdays...hmmmm.) For some reason, December just makes me kind of sad. And overwhelmed. And full of anxiety. And cynical. And so f-ing tired. Like most people, no doubt. I start feeling dread right after Thanksgiving, and it smolders. This year it tipped into hellishness for a few days, but I'm getting better at fighting it back. It is exhausting trying to maintain. Making biscotti every year saves me, that's for sure. 
  The shining, sparkling, warm and cozy light at the end of the tunnel is knowing that I will see my Mom & Dad, have a special evening out, play some dominoes, drink some wine... share some family time. It may not be the big scene it was back in the day, but these couple of days with them will make all of the December doom and gloom vanish in a good, tight hug.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Little Venice Rant

  Well, we didn't make it to the Venice Biennale this year. Sigh. Heard it was a good one, too. We will shoot for 2013, fingers crossed. In previous posts, I've mentioned my love of contemporary art and the Venice Biennale in particular. But when I sit here at the gallery, fantasizing about Venice, it's the overwhelming beauty of the place that I am picturing in my mind. I won't even try to wax poetic about Venice. It's been done and done and done by the best. For me today, I just want to revisit some moments and dream about being back, creating more. 
  We are in the throes of planning our next trip to Panicale, and I'm going nuts looking at pictures from the last trip. It's such a tease. So going to Venice today is kind of a distraction, I guess. It is like going, too. I have an uncanny ability to conjure up in my mind the sight, sound, smell, and even the emotion of being someplace. While sitting here at my desk, on this cold December day, I will feel the warmth on my skin as I sit sipping my Aperol Spritz in Campo Santa Margherita, listening to the bells go off and the kids kicking around a soccer ball.
  What gets me, is how many people I've talked to that dislike Venice... "the crowds", "the smell", "the cost of a cup of coffee". Give me a break. For sure, you can expect to see masses of people in Piazza San Marco, or pay through the nose to sit in said piazza drinking a cappuccino. As for smell, well, we have never experienced this particular complaint. Live a little, and get the hell away from the hoards of people, lose yourself in the back streets and find the glory that is Venice. Stand at the bar in the neighborhood cafe and toss back an espresso like the locals. It will cost you less than a euro. 
  Try to discover the small squares where the few "true" locals hang around in the evenings. Grandmas gossiping on benches, moms with strollers watching the kids run around, dads catching up on the latest sport news. It does exist. I hear Venice is a slowly dying community, turning into a Disneyland for grown-ups. This is probably too true, like in so many Italian hilltowns that have been bought up by foreigners and turned into high priced short term rentals. This chases out the locals, who can't possibly pay the price to live in their own home towns. I have mixed feelings, of course. I am one of those who pays to "live" short term in a rented apartment where ever we go in Italy. But I also try to embrace the local culture, make friends and participate at what ever level I can. 
  I don't know the answer. I don't even know the question. What I feel I do know, is this - There are a couple of very different ways to experience travel:

  This way:



  Or this way:

Just a couple of pigeons. 

  Yes, this is Venice.... graffiti and all...

  By strolling just a few minutes away from Piazza San Marco, you will find yourself walking down uncrowded calles (streets, in Venice), enjoying impossibly beautiful scenes of canals, or lovely small campos, and even public gardens and laundry drying in the breeze.

Pretty as a picture. Oh, wait....

Yep. The public park of Venice. It's huge, too. This is a main area for the Biennale. 

Normal folk,  just taking the kid to school... I love the "street signs" in this shot.

More empty, lovely calles to explore.

This is actually Burano, one of the outer islands near Venice. So pretty. Also, totally uncrowded when
you get away from the touristy main area.

  Now the money shots, because that's what we love to see, eh?

All together...."Oooo, Ahhhh..."
Oh, and I'll take that awesome water taxi on the left, please...

Cruising down the Grand Canal during the "Golden Hour".

Gondolas doing their gondola thing...

  So now you have no excuse, or at least not that lame "it's too crowded" one.... Venice is like a world wonder. Really. You should try to see it once in your lifetime. Just spend at least several days, stay off the main drag, get lost, and stop into the neighborhood osteria to enjoy some cicchetti with a glass of the house red. You will never regret it.