Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Saint Anthony and Legos

When I was in the beautiful church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, there was a statue of Saint Anthony that struck me because it looked so much like my grandson Marcus.  I took a picture of it and also bought a small magnet with the image from the gift shop.  Once home, it went on my refrigerator.

Ethan was over the other day and saw the magnet.  He wanted to know why I had a picture of Marcus dressed up like that.  I told him it was a statue that I'd seen that looked a lot like Marcus.  And I told him a little about where I'd seen it and why the statue had so many little pieces of papers tucked in around it.  I told him that Saint Anthony was someone that many people asked for help when they'd lost something.  "You know when you lost your Lego people that Nana had bought you?  Well, that's a situation where someone might say, 'Ask Saint Anthony to help you find them.' "  And we went on about our day. 

I had forgotten about that conversation.  But the next day, Teah told me that the boys had received a package in the mail that afternoon from their grandfather's wife.  It included several Lego sets!  I LOVE that kind of serendipity!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rome in the Ordinary

Seeing the "major" sites is wonderful when travelling, but I also love spending time doing ordinary things: shopping for food, walking through neighborhoods, listening to conversation - even when I can't understand much of it.  Those times help me make bonds with places and people. For a little while, I am not just a visitor, but someone who is sharing a moment of our lives.

Even doing laundry in another city can be interesting.  Maggie and I had a washing machine in our apartment in Rome.  A nearby store sold detergent in large boxes.  We only wanted enough for a load or two so we stopped in a Laundromat down the street and asked the owner if we might buy a small amount of detergent.  He was very accommodating and we came away with more than we needed.

Maggie put the clothes in and got it started.  A little bit later I saw her parked on a chair in front of it, watching it closely. She was quite taken by how it worked - different from our machines, even front loaders.  We laughed - "So what did you do in Rome?"  "Oh, we had the most marvelous time watching our washing machine!"

We spent a morning in a market, looking at all the gorgeous produce, the fresh fish, the meats and cheeses and eggs so attractively displayed.  You could get wine our of barrels; the man would pull a spigot and pour it into a clean plastic water bottle. The breads and pastries!  Flowers and plants!

Art is everywhere.  A lovely mosaic icon was displayed on the side of a building.  Doorways, windows, balconies, fountains, offer opportunities to display creativity and beauty.  There is graffiti, too - some whimsical, some darker.

And there are always signs of poverty, difficult situations - beggars, homelessness, hunger.

One of the things I really loved in Rome was the abundance of fountains - the water is almost always safe to drink and delicious and cold.  It is available to everyone.  Some people even set out little dishes next to the fountains for animals to drink.

People ask me what I found to be highlights of my trip.  It is hard to answer.  How do I compare my awe in the Sistine Chapel with the delight of good clean water on a hot day?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Other Mornings, Other Places

I have just returned from a most marvelous trip.  For the past three weeks I've been in Italy and France, moving around from city to country, seeing art, architecture, eating wonderful food, soaking up memories that will become a part of who I am.

My friend Maggie and I discovered a couple of years ago that we would both celebrate decade birthdays this year.  When we found this out, we said, "Oh, we should do something to celebrate!"  At first, our vision was small - maybe go out to dinner.  Then it expanded: "Maybe we would go to the city for a weekend."  And then one day, Maggie asked, "Have you ever thought of going to Europe?"  When I replied, "Oh, I've always wanted to go to Italy!"  she asked, "How long could you be away?"  I said that I couldn't stay longer than three weeks.  And the planning began.

We decided to divide our time between Italy and France.  She particularly loves Paris.  Since I'd never been to either of these countries, I was up for seeing whatever we could see.

We met many times and talked about how to arrange our time, how to focus.  We knew that we primarily wanted to see art and eat local food.  We knew that we didn't want to cram our days full of running from one site to another.  We wanted to have time to sit and draw, to watch people, to walk neighborhoods, to experience flavors.  Gradually, we realized we had to whittle down some of our ambitions - we skipped Venice; we added time to Sienna.  We asked friends for suggestions of their favorite surprises in the areas where we would stay.  We made reservations for our lodging and transportation ahead of time, and did get some tickets for big things like the Borghese, Vatican, and Uffizi Galleries. And then we drifted.

What a fabulous time we had! I'll write posts about some of our adventures over the next couple of weeks. 

The morning after I returned home, I lay in bed, listening to my neighborhood birds, watching the day come.  It occurred to me that after this trip, I now know what morning looks like in eight different places.  I've heard the birds, the garbage trucks, the Vatican bells, the neighbors chattering.  I've seen the light changing, smelled the pastries, felt the warm humid summer air becoming sticky.

What I hope to share is the excitement of discovery, that my experience might encourage you to plan such a trip for yourself.  Where have you been longing to go?  What mornings await you?