March 28, 2021 2021, diario/journal

the greatest



not conforming

The left side of my backyard has for years been a forgotten step-child. But for some reason, this spring I decided to make it other. My solution, and it was a serendipitous process as to how I got to a decision, was to turn it into a zen-garden. And with that idea in the back of my mind, I began to shape it.

What you see, in the above pic, is its latest transformation.

Some Background
At one time the left-side had a 50 foot sequoia on it. It had started life as a bonsai but its roots left the confines of the pot and borrowed into the soil; the blue marble sits on what’s left of the tree-trunk.
Where the apricot tree stands, there once was a cascading spruce. It too had been a bonsai that refused to conform. It grew a magnificent canopy and every spring its soft, green candles danced with the night winds. But a late, heavy, wet snow ripped it from the ground.
The blue marble that everyone loves, is really a tribute to my sister Jo’. I bought it the weekend she died – June 30, 2001 – and it has been in the backyard ever since.
Between the fern and the tall terracotta planter is a large blue-stone from the shores of Lake Superior. Under it is written September 6, 2018 – the day my dad died.
The Buddha, in the back against the fence, too has been in the backyard for years.

It very much feels like I’ve been circling the idea of a zen-garden for years – look at all the elements that have been always part of the left-side. At one time, in the area with the small, blue stones, I had fashioned a stream-like feature using hundreds of blue rocks that I brought back from the shores of Lake Superior. Those are now along the left fence where the pots are.


March 20, 2021 2021, diario/journal

The above images, specifically the one on the right, was re-shot.
(First of all, I don’t like either of the two images in the composite. But I decided to use them because they record the changes I’m making. Am hoping to shoot a second set of after pictures – on the right – tomorrow morning and deal with the blow-out and shadows.)
Given the great weather, I decided to clean up the rock-garden and in the process decided to get rid of all the various shelves and under-pinning. (Buried under the various post were 7 large cinder-block, 6 square cinder-blocks and at least a dozen bricks and pavers.) Also, I wanted to showcase the ceramic pots, Wright’s Native American and the ornamental grasses that have finally filled out; and that meant re-thinking the entire layout.
The end result is a more streamlined rock-garden and a whole new planting on the left-side. (More on that later.)

Monday, March 23, 2021

I began work on the backyard on Friday; today is Monday. I easily put in 6 to 8 hours a day.
The final modifications have produced two very distinct gardens; note – the middle image is from Friday:
– the planting on the right will be full of annuals
– on the left, I’ve begun a Zen garden.
All three images are from my phone camera.

thomas mann

March 15, 2021 2021, diario/journal

Another Post Full of Mixed Metaphors
– the pairing of Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde from Visconti’s Death in Venice), and Giuliani is common on social media
– Venice and Washington, Gustav and Rudy – their lives leeching down their faces
– it’s cholera and COVID, past and present, Dorian and Faustus, fixation and delusion


– the soothsayer warns Caesar of his untimely death
– the title – Thomas Mann – calls to a conflicted writer, to a dark time
– and the featured image, also from Visconti’s film, is Tadzio in silhouette; he’s standing feet-deep in the river Styx; his hand stretched towards the gates of hell


February 25, 2021 2021, diario/journal

The image was posted on a FB vintage photographs page; and I thought it beautiful, elegant, gorgeous . . .

The couple is from Holdrege, Nebraska; it’s their wedding photo; it’s dated Thursday, August 27, 1908.

The title comes from the 2016 film – This Beautiful Fantastic – and I’m thinking through using it for my next piece of fiction.
What would a story with the title – Long Ago, Before the World Was Round – be about? And how can I include Claude and Jessie in that narrative?


February 16, 2021 2021, diario/journal

Tornerà il tempo

in cui me revestirò

da brigante

e verrò a cercarvi

uno ad uno,

e non sarà

per carnevale.

There will come a time
when again, I will dress as an outlaw
and then, I’ll go searching
for each and everyone of you
and it will not be
to celebrate Carnival

I found the above photograph and the accompanying quote on FB. And I immediately downloaded it; made it my FB image and now writing a post using it.

