My feet will wander in distant lands, my heart drink its fill at strange fountains, until I forget all desires but the longing for home.
Keep in touch.
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2007-08-08 2:27 AM
Today we had a Tea Party, to celebrate my return,
and to ensure that neither I nor any of my most favorite relatives would grow fat alone on the treats that I brought from my travels.
We assembled around 4:30:
Aunt Ardath came from California, or at least from Grandma's house, bearing beautiful teacups both new and old and wearing a lovely shawl.
Mom came from Argentina, or at least from Aloha, OR. She abstained from bringing her southern travel-totems in order to more fully savor the flavors of Europe.
Dad came from Ocean Shores, or at least from Roy, OR, bearing the memory of a salmon caught only days ago and unfortunately eaten with great pleasure by our family's elderly but still incorrigible dog.
Kristi came from work and errands and the bike shop and almost, but not quite, picking up Sabrina, who decided at at last that it was too awkward to coordinate schedules and groceries bound for the opposite side of town.
Leslie came from the little house adjoining ours, by way of hours and hours in the kitchen and garden with me, assembling little ['watercress': arugula and nasturtium and cream cheese] and ham-and-cheese sandwiches, cut in shapes with cookie cutters from bread made by Ernie.
Ernie came from upstairs at 6 am to bake half-a-dozen loaves of bread, unearth a teddy-bear shortbread mold, and bake additional backup shortbread also cut with cookie cutters except for the bear and one other cookie hand-sculpted into the shape of a human nose.
(Cory, who helped with vacuuming and preparing the house, hid in his shy room until after the guests had gone, at which time he accepted a few select samples of food and a small toy car which I had brought for him.)
in addition to the above-mentioned homemade cookies, bread with butter, memory of salmon, and diminutive tea sandwiches, we had:
Zhena's Gypsy Early Grey Tea with Raspberry (in the teapot shaped like a chicken wearing sneakers),
Peony White Tea, and later, smoky Irish Breakfast, both in the large powder-blue teapot,
Poison Oak Pollen Honey, courtesy Leslie
Home-harvested honey from Christo from Denmark (courtesy Ernie)
Scotland (Edinburgh and airports, mostly):
lemon shorties (cookies)
a small bottle of ten-year old Scotch from the duty-free
tomato-basil-and-mozzarella salad with oil and vinager
almond-flour cookies from Sienna
and a fruit-and-nut cake also from Sienna
and glasses of Sergio's unlabeled red wine, from Pistoia, with optional added water.
Double-salt licorice, courtesy Ernie
Fresh blueberries and salal berries, with shortcake and whipped cream
Everyone ate until they could eat no more, and what was left filled two or three baskets.
We moved into the living room, where I distributed some small gifts to those who had not already received them, and showed pictures of my recent travels.
Unfortunately, I have not yet established a way to display pictures online. Much to the frustration of some of my more visually-oriented readers. Suggestions welcome; it's simply a matter of time.
Here are the accompanying text for a few of them, to give you a virtual taste:
(is the description of an invisible picture more like a virtual "smell"?)
- Here on my small camera are photos of my friend Doug and his bride Rachel, posing in front of their wedding getaway car. Unfortunately, as my clock was still an hour off, I have to take my friends' word for it as to the loveliness and brevity of the wedding ceremony. And here is Rachel's father, in dress kilt, organizing the beloveds into the final photos before removing to the reception.
- Here is a photograph of the little-known _back_ of Edinburgh castle, complete with a grey blur which the generous observer may well imagine to be a bunny rabit.
- Here are a number of postcards, collected after the camera's battery declared itself intolerably homesick for its charger.
On the larger screen we can see Erica in Italy (as photographed with her hosts' camera):
- On a green hill, overlooking the red-and-cream rooftops of Florence. This photo is taken just as we set off on what would turn out to be a 7-hour walking tour guided by the delightful and enthusiastic Fabio (pictured, here and there, in less-than-flattering shadow). After which, we diligently drank orange juice, water, and several kinds of seltzer provided by Fabio's daughter Marta in her new flat.
- among rose-and-white brick buildings in the Piazza del Campo, in Sienna -- literally, "place of the field." Fabio's lovely wife Adele emphasized the way the buildings embrace the 'square,' and you, in a graceful curve; Fabio asked did I not find that this large square lacked something compared with the (admittedly severe) but altogether proportionate 'square' of his birthplace, Pistoia.
After blundering between reactions (having seen one by night and the other in afternoon, there was little basis for comparison -- finally I noted the identical Medici shield prominently displayed on both town halls, and asked them if they were inviting me to compare the right hand with the left?)
We joked that this "field" must be very fertile to cultivate so many bricks.
- and here I am in front of the famous white-on-white architecture of Pisa, shading my hand from the late-afternoon sun. The building directly behind me is the cathedral, with lovely mosaic inlay as well as integral stonework, but of course you will be noticing the more famous Tower behind it. I am restraining myself, with so little effort the casual observer might mistake my attitude for complete disregard, from buying any pseudo-ceramic models of the Leaning Tower, with or without electric lights.
