Sunday, December 31, 2006

eat, drink, be merry…

And travel far. Is there a better wish?

I didn’t travel too far for New Year’s Eve, but I am away from home. In Chicago for the week.

For the past two dozen years, I have celebrated the midnight hour that heralds in the New Year by savoring mouthfuls of great food. People blow horns and throw streamers at the stroke of midnight, they party and dance and play New Year’s Eve games. I eat.

I have wondered if this pattern of extremely festive and caloric consumption keeps me from taking New Year’s resolutions very seriously. How can I resolve to act reasonably and eat sensibly (isn’t that what people resolve?) when in the very first minute of the New Year I am doing neither?

So I don’t resolve much of anything except for telling myself in general to do better.

And a better, finer year ahead for all you Ocean readers. May great moments be yours, whether in the peace of a quiet home or the exuberance of a crowded market square. And thanks! You know, for being there and reading.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006


Someone told me recently that they do not believe in the institution of marriage. Yawn. I’ve heard this before: Marriage is a convention that doesn’t appeal to me. I am above it.

Yawn again.

I attended a wedding today.

Hey la, hey la, hey la! Come and sing together!
If you dance then you must have, boots of shining leather!

I think weddings are some of the best events ever. They speak of yay! feelings. Of determination to beat all odds. They celebrate hope. They speak to the belief in the life of someone other than yourself.


Hey, bride, I know where your tattoo is because I was there (in Krakow) when you got it! [True, you know where mine is and how desperate I was to get the tattooist to make up an image that suited my fancy. ]

Wedding bells go jinga-linga, toes and fingers freeze and tingle, in our hearts we gaily mingle as the snowflakes fall.

No snowflakes today. Balmy breezes, drizzle, cloudy skies, but who cares. There’s joy out there to be found, inside the glass-encased lounges of the Overture Center. Go find it. Mer and David did (you over-achievers, you!).

Wow. I cannot tell you how happy that makes me.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

toward the end of the year

Sometimes, the hardest thing for me is to write lightly here, on Ocean. Events unfold. Floods, wars, executions; endless drama cumulatively played out in real life. How is it that I can draw attention to the free champagne on Air France flights (it’s true!), or write about the sheep slowing me down on roadways?

I bought a CD when I was in France. Pop music and, true to its genre, incredibly popular.

On m’appelait la cite pleine de grace (once called the city full of grace)
Dieu, comme le temps passe (God, how time passes)
On m’appelait capitale de lumiere (once called the capital of light)
Dieu, que tout se perd (God, how all is lost)
Je m’appelle Bagdad. (my name is Bagdad)

I’d say that in the summer, when I stayed in Pierrerue and listened to the radio daily just to have sound in the deeply cavernous studio apartment I had rented, I would hear this song at least half a dozen times each day.

Tina Arena, the performer, is Italian and she is one of the few non-French vocalists who has managed to excell on the French radio scene. True, she does sing in French, but so do I and no one is asking me for a return performance or even for a first run on French radio. Fine, it's not an apt comparison.

A hauntingly evocative melody, it would not leave me alone, all summer and fall.

Je m’appelle Bagdad (my name is Bagdad).

When I came back to France in September, this song was still… hot. Or at least it was played on Cherie FM (the equivalent of any of our light rock stations) over and over and over again.

So I wanted to buy it when I came home. Not so easy. Itunes did not list it. Okay, I did not try hard. But when I went to England (where it was also played, repeatedly) in November, I bought the CD.

Ocean is not exactly political, but then, in what way is this song political? It is a pop tune about a city that, over time (crucial unspoken query: what period of time are we talking about here?) has been destroyed. Arena herself says that it is an allegory: it’s not about Iraq, it’s about the destruction of physical beauty in general.

I suppose that one could sing it, therefore, in reflecting on the demise of spotted owl.

