31 March 2009

drive in coffee smoothie

OK, so I needed a coffee fix... does a large caramel java chill count as coffee?

Today I am grateful for internet banking...

30 March 2009

on the trail

No, not chasing tornadoes, but enjoying a quiet afternoon drive around the azalea and dogwood trail...through some beautiful streets with interesting old houses
and on to a park to where a covered bridge had been relocated to keep it safe from vandalism. It reminded me of a book I cried my way through several years ago, "The Bridges of Madison County".

Today I am grateful for
authors and musicians who add a richness to our emotional experiences.

29 March 2009

earth hour

Today is the day that lights dim to draw attention to climate change and man's role in this.

Certainly with all our storm-related computer "off" time our usage will be down, but we have not deliberately gone without light. We still have time for our own Earth Hour, the evening is young.

Last year I promised myself that I would use less electricity this year. Mostly I think I did, but recently I installed 3 new lights. Drat, can't win!

OK, this year I promise to turn the inside lights off when the outside lights are on...

PS: the storm passed by about 25 minutes car-ride from here. No "nickel-sized hailstones" for us, but I did move the car so that it was relatively safe from (potential) falling branches.
PPS: today I tasted cooked cactus for the first time. It tasted like pickle... so I still don't really know what it tastes like. Maybe it had been pickled!

28 March 2009

weather watch

Strong Storms / Wind High 70° F
Precip: 100%
Windy with strong thunderstorms. Damaging winds, large hail, and possibly a tornado with some storms. High around 70F. Winds SSE at 15 to 25 mph. Additional rainfall may reach one inch.

I guess that makes it a painting day! Rolling thunder, listening to hear the difference between a train and a possible tornado, and having mixed feelings about hearing sirens... none so far, but I will turn the computer off just in case! The rain is so gentle, the weather so warm... it is hard to imagine that there might be damage somewhere near.

Today I am grateful for storm warnings and safe places.

27 March 2009

next painting

Stage one of Parker's Playground mural. (Wall colour is most accurate in the bottom photo).
Stage two...
Our joint effort turned out to be Sarah drawing the monkey that I am painting and me drawing the tree frogs that Sarah is painting... her sense of colour is far more zany than mine. I love it!

I am a tonal painter and struggle to paint stylized critters; even the monkey tempted me to round his tummy and pop his nose out. Discipline, Kay, discipline!

More nursery photos here.

Today I am grateful for
the lights that make the job easier on an overcast day.

26 March 2009

and yet another first...

This morning, home alone, I heard my first tornado siren. Now I know which room to hunker down in should a tornado be close... this morning I ran to shut down electrical appliances as the storm crashed, not even thinking that maybe a tornado would really come this way. Now, hearing that on a serious warning we should all huddle in the bathroom which is the most central room and has no windows, the reality of it is hitting home. All is calm now though, 21 degrees C and the forecast not too bad.

Azaleas are in bloom, and wild wisteria drapes the spindly trees along the roadsides. The dogwood on the front lawn almost tempts me to paint flowers, and now that the sun is out again I think it is photo time...


Today marked another first... driving in America. That in itself was not so exciting, thank goodness, but I was very excited to find that the car I have been lent to use while I am here is the extremely comfortable Oldsmobile 88. Now to learn the words and music to Rocket 88...Today I am grateful for generous car owners.

25 March 2009

leap-frogging away...

And of course the squirrels...

This little fellow thought I was getting too close so headed across the road to the neighbouring treeswhere he was rapidly joined by another saying
can I play too?


I saw my first chipmunk today! I was as excited as a child on Christmas day!

I love the diversity of birds, animals and cute little critters I see here in the back yard.

24 March 2009


This morning I searched for hotels in Florence for a friend. I am not much of a tourist myself, more of a home-body really. I like to go to one place and stay there. But as I looked at the options I couldn't help but marvel once again that I live in such a country.

Italy is home to around 60% of the world's art treasures. It is a financial struggle to maintain them all, and many simply must wait their turn for restoration. There is so much for me to see, so many places to go.

I am learning that I am not at all curious by nature, and am happy to leave all these treasures "undiscovered". I would rather paint watercolours in my hillside village than tread the pathways to the art treasures of the world. But, just sometimes, it is nice to peek outside into another part of life...

