…and then right back out again. For the past while I’ve been in Tuscany, specifically the teeny cobblestoned village Vitiana, built in the 11 century atop a lush green hill, where the atmospheric charm was only outdone by the tireless attentions of our hosts. Here’s a photo and a NY Times article about the actual villa and its owner, Julie Hampton, creative financier, poet and yogi extraordinaire.
My mother brought me there so we could “express ourselves,” which should’ve made her nervous considering the incident in 1993 with the squirrels and the body paint. But under the guidance of poet Julie, playwright/author/the funniest person I’ve ever known Tania Katan, interdisciplinary performance diva Angela Ellsworth (who claimed to be able to teach anyone to draw, and whaddya know, I managed to pull off a couple of passable pencil sketches thanks to her simple directions), multimedia maven Carol Panaro-Smith and photographer Jim Hajicek, I managed not to embarrass myself (The banana slug kiss does not count. It was after hours, and I had Limoncello goggles.)
The creativity workshop activated many artistic pursuits that have laid fallow in adulthood, such as collecting flowers to dry and playing with glue (remember how in second grade you would brush your entire hand with a thin layer of Elmer’s and try to peel it off whole after it dried? Fuuun) and culminated in an original, handbound book that I will treasure forever. The rest of the workshop’s attendees came from all walks of life to form a close-knit group of friends in a just a week summer camp for grown-ups, someone said.
Thank you, Mom. Not only was it an amazing experience, but the most one-on-one time we’ve had since I had the chicken pox when I was seven. It’s not ever mother/daughter pair that can spend nine days in the same hotel and not end up on Jerry Springer.
I know I’ve been a neglectful Yenta, and I’ve only unpacked just to repack once again to head the opposite direction for a few time zones for a visit back to the magical land of Fairfax, CA. And then there’s the matter of the full-time job I’ve just accepted as the editor of a fabulous women’s magazine…but I’ll have to catch you up when I return!
In the meantime, here the Yenta’s summer reading list: Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which is all over every airport bookstore I’ve passed through lately. I haven’t cracked it yet, ’cause what silly person travels with a hardback book, but it’s on my bedside table waiting for me to come home.
Easier to travel with and read in short spurts is Marge Piercy’s The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems With A Jewish Theme. (My mother saw her read last year and brought me a signed copy honestly, am I the most loved daughter in the world, or what?) Following is one of my favorites:
by Marge Piercy
Look around us, search above us, below, behind.
We stand in a great web of being joined together.
Let us praise, let us love the life we are lent
passing through us in the body of Israel
and our own bodies, let’s say amen.
Time flows through us like water.
The past and the dead speak through us.
We breathe out our children’s children, blessing.
Blessed is the earth from which we grow,
Blessed the life we are lent,
blessed the ones who teach us,
blessed the ones we teach,
blessed is the word that cannot say the glory
that shines through us and remains to shine
flowing past distant suns on the way to forever.
Let’s say amen.
Blessed is light, blessed is darkness,
but blessed above all else is peace
which bears the fruits of knowledge
on strong branches, let’s say amen.
Peace that bears joy into the world,
peace that enables love, peace over Israel
everywhere, blessed and holy is peace, let’s say amen.
Peace and blessings to you as the days stretch into their longest possibilities!