But for me, it is not about the spotted owl, nor about the demise of physical attractiveness over time. (Give me a break, Arena, you don’t really think anyone would buy that, did you?)

It’s the end of the year. I’m thinking about it – the year behind, the year ahead. There is nothing to be gained (but for administrative expediency) in numbering one year 2006 and the next 2007, except that in that break between the two you get to consider what is behind and what is ahead.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

from Minneapolis: fifteen hours

So brief was my stay here! So brief, that I could pick up the return boarding pass as I was checking in to fly out. So brief, that after dinner with my wonderful St Paul friend, no minutes were left to reflect on the fact that I was in the Twin Cities.

I would have had those spare minutes had I remembered correctly where had booked a room for me. But, at midnight, I asked to be dropped off at the wrong hotel. Empty, with a sole wedding party attendee sleeping soundly on a leather couch, it reminded me of how quickly fullness drains into nothingness, how cities on this side of the ocean, so fast paced during working hours, slow down considerably at the close of the day.

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I looked for my real hotel, found it finally at the other end of the city, chatted pleasantly to the night clerk about what brought me here for these few hours in the post-holiday world of low key travel, rode the elevator up up, to my room, to see a view that almost any city in America might offer the person who chooses to sleep in its commercial hub.

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Normally, I love waking up in a new city. But waking up on a late December morning in Minneapolis gives you a view of the world that is remarkably similar to the one at midnight. It is dark at midnight, still so at six-thirty, seven-thirty…

By eight-thirty I am pacing the downtown streets. Nice buildings, clean buildings. And those passageways. Everyone has heard of the passageways of Minneapolis. Did I know each would be different? They are like the bridges of Minneapolis, the glass walkways, there to avoid the brutal winds and profusion of traffic below.

Except there are no brutal winds. It is a balmy 40 degrees. And the street is shut off to all but buses. And so the feeling again is of great emptiness. The party is elsewhere. You missed the beat. You are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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I turn back and eat a horrible breakfast at the Hyatt (included! It’s all included in my Minneapolis flight of fancy. Here I am, chasing fancy miles and fancy privileges in the city of northern lights). Chopped up melon and barely unfrozen pastries, served in a dining room that is, well, empty.

No people watching. No matter. In Minneapolis, you make do with building watching.

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I take the bus to the airport and catch my flight home, in time for lunch with my family. Fifteen hours from take-off to return landing.

I saw Minneapolis in a terrifically unique light (or lack thereof). Beautiful, all of it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

from Minneapolis: which door?

Was it that I had had enough holiday excess? That I needed an escape, because me, resting under one roof for more than ten days in a row is inconceivable? [Nina, I could not believe it when you told me that you like to go away at least once a month… No wonder you’re so (fill in the blank)]

Or, is it guilt: I have gone to distant places, sure, but I know little of the cities north of where I live. In fact, I have never set foot in Minneapolis. Now is the time!

Or maybe it’s out of friendship: one of my very closest friends lives in St. Paul. She had a birthday this week. I’m into birthdays. Off I go to celebrate!

So true, yet so off the right track.

It’s the crazy game of miles and flight segments logged in for 2006. It’s airline games and, what’s the American phrase – manning the system.

It's a cost–benefit analysis: I needed one more flight in 2006 to keep those elite bonus miles and perks flowing in the year 2007. A flight to Minneapolis late tonight was the cheapest, easiest way to handle it.

The other suggested reasons for being here, up north, are good, but they do not quite a trip make. Oh, and just erase the first one. I am not in need of an escape. I am in need of a descape. Or, is that not proper English?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

making sense

I wake up, it's dark and still, I have to make notes. Do it this way. And make the following corrections. And consider this…

Great plans, hatched at wee hours of the morning.

Other times, ideas percolate elsewhere, then get thrown my way. (Sometimes it’s better to rely on the stewardship of another.)

And, of course, there’s a symbiotic relationship at play too, so that some ideas are bounced between others and myself and what comes forth has an impossibly complicated genealogy.

