I had the best of intentions of blogging often. I was thinking Ah, I’ll be lounging about, drinking a little cappuccino, laptop on my lap… My tenth year here at Art Workshop International in Assisi and I still haven’t figured it out. Between teaching and hanging with my buddies, between walks and art and my local friends I only see once or twice a year, all that lounging time doesn’t exist.
So here I am, belatedly, back again, with some photos. Most of them are from Assisi, though we took a little trip — and I mean little, literally 4 minutes on the train (though of course you have to walk down to Santa Maria degli Angeli to get the train, and then wait for the train, so from the hotel the trip is about an hour and 4 minutes) — to Bastia, and strolled around.
View from our favorite cafe
Breakfast at the Hotel Giotto (plus a little fruit for lunch…)
The hard-working guys holding up the rose window at San Rufino
Below street-level plantings. Don’t show this to Grow Dammit, he’ll feel insecure.
Flower pot on the wall
Sunflowers, almost ready for harvest
Bastia: the market’s over
Bastia: painted wall
Filipina nuns in habits and identical straw hats waiting for the bus.
Bastia: I don’t think this is the police station any more…
…or else some cop has a very green thumb.
Dragon sings karaoke
Arrived at the Hotel Giotto, went to my regular room, unpacked and I already know where everything goes. Charles Kreloff and Bob Hughes had a slice of Pane di San Francesco waiting for me. Went for a walk around town: it’s been beautiful for 1,000 years and it changes but it doesn’t; still beautiful. Herein, the first set of photos. Including food, as requested.
Salad at dinner
Bootleg photo in the Basilica (no photos allowed!)
Basilica door detail
Outside my room, dawn
The Pope’s Dining Room in the Basilica. For nine hundred years, when a Pope visits Assisi, this is where they feed him.
Interior garden at the Basilica
Lemon and sage ravioli (SO yummy)
We visit the Basilica at night
With the landlord’s blessing, took a patch of grass thatch by the house and did THIS! The sad-looking lying-down ones are irises that a friend gave me. I’m hoping they’ll perk up. Everything else is doing fine, thank you, including the Queen Anne’s lace liberated from the side of the road. Please note the clematis already climbing the trellis. Now I’m sitting on the porch having a Negroni made by the house guest. (House guests at Rancho Obsesso have to work!)
Well, not exactly at the Rancho. On the causeway nearby. Went for a sunrise walk, and can report we are rich in egrets this year. That must mean the marsh is rich in fish. Also was dive-bombed by some smaller shorebirds I can’t identify, but this also happened last year when I walked too close to their nest. (How come you nest so near the road, guys, when you have the whole marsh to choose from?) All the osprey nesting platforms are full, and a few telephone poles have been colonized with those big, sloppy nests osprey build. We have robins, redwinged blackbirds, catbirds, sparrows, cardinals, house finches, some kind of warbler I can’t identify, starlings, crows, Baltimore orioles, and woodpeckers (don’t know what kind, have heard but not seen them) in abundance but no wild turkeys, of which last year we had two broods marching around on their route from house to house, chowing down. The butterfly bushes I planted last year are just starting to bloom, so I’m expecting hummingbirds when we come back next weekend.
Meanwhile, with all the appallingness going on in the world, New York continues to come through. On the serious side, there’s now free college tuition throughout the state for kids of middle-class families, and a serious look being taken in Albany at single-payer health care. And on the who’d-a-thunk-it side, there’s this. It’s the NYPD Out and Proud Mobile, parked across the street from the Stonewall Inn, where what was then called the Gay Liberation movement really took off in 1969 in response to a, yes, NYPD raid. What you can hardly see unless you look closely is that the lights in the light bar on top are rainbow-colored. What you don’t see is that I had to wait to shoot this photo until a car pulled away — it was driven by a black-dressed Hasidic Jew who stopped beside the cops, gave them a thumbs-up, and said in a heavy Yiddish accent, “You guys are beautiful!”
Pouring in NYC this afternoon, so I ducked into one of those specialty coffee places. I waited behind two other wet people ordering from a barista so sprightly I could only assume he’d been hitting the product. When it was my turn I asked for a cup of tea. He pirouetted, grabbed a teabag, pulled the hot water, and said, “I can tell you how tea started. I mean, if you have time.”
“It’s raining, go ahead.”
“Well, a couple of thousand years ago the emperor of China used to drink hot water three times a day and then one day he was sitting in the garden and a leaf fell into his water and when his servants tried to take it away and give him another he said no because it was fate so he’d drink it and see what happened so they all watched and they were scared but afterwards he felt so great he wanted more of those leaves in his water the next day. And that’s how tea started.”
He grinned, gave me my tea, looked past me at the wet young man behind me and said, “What can I get you?”
I love New York.
Actually, Bookcamp is outside West Bend, WI. That sort of qualifies as the middle of nowhere but that’s why I love it. That, and the hard work of the students and the wonderfulness of the other faculty — Lisa Lickel, Phil Martin, and Dave Rank. I spent my time teaching; meeting one-on-one with students; listening to talks by guest faculty; walking in the woods; and sitting in my little room at the Cedar Valley Retreat, the 100-acre UCC facility Bookcamp rents for the week. And eating: the cuisine is Midwestern Hearty.
Below, some photos from the week. If all this sounds and looks good to you, Bookcamp 2018 will be May 20-26. You need not be Wisconsin-related, nor even able to spell Wisconsin, to come. Put yourself on my mailing list (scroll to the bottom) and you’ll get the details for next year when they’re out.
And just in case you can’t wait until next year for a workshop, I’ll be at Art Workshop International in Assisi, this August, and at the Himlayan Writers Workshop in Kathmandu, yes Kathmandu, in September. If you’re so moved, come to all three!
And now, Wisconsin.
View from my window
View down the road
Lawn at the edge of the woods
Robin who aimed for me (but he missed)
My mom, about twenty years ago at a family reunion. Miss you, Ma. (Don’t call me Ma!)
Flatbush, Brooklyn, yesterday. No, I have no idea.
Finally, spring is here in NYC. We had two warm spells last month which fooled the trees and flowers, followed in one case by a temperature deep-dip and in the other by pounding cold rains. So the crocuses were barely seen this year and the earliest daffodils got flattened. The later daffodils have come out now to represent, though, and the tulips are up, though not blooming yet. One of the azaleas in the park can’t hold back anymore, either.
Down by the river it’s been foggy the last two days, yesterday a thick blanketing fog but this morning a fog thick low down and above but with a thinned-out strip in the middle. This leads to that odd sight where the bottoms, not the tops, of buildings are lost.
The Brant geese are still here, but they’re collecting in larger and larger groups so I think they’ll be heading back to the Arctic soon. The buffleheads seem to be already gone. Mallards, Canada geese (named, by the way, for a guy named Canada, not for the country) and Gadwalls are all here, eating like crazy and looking for places to nest. I saw an egret high overhead and this morning six blue herons heading north together. Robins, bluejays, cardinals, various sparrows, and mourning doves are haunting the yards behind me. Just now a clutch of sparrows, a species that gets their business done early, fledged, exploding out of the nest. One landed on my windowsill and as fledglings will, looked stunned at his own audacity and waited for instructions. Unlike this fledgling,
who was sitting about ten feet from the path at the Botanical Garden two weeks ago, also waiting for instructions from his circling parents, the sparrow on my windowsill actually has predators: Bella the Cat was pawing at the glass with excitement. Good thing for the sparrow population that glass doesn’t vaporize at a cat’s desire to spring.