Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nice'n Easy Natural Red Blonde

Even after 40 years, Clairol still makes Nice'n Easy Natural Red Blonde hair color. As a teenager, I was introduced to this product and used it off and on for much so that everyone thought my hair was naturally this color. In college I quite dying my hair and let the authentic color evolve. Gradually people forgot, or never knew, I had hair any color other than what it was.

In 1970, at age 16, I was in Europe (and Florence) with Mom and Dad and I was a natural red blonde as seen in these "butt photos" that Dad took of Mom and me. He was famous for taking pictures of us from the rear. I've always wondered about that. You get a good look at Miss Clairol at work however. My hair is much like Mom's color; maybe (but I can't remember) that's what I was trying to achieve. Attempting to minimize the natural frizz in my hair, I took elaborate, somewhat byzantine steps to straighten the look. There were no plug in hair straighteners around in those days. If I was happy with the color, the curl was definitely not my thing and something in demand of daily attention. Some days were easier than others.

In case you can't find us in this butt photo taken between the Duomo and the Baptistery in Florence, look to the lower right in the photo. You'll spot my mother in a green dress and me by her side in a mini-skirt and white top.

What I think about here, in addition to the red-blonde hair, is that little child wearing a hat who stands midway along the bottom half of the photo. That little one is now 40 years old. Many of the other people are long gone. Those that aren't, are much, much older. The natural red blonde gal now has grey in her hair and hasn't sprung for highlights in over a year.

Time passes but Miss Clairol stays much the same.

Brother and Sister

He has ideas
and plans.
He loves them as they
need to be loved
in these dark hours.
He's game for a sprint,
as we all are in this
long journey.
Piece by piece, with time away
to collect one's soul back from the fray.
At it again with a resigned, if not joyful style.
If there is ambivalence or pain,
it does not show.

For me, the exhaustion never quits.
The guilt over succumbing to exhaustion even worse.
I've always said, I'm up for a sprint, not a marathon.
Because, because....
Even with bits of time away, the rejuvenation never comes
and I feel older by the second.
My face muddy,
my heart stony and hard.
Aching to make the most of a whisper of time
but not knowing how, with my
soul slowly burning, evaporating into mist,
dying to today's promise
with the closing of a door.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gratitude Amidst the Noise

Today has been quiet until the fire truck pulled up across the street (again) to chainsaw holes in Mr. Matter's rooftop this afternoon. On a Saturday? C'mon. Give it a break, can't you? See those guys on the left? They're busting through shingles with intention, learning how to break through a roof in a real emergency. After all, this house is a "tear down" (see post from 11/25/08). Sigh.

Oh wait, I think they're leaving now; they never stay long. Just enough time to bust a few new openings in the roof and then they're off leaving the street quiet again. Blessed. I can now hear my Mozart CD playing, the Grandfather clock marking the seconds passing, and the soft, nearly imperceptible breath of the cat who lies next to me on the living room couch. This is such the typical late November afternoon in Seattle, complete with overcast skies hanging so low you can all but reach out and pull the mist into the front door. No rain, just air that's heavy with stored moisture. Waiting.

I'm remembering 48 hours ago when we gathered for Thanksgiving Dinner at the Arapahoe House; the 5 of us: Mom, Dad, Denny (the cook; all except for the pumpkin pie and the corn pudding), Chris, and me. We were a small group this year but privileged to celebrate at the Arapahoe house which has until now, never been the gathering spot for a Thanksgiving meal in our family. Nice. I have gratitude for the gifts of family and food shared around a table that has hosted thousands of meals in Aruba, Houston, and now in Seattle. Here we are....

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

Today, Black Friday, is the day retailers hope to make up for lagging sales and launch the official Holiday Season of buy, buy, buy. This is the first Black Friday in recent memory that Laura and I will not be hitting the road (we never start before 9 AM and therefore are not the hard-core shoppers) to check out Target, Northgate mall, Fred Meyer, and a few other choice places with lunch at Taco Time. This holiday weekend she's with classmates traveling through Bosnia and Croatia.

I don't intend to shop today. Maybe I would if Laura were home. Nonetheless I can't help but wonder....if things don't make for happiness, why are all these people out there buying things?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wallowing in Misery

Historically, the day before Thanksgiving is either the most favorite day of the year for me or if not, way up there with the top five. Last year on this day, I blogged about my love for this day. But today is anything but joyful for me. I feel overwhelmed by duties, a messy house, the pressure to cultivate gratitude, by ailing and unhappy parents, the fact I won't see my daughter for the first time on Turkey Day and on it goes. I just wish the holiday was over, that I could close my eyes and sleep through it all, awakening sometime next week. Sure, my life will still be the same, more or less, but I'll have had some time with dreams, restless as they may be, and be lying horizontal instead of pushing through vertically oriented tasks.

