Writer's Block

Along with my terrible cold, seems to have come a nasty case of Writer's Block as well. As I am a first time sufferer, I don't really know how to combat it, so I'm just going to post a few pictures. Let's hope it leaves soon.

Inside the Duomo

Sunset on the Arno

Random building in Scotland

Hope to be back, on the mend, and writing again soon. Love to you all...



Here's a list of boss things in my life:
- Adding "boss" to my vocabulary after Dad's been telling me that I should since I first began speaking.
- Today's picture that I took of Bethie on the train to Pisa.
- Midterms being over tomorrow
- Moving on
- This lovely Good Earth Vanilla Chai tea that I'm drinking (with a splash of Bailey's)
- Beth
- Getting packages in the mail
- Having people in different countries that I can call if I want to travel in said country

The past couple of days have just been wonderful. They haven't been perfect by any means, but with all of their imperfections included, I've been incandescently happy. When Beth had today's picture as her profile picture on Facebook, a couple people commented and said she looked emo or angry. While I can see that, this picture exemplifies my mood right now. To me, she just looks boss.
I know I keep saying it, but it's been my mantra lately. To me, it expresses a certain level of detachment without being completely unaffected. I can enjoy the moment, enjoy the people I'm talking to, but afterwards, I just keep cruisin' with my fake Ray Bans on, looking out of the window as I approach my next life experience.
Traveling has definitely given me a new life perspective. Sometimes you arrive at your destination and it's not what you expected it to be. Maybe it's not as quaint, or not as delightfully chaotic as you imagined. Perhaps you arrive unsure of where to go next, where to stay the night. What if, upon arrival, you discover you can't return home as expected - you've run out of money, the flight was canceled, or the city whispers a invitation to stay for a while. Improvisational skills are a must in travel, and in life as well. Planning only takes us so far. At some point I think we need to rely on that barely perceptible rhythm/current of life. If we can manage to have enough faith to let it take us where it wishes, we've got an interesting journey ahead. And hey, not knowing what happens next and being okay with the uncertainty, well, that feeling's pretty boss.

Sunny Road

Wrote you this
I hope you got it safe
It's been so long
I don't know what to say
I've travelled 'round
Through deserts on my horse
But jokes aside
I wanna come back home
You know that night
I said i had to go
You said you'd meet me
On the sunny road

It's time, meet me on the sunny road
it's time, meet me on the sunny road

I never married
Never had those kids
I loved too many
Now heaven's closed its gates.
I know I'm bad
To jump on you like this
Some things don't change
My middle name's still 'Risk'
I know that night
So long long time ago
Will you still meet me
On the sunny road

It's time, meet me on the sunny road
It's time, meet me on the sunny road

Well, this is it
I'm running out of space
Here is my address
And number just in case.
This time as one
We'll find which way to go
Now come and meet me
On the sunny road


Comfort Spirit Food

This is a picture from a church in Inverness, Scotland. While Bethie and I didn't do anything remarkably touristy while we were there we did feel good about taking pictures at this place randomly. We're so productive!
At good ol' UVa whenever I'm feeling down I always go to the Chapel. It's so quiet, and I find the quiet transfers mentally while I'm sitting there as well. Upon coming to Florence I realized I'd miss the Chapel and it's calming effect during my chaotic, confused, sad days. I overlooked the fact that I can visit any number of Chapel-like churches in Florence when I'm having a less-than-wonderful day. I put my revelation into action today.
I started off studying in my favorite caffe, the place where I walk into and the exchange goes something like this.
"Ciao Rachel, come stai?"
"Tutto bene, grazie, e tu?"
"Bene. Cosa vuoi oggi?"
"Lo sai, Igor."
"Si, si, un cappuccino."
English translation:
"Hey Rachel, how are you?"
"Great, thanks, and you?"
"Good. What do you want today?"
"You know what I want, Igor."
"Yup, a cappuccino."
It's pretty comforting to be able to walk in, Western saloon style, be able to say, "the usual," and not have them look at me quizzically.
After reading for a while I decided to go to the Uffizi where I encountered my new favorite statue man. "Statue man" refers to a person who stands outside the Uffizi and pretends to be a statue so that he might walk a way a few Euros richer at the end of the day - it works. They usually don't move until they hear the sweet jingle of tossed change, but this man, painted gold and holding a golden rose, blows me a kiss every time I walk by. Today, I returned the favor, and he caught it with a smile on his already shining face.
The rest of the day continued with Chapel-like experiences. I stopped inside Santa Marie del Fiore, lit a candle for Nana, then a couple of other churches whose names I don't know - I'll find out. I also finally gave money to the gypsy man who plays guitar with his dog sitting faithfully next to him, how could I resist?
Finally, I visited Romeo, my lovely lion that sits next to Palazzo Vecchio, and held hands with him for a bit. Also made friends with a couple of horses in the square much to their drivers dismay. All and all, I think I had a pretty quiet, lovely day. I like that I've found the near equivalents to the UVa Chapel. Something about the glass inside a cathedral, the space inside, the message, the quiet...all of it equals a good dose of the gentle realization that everything will be fine despite appearances, which is good medicine for a rough couple of days.

