Monthly Archives: October 2014

A WEB OF OUR OWN      

October 21 2014

Something about the angle of the sun at this time of the year; its low hovering, as if the nearness of its rays might compensate for the diminishment of its heat. And so it does, bringing us an elongated Indian summer, all the more of a gift for there not having been much of summer here. And in this low pale light are revealed thousands of gossamer threads linking trees to posts, fences to stalks, gates to antenna and if one sits long enough one will attach itself to a sweater or finger, sewing one into the landscape. The threads, fine as they are, are strong in attachment, akin to crazy glue or the gum of a Bandaid which when rolled in an attempt at riddance just keeps transferring from one surface to the next.

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Fall light

I assume they’re the work of spiders, pre-web. An industrious attempt at wide-world connection with perhaps less negative impact than the internet. Although, much like the internet, they are constantly in your face. These pale strands, invisible without sunlight are as mysterious to me as strands of thought and I have about as much luck following either!

Why I have picked this strand of thought to day I have no idea, anymore than why I have held on to the sound Vincenzo’s tractor coming home late from the fields and hills this past Saturday. I never knew that a tractor could sound so tired. Or how about the lemon tree, which we must soon bring indoors for the winter? The daily surprise of its constant flowering and the counting of 25 new lemons, the appearance of which give me hope that a gal from England can have such success with a Mediterranean tree.

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Antonello and Luca, the stonemasons, finished their work here yesterday. 5 days a week for the last month they arrived at 8 each morning, choosing, chipping and cementing stone to create steps and a wall, collars for the olive trees and a sun patio. How strange we were to each other at first; the two of them so deeply Tuscan we could barely understand a word of their dialect. And we to them? Stranieri , looked at askance from a distance. But as they laid the stones I spun my gossamer and each day we became more connected. Each day they ate their lunch at our outdoor table, boots off, socked feet twiddling like schoolboys. And each day when they finished eating I brought them cake and coffee, asked them to speak slowly and was told I spoiled them like a grandmother. Each day brought ever closer by the common threads of decency and respect. Greeting each other with joy every morning.

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And so it was that one day we found ourselves talking about Westerns, childhood, The Flintstones, the naming and loving of the animals raised for food, waitressing and dancing and the pleasure of reading. One day I cooked soup for them. Another day Luca stopped what he was doing to help me dig in some plants. During one lunch I brought them Joel’s retrospective book and we watched the two of them move closer to each other on the bench, slowly turning the pages, the pages revealing people and places far, far from their lives.

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A week ago, with reticence, they helped me choose the right spot for the pomegranate tree. I remarked on the shame of it bearing no fruit in this, its season, and was reassured by them that now it was in the ground it would most certainly produce. The next morning I went out to look at it and saw that it actually did have one pomegranate dangling from a branch and, wondering why I hadn’t seen it the day before assumed it must have been the slant of the sun and turning to exclaim saw Luca giggling, his prank a great success.

Joel was in Paris on Monday when the guys came to clean up their tools and tarps and cement mixer, loading them into the truck along with their wheelbarrows. We hugged and kissed goodbye and I felt bereft as they drove away. And hour later, I heard the click of the garden gate and looking up saw them coming down the steps. They had forgotten some small thing and joked that they couldn’t live without me.

L1009260_maggie and the guys

It isn’t the Internet that connects us on this level, although it is possible to connect on this level via the Internet; our ancient strands of gossamer spinning toward each other, often in frail attempt, sometimes snagged on a thorn, and yet on we go to spin another, constantly reaching for each other across great divides in the pale low light of time.

October 6, 2014 ET AL

I’m big on lists. The ‘to do’ kind. Love the organization of them, the goals and visions they encompass: write a novel, make a home, move to Italy; and the mundane: do the laundry, shop for groceries, go to the Post Office. And then there is the joy of crossing the accomplishments off the list and moving the remains over to tomorrow.  But it strikes me now, as I collapse on the couch, that ‘to do’ lists are by nature always about wants and needs and nearly always, in the compiling of them, bring an element of chore-dom to one’s life, as opposed say, to making a gratitude list.

When I sit down to write something for our blog I sometimes have something particular in mind. More often than not I have no idea what I will write about. And sometimes, where there is much to write about, I feel slightly overwhelmed; the way I do when there is much to be done…hence the ‘to do’ list. So I thought it might be interesting to write a ‘done’ list.

1.  Sunday 21st: packed up the entire kitchen in preparation for the new sink being installed in our absence.

2. Monday, flew to Dusseldorf for the opening of Joel’s retrospective exhibition.

NRW Forum

3. Invented a drink (a strange thing for an alcoholic to do) at the invitation of the Intercontinental Hotel, which is one of the sponsors of the exhibition…and a mighty fine hotel it is.

Retro Drink

4. The drink: champagne, pomegranate and lemongrass accompanied by a side garnish of crystalized ginger. The drink (which works well substituting fizzy water for champagne) was named “Retro” in honor of Joel.

5.  Visited NRW Forum to see the final touches of the installation of J’s show which includes 260 photographs, his Elements video, his film “Pop”, and a documentary about Joel which Ralph Goertz, the curator of the show, made over a period of 3 years.

Install NRW L1008542

6. This list must include kudos and gratitude to Ralph who has that rare combination of skill, passion, vision and humility. He did a world-class job and I urge anyone who is going to be near Dusseldorf in the next 3 months to go see it.

