Nov 30, 2008
If I had wanted to see ballet, I would have chosen a ballet. The two, tango and ballet, do not mix at least not if you want to do justice to one or the other, or even to the music. Tango is a sensual and passionate dance, a couples dance....where each move seems to caress the floor, and legs convey their message as they wrap around, slide slowly up and down, flick here and tease there. The essence is in the embrace, the look, the movement of two bodies as one.
Where was all that as the dancers flew through the air and skipped lightly across the floor, barely touching one another. Yes, I was disappointed. Why advertise tango and then do something else?
An artist's liberty? Well, I know they are entitled, but I was still displeased and couldn't wait to leave. I found the dancers too thin, too pale...thought maybe they didn't eat enough...dwelt on silliness like "they are going to have to wash that nice white suit now that he has dragged himself around on the floor with it."
This is what happens when we have expectations and set minds. It's becomes harder to be flexible. I realize that if I didn't have set expectations I probably could have enjoyed the damn interpretation. ('scuse me). But we can't be expected to go about life without any desires or pre-conceived ideas about things and people!
Well, no or else we won't have standards and hopes. But we can learn how to be accepting of the way things are, tolerant of people, stepping outside of our minds to see what others are seeing and perhaps appreciating something for what it is and not what we want. This particularly applies to people...learning to appreciate people for who they are and not what we want them to be.
I failed miserably at all this on Friday night and missed an opportunity to just enjoy an evening at a dance. However, as long as I am alive, I am sure I will have ample opportunity to test my open mindedness and acceptance in the future.
Nov 28, 2008
Nevertheless, I bought shoes to dance in yesterday.....JUST in case.
The poster shouted BOLERO and TANGO a combination of classical and latin. What will Robert North, the choreographer do with a mix like that? Will he showcase footwork that becomes more intricate and complicated, increasing in pace to match this incredibly beautiful piece of music by Ravel? And is this the American Robert North? I see an update will be forthcoming.
Italians love tango and some of the well known musicians of Argentine have italian ancestry. A european favorite and one of my own, is Libertango, composed in 1973 by Astor Piazzolla. It's another one of those pieces that stimulates a sense of urgency, conveys a promise of things to come, of restrained passion that finds blissful release with its abrupt final note.
Hopefully they will play it tonight as I was thrilled to note that dances will be performed to music composed by Piazzolla. Since I didn't notice a name of a band, I doubt there will be live music which is a pity. It is entertaining to listen to the particular sounds of the bandoneon as well as to watch it being played.
Novara is not that near to Borgosesia but 45 minutes is the closest I seem to be able to find milongas in this area. Since I will be in Novara more frequently, I might take classes...nice thought. The Accademia di Tango Argentino has lessons in Novara on Friday nights, although it seems they have a regular term that runs from June through September. Milongas are usually on the first Saturday of the month (in Novara). Classes are package priced but they offer free incentives to encourage participation in the different towns they teach to nurture the tango community as well as better a dancer's ability at a faster rate. Clever, I say.
I am not that great at dancing tango as I haven't danced in years but it is still another form of expression for me...not in the sense of saying something but a way of letting out the happy or the sad that is inside. I also found the same freedom of expression through music, playing the piano, but also from listening to music that spoke to the emotions that were inside. And I find it when I ride my motorbike.
I've noted that the things that we are passionate about are usually things we end up doing well. Piazzolla discovered at an early age what he loved to do and excelled at it. He was lucky.
I would like to hazard a guess that each of us has something that we are passionate about, whether we've discovered it yet or not. Something that brings us a joy that most other, or nothing else does. When you find the spark, fan it, make it grow, do what you need to feed that fire, even if it is "off the path" and I'll hazard a guess that life will be exceptionally fullfilling.
What is your fire?
Nov 24, 2008
"When you change the way you look
at things, the things you look at change."
— : Self-development author and speaker
Funny how the year is all a blur. Time really does fly.
I can see why children seem to have so much pleasure in little things. When an experience is new, it is exciting and they have so many new experiences! If only we had selective amnesia for some chores, it would always be like a first time experience. Or perhaps it is better to wish for the eyes that always find a fresh perspective in something old or mundane.
I guess I should be thankful too for the things that change in my life; they may make me beautiful, or humble, or stronger, perhaps tolerant, forgiving and loving...depending on how I deal with it. It's the change that keeps us growing, not always in directions we desire, but there is one thing for sure, there will always be something changing that will give us opportunity to become who we want to be.
Nov 19, 2008
If someone told me that one day I would be sitting on a Calabrian mountainside, in a crude yet sturdily built shack of galvanize sharing bread and wine with the locals, I would have smirked, "Yeah, right".
