26 February 2012

lost between worlds, or grounded?

Sometimes I wonder where I belong. I call Italy home, but still get the odd question from people asking when I will return to live in New Zealand.

Who knows? I certainly don't! Home is where the heart is, and that could be anywhere.

Today I am grateful for two homes and my heart happy in many places.

lost between worlds, or grounded?

Sometimes I wonder where I belong. I call Italy home, but still get the odd question from people asking when I will return to live in New Zealand.

Who knows? I certainly don't! Home is where the heart is, and that could be anywhere.

Today I am grateful for two homes and my heart happy in many places.

21 February 2012

it's been raining

...and the village thaws at last

With the rain, and the end of the snow, the last of the ice and snow along the roadsides and on the roof tops is thawing. I guess the slush will follow.

In the words of a frozen friend, "it's been like living in the fridge!" until today when jackets can apparently be relegated to outside wear again. (I've never been a fan of wearing jackets in the house, but admit to being slow to take mine off sometimes, at least until the heater has done its thing!) Today was the first day my frozen friend was able to move about her house without wearing a jacket. For most of this time she has been hunched over the fire in her kitchen. Move over, Cinderella, but could the slippers not be glass this time?

I wonder how some of my older friends have fared. It has been a time of real hardship for this village ill prepared for such snow. How lucky I am to have double glazing, and the new flooring in the cantina. Piccolina makes it very clear that there is quite a temperature difference underfoot between the two halves of the house. I dream of re-flooring the other half, but I really do want it in wood. I don't see why I can't put down some building paper (is it even available here?) a few joists (or whatever they are called), some sheets of el cheapo floor board, and then a nice "SOFT to walk on" surface that suits the ambience of the house. My knees and ankles would thank me for it. But no, I fear that I must have hard hard pavimento if I am not putting down real stone.

Needless to say upstairs is far too cold for me to contemplate, and the terrace under snow is pericolosa to say the least.

While we lament our broken trees and buried bulbs I do remember how the civilians had to survive in the winters of 1943-44 and 1944-45, the worst in living memory. This winter was the worst in 27 years, but we have food, shelter, communication (ok, sometimes), and nobody is booby-trapping our houses or shooting at us. Apart from 3 days of blackout, we have had electricity, and hopefully our olive trees will survive.

Everything is relative, really. We don't know what real hunger is, and we take too many things that are luxury for granted.

Today I am grateful for well fitting shoes.

16 February 2012

to paint or to write...?

When you really can't go outside because of the weather, there is absolutely no excuse for not getting on with the work at hand.


Do I paint or write? Do I catch up with writing itineraries for visitors? Do I develop more resources? Do I front up and get some exercise and fresh air...

So much to do, what a luxury life is!

My children would tell you that when they were small they daren't say "I'm bored" because I would immediately give them a lecture and a job. They, like me, have busy and exciting lives.

How lucky we are. Life is a series of choices, and each time we make a choice we set off a chain reaction. Taking a first step, or choosing one activity over another, is not always the simple thing it appears to be. That step has a direction, an intention, and moves you to another space.

I have recently completed two small watercolours, random little scenes, just to get my hand back in before doing some exhibition works. They are pleasant, adequate, and will please someone somewhere. I look at them with my critical eye and ask the question: Would I rather have these works or a fresh sheet of paper?

The answer, this time, is that I would rather have a fresh piece of paper, but I am happy that I had the experience of painting these two little scenes. I guess the artist is calling me louder than the writer within at this moment. The novel lies in the memory of the computer untouched for two years. The writing for the peace journals is still simmering in my subconscious.

Yes, I have talked myself back into it. Get off the computer, wrap up well, and get some exercise. The writing is not calling, but the paint brush certainly is.

Rest, exercise, stretch those hamstrings and rest again. Then, inspired, energised and full of the joys of life, I will sit and paint, paint, paint.

Today I am grateful for positive action.

12 February 2012

metaphor and a photograph

Re the article I wrote (and reproduced in the blog post below):

My own preferred Superman photograph (of course) was this one, with all the metaphorical references in the photograph. Photo by Sarah Scott:


Super Heroes and Mere Mortals.