Yesterday came the assault of chain saws across the street and a fire truck in front of Mr. Matter's former house. When he died last year, his family sold the house to a couple with young children sometime last spring. We waited for the family to move in but nothing ever happened. We knew this likely meant they were planning to "build up" to get their so called "sweeping sound and mountain views". Not quite; it's worse. With all the commotion going on at the property yesterday we learned that the house is now a "practice palace" for in-training firefighters. The house is a "tear down" we learned so the fledgling firefighters are using ladders to access the roof and chain saws to cut gaping holes in said roof. Good for them I suppose. They need experience.

For me, I witness the slow destruction of a house that has been my front window view for the last eighteen years. I can only imagine the monstrosity (aka new construction) that will come in its place. The bit of blue and mountains we see from our bedroom window will be no more, turned into the brick facade of another family's home.

I wonder if they'll be happy. Do things like this bring happiness? I asked Denny this question today. He just shook his head and said, "I don't think about things like that." I wonder why I do. Questions like this chew at my soul sometimes.

On a day when I should be savoring the sunshine and the opportunity to celebrate a glorious meal tomorrow with my 91 year old parents, my husband and son, I'm ploughing around in the underbrush of sadness. I certainly wish one and all a Happy Thanksgiving. It's the best holiday of them all in my opinion. I'm just not in the mood for it this year. Is there the equivalent of "Bah Humbug" for Turkey Day?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Florence 1970: Florence 2008

The years pass; 38 to be exact. For the city of Florence, steeped in history, a few decades is nothing. Not quite the same for people who change quite a bit in the same span of time. On our recent trip to Florence, I wanted to get a photograph of Laura and me standing where Mom and I stood so many years ago, my only other time in Europe, during the summer of 1970.

Dad took this picture of Mom and me in front of Ghiberti's famous Baptistry Doors from the Florentine Renaissance. It was July 1970, warm and sunny. I was 16 years old and my Mom was the age I am now. And below, on a breezy, cool November day in 2008, I stood with my daughter, age 20 in front of those same doors in Florence. Time passes. The building doesn't change much if at all.
How do we ever know when we'll "be back" to visit again, or if we'll never be back? I don't suppose I gave this much thought way back then but I do now. Maybe some day, Laura will pose with her daughter or son in front of these doors which Michelangelo called, "the gates of Paradise". Or, maybe not. Only time, most mysterious and elusive, will tell.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Changing my URL

Well, I finally figured out how to change the URL for Ahead of the Wave. This transition has been in the (mental) works for ages but I couldn't quite figure out how to make it happen. The "arubagirl" thing just wasn't me for the long haul in blogging. I'm happy that the title of my blog and my URL now match (internal consistency always does wonders for me).

I'm hoping that I don't lose anyone in the transition; that part still worries me a bit but hopefully you'll leave a little message here that you've found me.

I'm running to keep ahead of that pesky wave and feeling some better in the last few days.

I'll likely start posting 'real stuff' soon.

Till then....remember, it's always best to be on the downslope of that wave, moving forward, slicing through the water with precision and grace. Oh well, we can always hope....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another Hiatus

Whether it be prolonged jet lag, the gloomy chill and wet of Seattle in November, the state of uncertainty in so many aspects of my personal and professional life, or some combination I just don't know. I've decided to let go of what's becoming the "push to blog" and to blog "well". Blogging should be fun, something that relieves stress and helps me distinguish important from non-important, something that gives me a sense of satisfaction when I push "publish". I'm not getting that just now. Creative energies are at a low point.

So, dear ones, another hiatus is at hand.

I'll keep reading though.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Arrivederci Firenze

Goodbye Florence. This is our last evening in the city and the bags are just about packed for the long journey home. We will awaken early tomorrow morning to catch a taxi to the airport, a flight to Amsterdam and then on to Seattle. Leaving is turning out to be one of the more difficult things I've had to do in a long while. While I'm totally ready to get back to more familiar surroundings and sleep in my own bed, bidding goodbye to Laura seems tougher by the minute. When she left in early September, I knew that a trip fairly soon was in our future. Now the time looms long as I think about the next five plus months apart. I may have to come back!

The last few days have been busy. Friday we spent in Florence; exploring the area south of the Arno River, near the Pitti Palace and through the Boboli Gardens. In the afternoon, Laura and I scoured the stores for brown boots. There were lots of options; she finally found just the right pair; my treat. All the women are wearing stylish boots over jeans and the Pashmina scarves are everywhere now that the weather has turned cool.

Saturday we took a train to the small, quaint walled city of Lucca west of Florence. We rented bicycles and "rode the wall" which is a popular way to see the city. After a glass or two of wine with lunch, biking felt a bit odd but was great nonetheless. The quiet of lovely Lucca, compared to Florence, was as calming as a yoga class. No vespas! And as pedestrians and bikers, we were treated well. I could spend some quality time in Lucca; highly recommended.