But my life has brought me to this very point. From a previous post you'll discover that I love music and art and hopefully I am cultivating an appreciation for opera. But as with all of us, we have many sides that make us diverse and interesting. The other side of me loves what is wild and standing on the hill on a stormy morning, with a cool wind whipping my hair around my face, I felt an overwhelming freedom.
Looking off into the distance toward Greece, the horizon was blotted out by the dark grey cover of pelting rain. The almost black clouds were often lit up by flashes of sheet lightening and the occasional fork that stretched its fingers toward the sea.
It didn’t take long for large, heavy raindrops to compel us to search for refuge. Another couple, picking olives in their field below us, beckoned for us to join them in their hut. We crammed into the small galvanize hut built to store tools and buckets for the work at hand. We sat on crates and pieces of chopped trunks around a small fire near the door. Since there was no proper outlet for the smoke, it poured out the gap between the walls and the roof, and escaped out the open door.
Southerners are very friendly, hospital people and share what they have even if it is not a lot. They were all concerned that I eat well and pretty soon a crate, covered with ricotta cheese, a delicious red tomato, raw bacon, hot peppers and cheese appeared in front of me. Bread was passed around and broken, soon followed by a bottle of wine. I love eating like this; simple, nourishing, and tasty and washed down with wine.
Five faces deeply etched from years of hard work, sorrows and joy were at this moment creasing with laughter as they bantered back and forth in the unintelligible language of the Calabresan. The soft light barely reached the corners to illuminate them, but I felt the contentment that radiated from each; the acceptance of the day and the pleasure of each others company. And considering the pouring rain and unusual hail that pounded the soil, halting a perfectly good day’s work, their peace came from the lifelong habit of accepting what comes, and adjusting themselves to doing something else. It’s usually a tough or losing battle to fight against nature.
I walked outside, my shoes sinking silently into the softened soil. With the rain gone, the only sounds, other than a distant chain saw, were from the birds who had resumed flitting from branch to branch to sample an olive or two and singing melodies of contentment. They flew by, different species with their own unique flight pattern.
The thought came to me that each of us have our own pattern in life, the things we like, the things we do, the way we behave. If we try to be something else, we aren’t truly happy or peaceful; we need to discover ourselves, be happy with how we are and live life that is most natural for us. Then we won’t have an internal battle that weakens us when we are faced with the attitudes and opinions of other people.
If we were born like the birds we would instinctively know how to live but we would not have the power of choice. Like these five, we need to choose to accept things as they are; choose to focus on what is positive; and only in choosing to find the good in whichever situation we are in are we truly free.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2Cor 3:17
Nov 17, 2008
So I am easily persuaded to follow along with the trend of this award -- to link back to the person who awarded me and then to express my appreciation for seven (7) blogs I love.
Thus Ann... a great big "thank you!"
And to the following great blogs...."I love reading what you write."
One woman's idea of what it is like to be a motorcyclist.
Naturally I love this blog because it is about a woman rider and a fellow soul. I love her adventurous and "there are no obstacles" spirit. Her blog reminds me that neither culture, tradition, danger and sometimes not even weather can stop a person when he or she sets her heart on something.
A Tanguera between two lands
Another interest of mine. Tango. Tina has followed her dreams and now lives in Argentina where it's not hard to find a place to put on a pair of dancing shoes and while away the evening hours. I love the feel I get from reading about her life there.
A potter and innkeeper working and living a splendid life in Piemonte.
I love Diana's blog. She is creative and expresses her talent in her pottery and in the way she decorates and runs her inn. I love the stories of her renovation as it strikes a cord with me. I too would love the challenge to renovate a SMALL property so I live vicariously through her stories.
An American finds love, her roots and a coffee addiction in southern Italy
She lives in Calabria....I love the south, the people, the food, the warmth. And I find all the things I love about the south in her blog.
Over a Tuscan Stove
From the market to the stove....Celebrating the seasons
You can't be in Italy and not get caught up in the food. I enjoy the recipes and the photos and the insights into another part of Italy that I would never really see on my own. The pleasures and the art of cooking....Italian style.
Windmill on the hill
Man of a thousand voices, talking perfectly loud, nobody ever hears him.
Just the name says it all - compelling me to read...and I found a very interesting read about life in the Pacific that I would otherwise have not read. Glad I found it.
Take a look and let me know what you think. Perhaps some will become your favorites too.
Nov 11, 2008
So you think Tosca is heavy, tragic, depressing? Nuances in the performance just might tickle your funny bone and even dramatic operas must have bloopers.