Oh, life.

In 1972 I am ready to come back. I am nineteen and I am antsy. New York? Go live in New York again? Such a grand plan! There may have been many in Poland who would be equally enthused about coming to NY at the time of politically challenging times, but my reasons are personal. I want a break from my university studies. I want a break from my boyfriend. New York promises changes in both worlds.

I am an au pair to a fantastic family. I am supported, I am introduced to a world where people make money off of ideas! [None of that entrepreneurial spirit rubbed off, not then and maybe never, but I took note of it.] And, my new New York family, they are of the world where tickets to Broadway shows get thrown their way whether or not they put in a request for them. Nina, do you want to see Candide? We have two tickets. Take a friend.

Friend? I have no real friends here. My real friends are in Poland. Here, in New York, I am a student by day, an au pair by night.

I go alone.

And let us try,
Before we die,
To make some sense of life.

I sit on a bench (how fun! prime tickets and we get to sit on benches!) and I tear up from the splendidness of it all. The story, the music, they pull me in so that I am, the next day, buying Voltaire in the bookstore and Bernstein at Sam Goody’s. Impressionable, she is so impressionable!

Two years later I move to Chicago to attend graduate school. If I was lonely in New York (dear friends in Warsaw, I miss you, love, Nina), I am super lonely in Chicago. I buy a parakeet. I give her freedom. She does not live in a cage, she flies up and down my studio apartment and I name her Candide.

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.

She flies as if possessed. Mostly, she aims for the windows. Tall windows, with a beautiful view toward downtown Chicago. She crashes into them again and again until I can’t stand it anymore. It’s either a cage or a new home.

A sweet family comes and picks her up. They have a cage for her. Thank you! Just what we wanted.

Out of Chicago, straight into the suburbs of Madison. My father visits from Poland. You wont make it here, he tells me. What does he know – he is a city boy. His life is one huge adventure story. From war-torn Poland to the United Nations and everywhere in between, what does he know about settling down. We are purchasing our dream home and I am planting hundreds of perennials in every conceivable space, including some where nothing has ever grown before nor will ever grow again. Thank you, little plants, for trying so hard all the years I lived there!

We'll build our house and chop our wood

And make our garden grow...
And make our garden grow.

It is the day after Christmas, 2006. I have been legally alone exactly 365 days. I have crossed the ocean since then a half dozen times each way, I have scaled mountains and pushed every conceivable (travel) button. I have written and photographed and I have agonized over how poorly I have written and photographed and now here we are, 365 days later and I am a mite poorer but now with a year’s worth of experience.

Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can't be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.

Solid ground. Am I there yet? Am I there?

No. Those lyrics must have been written about someone else’s life. Still...

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.

I sit down to write a post. A small little tidbit from a walk along State Street. (You wish!)

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state street display

But it happens that someone at home flips on the TV and the Kennedy Center’s tribute to the year’s greats comes on. I listen to the music that celebrates Spielberg’s work on, among other things, Schindler’s List. Bernstein's Candide.

See you in a bit, post-war Poland, parakeets flying, perennials pushing through clay soil, long lines at the airport…

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.

Monday, December 25, 2006

delightfully small

This is the last time you’ll see such a packed stocking, I'm told. [Santa’s stuffing days, I fear, are numbered. Or, he has finally realized that he has been packing in little bundles into someone's stocking even though that someone has long passed the average age of his target audience (eight maybe?).]

But I delight in the image of the stuffed stocking! I hadn’t really known about stockings being stuffed until I came here, to the States and so the whole thing started late for me.

And because waste is not a big ticket item in this family, the rule is that Santa must think carefully about what goes in. I know, big burden on the big guy, but what with the environment and credit card debt and all the other horrors appended to waste-buying, we do insist on usefulness.