Love to you all.



Obviously I can't lay claim to this picture - this is another one of Beth's. I like seeing how I look to other people, it's always handy to have a different perspective. Sometimes an outsider's view is helpful, refreshing, and comforting. Sometimes others have the ability to know us better than we know ourselves, while other times only we can know our actions, our feelings, our hopes.
Not everything is in black and white. Do you know what I'm looking at and why? What led me to that place? What did I do to get there? The answers are probably as blurred as the background - you can make them out, but they aren't completely clear. Even though life is subjective - we feel, we love, we lose...I wish we had more perspective sometimes. I wish we could photograph points in our lives, stand back, evaluate them, and see them for what they really are. I think that if we could do that, our outlook on life experiences might be more accurate, calculated, and serene.
Any number of things could have been running through my head at that moment, I honestly don't remember what I was thinking exactly. I asked Beth the other day what her facial expression would be if she could choose one that exemplified her personality. When she asked me the same question, I said I'd have a loving look. We've all hurt people, but since when have pain and love been strangers? I love people, and since not enough people get to experience that in life I'm comfortable with providing and radiating that love- that's my perspective.


Picture of the Day

This is a picture I took on a rainy day near Palazzo Strozzi; the puddle reflects a Louis Vuitton window. I really like the picture for its colors - the reds and greens amongst the grayish brown stone, it's quite nice.
For some reason I've been pretty blank lately. I suppose I'm still working off massive amounts of sleep deprivation, but some of the best writers probably slept rarely while they were working. What's wrong with me?
I suppose I'm worried. What more can I tell you? Well, I'll answer that - I still have to inform you about Scotland, and my trip there, which was pretty illuminating as I mentioned before. I'll do that when the pictures correspond to the subject matter, which they will.
I wanted to start of Picture of the Day week with this one though because it's pretty representative of life in general, or at least I think so. We go about our monotonous routines, then there are riots of color at random times, random places in our lives. I suppose I'm living in that puddle right now - swimming in it's vivacity, randomness, beauty, and impermanence.
This is also encouraging for those who don't feel as though their lives are what they want them to be. If you feel as though you're stuck on those cold, hard, drab stones, you do have that lovely puddle to fall into, and I promise it's coming.

Love from Italia


Back from Scozia

After a long hiatus, I have returned. I've decided a couple of things.

1. I must have themes/requests in order to continue posting regularly.
2. This week my theme will be pictures. I'll post one picture every day, and discuss. This achieves two goals - I will post regularly, and I will fulfill requests for more pictures.

Tomorrow I'll write a substantial post; I mainly wanted to let people know that I'm alive and quite well.

P.S. Haggis is delicious.
P.P.S Please keep reading despite the overwhelming feelings that this is a bad relationship, you usually have commitment issues and you don't know why you thought this time would be different. I can change I really can!

Just think about it.



I'm in Scotland and I only have a limited amount of time until my internet is up at my hostel. I think I really only have time for random thoughts, things I can blog about later - just think of it as an appetizer, an antipasti, whatever.