- Here is the best photo I was able to take, given the high contrast, of lacy white stonework arches framing the sunlit cathedral. The arches belong to the interior coolth of a cemetary/mausoleum we visited (both are part of Pisa's "piazza del miracoli," the miracle place).
- Here is a statue I saw in a mausoleum, guarding with eternal untroubled vigilance the tomb of some former statesman. Here the contrast yields to my patient amateurism, becoming merely a very interesting pattern of shadow on stone and background.
- Here is a possibly Roman sarcophagus of white marble, topped with a fieldstone lid; Fabio tells me that it was popular during certain periods of more recent history for wealthy people to purchase Roman sarcophagi and be buried in them. Now they are protected as national treasures, and many sit empty in this hall of memorials.
- Here are other pictures from the previous day, Fabio, Adele, and myself in Sienna. I have arranged several of them together with a purpose: (and these you can obtain upon request).
- In the top left, you see the back of the lovely Adele, dressed in her often-cheerful colors. The building she is approaching is the Casa del Caballo, the House of the Horse. You may notice a Snail above the door. This does not imply it was a slow horse; rather, this is the contrade [district? borough? quarter?] of the Snail. Sienna is divided into 10 or 12 or 17 contrade (language difficulties combine with my hosts' less specific knowledge of this city, not their own).
Each contrade has a mascot, usually an animal. This animal will be represented somewhere in the borough by a fountain (with obligatory cherubic baby), and also by numerous signs, flags, T-shirts, and sculptural elements. Contrade colors (stripes with contrasting border) may also be visible.
In Sienna, contrade loyalty combines the fervent aspects of trade guild, military regiment, sports team, and homeland/birthplace patriotism. Each year there is a horse race in the central square, the Piazza del Campo. They cover the bricks with sand, but it is still a ridiculously small and tight course. Each horse represents its contrada.
Each year, the boroughs bring their horses in ahead of the race. The Horse lives in his House, like a lord coming in for a parliament, preparing to race under its colors.
The night before the race there is a public feast in each contrade with the horse seated at the head of the table. The day of the race, the whole city and many tourists squash into the square, with windows in the overlooking buildings being rented for substantial sums by their respective owners, like box seats.
Given the excitement and the tight turns, it is not unusual for several riders to fall off. Very rarely, the riderless horse may go on to win the race anyway, as the race is between the horses and not the riders. Traditional alliances and enmities between certain quarters can lead to some unusual maneuvers, as well.
- I have taken a picture of the Snail fountain, which seems like an ordinary garden snail except it is a foot or more tall. The fountain is within an iron-gated, red brick courtyard, pretty with small green bushes.
- Below, there is a larger image of the Tortoise quarter's fountain, the next borough we walked through. It is right out almost in the road, and it pleased me with its musical water stream and colored tiles. The Tortoise is being ridden, of course, by a happy baby. Then I laughed aloud:
- Looking closely, you can see, below the Tortoise's head and raised claw, two small creatures: a Lizard... and a Snail. It seems to be looming monstrously (baby and all) cheerfully threatening to squash the tiny Snail and Lizard under its feet.
Other traditional quarters include the Dolphin, Eagle, Dragon, Caterpillar, etc. The "Torre" (tower) might at first glance appear to be a non-animal mascot; but the Tower is traditionally worn on the back of an Elephant.
Now we come to a change of pace. We leave the whirlwind tour of cities and piazzas (piazzi?).
- Here are a number of views of the Mediterranean, or more specifically the Tirr...?, as seen from The Best Window Of All* (*according to Fabio).
- I was particularly taken with the platoons of colored beach umbrellas, deployed by their respective "banyos", furled at night and opened for the day. The public beach is BYO umbrella, a colorful gypsy contrast to the monochrome and striped regiments sectioning off the flanks and piers. The little troop of red-and-yellow stripers on the jetty particularly amused me, as the umbrellas stood erect and proud but stopped a little short of the edge, where the seas were constantly striking up in sprays of foaming water. This little outpost of umbrellas, you understand, was much _visited_ by the clients of its particular banyo, but not too many people actually _sat_ in the deck chairs between those upright umbrellas and the dramatic vertical spurts of water.
- Here I am floating in blue blue water over white sand, or more accurately white soda. (there is a soda factory nearby, but I was not clear on whether they extract natural soda from the seafloor, or produce it thus contaminating the sand beds. I think the former.)
-And here at last is a good picture of Fabio, enjoying the afternoon sun with his friend Sergio.
-Here is Sergio celebrating the catching of a Real Fish, which you might charitably imagine to be larger than it is by virtue of its closeness to the camera.
-Here is Sergio's wife Monella, enjoying her friends' beach house. She may possibly still be laughing because I sketched her clowning in her own accomodation: a futon and fridge set up in their garage at the marina, complete with Sergio's unfathomable collections of marine equipment, bicycles, spare parts, and miscellaneous gear.
There are other sketches, and other photos, too many to be described here. The tea-party begins to break up, as those with other errands and distant homes gather themselves to depart.
If you are still paying attention, then I have clearly not fed you enough sweets.
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