Friday, August 17, 2012

Me And Music 1 (it's a mighty big subject)

  Sitting here at my desk, I have my iTunes mix going on most of the time. Usually I have one of the mellow "Gallery Appropriate" mixes going on. But on a day like today, with the all the fancy cars in town for the annual Really Fancy & Expensive Car Show, when nobody ventures into the gallery, well..... I figure I can play what I want to hear.
  So I put on one of my random favorites mixes. It's all good, perfect for paying bills and doing la la


  I am instantly transported to my 12 year old self, as the first notes of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" starts playing. When did I add this? My tastes these days run more to the 90's "shoe-gazing" and grunge bands, or 80's indie, jangle-pop stuff... Where did this golden nugget of my youth come from? Well, well, well.
  What I once again realize is that music has been a huge part of my life, something I've wanted to write about, but it's so filled with emotion... and a subject I have been hesitant to even try to approach here.

  I think I just need to take baby steps with this particular subject.

  The memory that was so massively sparked today, with Neil's help, is a memory of such longing, so bittersweet and so 12 year old intense.
  6th Grade. Small school. Small town. Every new kid that appears is fascinating, since most of us have grown up together, and a large percentage of our parents did, too. I have teachers that my mother and father had, when they were young. I have teachers that my mother and father grew up with. It's a very small town.
  Enter New Cute Boy (even now, in my beyond middle age, I'm embarrassed to mention his name). Let's call him NCB. His mom is a single mom, which is just sooo different. He is from the "wrong" part of town. His brown hair is a little too long, and his clothes are a little rough. He smokes. His eyes are clear blue, with long, long lashes. I can see him, right now. I especially liked this soft yellow button down shirt he would wear, sleeves rolled up (no local boys do this), tucked into baggy blue jeans. He wore well worn work boots, way before it was cool. He was 12.

 I was dangerously smitten.

  We all noticed him, of course. All the popular cute girls, too, I'm sure. But they were more interested in the older sporty boys. What the problem was, well, my very best girlfriend had a big crush on NCB.
She would talk for hours about him. She would hand me notes about him. We would stalk him at recess together. We would stalk him after school together. We would spend more hours at night on the phone talking about him. But it was me listening and her talking...

  I was hiding my crush like a disease.

  Since we were only little kids, our discussions about NCB were pretty tame. The biggest fantasies involved actually being able to meet him, or talk to him... maybe, if dreams came true, a chance to  dance with him at an upcoming school "Dance" which were always just around the corner. Pretty tame. I mean, we were just kids. This is way before MTV and all that has followed. We didn't have the sexual imagery so prevalent these days...there were the"bad" girls, sure, and then there were the rest of us. Clueless, for the most part.
  So all the chatter between my best pal and I about NCB were about her and NCB getting together in the dream world. I just kept my secret to myself, and my fake red leather diary. Lock and key included.
  Since I was a classic tom-boy with two brothers and zero sisters, I got along great with most of the boys. But NCB brought me to my knees. It was a first crush, and the hardest, for sure. Up to this point, I just dreamt about vampires and zombies, an occasional Japanese giant reptile, horses....boys just were not on my radar yet.
  This was life changing. Really. I suppose all of us go through it some point...that awareness of yourself in a whole new way. Sweet and so brutal.
  So of course, as these stories always seem to go, NCB does notice my best pal, and they are soon holding hands, etc, etc, etc. And of course I have to hear about every little detail, over and over and over, like little sharp razor strikes to my heart and soul. So sad and pathetic, that I hang on each and every little detail. I am a good pal. I say nothing but encouraging, 12 year old type things.
  I am astounded to find out from my best pal that NCB and I have the same birthday, that he smokes pot as well as the cigarettes, that he is often home alone all night while his mom is at work. He feeds himself, washes his own clothes and doesn't have TV because they can't afford one. He loves Neil Young and The Who. These details that he is sharing with her, day after day after day, right into summer.

  I am dying.

  Here is where music comes into my life. Since I can't "be" with NCB, I will try to be like him, do things he likes to do. The cigarettes are a total bust. I just couldn't do it, still don't. Not that I didn't get busted trying (neighbor caught me and his son sneaking cigs). Pot came a little later. What I did do right was this. I asked for a record player for Christmas and got one. I asked for Neil's "After The Gold Rush", and got that, too.
   I then get myself a little after school job (collecting 50 cents a month for the local paper home delivery service), which earned me $6.00 a month. I bought albums. First one was The Who's "Quadrophenia". Second was Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse "Everybody Knows This I s Nowhere". Soon to follow are all the Crosby, Stills Nash & Young albums, James Taylor, all the Neil Young albums, more Who, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, The Byrds, even Elton John.
  I do this because I want to impress NCB with my coolness. Neil Young becomes my soundtrack for awhile. I actually become friends with NCB, we talk about music. We talk about books. We talk about life. My plan sort of works. Sort of.
  He calls me at home to talk about my pal. She calls me at home to talk about NCB. I am a good pal. I say nothing but encouraging, 12 year old type things. It sucks. But. But. But...........
  Now I have my music. I can shut my door, put on an album, put on headphones and let the music play long and loud. It helps the hurt. It makes things endurable. It becomes my drug of choice. My crush on NCB actually lasts a couple of years, way after my best pal has moved on to older and more dangerous boys. NCB and I become friends, but from afar. We are from different worlds, and as we get older, this becomes so apparent. I move away.

