Today is the feast of San Francesco di Paola – St. Francis of Paola – the Calabrese mendicant friar and founder of the Order of Minims. He is the patron of Calabria, and because Paola was an hour away from my hometown of Aprigliano, my family made the trip several times.
My most lingering memory of Paola is a day-tip with my dad and our cousin Za Peppina – Aunt Josephine. We went to the beach. And among the various entertainment, there was a vendor, who for a small fee, would take you out to the outlying rocks on his wooden rowboat. I refused to go, but my dad went and when the small wooden boat disappeared in the swell of the wave, I was convinced the boat and my dad were lost forever. (was it a lack in object permanence development or a lack of knowledge of waves?)
Also Tomie dePaola, the American writer and illustrated who created the children’s book Strega Nona, died on March 30. His Italian grandparents came from the city of Paola. The book begins with the endearing phrase – In a town in Calabria …
On the death of Tomie dePaola, the Glastonbury Abbey published the above image on its Facebook page.
The next paragraphs in this post are about my cousin.
My cousin and her husband live north of Detroit an area hit particularly hard by the COVID plague. And as a relief gesture, I sent her a copy of dePaola’s Strega Nona.
She came home from her walk in the subdivision to find an Amazon box on her front steps. She opened the box and saw the children’s book. Her first thought was that someone had hacked her Amazon account and her credit card account. She spent the next couple of hours frantically trying to contact both Amazon and the credit card company. She had no luck.
She went back to the box and after lifting out the book, noticed a piece of paper that had information saying that the book was a gift. She called and relayed the story.
My first comment was to suggest she not tell the story to anyone else. My second comment was – WHAT HACKER WOULD BREAK INTO YOUR ACCOUNT AND THEN SEND YOU A $15 CHILDREN’S BOOK? OMG!!!
they lay down beside me, i made my confession to them
Oh, the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song Oh, I hope you run into them, you who’ve been traveling so long
Yes, you who must leave everything that you cannot control It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul Well, I’ve been where you’re hanging, I think I can see how you’re pinned When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned
Well, they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem
When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon Don’t turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon And you won’t make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night We weren’t lovers like that and besides, it would still be alright We weren’t lovers like that and besides, it would still be alright
For three long years, the country has tolerated, has showcased an administration that has repeatedly told lies and now when we are confronted with a pandemic we’re insisting that the same people who’ve been lying to us turn on a dime and tell the truth.
I am one of the people who believes that MSNBC and Fox News are equal partners in propping up the lying. Just because MSNBC scolded and was outraged for 3 years, the network never stopped covering the lying. Every one of their shows was about the lying. The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal covered the lying every day. In the last 3 years more ink and more newspaper was used to keep the lying on the front-page, above the fold. Every comedian from Stephen Tyrone Colbert to Trevor Noah, to Bill Maher made the lying the centerpiece of their show. It’s been the trump-show 24/7 for 3 long years. And all media profited GREATLY from this focus – chiching, chiching!
And now we’re tired; we’re bored; we’re scared. Now we’re in crisis and we want someone to tell us the truth; we want a new show … good luck with that.
Flying too low is even more dangerous than flying too high, because it feels deceptively safe.
Three version of Icarus are represented in this post: – the thumbnail, featured image on the homepage is Henri Matisse’s Icarus painted in 1947 – in the above composite, the left image if from the Valley of the Temples in Sicily and the fallen Icarus is from ancient Greek – and the image on the right is Pierre Le Faguay’s Art Deco sculpture of Icarus created in 1928.
In myth, Icarus is Daedalus’ rule-breaking and tragic son.
Literary interpretation found in the story the structure and consequence of over-ambition.
In psychology there have been synthetic studies of an Icarus complex – an alleged relationship between fascination for fire, high ambition, and ascensionism. (love the word)Psychiatrists saw disease in the ecstatic-highs and depressive-lows of the complex an illness similar to bipolar disorder.
Seth Godin’s 2012 The Icarus Deception points to the historical change in how Western culture both propagated and interpreted the myth. Everyone knows that Icarus’s father made him wings and told him not to fly too close to the sun; he ignored the warning and plunged to his doom. The lesson: Play it safe. Listen to the experts. It was the perfect propaganda for the industrial economy. What boss wouldn’t want employees to believe that obedience and conformity are the keys to success?