When I am here in the USA I look first at my daughter's wonderful art works, then at the place. You can't help but be hit by the size of everything. The home appliances are huge, the pick-up trucks so shiny and bright, the roads so wide and expansive. The shopping centres sprawl over acres of land while the beautifully proportioned banks stand so proudly on each elevated piece of prime real estate. And food portions? I order a salad or two side dishes instead of a main course, and struggle to get through the first of my huge drinks. Free refills? Completely wasted on me!

I love being here with my family, but I don't feel completely at home in this culture. My favourite part of this place is the architecture; beautiful large southern homes. And, oddly enough, the galleries hold more interest than older European ones, with artists like Dale Chihuly to marvel at... I guess I enjoy most the art I don't attempt to create myself.

Today I am grateful for the kindness and generosity of people, from the New Zealand travellers bringing Marmite and Kiwi gifts for my family to the very welcoming "American branch" of our family tree.

23 March 2009

spring feelings

Yesterday I bought a few clothes. As usual it amazed me how many things are different, yet how many are the same, in a very different shopping environment.

Here the high church attendance and the modesty of the people dictates a different range of clothing. Dresses are plentiful. Pretty, feminine, but definitely not "sexy" rules the buyers of clothing in the "Bible Belt" I am in.

Size is no problem. People are big in the state that claims the third highest obesity problem in the USA. I have choices of colour, style, and fabric. But best of all, the clothing has shape. The antipodean figure is catered for in a way it will never be in Europe. It is no wonder that curvy Kiwis in London need to send home for some items of clothing.

I am a professed "non-shopper", particularly for clothing. Here, however, I can shop without feeling my self esteem plummet with every garment I try. To be in a changing room with a choice, saying yes to some and no to others purely on appearance and fabric, is novel for me these days. I think the last time I had so much choice of well fitting clothing was when I shopped in Australia in 1999!

Credit card, take care! That delayed suitcase is a good excuse to spend...

Today I am grateful for
colourful spring clothing that fits my shape and my needs.

22 March 2009

efficiency plus

I'm still scratching my head! Because of a chain of events beyond my control (and my earlier "she'll be right" attitude?) I was short of cash and I tried to use my credit card this morning. It was blocked. I tried again, different places, different ways... no luck. I knew that it had a credit balance. Confused, not particularly worried, I looked for other solutions to my limited funds situation.

In my email (early Monday morning New Zealand time) appeared an urgent notice from my bank. My credit card had been blocked because of "unusual activity" on it.

To cut a long story short, all is well, the block is lifted, I have clothes to wear. The "unusual activity" noticed by the fraud squad was the amount, not the place (they have a list of the places I usually travel to).

The funny thing? The amount was a small one... this apparently highly unusual for me, enough to have my credit card blocked from the other side of the world.

Today I am grateful fo
r the efficiency of my New Zealand bank, even though it was rather inconvenient this morning!


Change is in the air. I am not sure who the change is for, how far it will reach, where the changes will show. Change makes us interesting. Even when things hurt we can emerge stronger, like the broken bone that heals itself. I have never had a broken bone, but many other parts of me have been vulnerable, wounded, exposed and raw.

Wounds too like air on them. Two days ago the rascal cut his finger, crying out in pain. I tried to find the words to explain that the wound was a clean one, not needing to be swabbed of dirt as the blood was flowing freely. I cleared the blood and grandma poured what seemed to be an oxygenated peroxide solution over it, so it fizzed and the blood cleared. The tears stopped. No sticking plaster was needed to cover the gash.

I was contemplating the word "anxiety" which popped up in a conversation. Sometimes when we are anxious, or have self doubt, we cover it by being busy, excelling, asserting an air of confidence. It can be hard to allow our vulnerabilities to show. I am reminded again of the expression used in my village, which means "How can I help you if you don't tell me what it is that you need?"

When we develop highly tuned and much practised self-defence systems we often hide our vulnerabilities even from ourselves. It is OK to cry, healthy to let things flow.

As I travelled my bag and I were separated. I arrived at my destination with only hand luggage; a panetone (big bread), a very basic and practical gift, and my chocolate "stash". I like the fact that I am ok, that there is no anxiety about the "baggage" that is probably still in Rome or Paris. Today I will have a fresh start, a new wardrobe. I will choose what decoration I will wear over my soul. The other things will arrive, when the time is right.

