Monday, August 24, 2009

A Trip to Italy

Seems only fit that after traveling all the way to Italy, I might have something to say, exciting tales of adventure, special memories to recall and reflect upon, something like that, anything really. I did try to keep a travel diary, I really did. But, the pace of the trip was vigorous and intense, and the travel diary was sacrificed in the interest of maintaining the basics of enough food to keep the engine running, enough sleep to renew the batteries, and very necessary showers to wash off everything stuck to the sticky arms, legs and unmentionables of an Italian heat wave. So much for the travel diary.
And so I figured, once I got home, I would write a song, an essay, a short play - some thing or another, put together a photo album or two, have time to talk with friends. This process would be an accustomed and expected pattern of behavior. There is still time for all that, however, the overwhelming feeling I have had since my return has been that of emptiness. It’s as if the time away has literally wiped the slate clean, as if spending a week and a day away has faded all familiar patterns to the point that I am not sure which way to go. I find myself asking what it is that I am here to do, and why. Given my normal driven nature, the distinct lack of direction is a bit alarming and unsettling. Given my perpetual interest in attaching meaning to the world around me, the impression of unlabeled space surrounding me feels also like opportunity. I am still here, in the same physical form, and yet nothing feels the same.
This sense of a new reality was defined even more as I managed to find my way home, setting aside the faulty directions and navigating on instinct alone, as if discovering a special new way to reach the same old place. Once at my familiar front door, I find that my husband, in his usual style of explosive creativity, has made huge strides in the ongoing kitchen renovation project. And so, my home is both recognizable, and very different, with new counters, fresh piles of construction debris all over the back porch, and things put back, but not quite in the same place they were before. Reaching for a spoon or a mug could be a habitual humdrum experience, or it could end up as an act of domestic discovery, depending on whether I have happened upon the fabulous prize behind Drawer #1, or Cabinet #3. And so, I am here, but here is not the same as it was last week.
My calendar tells me that there are things to be done - doctor appointments, laundry, bills to be paid, children to get ready for school. And so, bit-by-bit, I am coming back in line with some of my normal life. But, much of my bigger picture is still unclear, yet to be re-defined, and I guess that’s ok for now. As whatever my process is continues to unfold, here are a few impressions of Italy to ponder:
· Italian people, as a whole, are warm and friendly, passionate and dramatic, have a great sense of humor, and drive and talk very fast;
· The Italian population seems to be gifted with a larger than normal proportion of truly beautiful looking individuals;
· Rome is wonderfully vibrant mixture of ancient and modern – one minute you can be strolling the historic Piazzo del Colosseo, and the next, hop on the Metro over to Vatican City;
· If you can find a seat on a bench in the Sistine Chapel, block out the never-ending chorus of “Ssshhhh!” and “No Photo!” from the Vatican guides, and just sit and stare at the ceiling – you lose your breath as the paintings come alive, and appear to be real people, resting on the ceiling and looking down at the curiosity below;
· The Basilica of St. Peter is truly too huge to describe;
· Rome has many fountains with sweet and abundant drinking water, Florence has no such thing - as they would like you to buy a bottle of water, and the fountains of Venice flow with delightfully icy water from the melted snow pack of the Italian Alps;
· On the whole, it is difficult to find a public WC in Italy, even harder to wait through the line, and one should never expect air conditioning in the bathroom, even at your hotel;
· Gellati is the best afternoon snack in the world;
· When in Italy, do your shopping in Florence at the Mercato di San Lorenzo;
· No matter how many pictures you have seen, to stand in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, and gaze upon the massive sculpture of David created by Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1504, is an awesome experience in the truest sense of the word. It takes several trips around the statue to even start to take in the unbelievable level of detail, not to mention begin to understand the meaning and intention of such an example of the potential for human creativite expression. Compliment this with the collection of Robert Maplethorpe photos that are currenlty on display in this museum, and you have enough images to ponder for half a lifetime;
· Before visiting Venice, step up your work-out routine, so that you’ll be ready to go up and down all the footbridges over the canals that comprise the “streets” of the city.
· Yes, an evening gondola ride is all it’s cracked up to be.
· A water taxi ride to the airport is the next best thing to a gondola ride.
· The beauty of Italian food lies in two essential qualities – fresh and simple.
· Italians have junk food, too. I could go for some Extreme Crik Crak right now, and wash it down with some Slam.
· When in Italy, roll your Rrrrr’s, and add a dramatic flair to the end of every other word, and you’ll get along just fine. All signs and menus include English, as well as lots of other languages. Hand gestures help, too.
· Ciao!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Prayer of St Francis

Did you know that the Prayer of St. Francis cannot be attributed to any of the writings or works of the 13th century saint known as Francis of Assisi? According to various Internet sources, the earliest appearance of the prayer is said to have been in 1912, when it was printed in a small devotional French publication known as La Clochette. One of the first printings is said to have been on the reverse of a devotional card depicting the image of St. Francis, and so the prayer began to be associated with the spirit of simplicity that emboies this particular saint. Over the next few years, the prayer was included in more widely read French publications, and became well known as a prayer for peace during the First World War. The prayer became popular in the United States in 1936, when it was distributed on leaflets as a peace prayer during and after World War II, and continues to be a favorite for those ranging from Mother Teresa and other world leaders, to recording artists and filmakers.

For those seeking a positive lifestyle and to affect positive change in the world, the Prayer of St. Francis can be used a powerful form of affirmative prayer. There are many different versions of the prayer, from the first known original text, to variations used for Twelve Step programs worldwide. As we resolve to be open to the good flowing in our lives, a few simple adjustments to the text transforms the attitude of supplication to that of positive affirmation, and the prayer becomes a freshly powerful tool for us to claim positive attittudes and positive outcomes, in this very moment, right now. Consider using this prayer as a part of your daily quiet time:

Lord, I am an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, I sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Divine Spirit grants that
I do not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in releasing the self that we are born to Eternal Life.
So it is.