But Godin also argues that “we tend to forget that Icarus was also warned not to fly too low, because the seawater would ruin the lift in his wings.”
In the composite, I put the fallen hero first; so that in reading left-to-right, you see a young man getting ready to leap last. It’s the strategy of putting the most important element at the end.
You could see how at the end of each day the world seemed cracked open and the extra light made its way across the stark trees, and promised. It promised, that light, and what a thing that was. As Cindy lay on her bed she could see this even now, the gold of the last light opening the world.
The quote is from Elizabeth Strout’s new book Olive, Again. I found the description online, liked it a lot, decided to copy it down and use it in a post.
Today the sun was brilliant and I walked up Walter Road and then along the eastern shore of the man-made lake at North Park. Elizabeth Strout’s quote flashed in my mind as I shot picture after picture of the blue sky and the blue waters. The image is of Pine Creek as it flows into the artificial lake that is the heart of the park.
I’ve never paid much attention to the vagaries of February; never knew that there was such a thing as February light. And yet for the last couple weeks, I’ve been amazed to find it still light at 6:00 pm; to see the snowdrops sprouting in my back flowerbed; to discover the lenten-roses full of buds; to see the robins chasing each other.
It may be the beginning of spring here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, but damn is it cold outside. Many, in this part of the country, have re-calculated the seasons: – winter spans the time between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day – spring goes from February 14 to Memorial Day – summer begins the last Monday in May and rolls on to Labor Day – fall starts in the early weeks of September and ends with Thanksgiving in November. But if today was our ‘over-the-hump day’, we were all being laughed at by the weather gods that live in them there clouds.
Also, I’ve been trying to figure out a correlation between latitude/longitude and highs/lows and it’s clear that many factors contribute to temperature and geographic coordinate are not necessarily great indicators of warm or cold. What follows is a list of four cities, I’ve tracked today. – At 40o North Latitude, Pittsburgh is the southern most city of the four. Today’s low was 12. – At 43o North, Toronto is the next southern most city and its low today was 15. – At 44o North, Saint-Émilion, France had a low of 38 this morning – go figure. This southwestern French town made it onto the list, because I follow a couple of British expats who run a vineyard – Clos Vieux Rochers – outside of town. And their recent photographs show a region free of snow or they record activities – pruning, laying cement – I associate with mild spring temperatures. – And finally at 46o North, Sault Ste Marie registered a low of 11 this morning. Saint-Émilion is the outlier and I want to know why.
The image is my bay-leaf plant with its copper dragonfly hovering above the green leaves. The temperature was freezing, but the sun was shining, so I took the pot outside, positioned it in front of the angel and photographed it. I wanted to pretend that, on my favorite holiday, winter was on its way gone.
I left Aprigliano when I was 8 and at that age you don’t get to hear all the stories that define a place.
The small hilltop town southeast of Cosenza is organized around its parishes; my family lived in the Santo Stefano parish and neighborhood. A recent online posting explained the origin of the ‘special’ saint associated with the parish of Santo Stefano. For the families of the parish, La Madonna di Porto Salvo was our patroness. Her feast day is September 11 and the ensuing celebration was as huge an event as Christmas. I remember the procession to bring the statue from its small chapel in the woods east of town and the installation of La Madonna in our parish church. The next couple of days the main street in Santo Stefano was lit with luminara and under the lights street vendors hucked toys and foods; I tasted peanuts for the first time at one of these feste.
On an online post, a person from Aprigliano explained that the Madonna di Porto Salvo was established as a response to the 1854 earthquake that supposedly spared the parish of Santo Stefano. Earthquakes were a preoccupation of everyone in town. And I guess that when you live in stone buildings – structures that are all interconnected – seismic shifts are things to be greatly feared.
In the above composite, on the left is the Madonna di Porto Salvo and on the right is the Madonna del Pilerio in the cathedral in Cosenza. The feast of the Madonna del Pilerio is February 12. I suspect that the prototype for the statue of the Madonna di Porto Salvo was the statue of the Madonna del Pilerio. Aprigliano is a suburb of Cosenza, the provincial capital.
In the composite above, on the left is the small woodland chapel of the Madonna di Porto Salvo and on the right is the cathedral in Cosenza dedicated to the Madonna del Pilerio.
The first week of February brought the first significant snowfall. That is the best.
Winter 2019/2020 has 89 days and today is day 47. We made it through the first half of the season without snow. Also, today’s snow is a wet-spring-snow and will probably be gone in the next couple of days.
