Thursday, February 05, 2009

A fluffy read, Frances Mayes' "Bella Tuscany", still is a poetic ode to my Italy, where I've traveled three times yet ever craving another trip, a long residence, a second home... I share her reflections:

"[Arriving in Venice]: I am knocked silent. The beauty does not just pass before your eyes. It ravishes. I begin to feel the elation a traveler experiences when in the presence of a place supremely itself."

"Growing up in a small town, I felt the tight bit about my mouth. I couldn't wait to leave. The pull of cities was strong. I remember, however, a slight pull, too, toward life far in the country... What rings you out and, truly, what rinses you with happiness? What comes from my own labor and creativity, regardless of what anyone else thinks of it, stays close to the natural joy we all were born with and carry always. Mystic, Georgia, was not for me. I would have been hell on wheels by thirty. Oddly, oddly, I probably could live a happy, sensuous life there now."

"Life would be different if you grew up bouncing your ball against the wall of the Orvieto cathedral... In Italy, it would be curious not to be intimate with art. You grow up here surrounded by beauty, thinking beauty is natural. Art always has been outside, something I appreciated, loved, sought, but something not exactly natural. American towns often are void of art and are often actively ugly. In schools, art is usually a luxury which falls with no thud when the budget ax swings. Art, music, poetry - natural pleasures we were born to love - are expendables, fancy extras, so very non-binary. The unnaturalness comes, too, from the hushed atmosphere of museums, where most of us experience art. In Italy, so much art is in churches... Art and the mass come not from on high, but with a familial attitude."

"If you settle in, even for two weeks, live in a house not a hotel, and you buy figs and soap a the local places, sit in cafes and restaurants, go to a local concert or church service, you cannot help but open to the resonance of a place and the deeper you go, the stranger the people become because they're like you and they're not...
It can be dangerous to travel. A strong reflecting light is cast back on 'real life', sometimes a disquieting experience. Sometimes you go to the far interior and who knows what you might find there? ... But the passionate traveler looks for something... Something must change you... Change - the transforming experience - is part of the quest of traveling...
Often we take America with us. How can we not, being thoroughly products of our culture? We see what we know how to see... we are wary everywhere of being robbed and mugged. We fear the violence of America everywhere...
Travel can reinforce the primitive urge to bring the new into the circle of the known. I went to Pasadena... and walking around on a perfect day, I saw Starbucks, Banana Republic, the Gap, Williams Sonoma, Il Fornaio - all the high-end chains with identical merchandise in dozens of other cities... Nothing happened to me. And yet, surely if I'd stayed longer than a day, there are layers of Pasadena.... In America, with franchises and TV pouring their solvents over us by the second, you have to look longer and harder. In Italy, it's easier."

Currently watching: Brief Encounter - Criterion Collection

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