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7.  Went to a morning dress rehearsal of a Strauss opera, the name of which I completely forget. Apart from the amazing staging and costumes, the most interesting thing about this rehearsal was the fact that 3 of the divas were not singing full voice, choosing to save the shattering of windows for Saturday’s premiere. For sure it ain’t over when the fat lady don’t sing. But you haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed 3 sopranos singing in a whisper while the veins in their necks bulge with the effort of constraint.

Opera

8.  Bought 2 sweaters and a pair of boots.

9.  Had dinner cooked for us by Ralph and his wonderful wife, Vera, in their home; an intimate evening of being taken care of while supping on fine food accompanied by much laughter.

10. Sat in a recording studio on my own and worked the board while reading 2 chapters of my novel, followed by recording a Skype interview with Julie Burstein in New York. This was a try-out for what will be a series of Podcasts called “A Question of Belief”. Julie then edited the recordings and we sent the link to Sarah, my editor in UK, who included it in the package along with the manuscript of the novel…all of which was then delivered to the first agent. Also in the package was a link to this blog, along with many of your comments. Thank you so much.

https://soundcloud.com/you-know-what-1/a-question-of-belief-with/s-ni6r2

https://soundcloud.com/you-know-what-1/chapters-1-and-2-read-by-maggie-barrett/s-m5y0p

11.  Found out the blog didn’t seem to include a comment box (instructions can be found at the end of this post).

12. Suffered a mini-collapse the day of the opening and was kindly seen by a healer Joel had serendipitously met an hour earlier. This lovely man treated me with acupuncture, Chinese medicine and pulsing crystals, after having diagnosed me as suffering from exhaustion and weak kidney energy which is linked to fear (more about that, maybe, later). After half an hour, I bounced off his table, dashed to the hotel for a change of clothing (including one of those new sweaters) and went off to the opening where for three hours I worked the rooms along with my rock star husband. About 5 hundred people attended. And how strange, unlike in NY, to see people actually looking at the work and not at each other!

acupuncture table

NRW Opening 2014

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13.  Took a hot bath and fell into bed at midnight.

14.  Took the train to Berlin for the opening of J’s show in what we hope will be his new European gallery; The Springer Gallery.

Springer Galerie

15.  The train, was due to arrive in Berlin at 3pm., giving us time to dash to the hotel and change before getting to the gallery at 4 when J was scheduled to give a talk. Oh, trouble on the tracks, two-hour delay. Aargh, no taxis on arrival, 20 minute wait. Ew, it’s the Berlin Marathon weekend….detours. Oh no, the taxi driver can’t find the gallery!!

16. Finally arrive, 2 hours late, to find the gallery packed to capacity with people flowing out onto the street, all of them waiting patiently. All of them rapt, as Joel, in his generous and poetic way, told them about his journey as a photographer, and what the evolution of the medium means to him.

17. Dinner and another bath before bed.

18.  We awake to a sunny Sunday in Berlin and are taken by dear Robert and Heide, the owners of the gallery, to a beautiful house on the edge of lake where Christiane, a world class violin player, and her husband Tillman who, as well as playing, makes and repairs violas, performed a private concert for us. To sit in their practice room, the sun dancing on the water behind them, their music filling us beyond reason, their loving glances at each other as they played…I really don’t have words.

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19. Flew back to Florence and then were driven home through our beloved land, so happy to see the cows and the sheep again.

Sheep

20.  Came in the garden gate and walked down our new stone steps, which had been built while we were gone.  Came in the house and cried when we saw the new stone sink.

StepsL1009072 Sink

21. Also cried when we had to roll up the sleeves and unpack the kitchen!

22. Bed, sleep, oh beautiful sleep.

Of course, we’re not done! Meno male, as they say here, which basically means thank God. We won’t be done until we’re done and we’ll be done one day whether or not the fat lady sings.

There is much not included on this list. Like the visions we had from the train window of WWII soldiers fleeing through the forests. Like the generosity and warmth from everyone we encountered. Like not having to speak Italian or German (meno male) for a week. Like the strangeness of being in a country that is filled with order, cleanliness and high efficiency, unlike our lovely old crumbly Italy; like the slightly manic energy we experienced the minute we enter any city. Like the dinner with Alma and Stephan, two photography aficionados with infectious energy…not to mention the fact that, like me, Alma is both a dancer and a gardener and turned me on to Beth Chatto, the English gardener, known for mastering the art of growing plants that love stony, dry ground. And, like the fact that under these supreme Tuscan skies, amidst the beauty and peace and the twice daily chorus of the sheep, we found the energy this week to oversee stonemasonry, landscaping, laundry, the running of a 1000 errands, the making of beds for arriving guests and yes, the hanging of more curtains!

And the list goes on…the “done” ticked-off with gratitude, the “to do” a thread of facts and dreams that spins out as far as the eye can see. What a to do, indeed.

NB. Our apologies to those of you who wanted to leave comments but could find no place to do so. From now on, if you wish to comment, click on the title of the current post (e.g., this one you would click on ET AL) and it will reload with a Comments box at the bottom of the post. Enter your comment there and hit Post. This being said, we are still finessing this aspect as it still seems to be somewhat hit or miss. Please bear with us, as it is important to us to get your feedback. With thanks, as always. M & J.