1. I had lunch at McDonald's yesterday in the train station and it made me incandescently happy. God Bless America.
2. We get to Scotland last night and the only food we can find, all other places were closed, was Italian food. Amo l'Italia.
3. It's interesting waking up in the same room with people you don't know. Interesting having the first encounter be while you're rubbing your eyes and your hair's all mussed from sleeping.
4. I'm thoroughly amused by my life right now.
5. I apologize if my spelling isn't up to par, thank goodness for Macs with spellcheck.
6. I had a Guiness last night and it wasn't all I had hoped it to be.
9 minutes...
7. This may be the most horrible blog post I've ever written but I'm okay with it. That being said, I should probably stop while I'm ahead. I really miss you all, I just wanted to let you know that I'm alive and well, and will hopefully have my favorite variety of Salt & Vinegar chips in my belly quite soon. Love you!


As Requested

Jeff emailed me this morning saying, forgivably, that poetry isn't his cup of tea and that he'd like to know more about local color. I realize while Poetry Week was a thumpin' good time for me, it might not have been for others, and I apologize. This is why my email is on my blog! Email me/comment if you'd like to know something specific, like to see a picture of something, have suggestions, etc. Ideally, I'm not writing on this blog just for a sense of accomplishment, but also to entertain - I'd like to succeed at it.

Jeff's email certainly got me thinking this morning, so I began journaling about it, and this is more or less what I came up with.

There are two, relatively easily, recognizable spheres of being in Florence : The Tourist World and The Italian World.
The Tourist World, strangely enough, doesn't just contain tourists, but also the Italians who want to profit from them being here. If that sounds negative it's mostly because it is. I also use the word "Italians" loosely since there are often those not from Italy who would like you to believe they are. Sadly, they often get away with it since Americans can't recognize their accents. Basically, if you're a girl these characters simply want to get you into bed immediately, and as fast as possible, and if you're a boy, they try to cheat you. Needless to say, they're usually more interested in the former. I know this sounds harsh, but once you realize that most of the "nice Italians" you've been talking to are neither nice OR Italian, you begin to expect the worst from the people that frequent touristy places. It is, however, something that I have to deal with as an American girl here. Sidenote: I refuse to wear pajamas and mosquito repellent to deter the undesirables, but thanks anyway for your astute advice Ale.

The Italian World isn't vastly different from The Tourist World in terms of activity, though harder to transition into when starting in The Tourist World. I'm not sure if I've really met any nice Italians that I've been able to see on a regular basis yet. There are the ones I see every day when I get coffee and I've met college students, friends of Vassi's, but I haven't really found any I would consider friends, unfortunately. I'm working on it.

The main differences between the two worlds - the Italian World inhabitant still goes out clubbing, to bars, etc. - lie in location and visibility.
Location - The clubs are farther away from the center, I would say, and the bars in which I've found the best Italian to American ratios are often small, restaurant-like places where you can get a nice glass of wine. There are bigger bars that aren't seen as necessarily "touristy" are still overrun with Americans, but I have a feeling that it's because there are a ridiculous amount of us here.
Visibility - This is where it gets confusing. A lot of my experience here, so far, has been influenced by the fact that I'm fundamentally different from the other half of the population - I have hips and other physical traits that distinguish me from a crowd. As I've told you before, when I walk down the street I get a plethora of colorful comments, which I don't get when I'm in an Italian club, or in a particularly Italian place. I think I'm still, despite my best efforts, recognizable as American.
This is a contradiction. When I'm in touristy places with probably 50 other American girls, the men make me feel like I stand out from the crowd. They call at me, make eyes at me that look like they're trying to melt off my clothes with their eyes - I'm glad that skill hasn't yet been perfected in Italy. However, when I'm in a largely Italian place, standing out from the crowd, the only American girl in the place (besides my Bethie), I feel less visible. Strange.
Another strange observation is this: I've felt more culture shock from my northern brothers and sisters than from the Italians. I have no problem with non-existent personal space, I'm affectionate. I have no problem with not drinking coffee after lunch time, I'll refrain. But when northern boys say candid, vulgar things about girls, or ask me forward questions about sex, this is often the response, "we don't say that in the South." It's comforting to have another southern belle here with me, or else I would feel adrift.
I find it increasingly more interesting how being around another culture makes you realize things about your own. I am, inevitably, making generalizations that aren't always true and I apologize if I've offended anyone. I also apologize if this isn't the objective view of local color that was desired, but this is after all, the world according to me and these are the only pair of eyes I have.
I think maybe my next themed week should be Local Week! where I make it my goal to meet a different local every day. Let me know if you think that would be interesting, and indeed, safe.