Today, our last day, was a bit frenetic as we tried to figure out how to navigate through a stressful period of time. The anticipation of saying goodbye and making the most of the "last moments" together was a blend of the bitter and the sweet. The day was crystal clear,beautifully accentuating the stucco colors against a brilliant backdrop. Today was about shopping; in the upscale stores (Laura) and through the endless stalls of the San Lorenzo Market (me). We enjoyed an early dinner as the midnight blue of evening descended, the moon and Venus high above. I thought about the "day blind" stars (and moon) over Seattle today as dusk caught us up in her magic.
Goodbye Florence. A wonderful 10 days spent with our youngest. Thanks to all back home who kept up with the pace of life.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

She is the Reason

We may be in a wonderful city with endless sights and potential experiences but that's not really why we are here. This is why.....

It has been so wonderful to spend time with Laura. Although I'm getting deep into culture shock and craving the home front, I still don't want to leave because of this one here.

photo above left is taken in front of the GU campus in Florence
photo on right taken in the Boboli Gardens, Florence

Friday, November 7, 2008

Few Words, Mostly Pictures

Michelangelo's last work
unfinished Pieta
Museo delle'Opera del Duomo

fresh produce for sale

fresco at Santa Croce Cathedral

the Campanile Bell Tower
at the Duomo

the Duomo at Santa Maria
del Fiore

the Leaning Tower
behind the Duomo in Pisa

The photo opportunities are limitless whether inside or outside, sunny blue sky or drenching rain. My brain is on overload, packed with images of great beauty, grace, and monumental scale.

Italy After a Week

I haven't posted in a few days; by the evening, I'm either so tipsy on wine, tired out from all the activities, or spending time with the guide book planning for the next day. It's early in the morning now; you all in the USA are likely sleeping (I hope well). I'm listening to the sound of Vespa scooters buzz by the hotel window. Ubiquitous, noisy, and moving aggressively through main streets and side streets for about 18 hours a day. No surprise to me: this is one very vivid memory I took away from Florence the last time I was here way back in 1970.

We've been in Florence for a week now; it has been wonderful to see Laura and live the magnificence of this old city. The modern, totally overshadowed by history leaves me in awe, as it should. The memories of this very special trip will be with me forever.
The last couple days we've left the city for side trips. Wednesday we joined Rebecca, originally from Denmark, who moved to the area 13 years ago and who now owns and operates her own business, Tuscan Wine Tours. This day long trip started at 8:30 and ended at 6; we joined 3 other couples plus Rebecca for a personally guided tour through gorgeous Tuscan countryside south of Florence. We visited two very different wineries; both producers of the famous Brunello wines of the region and enjoyed an authentic Tuscan lunch with four courses plus bread and wine in a countryside home. The weather was gorgeous (and that says a lot since many of the days have been very rainy) which made for wine tasting possible outside on a porch with views of rolling hills in the distance and fresh pressed olive oil drizzled on crusty bread an absolute slice of paradise.

The first winery was quite small, organic and run by a woman originally from the U.K. and her Italian partner. We enjoyed an overview of the entire wine making process, from the grape vines, how they are maintained (pesticide free), pruned, harvested and mysteriously turned into great tasting Brunello wine; quite the art as well as science. Olive trees ready for picking were everywhere and she served us cold press fresh oil (....olives-on-the-tree-earlier-this-week fresh) bread and sea salt along with generously filled glasses of garnet colored wine.

The second winery, owned and operated by three generations living in the same home was a nice contrast to the first stop. The winery produces considerably more bottles and is more widely known commercially. We not only tasted the Brunellos but tried the grappa as well which reminded me a bit of kerosene (yum). The views of the Tuscan countryside from this locale were breathtaking. Both Denny and I remarked that we had never seen land like this, rolling hills with unique vegetation catching the light at mysteriously beautiful angles.

We made our purchases; two bottles to bring home (one of which is meant to be stored and savored years down the line) and two to drink here in Florence. We shared one of those bottles with Laura last evening in our hotel room. She's learning to enjoy wine; it's a process to detach from the sugary sweet shots and the local favorite Irish pub drink in Florence, the "Irish Car Bomb" (Guiness, Irish whiskey, and something else....ugh) that flourish during the college days of 2008.

Yesterday we made a soggy trip by train east to Pisa. I'll post more about that later. In the drenching rain I bought yet another umbrella from a street vendor. The leaning tower is definitely leaning. The Duomo cathedral and the Baptistry housed in the same square were equally impressive.

Today we'll stay put in Florence since rain is again in the forecast. The weekend should be drier and we're' tentatively planning a trip to Lucca, a walled city northeast of Florence that is highly rated. Each day brings new treasures (and challenges). I'm glad to be here. As our time winds down, I have bittersweet feelings about returning home.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

I may be in Florence but I'm thinking of all of you back home on this historic day. Thank goodness for absentee voting. Otherwise this might happen.......