  Life goes on, with new crushes (lots of them, still to this day), new music, new friends, new towns to live in. NCB was killed in a freak boating accident, I discover many years after the fact. My best pal and I keep in touch for years, though not the last few.

I never divulge my 12 year old self's secret to her.

  Until this morning, when Neil Young broke into my iTunes mix, I have not thought of NCB in years. Why would I?
 Why? Because that is what music will do to your memory banks. Like some giant hammer coming right down onto your soft skull, whether you like the memories or not. For all the anguish at the time, I like this memory. I like that it is so huge in creating the person I am today, and I like myself a lot. I think I want to give the NCB of my youth a big old shout out of "THANKS" for being there at just the right time to truly rock my world.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Old Cemetery On The Hill

  While staying in Panicale, we love our walks out into the surrounding countryside. It's a great way to connect with the land, the views, and each other. If the weather looks promising, we'll plan an afternoon or early evening walk into the hills nearby.
  There are marked trails all around, as many visitors come for the hiking. We often see groups coming down a trail, small backpacks and snazzy walking sticks that look like ski poles to me. I love the trail markers, usually a small wooden sign painted with a red and white stripe, or just a rock marked with red and white stripes. Most of the time we don't run into anyone, as we are always there off season.
  A favorite walk for us is up the Strada Capuccini, just outside the walls of Panicale. It's a hike that takes you way up, and divides-one way takes you to a wonderful look out over the valley and Lago Trasimeno, but this time we head towards the old church and cemetery on the hill between Panicale and Missiano.
  This isn't a hard walk, though it is up,up,up for a little while before leveling off. I like the shadowy feel under the canopy created by the trees along each side of the dirt path. There are nice crunchy leaves on the ground, and always lots of beautiful wildflowers.

Just off the main road around the walls of Panicale, this
is where the hike starts and goes up,up,up.

  We like to look for walking sticks at the very beginning of our stay, and keep them by the front door for the duration of the trip. It's always a little sad leaving them behind after that last hike out... just when your hand starts to feel super natural grabbing it, like it's been custom made for you.
  I always bring a bag with water, a bite to eat and whatever I'm reading, knowing Johnny will most likely set up and paint. What a sweet way to spend an hour or two.

All ready to hike and paint, he's one happy guy.

This year I had a really great walking stick, and we both loved taking ours out and about.

  This hike takes us way up, levels off and then goes into the canopy for some time, before coming out on top of the hill. At the top we find ourselves in the open space of the old church and cemetery, now a parking area for those who choose to go up the "easy way".
  The views up here are outstanding, as they encompass a wide area to look out on. On a clear spring day, we could see for Umbrian kilometers!

A nice spot to sit, an even better one faces the view...

  The old church is now de-sanctified. We were told that in the summer and fall there are concerts here. Jazz and small classical groups, mostly. I can totally imagine, because the acoustics are beyond reality. We've been up there several times, and I always have to sing a little tune into the outside covered area, just to hear it ring around.

I like to sing here. I hope the families buried in this mausoleum area don't mind.

  Just around the side of the church you find the cemetery, which is somewhat run down. I love the way it looks, though, and find it so fascinating. When my language skills are better, I really want to find out more about this place. 
  We talked to a local young woman who said her father is doing a computer image thingy of what the whole site looked like originally. It will have all the architectural details and such. I look forward to learning more next spring.

The entry to the cemetery, with the prerequisite Italian Cypress trees

  These days, the gate is locked, and you are not allowed to enter the cemetery without permission. The gate is easy to look through, though. It kind of amazes me that anyone can just go and see this, being that it is rundown, sort of falling apart. It seems too personal. And yet, here I am sharing it with the world... It's just beautiful to me.
  What can I say...I was one of those kids that had a love of cemeteries, and I suppose I still do.

The view through the old gate.

Lovely headstones and grave markers from centuries past.

  Now there is a new cemetery and mausoleum outside of Panicale, which we have visited, also. It is lovely, with lots flowers everywhere. It's nice.

