May 14 2014
We’ve entered a moment of slight hatred of each other. Is hatred too strong a word? Maybe, although, in the moment after my dear husband has completely misunderstood me, once again, in that moment when I find myself violently sticking out my tongue behind his back, I think it fair to say that is a moment of hatred.
These last few days we have started behaving much like over-stimulated babies behave come 5 o’clock. Except in our case there is nobody to feed us, soothe us and tuck us in to bed. We’re both shattered from 6 weeks of physical work, not to mention the constant expenditure of mental energy it takes to navigate, in Italian, online orders, follow-up calls, delivery directions, in-store queries for everything from screws to curtain rods to extension cords, cup hooks and masking tape. All of this ordinary business of life can be somewhat exhausting when you’re on home turf, in another language, the feeling of having been lobotomized can just about bring you to your knees. You do not want to know about varnish remover, square meters of carpeting, nor for the sake of your sanity, as well as my own, will I describe the joys of gardening on shale and I do mean on, not in.
Not that there aren’t moments of shared hilarity. Like when trying to purchase a vacuum cleaner, aspiro polveri, one asks instead for a machine that will suck up the poor, aspiro poveri; the latter machine perhaps available globally from your nearest corporate agency.
And then there is the hilarity that is Mirco, whom I have nicknamed Smirco in honor of the constant, slightly imbecilic grin he’s been wearing ever since we first met him 19 years ago. Then, a teenager working in his father’s grocery store, Mirco has for the last 12 years owned his own hardware store. A slightly bent 6’4”, now married with children, he yet retains a puckish innocence somewhat reminiscent of Roberto Benigni. And, if Benigni had a hardware store it would probably, much like Mirco’s, perform like a one-ring circus with a clown standing in as ringleader.
No matter what you need, be it a nail or a power drill, plan on being in the store for at least half an hour, during which time you will be well entertained. This morning, two women ahead of us were desperately trying to buy 3 flowerpots. We watched as Smirco first tried to find them, the grin expanding in response to his eventual achievement in so doing. We continued to watch as he tried to find how much they cost, shuffling through a foot high pile of papers before shrugging his shoulders, the grin twitching at its corners as he told them to take the pots now and pay for them tomorrow. Meanwhile the shop had filled up with half a dozen local men who demonstrated the entire repertoire of facial and gesticular expression….all of it directed at Mirco who, still smiling, managed to find steel wool and a wire cutter for us before, with what looked like unbounded joy, he informed us that yes, he did have curtain tie-backs, but he didn’t know where they were. We should come back tomorrow.
27 May 2014
I look at the date on which I started writing this blog and have no understanding of time whatsoever. Was it only 2 weeks ago? In any case, during this period we not only secured the curtain tie-backs but affixed them all to their various walls. I hope not to buy, make and hang curtains for a very long time, if ever again.
I’m writing to you from our loft studio, sitting at my new worktable, which arrived yesterday along with Joel’s identical, slightly smaller one. Of German contemporary design, we chose them because we wanted to lighten up the space. For me, who has always cherished old things for the stories they carry, this is the first “new” surface I have written on. I chose it because I wanted a clean slate, so to speak. In the past, I needed the company and comfort of tables and desks that came with their history, perhaps because I arrived into this world, this time around, as an adoptee, and therefore without history.
The worn surfaces that have supported my writing for more than 46 years were stand-ins for my unknowable ancestors. I am grateful for every one of them. Can, as I write now, conjure up many of them and feel and see their dents and scratches, burns and nicks. Yet as soon as these images arise, they disappear, much the way the face of a long-gone loved one comes into focus for a second before fading into the blur of memory.
Yesterday, while showing our friend Gianni some of my artwork, I found myself describing (with a Mirco-like smile of pleasure at being able to locate enough Italian to be understood) how all my life, until I became sober, I had felt empty inside and that the only thing that had saved me was the greater emptiness one must enter in order to make a work of art. Pre-sobriety, I nightly emptied a bottle of brandy into me and in so doing, emptied myself of self. Longing to be swallowed whole into the unknowable, I never experienced it as the abyss; I was not the Alice who fell into the tunnel, but the one who went through the looking glass. There, I would meet the muse and bring back some message that could pour itself wordlessly onto the canvas, its completion giving me a temporary sense of worth.
What I realized last night is that I am no longer afraid of my emptiness because it is only by being willing to empty oneself of self (ego) that one can become the vehicle through which art can journey from darkness into the light; a mere vessel open to receiving and pouring forth.
Not that I have become egoless. It might take another incarnation before I am ready to let go of the material self and be of service in the spirit world. And so, while I wait for the next round of revision necessary for taking my manuscript to the next station on its interminable journey toward publication, I pour myself into the making of home and garden. For sure, partly so I have something to show for myself, but also because it is an essential part of my evolution. When the last twig is woven into this nest I will once again become the vessel in which to hatch new visions and watch them take flight into the great emptiness of the universe.
The new fridge arrived last Friday. The handcrafted, old wooden gate was installed on Saturday. The week before, with the help of Joel and friends, I made the first raised flower bed, planting it with rosemary, lavender, plumbago, thyme, sage, among other native, aromatics. Since I last wrote we’ve painted walls, sanded and refinished furniture, wired new lighting, and spent two days in and around Florence where we were taken on adventures by local artisans.
All of these accomplishments have give us joy, along with tired aching bodies, and those ridiculous moments of childish hatred. But nothing has given me the kind of quiet pleasure that I experience sitting at this new desk. While I will always love and honor rustic objects from the past, welcoming them in with a tip of the hat, I no longer need the history of those I’ve never met as a way of consoling myself for never having met those from my own history.
Now I can sit at my empty desk with my empty self and receive new stories, new images, which of course aren’t new at all. They, and many others, are waiting there, on the other side, waiting to be given life again, however momentary it might be in this fleeting world; their worth having nothing to do with us, or for that matter, with anything we conceive to be of worth.