Abandonment and Random Thoughts

I'm not sure what poem I should write about today, hence my various confused faces, so I think I'm going to accept defeat and abandon the 7th part of Poetry Week. I'm lost without my Sixteenth Century Poetry Anthology. I might end up putting a poem in this post, though, who knows.

Random Thoughts

1. I finally named my camera, and his name is Astrophil. This may seem strange, but it comes from a sonnet sequence by Sir Philip Sidney titled Astrophil and Stella. The sonnet sequence is loosely autobiographical since Sidney was in love with a married woman named Penelope. He renames her Stella in the sonnet sequence and calls himself Astrophil - one, because his name is Philip, and two, because Stella means "star" and Astrophil translates to "star lover." Thus, my camera is henceforth to be known as Astrophil, or Phil for short. It just popped into my head and while I tried to think of other possible names, possibly Italian, my little Astrophil looked up at me and seemed to be saying, "but I already have a name," so I let him keep it.

2. Journals are curious things. They have their own personalities, just like people. Walking through a bookstore I see with various types of journals the relationships I could have with them. One with pressed flowers inside a gauzy cover seems to say to me, "I didn't want to know that Rachel, please refrain from such candid thoughts." Another one with ornate, oriental designs thinks, this is only your first trip to Europe? You're not very well-traveled, are you? Then I spy my thin moleskin journals with graph paper inside. I want to tell them things, even thoughts I'm not particularly proud of. I know they won't judge; they'll listen. I walk out with them and I hear them gossiping in their three-pack, "I don't think she'll judge us for our perforated pages in the back, our lack of a ribbon to mark her place..."

3. Today's theme seems to be all about personification.

4. I actually do have a poem I've been meaning to share though I'm not sure I'll have much to say about it other than the fact that I think it's beautiful. Here it is, Thomas Wyatt's They Flee From Me That Sometime Did Me Seek.

They Flee From Me That Sometime Did Me Seek

They flee from me that sometime did me seek,
With naked foot stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek
That are now wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themselves in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune, it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small,
Therewithal sweetly did me kiss,
And softly said, "Dear heart, how like you this?"

It was no dream, I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness,
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served,
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

Yes, Wyatt was jilted. What I really like about this poem is the second stanza. He describes the event with such tenderness, and seems unafraid to recall the memory with said tenderness. In the third stanza Wyatt remembers himself, and ends the poem with the bitterness of a spurned lover, but in the second stanza he lets himself gets carried away in the sweetness of his memory, or was it a dream? No, a memory.
I wish we could deal with life's disappointments the way Wyatt does in the second stanza. I wish we were unafraid to admit, sometimes, that things we can no longer have were beautiful when we did possess them. I know it's easier to convince ourselves that we no longer want the things that have left us, in our opinion, prematurely, but wouldn't it be nicer to have a life full of sweet memories rather than mediocre ones purely for the purpose of saving face?
I can, with this attitude, look back with fondness on a night spent under the stars, midwestern mountains framing the horizon, the grass giving green highlights to my hair. I can recall an anniversary dinner after which my face hurt from smiling and my hand was perpetually warm from being inside someone else's. I can choose from memories involving a moonlit convertible ride, a hill of prodigious size with a magnificent view, a dinner spread on the floor meticulously prepared, and walks to the gardens at UVa which were wonderfully ambiguous in their meaning. Why would I look upon any of these things with distaste? I look forward to more memories like these, and Wyatt's, that age us in their little life-lessons.


Part VI

Today I stray from the theme a bit. I'm not sure that I'll be able to be that articulate, and this might be a short post. I saw the David today, about two hours ago, and he became one of my favorite poems.
Poetry is so moving to me because it draws attention to parts of life we might not usually observe, or gives words to an emotion we didn't even notice we felt. More specifically, the reason I love Renaissance poetry as much as I do is because I find it similar to reading in another language. The vocabulary is often strange to modern ears, and at the end of a poem I find that I get the general idea of the poem even if still haven't understood every word. I think that's what I truly love about poetry - the words themselves, while not extremely important as individuals, can convey a message, a feeling that goes beyond pen on paper.