Wet-spring-snow always reminds me of March days in Sault Ste Marie, when we would chase the last snows of the season on the cross-country trails. Skiing in March required specialty waxes and I can still remember the drudgery of waxing skis just to get another run before the woods would be drowned in mud from the retreating melt. No-wax skis were useless in heavy, wet snow and we were forced to abandon the new technology for the true and tried elbow-grease of old fashion waxing.
Being Calabrese, I’m very susceptible to superstition – there’s a lot of my maternal grandmother – Marietta Perri – in me. Hockey players may have the reputation for being the most superstitious of athletes – lacing their skates a certain way, putting on their equipment in a particular order, wearing the same underwear each game – but let me tell you, they have nothing on us Southern Italians. For example … – I always put my car key into the ignition button-side forward. It obviously insures that the car will start. – My shoes are always lined up in a particular order because random invites evil. – I always wait for an odd-numbered time to get out of bed, because rising on an even-numbered time could totally wreck a day. – And all my journal entries have odd-numbered time signatures. Some of the best times are 1:03, 5:13, 7:17, 9:59, 11:11, but the most auspicious is 3:33. And I blame it all on my grandmother and my Roman and Greek ancestors.
With that set-up, you can understand why writing this post is scary. I worry that if I make any reference to a short and mild winter, the weather gods will summon the snowstorm from hell; or for laughs-and-giggles, conjure an arctic vortex and bury us in a deep freeze until April. And I know no prayer or offering I can make that could entreat leniency.
My grandmother could counter the curse of the malocchio – the evil eye – and her fellow immigrants came from near and far to have her minister to them. But she never taught me her secrets, so I remain captive to my unjustified beliefs and their hallucinatory consequences.
In Calabria, it’s still common to celebrate one’s Saint-day – onomastico. And today, being the feast of Saint Marius, many of my Aprigliano relatives sent congratulations. What a contrary experience – receiving best-wishes over social-media for a tradition begun some six hundred years ago.
The image on the right was shot in front of the glass windows of the West End Overlook visitors center. And what I like best are the verticals and horizontals that live in the flat surface. (the only rounds are the glasses, the lens-face and the logo on the jacket)
It seems narcissistic and presumptuous to use a reflection as the image on a post about one’s Saint-day, but I like juxtapositions and I rarely take pictures of people and when I do, I default to reflections. (an old friend, who recently found my images, pointed out that i have many pictures of myself in mirrors) Glassand mirrors filter; they reverse; they distort; they reflect an unreality; they create a surrealism. (think orson well’s the lady from shanghai – rita hayworth in the funhouse mirrors)
With the thumbnail that leads to this post, I wanted to distort the selfie motif. And since the bottom of the original, with the tan snow-boots and striped socks, is my favorite detail, I made it the featured image. It continues the contradiction theme – this time going from self-promotion to anonymity.
The last time I was at the West End Overlook was easily 30 years ago. It was my first visit to Pittsburgh and Jerry-and-Diane took us there. (jerry worked in the west-end and knew about the scenic overlook)
Where Mount Washington gives one the view of downtown from a southern vantage point, the West End Overlook faces east and directly at the downtown triangle with Point State Park at its vertex.
The image is a fragment from Gentile da Fabriano’s Adoration of the Magi. The altarpiece is housed at the Uffizi.
I like the palette – the golds, the dark-blues, the yellows, the rich browns. But the fact that the Magi look like Renaissance Florentines, in extravagant dress, just heightens my disdain of the 1%ers and my antipathy for Holy Mother Church.
The little boy, in the blue top and bending under the skirt of the third king, is removing the regent’s spurs. Don’t we all want a lackey following us around and bending to remove unnecessary accouterments when we’re on our way to an important meeting?
And spurs can be so inconvenient and never mind how long I had to wait for that jeweler to make me something that matched the hose I had picked out for the meeting with them Jewish peasants.
The falconer behind the third king and above the little boy is Palla Strozziwho commissioned the altarpiece; and the young man on his right is his son Lorenzo. Palla Strozzi was heard whinnying to a local TV anchor that he had no choice but to commission the painting, because his fellow Florentines didn’t believe that he was there in Bethlehem with the Three Kings.
And let’s not forget the two women behind The Virgin examining the gift presented by the kneeling king. “Buff, it’s only gold-plated. It must be a re-gift.” “Muff, they’re foreigners.”