It is good to lose baggage, to let things go. Instead of the sensible travel clothing packed in my suitcase I will be wearing something different. I can choose to be a butterfly, or a spring flower. I wont be choosing "sensible".

Zacchi chose several nights ago to sleep with our guests, not on the floor beside me. He growled and barked when I tried to move him. He too knew that change was in the air, and opted to be with the carer who will give him the most attention.

Today I am grateful for the friendly efficiency of the staff at Air France, Fiumicino.

20 March 2009

a crisp reminder

Last night there was snow... lower than I have seen it before. Not here, but all around. Photos later.

Next post might be a few days late... am a little busy with other things for now!

Today I am most grateful for strong boots, possum fur gloves and a long woollen coat.

19 March 2009

slowing down

Today there is hustle and bustle, things needing doing. I have opted out, taking time for me.

I have gone back to the blog of Lani Kent, and have the music of this blog caressing, soothing, gently in the background as I type. I have added her blog to my links, giving it the title "Contemplation". I hope she wont mind. The real title of her blog is "Healing Expressions".

Today I am grateful for the word "gentle" and all the beauty that being gentle can bring to the world.

18 March 2009

consider the lilies?

One of my favourite childhood memories is of being woken by a tapping on my bedroom window. My father was about to put the cows into the paddock behind the house, an area that had once been a huge garden. The first crocus was out, and would be trampled as the herd rushed for the fresh, dew-laden grass.

Dad lifted me out, pyjama clad, and carried me to where the delicate mauve flower bloomed. He explained that picking it had no sense, as the flower, like the day-lilies further along, had such a brief life. I sensed that in showing me the flower he was imbuing that short life with some meaning.

In the one or two hours of fragile expression the flower had, it gave to me a lifetime of pleasure.

too many words

Are words a mixed blessing? How is it, being without words?

A friend mentioned that her daughter had said that "there are too many words in the world". How astute! We label, identify, describe, dessicate, judge... in our quest for control, ownership, mastery, development, progress...

when all we need to do is feel, respond, enjoy.

Today I am grateful for
words of wisdom that encourage me to appreciate simply "being".

17 March 2009

tuesday, thinking day

Today lots of thinking about art, artists, guiding... general discussions with other Kiwi artists about cultural difference, what art means to us etc...

I started the day guiding Polish tourists and am finishing it talking art. Life is good.

Today I am grateful for
the opportunities I have to meet interesting people of many different nationalities.

16 March 2009

too much of a good thing

When you are responsible for a huge part of the world's art work and historic sites, how do you maintain them all? This triumphal arch (reputed to be built in honour of Mark Anthony but lacking provenance to verify this, hence the discussion on the sign) has seen better days...most of it is now underground being used or misused, depending on your point of view, for other purposes.(Click on photo for larger image of Italian text).


Today I am grateful for the happy ending to a tricky piece of problem-solving.

15 March 2009


Today is the anniversary of the bombing of the town of Cassino. It was once a beautiful, wealthy, medieval town. Now... not exactly beautiful, to put it kindly. Post-war apartments, streets at odd angles, not a lot to recommend it to the tourist other than the abbey.

This morning we became tourists in Aquino, at the market, in the old church, on the Roman "Via Latina".Friends living beside the historic Via Latina saw us there and invited us in for refreshments. The day disappeared!
When tree meets ancient stone, who wins?

Today I am grateful that I grew up in a country that was not occupied in wartime.

14 March 2009

driving to fiumicino

Post later...

Today I am grateful for the guests sleeping in the room with the computer...

post tomorrow?

13 March 2009

too big for...

"I don't care how important our visitors are, I TOLD you I have grown!"

rich and warm

It has become my practice to spend 30 minutes a day following blog links to share time with other artists. This morning I found the blog of artist and therapist Lani Kent, a blog site so rich and warm.

What a great start to the day!


It is several days since I painted. I am (mostly) over the withdrawal symptons, and suspect that I will get into a space where artmaking seems a long way away. When this happens I find it hard to get back on track again. (Should I have said "back on this particular track?") For this very reason I bought a book I have mentioned before, "Life, Paint and Passion - reclaiming the magic of spontaneous expression" by Cassau and Cubley.

I have just opened it at random, to a chapter heading "Don't trample the flowers". It is a short chapter, and the final sentence in it is "A gardener never tramples the flowers he has planted".