How beautiful small things can be! Toffee, the kind I used to love but never see anymore. Cassis hand soap, fresh dish towels. All will be consumed or worn threadbare in the year ahead.

Small is good, small is beautiful. When the kids looked for toys under the tree, I was stunned how much airspace was sold in a Mattel toy box. Airspace that I had to cover with paper.

Small packages with big hearts. A camisole from some who know how to buy camisoles, gloves, the warm kind, because I get so damn cold walking home.

In the world of food as well. Small corn pancakes with pieces of smoked salmon and dill. Big dinner follows, but do not forget the small, nor the tiny dessert profiteroles with pomegranate icecream.

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Small, small, beautiful small things.

It leaves room to hatch great, big plans.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006


They passed around the photo and nodded. Yes, she’s got that look on her – the “I’m ready to sprint and cause trouble” look. Trouble being a relative term, in this case, I think they meant it in a good way: harmless trouble.

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I was three when it was taken. New to Warsaw (village life, with grandparents before that), new to nursery school (both parents working, long hours), seemingly un-shy about any of it. Relatives said – she’s always thinking – what next? Unstoppable.

We weren’t Christian, but there was always a tree and always in the room that my sister and I shared. Positioned between our beds. At first it was clear that it belonged there – we hadn’t a living room, just two rooms – a small apartment in Warsaw, there, this is it:

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But later, in New York, we had a living room, a very nice living room indeed, overlooking 46th street, parquet floors and carpet, wow, and still the tree stood between our beds. A generous gesture (you’ll smell it all night long). But also a “Christmas is for children” statement.

Is a teen a child? At thirteen, back in Poland now, Christmas stopped. Again, there was no living room, but there was space. Ah, maybe it’s because we didn’t stay in the city. We were back to the village for school winter break.

There, the snow is deep, all is calm, all is bright. In New York, my images of Christmas had been like that. Straight out of the stories. Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? Suddenly I have snow up to my waist and farmers are moving from point A to point B in sleighs and the nostrils of horses throw out moisture that freezes, but we are non-Christian and the children are not children anymore and so the countdown to Christmas is no countdown at all and there is no tree.

I am three, moving to Warsaw, I am seven, moving to New York, I am thirteen, moving back to Warsaw, I am nineteen and back in New York and so on and so on. I’ll go find a tree. A farmer will chop it down for me because I, city girl by now, don’t know how to chop down trees, cherry, spruce or any other.

Over the years, sometimes I would continued to find the family tree, other times I did not. There were no children in the house. Christmas, of the secular kind, is, I am reminded, for children.

And now I have children. And even before, I had a husband who liked Christmas. There is, of course, a lot to like about Christmas.

Children grew, spouse is now close through affect and history rather than label and geography, but Christmas stayed. So that this year, the tree towers and the rituals are relived with meaning (to each her or his own) and gusto.

Happy Christmas, Ocean readers, in whatever way you wake up to it – with or without tree. And, if you see yourself as being outside the world of Christmas, may the affect and good cheer be yours nonetheless. And the tinsel. Fill your hearts with tinsel.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

more of the same

Driving in every direction, doing any number of tasks, you can, out of the blue, or rather, out of the dark, come across this old faithful: the little tree that, each December, glows and glows, all alone, in the woods.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

pack animals

People blog to put their voice out there. Their unique voice, telling a unique story, like no other. At the same time that they (we) spend so much of the year imitating the behaviors of others. Rituals and traditions, we say, as we scrape the same cookie off the sheet that someone else (and another and another) had scraped off just a few blocks (generations?) down.

If you looked at my day, you’d see all the markers of sameness. I hurried and made lists and made my way through crowded parking lots. Secrets, packed away in a back seat, or the trunk of a car.

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And yes, I did my annual Christmas trip to the mall. It wasn’t even extraordinarily crowded, but it is such a boring thing to do at any other time and not so boring at all in these last days before the 25th.

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Driving back, I passed the evocative stand, at the side of the gas station.