Some of my "real" (other than blog) writing is copied below, as I wrote it before sending it for translation. Look for the Superman photo and article in volume two of Citadino Globale, Global Citizen, an on-line peace publication by YAP (Youth Action for Peace, Italy).

If anyone wishes to quote this article or any part of it, please give the source as the on-line publication as much as the blog details so the peace message is spread as widely as possible.

Superheroes and Mere Mortals

Just as the most talented artists are often employed by advertising agencies, working to a formula and thereby denying the world the full benefit of their creative abilities, so the most talented tacticians are often employed by governments and the military, working for power and control over others. Would they make a greater contribution if employed elsewhere? Fundamental to the system which gives greater reward to our best brains and talents in warfare, business, commerce and politics is the belief that wealth and control equal success. Recent research suggests that this position needs review.

In their book “The Spirit Level; Why Equality is Better for Everyone” Wilkinson and Pickett provide significant evidence that an equal distribution of wealth and assets in fact benefits all sectors of society. Thus if we are to benefit individually, nationally, and globally, it makes sense to use the best talent and minds available to promote equality ahead of supremacy, altruism ahead of greed, peace ahead of war.

John Foster Dulles, a former USA Secretary of state, said at the end of the war: The world will never have lasting peace as long as men reserve for war their finest human qualities. Peace, no less than war, requires idealism, self-sacrifice, and a righteous and dynamic faith.

How can that be achieved? What does idealism, self-sacrifice, and a righteous and dynamic faith look like? The works of people like Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr come to mind. Nightingale gave up her privileged life and chose to remain single to dedicate her life to improving medical standards, following her ideals. Mother Teresa similarly felt called to serve the poor, hungry and homeless, seeking nothing for herself. Gandhi, reverred for his non-violent activism, was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for peace. His birthday is marked by the International Day of Non-Violence. Martin Luther King Jr displayed a righteous and dynamic faith in his civil rights activism.

For most of us, however, such dedication requires a commitment too great for modern family and working life. Perhaps it is more useful to look at how humanitarian worker Paul Hewson (Bono of U2) http://www.atu2.com/band/bono/ uses his talents to bring awareness and change. Believing that Music can change the world because it can change people, he built his beliefs and his desire to make a difference into his career as a rock musician. Pop music often tells you everything is OK, while rock music tells you that it’s not OK, but you can change it. His beliefs are simply expressed: To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater. Bono continues to work for change through music and political activism, and moves easily between busking on the streets for charity (Dublin, 24 December 2011) to talking with heads of state about “a wide range of issues”.

Where do you, the reader, stand as an individual interested in world peace? Are you active, proactive, reactive, or a bystander? Too often the task looks too big; the effort needed is too great, it is much easier to use empty words, placebos, but in reality do nothing. The oft-quoted maxim All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing warns us that this is not enough. So do we leave the work to our famous people, or take a stand as individuals, the mere mortals that we are?

We do love our famous people and our heroes. We teach our children about Superman, Spiderman, and the newer X-Men fighting to save humanity, acting for the greater good. We have a basic desire to be saved by our humanitarian super-powered figures, and also a willingness to leave all the important work to them. When faced with a difficult situation we can ask “what would Superman (or my real life hero) do?” That answer is a good guide to making a positive and humanitarian choice.

If this feels too far removed from our everyday lives we need to look closer to home. All around us in society are people who are unsung heroes. They are the people who make positive change at a local level. Identifying them is not always easy if they value their privacy and shy away from attention. Perhaps, after all, it is easier to choose a star to follow. Ask yourself honestly “who do I most want to be like?” and consider the choices that person makes.

The Equality Trust, http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk an online-organisation based on the principles discussed in “The Spirit Level”, urges us to take action, beginning in our local areas. Mother Teresa brings it even closer to home. Her message for world peace is both simple and profound. On receiving the Nobel Peace Prize Mother Teresa was asked, What can we do to promote world peace? She replied Go home and love your family. Similarly, Gandhi said * If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.* When we apply the Dulles quote to this task and bring to our families and communities our finest human qualities, then peace will be the winner.


not going very far...