Taking that expression, thinking of art emails and conversations, I venture to say that if a painting is not appreciated for what it is, then maybe it hasn't found the right home. Don't trample the flowers but, if they are at risk or unappreciated where they are, move them to another part of the garden.

Remember that a weed is simply a plant growing in the "wrong" place.

I think, when I have completed my other work, it might be time to paint for process again.

What am I grateful for today? Later, be patient. I'll be back. It's still morning here and I right now I am grateful for endless cups of tea as I procrastinate.


Today I am grateful for the stretchy black tape that enabled a temporary repair of a leaky join in my bathroom plumbing.

12 March 2009

a purple balloon


Nine out of ten fingerprints were successful. They could see that I have tried. Left hand index fingerprint still missing... but I am off the hook, allowed my documents to stay here!

I arrived at 8am to be there early at 8.30am for my 9am appointment to find that I was already second in the queue!

I too stepped out to make phonecalls and take coffee this morning. My cappucino was served with a perfect cocoa heart on the creamy froth.

I found parking everywhere I needed it.

I located the right person and managed to communicate my request for permission to install a permanent "climate appropriate" garden around the New Zealand monument at the Cassino Railway Station.

I refrained from spending too much money on a whimsical towel, and bought one of better quality for less from a street vendor an hour later.

I had a lengthy "real" conversation with the hardware shop man who is always so patient with my descriptions of what I want to buy.

The sun is shining, the snow on the hills glistening (there was more last night) and it is absolutely clear and glorious. Today the sky looks like a New Zealand sky!

I arrived home to see a purple ballon bouncing down the road toward me. When I bent to pick it up the wind took it swirling above me. It's work was not done so it continued on its merry way.

Today I am grateful for answered emails about memorial sites.

11 March 2009


Check back in May or June for "after". I am itching to start, but they are still not ready. This is going to be tempera rather than true fresco.

The fresco in the entrance hall (of a family crest, thought to be of a noble family from Napoli) I will touch up only where there are white gaps in the dark surface. It has the date MD XI on it. It was a long stretch back to school and Roman Numerals, but by my reckoning it is 1511. I admit to being hugely relieved when the geometra agreed with me. I wonder if that is a clue to the age of my own house? The house where the beautiful Francesca lives is 800 years old.


Today against predictions it is another beautiful day. The market was bustling with energy, even if people were buying less. Smiles abounded as folk said "spring is here".

It is also a full moon tonight. I appreciate the seasons, the ebb and flow of life, the constant state of change and the potential for excitement. I am concerned that my olive trees have not yet been pruned.

Today I have been looking up Schüssler Salze. I think I am lacking magnesium again. Occasional cramp and tingling nerves... I was blaming too much coffee, but I cut back the coffee and the tingling continues. Tomorrow is fingerprint day... that makes me tingle too! Have they grown back?

As I typed this, thinking it isn't really much of a post, someone called my name. Zacchi was barking furiously.

Today I am grateful for the whistling worker who pops in from time to time with a cheery smile and pockets full of lemons for my tea.

10 March 2009

secondary colours

I see that there are renewed problems in Ireland. I learnt early that "orange and green make a dirty kakhi". Ireland is a beautiful country, its landscape not unlike many parts of New Zealand. I enjoyed Dublin; people seemed to be smiling and laughing even as they hurried to work. Belfast was interesting, but I felt uncomfortable talking about the Troubles knowing things were not really consigned to history.

When painting I mix my own greens. It is a rare occasion that calls for a purchased green. Viridian, however, is very useful for creating vibrant darks.

Orange and green a tertiary colour make!

Orange and green are the colours on my computer screen that tell me that my family and friends are on-line and ready to chat.

Today I am grateful for little green lights on my gmail, and orange that comes with a 'swooshing' sound on skype. Oh, and all the blues and yellows and reds that make up my palette... giving me every orange and green I could ever wish for!

9 March 2009


I want to read more... this morning I found this post and this post so now I want to delve deeper. More later... I am torn between daily living and philosohical debate. Both are important!

Right now I must see if I have enough Italian to pick up my prescription to attack a solar keratosis. Too long at the computer, pondering rather than doing! Move it!


Later: more learning to do...