If you are thinking that I must be desperate to get out of the house, if I’d go to an opera…you’re right. I miss the arts that I took for granted in
I’ve discovered that Italy IS opera and her citizens have a deep love and appreciation for this music. My friend pressured me in early September to choose the performances I wanted to attend during the season so we could get our tickets right away. What was the hurry? On Single Ticket Day a line snakes out the door and down the cobblestoned pavement with people waiting to gobble up available seats for the operas, resulting in sold out performances from day one.
In contrast, if I walked up to the box office on the night of a symphony 1 minute before the performance, I could still choose a seat from all over the hall! It usually is practically empty.
I read the synopsis Tosca before going. By the time I reached the end I was laughing; not because I am sadistic, but because I couldn’t believe I was about to spend the afternoon absorbing a tragedy. Heavy, tragic, depressing!
Note to self: always do your homework before buying the ticket. (Plot synopsis here)
If you don’t know the story of Tosca, here is the
The lights dimmed, the music started and then began a beautiful, riveting, amazing opera. The set was elegant, well made and I loved the architectural design. The lighting was perfect; I even loved Tosca’s voice. The costumes were beautiful and the devious, corrupt Scarpia was wonderfully evil. I loved him.
And the love themes wound their melodies around our hearts and squeezed. When Tosca anguished on stage, the hair on my arm stood straight. Cavaradossi expressed his love with such intensity I held my breath. I felt what they felt and I loved it.
All was not magical though. When Tosca murders Scarpia, stabbing him with his dinner knife, I struggled to stifle my laughter. NO, I am NOT a bad person! Scarpia stumbles away from Tosca, suddenly jerks as if shot, leans against the sofa screaming for help, then tumbles to the floor landing on his back like a dog with all four paws in the air. It was brief, but the image stuck in my head. You would have chuckled too.
As if that was not bad enough, Tosca moved defiantly past his body only to trip on her skirt, wind-milling her arms to keep her balance. And the scene lost its tragic effect. She came back in the next scene with her skirt lifted, tucked in at her waist.
The rest of this opera went smoothly but there are stories from other performances of Tosca that I feel must be repeated. The last act where Cavaradossi is executed has racked up blooper after blooper. These are excerpts from Giovanni Christen’s article:
“From the front-page headlines in Italian newspapers: "Cavaradossi has been shot!"... At the Macerata summer festival on 30 July 1995, the tenor (Fabio Armiliato) was shot in the 3rd act - as usual. But this time when Tosca (Raina Kabaivanska) rushed to him she heard a whisper: "Call an ambulance!...", and then she fainted at the sight of his blood.” The blanks, used as Puccini would have wanted, to achieve a degree of realism, was overcharged and drew blood, thank goodness in his leg.
The bouncing Tosca: Tosca as usual jumps from the walls of Castel Sant'Angelo. But the stage workers had improved her security by replacing the mattress with a trampoline, so that Tosca appeared 2 or 3 times from behind the wall...
The collective suicide: the stage director was giving last-minute instruction to the supers hired as soldiers. There had been no stage rehearsal, and he gave them the usual instruction "exit with the principals". When Tosca leapt from the parapet, seeing no other principals left on stage, they all dutifully jumped after her, giving a Shakespearean greatness to the final tragedy.
Playing with fire: From Tito Gobbi’s memoirs comes this story -- Maria Callas was Tosca, and during the 2nd act she came too near the candles burning on Scarpia's desk and ignited her hair (or wig). Gobbi immediately improvised a raptor-like motion: he jumped on Tosca, embraced her and extinguished the flames. Tosca rejected him with disgust, but then whispered him a "thank you, Tito"... just before killing him.
If you want to read more of the background of Tosca, the history, the characters and so on, go to http://opera.stanford.edu/Puccini/Tosca/backgd.html
If it is said to “look for the silver lining” I think I found a huge vein.
Nov 10, 2008
I don't need a new bike. I just I want another one. I think it is human nature to want more, more, more. However, a shrinking pocket book will put these babies clear out of my reach.
The new BMW F 800 R, sleek, comfortable, more powerful than the one I currently have. If 'new' didn't scream expensive, then 'BMW' takes care of it all.
And then there is the Moto Guzzi Grisio. This one is a bit big for me, but I have a connection with those colors.
The Suzuki Gladius was supposedly designed with women in mind - easily manageable and for novice riders. I didn't find it comfortable so perhaps they were thinking of tall women. I like the colors though. Choose from green, metallic blue, cherry red (looks like fuchsia) and black.
And these helmets were just adorable.