Il David

Today, while Beth and I were gazing unabashedly at Michelangelo's gargantuan creation, I got that message that goes beyond words. I saw the poetry in his furrowed brow, his pupils shaped vaguely like hearts. Beth and I discussed his stance - was he ready to shift is weight to the other leg, or was he completely stationary? Was the symbolism of his over-sized right hand purely physical or was Michelangelo trying to allude to the hand of God?
Never have I been so moved by a piece of art, though I typically stray from the cliche masterpieces - I suppose they're widely acclaimed for a reason.

So, today's poem doesn't contain words. Today's poem is in Michelangelo's chisel and a block of marble. It's in the artist's hands, moving across dusty surfaces and harsh corners. With every strike of the chisel, large and minute, is where today's poem lies. It's in that block of marble's veins, muscles, locks of hair. Standing in awe, I read it like I read my favorite poems. I felt the tension in his brow, the resolve in his stance, the moment before he clenches his fingers, the shallow breath in his chest, felt his shoulders' attempt to relax.

It's poetic, one man's ability to carve something as complex as human emotion out of a block of cold, white stone. I didn't see marble today. I saw vulnerability, perfection, realism, fluidity...and it became one of my favorite works of poetry as my eyes wandered over those lines in his back, forearms, and legs.
I apologize for the tediousness of this post, but I'm in love.


Part V

First, I apologize for not posting a poem yesterday, but who needs 7 poems anyway? Well, actually, since 7 is an auspicious number, I'll post two more poems, not including this one.

Today's poem is very much a multi-faceted dedication. Last night I went to meet Laura and Fabrizio, and had dinner in their apartment. Laura is my Papa's friend's daughter, and now a wonderful friend. Fabrizio's favorite poet, since of course we discussed poetry, is Giacomo Leopardi and this is his poem L'Infinito - I'm going to write it down in Italian and then copy the translation after, which I think/hope is faithful.


Sempre caro mi fu quest'ermo colle,
e questa siepe, che da tanta parte
dell'ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.

Ma, sedendo e mirando, interminati
spazi di la' da quella, e sovrumani
silenzi, e profondissima quiete
io nel pensier mi fingo; ove per poco
il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello
infinito silenzio a questa voce

vo comparando: e mi sovvien l'eterno,
e le morte stagioni, e la presente

e viva, e il suon di lei. Cosi' tra questa
immensita' s'annega il pensier mio;
e il naugragar m'e' dolce in questo mare.

The Infinite

It was always dear to me, this solitary hill,
and this hedgegrow here, that closes out my view,

from so much of the ultimate horizon.
But sitting here, and watching here, in thought,
I create interminable spaces,
greater than human silences, and deepest
quiet, where the heart barely fails to terrify.
When I hear the wind, blowing among these leaves,
I go on to compare that infinite silence
with this voice, and I remember the eternal
and the dead seasons, and the living present,
and its sound, so that in this immensity

my thoughts are drowned, and shipwreck seems sweet
to me in this sea.

What a beautiful poem. I copied the Italian from the book that Fabrizio and Laura lent to me along with a couple of other books of poetry. Though this poem is about infinity, for some reason it causes me to think also about life's minuscule and delightful details. Today for instance, going shopping in the San Lorenzo market with Laura and Beth was my infinity. I feel a happiness here that is quiet like a firework that has yet to be lit. One of these days something is going to light the fuse, I'm going to fly above the Duomo, stretch my arms as wide as I can, and fizzle, sparkle, burn with delight.

This poem articulates, in a way that I don't think I can, the way I feel here. Drowning, for example, isn't usually a desirable experience, nor is being shipwrecked. Just imagining being shipwrecked here, in my infinity, is divine.
It's also versatile, which is where my multi-faceted dedication comes into play. It can be a love poem, especially with the ending lines in another translation I didn't think was as accurate.