Helpful dottoressa arranged for my prescription to be written via a hospital so that I didn't need to pay the huge price for it (having already paid a huge price for her consultation). I went to collect it... to find (why was I expecting otherwise?) that there is a heap more paperwork that needs to be done before I qualify for the prescription relief (IF I qualify... in my mind I am asking why should the Italian government subsidize New Zealand sun damage treatments?) And to do that, of course, I have to have my own doctor here. I have seen three different doctors - and been in hospital once while visiting prior to moving - but don't have my "own" doctor yet. I guess it is time...

Now, how do I find out if residence and permesso di soggiorno is enough to qualify for this prescription? Otherwise I will have to cut off the leg to go with the arm that paid for the kind dottoressa.


I am thinking of writing here one thing I am grateful for every day.

Today I am most grateful for the sun streaming through my window onto my hands as I type, while a gentle breeze brings in the scents of spring and the birds hold a singing competition in the trees outside. Magic.

8 March 2009

una bella giornata

Another at the "put it away so you don't mess it up" stage! A few minor adjustments are still to be made, but only after I have taken some time away from it.

The colours don't reproduce as well as I would like on the computer screen, but as each computer will be at slightly different settings, and so much else is beyond my control, why worry about a little difference here?

If I don't get back to more exhibition work before July I am happy that these six, along with two oils I have here, will be adequate.


Yesterday the rascal took me to mass. I suspect he preferred to go with someone who might buy him treats rather than march along in the procession with his classmates.

The first church dedicated to St Tommaso (Thomas Aquinas, the scholar who combined faith and reason and then pulled the Catholic church into order), was far too small for the mass (photo below) - as was the closest one to it.Why is it that the women are all inside the church while the men stand outside in the sun and chat?

We overflowed into the two piazzas, much to the rascal's delight. He played with a friend and swaggered in front of the very attentive girls. The mating game begins very early here. I searched my memory banks for the vocabulary I needed to keep him in line. A bag of unshelled roasted peanuts was the key to control...

The children carried baskets lined with flowers, beautifully arranged and proudly displayed. As the statue passed along the road below them they threw flowers down onto the procession. This was one of the largest religious processions I have seen in my time here. But for a flat camera battery there would have been more photos...

natural highs

It is the festival for women today. It is huge... weeks of advertising, "happenings" everywhere, televised concerts, mimosa (wattle) and gardenia flowers... tanti auguri a tutti! I am spending it alone, not expecting any messages or phone calls. Zacchi and I will probably share leftovers, rather than a special dinner. Or should we indulge in fresh pasta? I have plenty of options to entertain myself, but they would all be external, added extras. Do I need them? Not today.

It is only 11am and already I have enjoyed my day. I am "pottering". I have painted a little, sat in the sunshine a little, cleaned and cleared a little, and generally reflected on what makes this woman happy.

The birds are singing loudly, proclaiming that spring is here. The sky is a clear, light cobalt blue, the gentle breeze moves the new growth on the rose bush, and the laughter from last night still warms me.

After the dinner I accompanied a young friend down the narrow cobblestone streets to her car. It was late, and she was driving home. Her car was at the opposite end of the village piazza from my house. She insisted on "driving me home"... about 75 metres, I estimate. It is little acts like this, chatting happily "all" the way, that make this place home.

And this post was interrupted by my hostess from last night, bringing me some mimosa as she was going past.

Happiness is internal, not external. I have always suspected that the secret to a long and happy life is finding joy in everything you do. My kitchen sink confounds any non-kiwi friends, particularly the Italians; it juts out into the room so I can look over the valley as I work. After two years they accept it, albeit reluctantly; there is no "head into the wall under the draining cupboard" for this kiwi, even washing the dishes is to be a pleasure!

7 March 2009

not the post

This is not the post that I was going to write tonight... I intended making serious and erudite comments about Thomas Aquinas who was born in this town. Instead, after a dinner with friends marking the saints day of friend Tommaso, it is enough to say that

laughter is the best medicine...

and I should stay well for a long long time! I can't remember laughing as much as I did tonight.

Thankyou, St Tommaso, and all your friends!

not a couch potato

There is something contagious about the big events, the Rotorua marathon, the half marathons, the fun-runs with the hoards of competitors, the international masters events... yet three or four fun walks and being a regular support crew are my only proud athletic achievements!

But give me the angst of pre-race nerves, the smell of liniment and sweaty athletes, show me the line-up of runners bouncing on the spot to stay warmed up - or even the line-up of grimy port-a-loos - and you will transport me back to wonderful occasions of being excited yet anxious, waiting for runners to come in.