What interested us this time were the intercom systems. We looked at Cardo systems, Cellular line and Midland. Of the models on display, the Midland BT2 intercom was the most attractive. It seems to be the only one with a stereo feature. Plus, all functions are available for both pilot and passenger. Sweet... because in this case, sometimes the passenger rides her own bike!
Why do I think riding is so important in my life? Because it fulfills me on a level that other activities don't. I think each of us is designed with a desire for something that we need to do, to follow, to make....something. And when we do whatever that is, we start living as we are meant to live and feeling life is full.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)
Nov 7, 2008
There were so many reasons to not go; the grey fluffy stuff that blocks the view of a blue sky, the 10 o'clock hour saying it was too late to go that far, last minute plans that bother a 'plan ahead' person. (That would be A, as I can pick myself up and take a trip on the drop of a dime).
At the very last moment, after we were both dressed to go by car, we decided to go by bike (based primarily on A's intolerance for waiting in line because he is encumbered by being in a car). Just as well, as we lost our way and spent about an hour trying to disentangle ourselves from the clutches of the town of Varese.
Once in Bellinzona, it's not hard to find the castles as the town itself is built smack dab around one of the defensive walls. In an instant you "feel" what life would have been like in a protected city.
The streets are lined with colorful and intricately decorated homes, in sharp contrast to the somber gray, moss covered stone walls. We followed the signs to the highest castle, the Castello di Sasso Corbaro, which was considered the weak point in the stronghold. Interestingly, the Dukes of Milan who polished and fortified the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, also had a hand in building the fortifications here in Bellinzona when they were in power in the 15th century. Today, the castle has been renovated and houses a museum and an extremely expensive restaurant. Well, certainly by my pocketbook anyway. The chef better be worth a 42 euro plate!!
Winding our way back down the narrow road, we headed to the middle castle, Castello Montebello. It sits on a rocky hilltop with large expanses of greenery within the fortified walls. We crossed two drawbridges before entering the castle itself. Time, weather and perhaps a few canonballs had taken its toll on the original stonework and red brick, purposely buried in the walls, marked the positions where the structure had been restored. This castle although small in comparison to many, would be perfect for a Robin Hood film.
Surrounding the castle is the large open space, framed by the outer walls running towards the town itself. A large stout door exits to this area and is flanked by an enormous tree that has no doubt seen the comings and goings of different eras. It's beautiful in its solitude, but also sad in a way as it is the only witness of the lives that passed within this now empty space.
The last and probably best fortified castle is the Castelgrande sitting safely upon a rock with the northern side almost vertical and the southern part a steep climb. Because of our late start, there wasn't enough time to visit this space so it goes without saying that Bellinzona will beckon again.
In addition, there are a number of other monuments in the area that may be interesting to see. Bellinzona has always been in the enviable position to be situated where many passes converge. It is easy to reach by car or train and you can hear the frequent rumblings and screech of brakes as trains stop in the center.
As I visited these old castles the thought occurred to me that it is my imagination that fills the empty space, envisioning life as it once was in its hey day and the walls, courtyard and the different structures regain a short-lived vitality, invisible in my photos. It's not like the Medici villa that I visited in Poggia di Caiona where the decorated and still furnished rooms gave a visual idea of Medici life. And yet, Bellinzona's castles intrigue me and I spend time walking the walls..
I am tossing around the idea that it's how we view something that gives it its value. As they stand, the castles are only empty shells and abandoned spaces. But because we view them as a declaration and witness of times that have had an impact on our present day they have gained importance and value and are restored, maintained.
Relationships are many times empty shells and abandoned spaces, waiting for restoration and maintenance. I am a loner by nature and I know many of my relationships with friends or family have fallen into ruin because of the way I am. Yet even for me, relationships are necessary.
If the walls of the old castles of Bellinzona tell me anything, it's this:
if we will take the time, energy and resources to preserve the lifeless remains of an ancient castle, how much more important to take the time, energy and resources to preserve the vitality of current relationships.
I will certainly be connecting a whole lot more with the people who are important in my life.
More info at:
Nov 3, 2008
It was early and the roads were still quiet as we headed toward the valley, winding our way through miles of harvested rice fields. The occasional white ibis stood solitary and still waiting for its unsuspecting prey.
The sound of the passing wind roared in my helmet but failed to wrap its frigid fingers around my body, clad in protective armor. It didn't hurt that my black clothes absorbed the gentle warmth from the morning sun. This small pleasure was soon gone as we sped deeper into the valley and the rolling hills slowly disappeared into cottonwool fog.
There is something about fog that makes the world silent and unearthly. Tall, ancient trees lose their majesty, reduced to a dim dark blur and definitive edges become smudged. The yellow fields framed with evergreen in the distance paled as if under an artist's wash in white. Everything seems closer.