This was my car after the first heavy storm... but I thought I should blank out my number plate before posting!

Thank goodness for a tradition of a full pantry and a love of warm woollen blankets :-)

reducing my computer time

Oddly enough, once the angst passed me by, I have been loving my periods without internet. Being "internet connection free" seems to reduce the sense of urgency that often dictates my days, or perhaps dictates my attitude to my days.

The days that I am able to connect I have almost a sense of foreboding, wondering what will be waiting for me.

Sooo... it seems obvious that I am better to reduce my time at the computer, and relax and enjoy life more. That might also be good for me physically, not shortening my hamstrings for hours every day but stretching them occasionally instead!

Apart from that, (which is a positive negative regarding use of my time) what am I doing? Painting, preparing for classes, and planning a few more resources. Avoiding coffee, drinking lots of different teas, and eating too much as usual. That's enough in any weather :-)

Today I am grateful for purring cats and happy little dogs.

8 February 2012

internet comes... and goes... and comes again...

and so does the weight on the branches. Snap went the next branch on the old mandarine tree...
the good news is that I can still put my candles in the fork of the branches. At least for now... not that I am dining outside in my back yard until the weather warms up!

The trees in the area have taken a beating with the snow. The freedom to get about by car also brings with it the sad sights of broken branches and sad plants.

Today I am grateful for visitors from Scotland.

4 February 2012

let it snow... but lightly please!

My first experience of real snow in Italy was last year, when I was soooo proud of myself for driving with chains. It was a wonderful adventure.

I had been teaching across the valley, and the roads were deemed too dangerous for this inexperienced antipodean to tackle. But as I had left one dog inside and one outside I had no choice but to make it home. I was given chains, and chug chug chugged my way home. I loved every minute of it, making decisions based on hills and dangerous corners, safety being my absolute goal. It took me about 40 minutes to complete my (typically 12 minute) journey.

This year, however, I am not so sure how wonderful the adventure is. Beautiful, yes. But my citrus trees were not designed for such heavy loads. The tally so far is one fallen orange tree (yes, a good one, not the sour one, but not the blood orange either, thankfully) and a branch of the mandarin tree out in front of the kitchen. So far, it seems, the clementines are bearing up OK.

The ladder and tools will be a tad more rusty, but rust can be removed. The citrus is much easier to pick from the fallen branches, and a very kind friend is going to cut the fallen tree off my gate. I feel a complete garden path re-make coming on. The orange trees are against the house, and really only two are worth saving. I haven't yet decided what the design of the garden will be, but a few structural changes will now be possible! There's always an up-side!Last year I lost pot plants and my expensive baby mandarin tree on the terrace of my studio. Luckily I didn't replace them.

I am a little anxious about what might happen with too much snow on our roof terrace, but there's not a lot I can do but wait and see!

The dogs are quite happy to hibernate; they have become very much outside dogs and luckily Zacchi is carrying a bit more weight than he used to otherwise I would be concerned about his frail frame.

Beautiful, though, there is no doubt!

Today I am grateful for the beauty of a snowflake.

2 February 2012


Ok, no excuses. (But here they are anyway!)

Firstly I was out in the garden and got something in my eye. It hurt too much to use the computer. Did you know that the eye regenerates in two days? Amazing, I think! But it took more than two days to get the offending branch out - ok, so I exaggerate, perhaps it was a speck of dust, but it felt like at least a twig!

Then I lost internet.

Then I found I was really enjoying my solitude.

Then I didn't want to open my emails in case there was something I needed to deal with.

Then I simply "chilled out"...

Stay warm, Europe, it's ffffffreezing outside!

Today I am grateful for many many things (electric blankets, heaters, rabbit-fur gloves, possum fur hat and scarf, hot chocolate...) but seriously, there really is so much in life to be grateful for!

Today I am grateful for friends who make me laugh :-)