Ironman competition pushes the athletes and the watchers and waiters a lot further. As if the erratic live feed wasn't frustrating enough, last night my internet teased and taunted until 2am, coming and going at will. And then it disappeared. No, I wont say it! But thank goodness for daughters and text messages, keeping me in the picture for 10 hours and 28 minutes of competition - and then a little bit more.

Well done, CJ and Stevie, I was (kind-of) with you every stroke, pedal and step of the way! Today my pixellated eyes wont stay open either!

arty things

Tonight I received an emailed response to the blog about the exhibition "Voids".

I have attached it under the post and you can see it here.

The reply is from another artist; you might like to check out her work on her website, or take a break and holiday in Drift Cottage, where you can see the work and discuss it with Sheryl.

6 March 2009

no sleep tonight

... because it is "Ironman time". In a few hours I will be glued to the cellphone, computer and the heater, so now instead of working I will rest. I really hope the internet doesn't let let me down!

Maybe I'll post a painting update later, but now my heart and mind is at Lake Taupo, New Zealand and work has to wait. It is the 25th anniversary of the oldest international Ironman competition. By my calculations the athletes are about an hour from breakfast, having to eat early before the swim. Check-in and numbering is in three and a half hours although the website count-down clock has added 12 hours to that. The start is at 7am, Saturday morning, New Zealand time. The bikes will all have been checked, and locked in position under guard overnight. The camping grounds, hotels and motels will be full... and I'm not there!

I am very, very proud of my athletic family. The girls run half marathons just for fun, they all work out because they enjoy it, and my son is about to start his third Ironman competition. It's all a bit scary for a mother on the other side of the world!

Oh, and this weekend my 88 year-old father is competing on the track as well, at the NZ Masters Athletics Championships...

Zacchi, where's the leash? Perhaps we should walk a little faster. And then home to ironmanlive.

PS Do make the time to read the inspiring stories "Against the Odds" and "Ironmanlife: The Amazing Tony Jackson" on the Ironman website.

5 March 2009

thursday, back to work

Last night was "good wholesome food" night with my friends - large white beans and mountain grasses with oil from our own trees, bread from a wood-fired oven and local wine. Then a little laughter by the fire, and good company. We began in Italian, but when philosophy entered the conversation it was a rapid change into English. More contemplation for the soul is required, later today. Yes, it should always be the first thing on the agenda, not the last.

Today however, still waiting for the intonaco to be finished for the fresco, I am working on a painting of the village and ruins from a slightly different perspective. Now is the fun part, and then the fiddly buildings. I am learning to love painting them too - she said cautiously, in an unconvincing tone.

All going well, that will give me six new works for the next exhibition. That will probably be the total, as time will fly. Zacchi is being angelic today, as he knows that I know that he slept on the couch last night. Lucky little blighter has not been thrown outside as it is rather cold and wet out there! He is curled up in a ball, occasionally lifting a hairy eyebrow to see that I know how good he is, but not moving in case I remember that he disobeyed and open the door to consign him to the weather!

Many many (12 or 13) hours later...and now to let it go so I can sleep. That's the hardest part, stopping when it is unfinished, but you know that you can't continue without messing up when you are too tired to notice what is happening on the paper.

4 March 2009

innocent question

Today a close friend who watches me like a hawk when I am not so bubbly and feeds me wholesome food despite my protests when I work too hard, asked "how is your soul today?"

It's a good question. I think that, although feeding the body, I painted so intensely that I neglected to nourish my soul. It is time to take a little time for me. It still confounds me that painting drains me so much. Is it the concentration, the constant decision-making?

I knew that I hadn't been feeling so great. I gave up coffee, and tipped out half bottles of wine left over from visits in weeks gone by. I tried to go to sleep at reasonable times. I even took some vitamin capsules. It's the changing season, said equally lethargic friends.

Tonight I will light the fire and put work aside. I probably wont even listen to my cheerful Italian lessons.

I am still struggling to achieve balance in my life. It's time to pick up a volume, read a little, and feed the soul.

i think they're growing...

My fingerprints are visible again!

It is so hard, remembering to wear gloves, to keep applying creams. They are still very smooth... but... in a good light, even without glasses, yes, really really truly, I think I have fingerprints again!

Now to grow them well for another week, and have them printable next Thursday!