Eternity breaks through time, past
and present intermingle in her image.
In the inner shadows I lose
myself, drowning in the
sea-depths of timeless love.

It can be a poem about the joy of living, a place that makes you feel infinity, the living present and it's sound. It can be about living inside yourself, being alone with the infinity of consciousness (which makes me miss my Father and Uncle Grant..you deep and pensive men, you). There are, appropriately, an infinite amount of possibilities for the relevance of this poem. I'll leave you in contemplation while I go enjoy my infinite incandescent happiness.

I love you all to an infinite degree.


Part IV

Lately I've been thinking pretty analytically, which has led me to evaluating the cost benefit ratio of being here in Italy. I know what you're thinking...I'm in Italy. There are, however, things I'm giving up to be here. Inevitably I come to the conclusion that four months in Florence and the finer things that come with this lifestyle far outweigh the things I'm missing. Let's list them though, shall we?

(In no particular order)
1. The mountains outside my house
3. Driers
4. DVD player + comforter + pajamas
5. Pretzels, oatmeal, chai tea, salt & vinegar chips
6. Wearing sweatpants to get coffee after 7 pm (Italians don't drink coffee after lunchtime...why?!)

The thing I miss the most, though, are the people that make home, home. In the interest of this feeling, today's poem will be Sir Walter Ralegh's "The Advice."

The Advice

Many desire, but few or none deserve

To win the fort of thy most constant will;
Therefore take heed: let fancy never swerve
but unto him that will defend thee still.
For this be sur, the fort of game once won
ell the rest, thy happy days are done.

Many desire, but few non deserve
To pluck the flowers and let the leaves to fall;
Therefore take heed; let fancy neve
r swerve
But unto him that will take leaves and all.
For this be sure, the flower once plucked away
Farewell the rest, thy happy days decay.

Many desire, but few or none deserve
To cut the corn not subject to the sickle;
Therefore take heed let fancy never swerve,
But constant stand, for mowers minds are fickle;
For this be sure, the crop once being obtain'd
Farewell the rest, the soil will be disdained.

This poem is a comfort. Amidst all of the seduction poetry in the Renaissance, the jilted lovers, Ralegh breaks the trend.
Before I flew across the Atlantic many of my friends and family gave me advice that rings similar to this poem - don't be too open, people will take advantage. Of course, my open nature is famous among those who know me, and 7000 km away (I think), I feel at home when I read Ralegh's poem. I can't go out to lunch with Dad inbetween Italian and Renaissance Literature, I can't see my mother after her class, can't see my sister when she comes home for a weekend, can't see people from home that have made me who I am, so I've decided to find things here that are substitutes for the familiar. I've decided to find things that I'm fond of, things that "get me."
That being said, I've searched far and wide, and I've found a place that makes me happy in Florence, a place that will make me feel watched over and protected. This place is home to my new friend Romeo. He's a handsome one, strong, quirky, and for some reason makes me feel calm - he's the stone lion outside of Palazzo Vecchio. I happened upon him yesterday after my visit to the Uffizi (which I will talk about later), started photographing him for my photography project, and I really liked his personality. Inanimate objects can never really disappoint. He'll be my anchor here, the place I go visit when I'm feeling lost, when I need a reminder that love, advice, thoughts, and home can span an indefinite distance.

All my loving I will send to you


Part III

Men are funny.
Today we explore this statement with one of my favorite Latin poets of antiquity, Catullus.


Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us appraise all the rumors of
rather nosy old men to a penny!
Suns can fall and return:
when the brief light falls once for us,
one perpetual
night must be slept.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
then anothe
r thousand, then a second hundred,
then a thousand score more, then a hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will thro
w the number to chaos, lest we know,
or rather lest anyone bad be able to cast envy
when he knows how many kisses we have shared.