In the 15th century, Palla Strozzi, one of the richest man in early Renaissance Florence, commissioned Gentile da Fabriano to paint the altarpiece for his family church of Santa Trinita.
The holidays insist on lavish and traditional meals. And this is true both in Sault Ste Marie at my uncle-and-aunt’s and at my mother’s as well as here in Pittsburgh. The New Year’s Eve meal here in town, that we’ve come to call ‘the all meat dinner,’ had 8 different dishes. It’s been a month of big dinners.
Tonight, I wanted a simple meal – rapini sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with garlic and hot pepper flakes, a sharp Australian cheddar, a crusty baguette and a glass of Chianti.
I’ve been forced into a transition – a shift away from a hard-copy newspaper. For years, I’ve been getting the New York Times daily and I read half of it with breakfast and half with dinner. Well, this week the paper hasn’t been there in the morning. To compensate, I moved my laptop to the kitchen and began reading the Times online. (i miss turning the pages – yeah, yeah i know – turning pages is so 20th century)
Also, since my November visit to Sault Ste Marie, I decided to have a glass of wine with my dinner. (in the past, i would have wine with meals only when visiting with my immigrant family and friends or if i went out to dinner) This shift was prompted mainly by my uncle’s discovery of the Spadafora Winery’s Terrano Rosso. Its grapevines run the south-west side of the mountains that Aprigliano sits on; and this Rosso is exceptional. (i was born in aprigliano/cosenza, many moons ago) And thanks to LCBO online – Liquor Control Board of Ontario – I was able to order a case and it’s waiting for me at my cousin’s. (my uncle is great at discovering new wines and the LCBO brings in many calabrian wines that he judiciously samples) In the image below, the Terrano is the second from the left.
The Prosecco – far left – is from the Prosecco Hills of Conegliano e Valdobbiadene a UNESCO World Heritage Site, north-west of Venice. This bubbly was the inspiration to go back to northern Italy this coming May. (i’m saving this last bottle for when my friends move into their new condo) The Terrano, besides its low tannins and its home-town appeal, I’m keeping until I can retrieve my reserves from my cousin’s. The Appasimento is another Venetian; this Passito Rosso is full-bodied with a 14% ABV – alcohol by volume. My fellow immigrant from San Giovanni in Fiore introduced me to this hardy red. (it’s my only bottle, so until i can get more it’s gonna sit and look pretty, i love the label) And lastly the Chianti with its classic fiasco bottle wrapped in raffia, it’s imported into Pennsylvania by the Emilio Pio Group of California. (the prosecco, terrano and appasimento are from the LCBO, the chianti is from the PA state store)
Both of the above images were shot with my phone camera. The featured image – not shot with a phone camera – is the label on the Appasimento bottle.
It’s different getting to your seventies and looking back – the focus is softer, the memory forgiving. 2
I’ve been emailing with an old acquaintance from when I was a monk back in the 1960s and it seems that the correspondence is slowly moving towards a friendship. What an unusual development. It’s certainly not what I had expected.
Reconnecting with someone you knew as teenagers is always a crap-shoot. You have no idea what life has done to them. Have they become adults in the time between; are they able to look at the intervening years and see a shared history or are they stuck on the mythology of the past? And, if the reacquaintance proves awkward – difficult even, is it OK to resettle that person back in memory?
The past is a different country; they do things differently there. 3
Exchanging emails with an old classmate has been a great surprise. In memory he was a brooding clairvoyant who seemed to see much more than he could contain; that made him both scary and appealing. And, as a snotty teenager, I focused on the scary and repressed the pull to get to know him.
Fifty years later, I’m discovering a kindred spirit – a thinker, a hard worker, a self-made man, a responsible adult, a dad, a husband, a son-in-law, maybe a friend.
What a curious situation to find myself in …
So why the pic of the wreath on the gray-washed door? The picture has the two elements that I’m struggling with – background and foreground – memory and clarity. The door is an old design, with age-old patina and classical hardware, the wreath, with its withering greens and garish ribbon, is 2019. And yet the two elements exist in alignment, in proper arrangement; they compliment each other. They make a great visual composition.
1 – Dougie MacLean. Auld Lang Syne. 2014. 2 – It’s my 71st birthday.…………………………. 3 – Hartley, L.P. The Go-Between. 1953.