Wish me luck!

Mmmm... I used to know a song about growing dendrites. I could do with a few more of those too! Tauhei School, send me the words if you still sing it!

making dreams come true

I have been reading other artist blogs lately, and this one really struck a chord with me. OK, so it doesn't make sense to promote another artist's classes when you are hoping for clients yourself, but we are offering "the same but different" painting holidays. If you want a lovely week of painting in Umbria or Tuscany, with trips to Florence and around Tuscany, contact Julian and Amanda. If you are interested in painting where tourists seldom come, or want to see where WWII settled in for 5 months, or where Thomas Aquinas was born, then come and paint with me.

I live in a poorer part of Italy, have a small, conniving, apparently waif-like dog with more personality than can be portrayed here, and plenty to paint and do. Julian and Amanda have made a huge lifestyle change with young children, and deserve to do well. They too know about dust and renovations, frustrations and progress, taking on a much bigger project than mine. I take my (well dusted) metaphorical hat off to them!

3 March 2009


Spring officially arrives here 21 March. I think it is here already. Today I walked - good to be out and about again - and I am sure everyone had more spring in their steps, more strength in their voices, more warmth in their smiles. I have to admit that I took very few "umbrella walks", while the older men-folk continued their routines irrespective of the weather. The change in the air has brought the younger ones and the women back out into the daylight... I did feel a little shame as I opted to drive to the shops over the winter.

Last week when I waited for my turn at the police station (my no-fingerprints saga) I was in the reasonably small waiting room for over two hours. People came and went depending on their committments and tolerance levels, or their need for nicotine or caffeine, perhaps. It was really interesting watching how different people affected the whole room.

I was feeling pretty happy, and didn't mind waiting. I had a park with no parking to pay, and had dedicated the best part of the morning to this chore. I took my turn at standing sometimes, then sitting for a while. There were four chairs for a dozen people. I like to people-watch, and to try to understand what is happening around me. The monks exuded an air of calm... well, one of them did, he was silent, gentle, stood the whole time and frequently turned from the "madding crowd" to pray. The other was a cheerful young man studying hard as he sat beside me. Others were less fortunate, stressed, and impatient.

Each person entering, as is the custom here, greeted the waiting group with "Buongiorno". After the greeting, and perhaps exchanging a few pleasantries, the men mostly stood back, quietly waiting. It was the women who entered who altered the energy levels in the room. One young woman, head covered, kept her eyes down although we exchanged smiles when our eyes met. She was very passive, resigned to waiting but not happy about it. Her energy was not bright, not happy, negative although not intrusive. Over a period of time it became draining, so occasionally I walked away to stand in the sun and absorb positive energy. Another woman entered, exuding energy, but it was a fairly neutral energy. She didn't stay long; after fifteen minutes or so she noted her place in the queue before heading off to use her energy more productively. Another woman came in with her partner and was quite aggressive in her attitude. Her impatience and negativity was resonating all around, even when she wasn't speaking. Why do I expect all immigrants to be grateful, as I am, for permission to live here? The policewoman who came to answer her brusque demands was patient, pleasant, and somehow managed to negate some of the unhealthy energy that was filling the room. I was relieved when this woman and her partner left; I could feel my own energy being pulled down by her attitude.

We have a choice, when we enter a room. We can smile, or we can frown. We can be pleasant and friendly, or remote and unwelcoming. It isn't always appropriate to exude cheerfulness, but when we do, when we smile instead of scowl, when we greet others instead of looking past them, what a difference it makes. Our body language is loud and clear, even when we don't know we are using it.

How does the expression go? There is none who needs a smile as much as he who has none left to give.

A smile costs nothing, but is worth so much.

2 March 2009


This is another that doesn't really photograph well. The colours don't "jump out" so much on the real work which is darker than it appears (on my screen) here.

I took the photograph for this one evening... I was walking along with a friend and saw the sun catching the ruins. I abandoned poor friend and ran back for the camera.... yes, back in time, just, the magic was still there... but oops, no battery in the camera. Another short sprint, and I made it back just as the sun went behind a cloud and sank gracefully below the horizon. Almost, almost...

1 March 2009

no "real" post today

no internet at home.. aaaargh! After being online again for a while it feels as though a life-line has been cut... but really as long as I know everyone is well and happy I should survive...

ps Monday afternoon... back connected... Whew!