The stone outer buildings of Monferrato slowly loomed into view. The streets were peppered with people wrapped up snugly against the cold. This was their weekend to celebrate their truffle festival.
After a brief stop at a cafe for directions and a dose of burning liquid to warm our insides, we headed for one of the hilltowns in the area. We hooked a left and followed a narrow road, climbing past gorgeous homes that claim beautiful vistas of the valley below on a clear day. The one laner snaked through the hills, finally opening its mouth to pop us out.....on the road back to the cafe!
Finally, our noses emerged from the thick valley fog and we arrived at a little village covered only with a thin layer of mist. Cars lined the streets, a promising sign of another festival underway; we were in the middle of Passerano M's celebration, Sagra della Trippa.
Local artisans displayed their artwork and wares; intricate leatherwork engravings, handles for knives made from marble, copper containers burned and hammered into shape. The square was dressed with booths laden with food and folk lined up eagerly waiting their turn to take away a steaming plate of food. Hungry stomachs can not wait in line and we headed for the nearby cafe turned trattoria.
As I went inside, I noted that the haze was gone and that the sky was once again beautifully blue.
On reflection I realize that the events of this day mirror what my life is basically like. In general it can be one big drift as day passes day, busy, but perhaps without substance. No clarity of purpose...foggy. Even when I decide to go in a particular direction, I don't always succeed and find myself back at square one. But persistance pays off and I finally find myself in a position where I want to be.
I know it's hard sometimes to figure out what to do, where to go, how to do things. But I think that once a choice is made and we go in a particular route, we are on a road of discovery, learning not only new things along that way, but if the direction was right for us. We take another turn at each crossroad or point of assessment and eventually we will arrive at our destination. It starts with a choice and continues with persistence.
When I think of these roads that I love in Italy, I like to think that they are very much like the road of my life; up, down and around, through tunnels and ambiguous crossroads. The trip is sometimes dark, or confusing, sometimes a tight squeeze, but in my mind it is always interesting, surprising, worth the effort and definitely beautiful.
Nov 2, 2008
I was with my friend at the Celtic festival the other day, when she pointed at one of the knarly old witches with the pointed black hat, long bent nose and flowing black robes. A true beauty.
Then I heard her say "We can thank you guys for Halloween". A small "humph" punctuated her displeasure which was quickly followed with "And for McDonalds".
I know we have "celebrated" Halloween in the States for as long as I can remember, abut I didn't think we came up with the idea. After all, Americans from a long, long time ago were really European transplants.
A little reading confirmed my suspicion. We can blame the Celts. The Italians I've talked with about Halloween don't look upon it with favorable eyes. I really think they resent it, from a religious point of view I suspect. And they point their fingers at the States for spreading the bad vibes.
I object of course.
For one, the Celts had a huge hand coming up with the idea in the first place. They dedicated this day, the last day of their calendar year, to honor the dead. Since they believed that the spirits of the dead still roamed the earth, and that some spirits weren't always nice when you ran into them, gifts were left out to appease them. It's like giving a bad dog a nice juicy slab of meat so it will eat that instead of you.
America took it and drained it of its meaning and each year it just became one big party, with all the spirit stuff left out. But to say that America caused Italy to start observing Halloween bothered me when next door neighbors, France and Britain up north have had their Halloween practices forever.
Then I started to see things from a different point of view.
Romans conquered the Celts and mixed in their observances. In order to 'christianize' the ritual, November 1 was declared All Saints Day...a day to honor the dead. Hmmm, sounds familiar but with a twist. There are no bonfires to burn sacrifices and the dead are all "saints", the spirits of loved ones - no bad spirits involved.
With the spread of Catholicism and christianity, it is understandable that there would be a desire to wipe out the old pagan rituals and of course a country like Italy, a country with a long religious history would not encourage an observance like Halloween...until the watered down version popped up in America.
I can't say we did anyone any favors though. I for one don't believe the spirit of my dead friends are around and watching what happens to their living friends and family. I believe there is a life after death, but not right away, so I have never participated in the observance for All Saints Day. The dead have no knowledge of my comings or goings and if I visit their graves or not.
I know a lot of people believe otherwise, evidenced from the lines of cars jamming the already small Italian roads, filled with people coming to leave flowers and candles, in the traditional red glass holders, at local cemeteries. Do you visit too? And what do you believe?
Returning at night from our jaunt to Bellinzano in Switzerland, I passed cemetery upon cemetery lit up like christmas trees adorned in red, the lights of the candles flickering peacefully on a very quiet and windless night.
The Real Origins of Halloween
Halloween History and Origin
Filed under Lifestyle