That's not really my favorite translation, I even tweaked it a bit, but there you have it. Catullus' famous poem, labeled as his 5th in a series. I really like this poem because it at once fits, and doesn't fit a common theme in poetry - the carpe diem seduction poem. Usually (and another one of these might make it into Poetry Week), these poems involve men who haven't yet obtained their loves, and because of that fact, proceed to use this generic argument:
We're only young once, so let's make love.
This poem fits this type of argument when Catullus courteously reminds his lover, "when the brief night (life) falls once for us (death), one perpetual night must be slept (again, death)." However, he seems to lose control when contemplating the idea of kissing, or maybe making love with her. This poem doesn't have the calculated approach that the others do. Catullus begins to charm his love, stumbles in his excitement, and cannot be calculated.
For some reason Catullus doesn't seem as concerned with the act of sex as the others, though their language may be more ornate, their syntax more deliberate. He speaks in earnest.
Men are funny.
I've said to various male friends, "In Florence, all Italians want to do is sleep with American women." And usually they reply, "Yes, all men want that, that's not only unique to Italians." I can't argue. I enjoy these types of poems because while "times have changed," at least some things remain constant.
And we still love them for it.


A Favorite Picture

Here's one of my favorite pictures I've taken so far. Looking forward to hearing back from you!

(That's for you Daniel, since you asked for more pictures. I promise I'll be better about it.)

Part II

It's another rainy day in Firenze and I'm sitting here, cup of Ramen in hand, wondering which of my favorite poems best reflects my mood today. I might have to have a theme like this every week. I've come to discover that poems, paintings, passages of literature are very insightful when we we find one that speaks to us, and observe how we respond to it.

Before jumping into the next poem there are a few side notes:
1. Since Janis likes the caviar idea so much I will share with you another snack that isn't very creative, but it still extremely delicious: fresh mozzarella, a little olive oil, and some salt sprinkled over top.
2. Since I can buy alcohol in Italy, I would like to remind my readers that a little dab of Bailey's in a good cup of tea pushes it right over the edge into a semi-religious experience every time I have it.
3. Everyone should invest in an Enya CD - Paint the Sky with Stars is a good one to start. Also, Gregorian Chants are pretty great to listen to, not kidding.

Now for the poem. I'm not sure who I should choose today. The poets will definitely be Renaissance heavy, which you can blame on the classes I've taken so far at UVa. However, since my photography professor (I'm just going to start referring to him as Vassi, you'll remember) told me to take pictures of things I would normally right down, I think I'm going to choose two poems that are somewhat snapshots, and are not, strangely enough, from the Renaissance. These two untitled poems are by Sappho, a female, Greek poet from the Isle of Lesbos that lived around 600 B.C.

Tonight I've watched
the moon and then
the Pleiades
go down.

The night is now

half-gone; youth
goes; I am

in bed alone.

I remember when I first read that poem in Comparative Literature, my first semester in college. It's not particularly complex, none of her poems really are. I'm not sure what this poem says to you, but I can really feel her sadness. It's not an overwhelming, crippling sadness, but a calm sadness she seems to put on every day like an article of clothing. She seems to be simultaneously describing the scene in which she finds herself to her reader, while also realizing herself that "the night is now half-gone." Every time I read this poem I feel the weight of this realization, feel the slump of her shoulders, the looming task of attempting to sleep. I think the main question is what she means by "youth." The answer to that question, though, depends on who you are. Does "youth" literally signify Sappho's youth and her realization that she is aging? Or has something just occurred that has sobered her youthful naivety? Is youth a specific person? I'll leave that up to you to decide.

The next poem, if you can call it that, is one I find very powerful, and also very intriguing. Sappho simply says,

And this I feel myself.

One must keep in mind that many of Sappho's poems have been lost through the vast amount of time they've been in existence, and most that we have are still only parts of the original. I'm not sure what I'd like to think about this line. Would I rather think of it as part of a larger poem, half of a line that tells us what exactly she's feeling, where she is, and why? I think I'd much rather picture Sappho feeling something that should couldn't quite articulate, sitting down, struggling to put something on the page, but only being able to write, "And this I feel myself." These five words are powerful because anyone can relate to them, whether the exact feeling is anger, confusion, betrayal, sadness, longing, love...anything.
I feel a connection to her here, through these 5 words, a literary photograph if you will, which makes me hopeful that words really can act as bridges between people, no matter how impossible the distance.

Trying to bridge the gap and sending my love...

An addition

Because I couldn't find the words last night...

I hope my future someone and I are like those last lines in Billy Collins' poem - together in sentences, but not immediately recognizable as poetry until placed side by side.