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rainy Monday

Today was about rain, puddles, and cooler temperatures in Florence. Nonetheless, we had a great day meeting up with Denny's niece Julie, her husband Thierry and their three wonderful sons who drove from their home in France just to spend some time with us in Florence. We haven't seen Julie in ten years so this was a sweet reunion, a chance to reminisce and meet their three boys, Benjamin, Christopher, and Nicholas. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch together, catching up on family news. After Laura headed back to class we spent a few more hours with the Motets, wandering the streets of Florence around the Duomo and the Plaza della Signoria, eating gelatto (of course) and taking in the view of the Arno River near the Ponte Vecchio.

The Duomo was particularly beautiful today, especially when the skies cleared for those few moments. I suppose this imposing wonder is fabulous under any conditions. The inside of the dome, complete with frescoes made me want to lie down on the ground to take it all in. The photograph barely does justice to the magnificent colors.

Tomorrow is another day. Election Day. We'll be touring the Uffizi Gallery, eating more gelatto, and bargaining with vendors selling Pashmina scarves. We won't know the results of the election until sometime on Wednesday given the 9 hour time difference.

Good night from Florence.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Presidential Election: Italian Predictions

I saw this sign posted in the window of a store selling, among other things, lotto tickets. It says, "Si dave prognositcare il candidato che vincera te Elezione Pesidenziali d'America....."

Obama Barack 1,15

McCain John 5,50

I'm assuming this means that one can place a bet on the election. If the Democratic ticket wins the return on the bet is only 15 percent. If the Republican ticket wins, the return is 550 percent. Sure looks like those Florentines bent on predicting the outcome of our election are banking on Obama becoming our next president.

We'll just have to see. On Election Day we'll be touring the Uffizi Gallery looking at Botticelli paintings and thinking of things non-political. But, you can bet we'll be very interested in learning the outcome come Wednesday morning in Florence.

Intensity Florentine Style

Oh my, but this is a gorgeous OLD CITY, breathing history at every turn.
Medici Palace, ceiling fresco

This is our second full day in Florence. Mid afternoon finds us weary and overwhelmed, in a good way, with all that we've seen today. Our feet and legs feel like lead weights; no blisters just road weary from walking miles and miles on uneven cobblestone. After whirlwind tours of the Medici Palace, the Medici Chapel and the Accademia, a fabulous lunch (followed by gelatto of course) and more walking we gave in to the overload and retreated to the hotel for a rest. We've got plans for tonight; another twenty minute walk back to a small church where there's a "gospel concert" which sounds interesting.
I need to process all the beauty I've seen today from the amazing frescoes in the chapel at the Medici Palace, to the sculptures of Michelangelo at the Medici Chapel and the Galleria dell Accademia. Wonders, all. No photography was allowed except in certain parts of the Medici Palace so much of today is archived in the "mind's eye". Of course there are always the souvenir books and postcards everwhere.
The lemon trees were so tempting in this garden at the Medici Palace but I resisted picking any of the fruit.

Santa Croce Church to the left is the burial place of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Gallileo. We only took in the exterior today but will return for the frescoes and other wonders inside on another day. Such is the plan for the Church of San Marco as well. So many churches, so little time. But truly, they are all unique treasures and we intend to explore as many as possible.
Till tomorrow.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Saturday in Firenze

Somehow when you wake up at 9:30 AM after a really good night's sleep and the skies in Florence are sunny, jet lag resulting from crossing eight times zones tends to evaporate. Delighted with the rush of energy generated by authentic Italian cappuccino, the gorgeous, cool day and and our enthusiastic daughter, we set out to see the sights. One of the best places for fabulous views of the old city are from this spot, the Piazzale Michelangelo on the south side of the Arno River. A hilltop venue easily accessable by bus allowed us to save our energy for the slow walk (downhill) through old neighborhoods in the Oltrarno area of town, then across the Ponte Vecchio bridge into the famous Piazza della Signora and further on to the Piazza del Duomo. The terra cotta dome of the Cathedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Campanile belltower, and the Baptistry are so breathtaking whether up close or from a distance as in this photograph.

Today was not about museums but more about walking about, taking in the flavor of the city on foot, the outdoor artwork, the al fresco dining at lunch, and the gelatto. We took lots of photographs and enjoyed plenty of narration on the history of various sights along the way from D who has read The Agony and the Ecstasy at least a dozen times and was well prepared by tour books. Nice.

I'm determined to sample a new flavor of gelatto every day that I'm here; yesterday was caramel, today coffee with ribbons of chocolate. The choices are endless.

We've got big plans for tomorrow; on to the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David and a tour of the Medici Palace. More food, more wine, more gelatto and a concert in the evening. It's all good.

Ciao for now.