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All gone. Or, almost all gone.

At home, the lights are on, the ornaments (yes, with a handful from Poland) are better than wonderful.

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Pre-holiday silliness. Copied, with minor, individual twists and turns. But the magic is in the repetition, imitation. I did it all last year and, with luck, will get to do it all over again next year and the year after. Like others before me, next door to me, ahead of me.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

the tree

It's because of the Christmas tree. To come home, deal with all the details of life and then to put up this monster of height, widhth and depth -- it grabs the spirit out of you, that's all. In the nicest of ways.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Paris notes

It could be that in my mind, Paris is one thing and in reality (someone else’s reality) it is another. I move as a tourist, albeit a frequent one. I go from hotel to café to museum, park, or store, I take photos, I eat my evening meal and that is pretty much it. I don’t wrestle with anything. I just notice that the café, museum, park, store and restaurants are awfully good.

And once I have come to the conclusion that Paris treats me well when I am there, I load my cart with other striking images – of the city that has embraced the tiny Smart car (they are everywhere!) and slung mud at SUVs (pranks against big cars are not uncommon), of the superior baguette, the superior style of dress – the city that sleeps less than I do and eats more than I dare to and handles it all exceptionally well.

On our one full day in the city, Ed and I did the usual: ate croissants, walked great distances, visited the newly reopened Orangerie museum, shopped (I shopped, Ed, the anti-consumer, hid behind a book against the onslaught of beautiful things), ate well, drank well and there you have it. The day ended, the camera went back into its case and we travelled home.

Here it is, briefly, Paris from my lens:

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on arrival: oysters

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shopping, Au Bon Marche

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fussying about kitchen gadgets

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preparing for a "manifestation"

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minding Monet

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nibbling on a baguette

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so many to choose from

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it's the season

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the last dessert

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

from Paris: briefly

A bite, a sip and off I go. A travel day for me today. How did Paris measure up this time around? Check in tomorrow -- I'll tell (nearly) all.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

from the sole of Italy: a rocky day with warm glows

Sunshine on my shoulder, dogs jumping to greet me, it is morning at Agriturismo San Teodoro Nuovo.

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Maria is the owner of the property. Does that make her a farmer? Maria is a woman of class. I am dowdy next to her.

She has just come back from Milano, where her daughter was getting married. Her son lives in London. But she has been here, in this southernmost point of Italy, just about all her life. Her grandmother owned this land and now Maria is churning out the organic fruits – oranges and table grapes, she tells me. Plus just enough olives to make olive oil for the family. Yes, of course I can have some to take home.

It’s suppose to be a light driving day, a big walking day, alternating with much sitting and sipping of espressino’s. It’s never as you think it will be.

There are things that slow you down…

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…and major roads turn into wisps of thin ribbon when they pass through town centers. The only way to make it through without a dent is to close your eyes and forge ahead.

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Destination for the day: Locorotondo (five vowels, all “o.” Now that’s Italian!). It is, I read, at the center of the rural trulli. What are trulli? Here, they look like this:

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And they are unique to Puglia. Why here and why the conical dome? I don’t know. More importantly, the guide book doesn’t know and it is its job to know. But there are, truly, trulli, evident on the drive in to Locorotondo and prominent as you look down, across the fields, from town center.

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Locorotondo itself is no village. I thought it would be nice and rural, an Ed kind of place, but it’s really a small town, though one with a big personality. Whitewashed, cobbled and genuinely pretty, it lures us even more than the trulli do.

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And there’s another reason why we are happy as anything to pause here. We find a great pastry shop–café–bar. Immediately I order a cappuccino and a plateful of cookies (hey, the latter is for the both of us).

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They are uniquely wonderful. And the thing about wonderful cookies is that you are not satisfied with just a plateful. Within the hour, we stop by in the same café-bar for another plateful (this time with the espressino I notice others ordering).