  After sitting for a bit, either munching on something, painting, reading, or just resting...we take in the outstanding views and head back down the hill. We hope to see a snake, or a few lizards...maybe even the elusive Olive Tree Cat. Mostly we're happy to just be taking a stroll.
  The walk takes us through olive groves, fields, and even past some hard-to-get-to small villas. We never see anyone living in them, and assume they are summer homes, being so remote. Of course, I always want to poke around, but don't. Johnny doesn't approve, and that's a good thing. That boy really keeps me in line.

View of Panicale, with Lago Trasimeno in the far distance.

Looking towards Perugia and Assisi from the old cemetery.

   On the way down the hill, closer to town, there are the best views of Panicale ever. These are the postcard and calendar shots. On this day, with the clouds just so, and the sky so blue...magic.

So clear, you can see buildings across the lake.

Panicale, we love and miss you!

  As we wait to return to Panicale, we have so much to keep us busy and happy here at home. There is a small part of us always there, but as I mention over and over, here ain't bad, either. We'll see you again soon, Panicale!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Texture In The Garden 2

  Whenever we have company coming, I really turn a critical eye to the garden. I know I should just "let it be", but it's hard. This week I did a couple of marathon days, and it feels great to have a good clean up.
  Now, at the beginning of August, it's a little rough around the edges, even after all the hard work. So I need to remind myself of why I do it, after all. These dog days of summer don't last forever, and before we know it (hopefully...) the rains will bring on next seasons gorgeousness.

  Back at work, and at the computer, I can't help but look at photos taken earlier in the year, when all the garden was flush with new's the textures that bring me so much joy. Especially the unexpected "Hand-O-Nature" moments that I can't even try to take credit for....

A great combo here. Love the Forget-Me-Not blue

  While visiting my folks in Sonoma a couple of years ago, we took a little drive into the "Valley Of The Moon" to check out the fantastic Wildwood Farm near Kenwood. This is a dream nursery for anyone who loves Japanese Maples. We had gone to lunch, and it was a perfect spot to walk off the nappy feeling we all had, after good food and wine.
  There are hundreds if not thousands of trees available here, and I was thrilled to find so many varieties in one gallon size. That's just the right size for my budget! I found a little gem called "Tuscany" could I resist? Now it's one I look forward to every spring as it reveals it's cinnamon/rose colored new growth. The long, thin fingers of the leaves bring a wonderful laciness to this part of the garden bed...

Tuscany in my own time zone. Nice with the red geraniums.

  Years ago I planted ONE euphorbia wulfenii, and now they populate every corner of the garden. I love them, and try to let them have their way, but sometimes I have to "just say no", and pull one or ten up. They can get humongous here, and sometimes they pop up in the wrongest of places (is wrongest a word?).
  Anyway, I do love them, in the rightest of places....

Euphorbia "wulfenii" branches doing all the right stuff here, even before they bloom.

  Euphorbia "La Dolce Vita" has had herself a little propagation party in the garden, too. When I bought the 4" pot at Annie's Annuals, a favorite nursery for us in the Bay Area, I should have known. This little gal is a wonder at self-seeding, though easy to transplant into more appropriate spaces around the garden. 
  The large flower heads, full of "inflorescences" (I just looked it up), are great with my beloved geranium "Biokovo". They bloom at the same time, and the chartreuse and pink are so nice together. The textures together are sublime.

Self seeded euphorbia "La Dolce Vita" with geranium "Biokovo"

  A wander through my iPhoto albums bring up some nice shots...
  This combo below is just one happy plant, doing it's own thing. It's just so perfectly pink, grey, and starry. The fragrance is a dream of vanilla and cinnamon. Cottage Pinks, I love you.

Old fashioned Cottage Pinks. A real winner all by itself, but needs warm sun.

Cersis "Forest Pansy" has the most amazing new growth, little hearts in the sky.

Another Japanese maple, this fellow goes back with me about 30 years...
I don't remember which variety it is, but the texture of the new growth is fine.

  Because we garden on a shoe string budget, we don't have real hardscaping. Fortunately, I've always loved pea gravel paths, both the texture under foot, and especially the sound as you walk the path. Johnny tosses bags of little colored glass "stones" through the gravel every once in a while, and over the years it's created a great look. At night they reflect light and look like tiny stars in the pathway.

Just a little garden moment

  One of my favorite new additions, thanks to a generous garden tour hostess, is this amazing little ornamental oxalis, below. This little work horse propagates like dream, is easy to control and fills a space quickly. Too bad I have no idea what it's name is. 
  It doesn't have little bulbs, like the invasive variety here, you just pinch a cutting, keep it moist, and voila! The flowers are a sulphury yellow, small on long, thin stems. It's really the texture of the zillions of "leaves" I like, though. Oh, it stays pretty low, too.

Oxalis "I Don't Know"

See how pretty?
  Well, I guess I better get back to work. Sure has been nice cruising in the spring garden for a little while, though!
  Jeez, really? 2 hours have gone by? My boss is gonna be all kinds of mad at me.....