More poetry to come...


Poetry Week! Part I

I've decided that this week will be dedicated to my constant companions back at UVa - my favorite poems. I'm pretty sure I can showcase a new author every day, if not, what kind of English major am I? Answer: I'm not an English major since I haven't declared yet, but I will try my best to pretend. In the interest of English language appreciation, today's poem is Billy Collins' "Thesaurus."


It could be the name of a prehistoric beast
that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some love in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.

It means treasury, but it is just a place
where words congregate with their relatives,
a big park where hundreds of family reunions
are always being held,
house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs,
all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos;

hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy
all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes,

inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile

standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.

Here father is next to sire and brother close
to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning.

And every group has its odd cousin, the one

who traveled the farthest to be here;
astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven
syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool.
Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.

I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.

I rarely open it, because I know there is no

such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous

around people who always assemble with their own kind,
forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors

while others huddle alone in the dark streets.

I would rather see words out on their own, away

from their families and the warehouse of Roget

wandering the world where they sometimes fall

in love with a completely different word.

Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever

next to each other on the same line inside a poem,

a small chapel where weddings like these,

between perfect strangers, can take place.

I've always loved that poem, largely because I'm a big fan of personification. Those who know me might describe me as empathetic; I therefore enjoy finding emotion in unexpected places. Words, when strung together like a favorite grandmother's pearl necklace, popcorn on a Christmas tree, can hold an immense amount of meaning. Rarely, though, do they hold meaning by themselves. Light, hand, smile, eyelashes, search, breath...those words mean nothing by themselves, but what if I told you I could use them to describe Beth sitting next to me? I like how Billy Collins forces you to imagine what woolly, static, hairy, and abode would look like at their family reunions. This causes me to imagine what words like comfy, delightful, harried, vibrant, complacent, and sumptuous would look like if they ever knocked on our doors.

I wonder what word I personify.


Random Thoughts

In no particular order...

I apologize profusely for not writing more often, and in advance if I ever spell anything wrong since I'm living, eating, breathing, speaking, and writing Italian. Every time I start to blog I feel like a broken record. Everyone knows I'm in Florence. Let's move on.

I need to paint my nails.

I would like to read Jane Austen's Persuasion and finish A Room With a View during the course of my stay, but I'm really not sure if that's possible.

I'm having really vivid memories of my living room and how comfortable my couch is. It's not necessarily making me sad but I think I might go into my living room here and pretend I'm back in Wolftown at some point.

I love Beth.

I really enjoy the words, duplicitous, superfluous, snafu, idiosyncrasy, and more delectable (oh! that's another) English words. Despite my love for Italian, English really is a wonderful language.

I really enjoy adding "bears" on the end of adjectives as some of you already know. "Are you happy bears?" is much more fun than just asking "Are you happy?" During the course of my stay here the phrases "unsanitary bears," "deceitful bears," and "contented bears," are not uncommon bears to hear. We're silly bears.

I love bears.

Also, why wasn't I born in the 17th or 18th Century? I feel like I would have enjoyed myself much more, despite not being able to vote, own property, go to school, have a career, or divorce my husband if I caught him cheating on me. Okay, nevermind, I feel grateful to be alive in this time period. But can't I just visit?

Perhaps booking tickets for Scotland today and listening to Enya is a lethal combination but I think this is what I'd do if I found myself in 17th or 18th Century Scottish Highlands...

I'd find a horse, start riding, and let the Scottish wind blow through my abnormally long hair (there aren't any hairdressers in 17th or 18th Century Scotland). I'd get caught in a rainstorm, a particularly loud one - a torrential downpour - and twirl around, unafraid of getting struck by the lightening. After said rainstorm, I'd get back on my horse and keep riding to our unknown destination.

Finally, I (let's switch to present tense instead of conditional) spot a castle on the horizon - a beautiful stone building on the water, set against the rolling green, mountainous Scottish hills. I ride across the bridge and come to a stop before the intimidating iron doors. I hear music inside. Wet from the storm, tired from riding, but still curious, I peak inside a stained glass window on the side of the cliff. Inside the room's golden glow are people dancing. There's a beautiful blur of plaid tartan prints.