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Ah, café life. I sit back and happily engage in far' niente ("do nothing") and people watching... (children are walking home from Saturday morning school)

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... Ed is pretending to read the Italian newspaper (he’ll read anything – even things written in languages he does not understand). I point to the men standing at the bar – see how content men are to get together in the middle of the day over a prosecco (Italian champagne)? What are they munching on? Oh, aperitif type things – crostini, olives, nuts... We should do that! We have just come here twice in one hour, ordering cappuccino, expressino and cookies to feed a family! We can’t now order proseccos and tidbits!

We order prosecco and tidbits.

We sip it like the Italians, except we are not Italians and we do not have their expression, their shout, their touch. Still, I am happy to pick up their habits, especially if they include ordering aperitifs in the middle of the day, espressino and cookies notwithstanding.

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Call it an overload of refreshments. Ah well, food and sunshine have this way of putting one in a good mood. So we get lost on the small roads again, so what. It’s pretty in this part of the country. Sort of Celtic looking, no?

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Stone, so much stone! Gotta love stone to live here. And the trulli, carrying the stone theme to an extreme.

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But we have a destination still and so dallying too much is not an option.

In one guide book I read that if you can visit only one (small) city in southern Italy, it should be Matera. (UNESCO agrees, for it is now a protected heritage site.) Up until recently, not many had heard of Matera. But lo, it is the place chosen by Mel Gibson for his Passion of Christ film and so now it has that reputation to contend with as well.

In my mind, Matera is… spooky. Its age has something to do with it. Inhabited since before recorded history, it consists of every conceivable dwelling, built right into the cliffs. This includes caves, crumbling stone houses and something that is a combination of the two – the so called sassi: cave like structures where people lived (for centuries, up until just a few decades ago) in abject poverty, along with their pigs and chickens and what have you.

To look at all this is overwhelming.

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and sassi

We hike into the belly of the ancient city. Matera has a lively, more accessible central core, filled with lovely squares and stylish stores. But the old crumbling structures across the ravine are the magnet for visitors. Of course it’s all rather empty now. It is December, the week before Christmas. We see maybe a handful of others strolling through this crumbling mass of inhabited (the grander houses are partly restored) rock.

And then, something happens. The sun sets and it becomes dark. Matera is the one city that is visually harmed by sunlight. In the evening, the grim façade is turned into something of great charm – a town of twinkling lights and warm glows. Can you believe it – this is the same mountainside, photographed above but now looking entirely different:

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Lights. It is no wonder that we light up streets and houses with additional twinkley things in December. The Christmas gift to somber towns and villages is the addition of lights that, at night, transform the streets into something out of a holiday greeting card. The road that we hiked, wet, encrusted with the grime of the centuries, becomes a story-book path of great loveliness.

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We eat dinner late again. We are used to this by now. I write, it takes longer than I want it to, we finally set out, hoping to still find food near midnight and always we find it and always it is tasty. There is never a menu, just food. This time, we eat in a family-run trattoria and our meal of antipasti, pasta, fish and cookies comes to half the price of the previous dinners. I’ll end with a photo of the pasta dish – a staple of the southern table. Pasta, beans and mussels. The common person’s food, warm, nourishing food. A proper ending to a stay in Basilicata.

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On Sunday morning we leave for Paris.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

from the sole of Italy: guides, saints and automobiles

You can lead a horse to the water, but you cannot make an Ed do too much “touring” in a week or his internal drive will start sending error messages. And so on this day (I’m speaking of Friday now) I suggest we go into the Regional Park, the greatest, grandest of the south, a mere stone’s throw from the Agriturismo. There, we will hike.

It is a glorious day. Just about sixty, with the sun out – perfect for the outdoor life.

We leave our farm… (did I yet show you the main house where our landowner, Maria, lives? It was once her grandmother’s farm. Here, a corner of it:)

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…and we drive into the hill towns.

