28th October, 2015
Part 1: My love has left; sliding through the dawn toward Florence and on to New York. I return to bed and finish reading Patti Smith’s M Train. I clutch it to my chest and breath in courage and poetry and pray for a renewed belief in magic. “Life,” she writes, “is at the bottom of things and belief at the top, while the creative impulse, dwelling in the center, informs all.” I go upstairs for my journal and bring it back to bed, calling to my creative impulse; to feel the center of it in the center of me. For as my love slides through the dawn toward Florence and on to New York, I know that it could be the last goodbye and I want to walk out of Patti Smith’s dream with the contagion of her belief that I am “my own lucky hand of solitaire.”
October 30, 2015
Part 2: Last week we spent 3 days in Bologna celebrating the opening of Joel’s Morandi show and the launch of his book “Morandi’s Objects,” published by Damiani and for which I had the honor of writing the introductory essay. As is often the case when I accompany Joel to one of his events, I walk the streets of strange cities, solitary and anonymous. I rarely take a photo, preferring to let the shutter of my mind’s eye capture images too fleeting for words. I used to paint this way, storing images throughout the day and then, at night, in my studio, I’d wait until an image insisted it be the one translated via paint. Perhaps it is that visual, painterly eye that drew me to the words of Vincent Van Gogh, written on the wall of this fish store.
“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storms terrible, but they don’t consider these dangers reason enough to stay on the land.” Vincent Van Gogh
Gianni joined us for a day of play. Brothers now, I watch them play on the streets.
Sometimes I urge them to be ridiculous.
Who knows when Bologna poisoned me and with what? An exotic dish of raw autumn mushrooms, their orange skin jealous of the clementines I ate for dessert? Or was it the raw peanuts? Or perhaps a medieval ghost, cloaked in a hush of velvet, emptied his poison ring into my glass. Whatever, by our return to the farm I was covered neck to toe, front to back in a rash that took off like wild fire, raging over my skin like boysenberry flame. A cortisone shot had zero effect. Now, nearly a week later, the itching has subsided, but the skin is slow to fade and no small amount of confusion and fear remains: what to eat? What to do? Who to see?
On Wednesday, when my Joel slid through the dawn to Florence and onto New York, we grieved for lack of comfort. I sang a frail lament and turned to the beauty of my home and garden. The light, after another night of rain, was so vibrant it pierced my heart with joy and called me out into the center of it; vibrant, almost lethal color rushing up from the clover and every petal and leaf a-shimmer.
As I stood there, bathing in the light, a gentle rain began, as if the sun was weeping, and I went in search of the rainbow.
Days of rain finally came to a halt the day before we left for Bologna, just in time for the last planting of the season. The nurseryman, accompanied by the excavator, arrived at dawn portaging 4 big olive trees and enough plants and earth to add 2 more Mediterranean gardens. The day was warm and breezy, the earth softened by rain. In my element I donned rubber boots and worked side by side with the men.
It’s hard here. Hard ground. Hard work. The excavator’s metal bucket striking rock, sparks flying. Rock, sparks, mud, sun; a tray of coffee and chocolate and back to work we go. I watch the nurseryman climb one of the newly dug-in olive trees. Aloft, he seems to walk on water. He said he had had to cut the roots in order to release the tree from where it had stood for so many years. He needed to prune the branches to find that alchemical balance between root and branch, earth and sky; the balance un-measurable except by instinct.
This I love; the return to instinct, to a simplicity that can only be had via the complexity of nature. Isn’t it the same with us? By opening to our wordless instinct we discover anew that our own complex nature is best served by a simple life. How sad that so many of us spend so much of our lives wanting more, only to, hopefully, rediscover that less is the proverbial more.
The Tuscans lament the end of Tuscany and how could they not? For their history was based on instinct and communion since the Etruscan era. Now the elders see it slipping away. They watch in sorrow as the young ones try to balance between texting and driving; watch as the young go in search of drugs and sex and ‘likes’ and tweets. The elders lean on their canes, carved from chestnut or oak, their gnarled, hard-worked hands at one with the wood. When I hear their lament I count myself fortunate to be an outsider, because from where I stand, here, rooting slowly, deeply, arms outstretched to the sky, I see that there is enough simple goodness left in this land to make me want to stay forever. And so I retrace my steps, back to the beginning of this post:
October 28th, 2015
Part 3: At breakfast I clutched Patti Smith to my chest, her book my morning talisman. I breathed in the alchemy, aching for the return of myself. At dinner I fetch John Berger to keep me company. When I open my worn copy of Photocopies, he gifts me a talisman: a small cap of cloth binding, stitched with a red hem. It is my infancy and my death. I stitch it onto a necklace and wear it on my chest.
The rain has become light once more and I walk in it to the lemon tree, hearing the lemon that has called to me for days, “Take me,” it whispers, and I do, snipping it swiftly from its branch. The roses by the ingress are fruited with rain. I make my evening cup of ginger root tea, squeeze a piece of lemon into it, stir in a small wooden spoonful of local honey. I live between the covers of my book, cradled by the books of Patti and John. In this way the healing begins, even as it takes me further.