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I wont bore you with how many hill towns we went to...

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… before we found one where a local agenzia employee could suggest a “piccolo” hike – a small one, because she said larger ones require a guide. A guide? I have nearly fainted on summits on the Canadian Rockies! Why a guide?

Never mind, we set out on the piccolo hike. Oh, it’s mildly boring at the beginning. Ed is delighted by the cats we encounter…

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…I am taken in by the mushrooms up there, in the woods…

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…but we are “hiking” on a trail that is close to the village and I can tell that the natural elements aren’t having their full effect on my hiking buddy. Nor on me for that matter.

And then we get lost. I get it. You need a guide because the markings aren’t always there to help you along. Our own trail marker has vanished. Naturally, the path we choose turns out to be the wrong one. Discouraged? Not us! We are cross-country specialists! We have scaled precarious Sicilian mountainsides, we can find the summit of this wee bit of a hump.

We nearly slide down with the granite chips.

Undaunted still, we persevere. Polish peasant stock, I tell you! And by the way, Polish peasant stock can get pretty hot with the exertion of it all. See this – on the summit, down to my tank top, in the middle of December.

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The views are magnificent. We are reunited with the trail and the forest is wonderful and the sunlight makes everything look terrific. What more can one ask.

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Still, all trails end sooner or later, especially piccolo trails. We leave the forest and pick up random dirt tracks, so that we can experience the hike that much longer. I ask Ed to mark the point where we leave the forest so that we can retrace our steps. He is placing a strategic rock, but I laugh at him and point to someone’s orange peel – more visible by far. (Clearly the message of Hansel and Gretel has been lost on me.)

We walk along the dirt road, enjoying the silence of the hills. Not a total silence. The hills are alive, aren’t they? I hear …dogs barking. Strays? Ed, we must protect ourselves against stray packs of dogs. Look for a stick! Move slowly back! Speak soothingly! I can fend off bears, but stray dogs can be wicked.

Not strays. The bells tell it all. A herdsman appears with his mixed flock…

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… stopping to talk to us as we pass. Where are you from? Germany? No, America. Oh… America. Brazil, maybe? No, the United States.

Even if I hand them the continent, they never believe in Europe that I am American. Am I not American? My Polish friends may be the only ones who see me these days as more over there than over here (here being Europe and Poland).

The flock moves forward and the dogs – there must be ten of them – bark at the outliers and it is all so magnificently picturesque…

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We turn back. I am searching for the orange peel, but I cannot find it. I am sure we have gone way past the point of reentry. Ed retraces his steps and finds his rock marker. Near it there is merely a crumb of orange peel left. Goats like orange peel. Who knew…

The sun is getting awfully close to the land and so we head back. The mountains take on bluer tones…

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…The villagers are stirring up the wood-burning fires for the evening ahead and the smell of burning wood is everywhere.

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It’s time for us to return to the Agriturismo. I need to coax some hours of dialup out of the farm phone line.

And it is a very, very slow connection. So that it is ten by the time we set out to dinner. I’ll just say this about our dinner destination: no, signora, it is not 15 minutes from the farm. More like 30 and only when I speed. Moreover, if you recommend a restaurant in the middle of a town that has streets just about as wide as our Smart little rental car and if they twist and turn uphill in a most confusing way – why that’s another thirty minutes of meandering time.

Thank you, kind strangers who escorted us way up to the proper place. Thank you, whatever saint made sure that I did not lose a door or a fender to the houses I brushed ever so lightly with our car. Thank you, good waiter who escorted us back down again.

Basilicata forever!

Dinner? Yes, we ate. Past eleven. No menus again. Just endless plates of appetizers (fish, sausages, spiced an oiled as only the southerners can do it), followed by pasta, followed by grilled fish, salad, dessert. I was not surprised when the check came out to be exactly the same as last night. Such food they have here! Such wonderful food!

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with porcini and mussels

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grilled, from the sea