Deconstruction – Part One
  • Today is Carnevale, the last day before the lean season of Lent. And since the quote with the photograph references the holiday, I decided to acknowledge it by using the famous Venetian, plague-doctor mask as the featured image; given that we are living through a modern plague.
  • Also, the idea, in the quote, that a time will come when the speaker will once again have to put on his outlaw clothes, is a call to action after the November election; after the horrors of January 6. Like the speaker, I believe it’s time sane, honest people got up from their couches and grabbed back their country.
  • And this morning, a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Representative Bennie Thompson against former President Donald J Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers alleging they violated the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act for inciting the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol.
    The act, formally known as “An Act to enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other Purposes”, passed as the racist KKK was waging a campaign of voter suppression and murder against newly-freed Black citizens of the US.
    Representative Thompson is another person putting his outlaw clothes back on; another person who has heard the clarion call.


February 9, 2021 2021, diario/journal





I left my house at 7:15 this morning and trudged through unplowed streets and sidewalks lost in snow to get to Allegheny General for my COVID vaccination.
It’s normally a 10 minute walk, but this morning it took me 20. The next task was to find where the vaccine was being administered and given the complexity of the campus that took some time. But I still got to the location by 8:40 and I was sixth in line.

And now the antics …

  • A clerk came into the hallway and announced that because of the snow storm, their volunteers were running late and therefore they would start the vaccinations a bit after 8:00.
  • And one of the people in front of me – an old, fat white man – went off. You would think that some great injustice had been visited upon him. He just kept running-at-the-mouth about how this was all unacceptable. (OMG – are old, fat, white men the new face of the whiny-bitch?)
  • The same clerk who announced the delay shortly come back and called in the first four. And 4, old, skinny, white women with helmet-shaped bleached-hair rushed in, leaving the black-woman and the black-man who were first and third in line in their wake. (A Lord of the Flies moment if there ever was one.)
1. The winter landscape, at the top, is from a FB post. It’s the northern section of Aprigliano.
2. The featured-image – the post thumbnail on the main-page – is by American artist Eyvind Earle.
   (Earle drew Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.)


February 6, 2021 2021, diario/journal

Shakespeare’s famous couplet from Richard III:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

is generally truncated and only the first line referenced.
For years, I too used it to refer to the cold, miserable season; I too assumed Mr. Stratford-upon-Avon had given us mortals an apt descriptor for the winter doldrums. But once I realized I was taking the line totally out of context, and once I read the entire couplet did I understand its wonder, its beauty.

  • The soliloquy is Gloucester’s harangue against his brother King Edward.
  • The initial couplet is sarcastic and playful using the word sun to both mock and confuse.
  • Winter of our discontent is as wonderful as Made glorious summer.

The next four lines feel like something I would read in the Palmer Report. It’s as if Bill Palmer is addressing his fellow Democrats, but without his constant reminder not to get complacent, because gerrymandering and voter suppression can take the delightful measures all away.

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

And then comes this weak piping time of peace. My only hope, and I believe the country’s only hope, is that the GOP is leaderless. The GOP seems to have lost its thinkers, its statesmen; its elders, its spokesmen. The Grand Old Party seems to have lost its soul; it has certainly lost its mind.
If the shift to Republicanism started with Goldwater in 1964, the GOP has had a some 50 years to deteriorate into the party that believes Jewish lasers started the California wildfires.

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

I began this post, because I wanted to record the date that I got my COVID vaccination appointment – February 9. And from there I went to the Bard.
Also, I’ve been grabbing many pics off the FB site Dal Rinascimento ai Pittori Macchiaioli e oltre and have been trying to use them. Both the above winterscape and the featured image on the mainpage are from the FB page.

1. The winter landscape, at the top, is by Scottish painter Joseph Farquharson.
2. The featured-image – the post thumbnail on the main-page – is by Italian painter Alessandro Tofanelli.


February 2, 2021 2021, diario/journal

Today has many names – Midwinter, Groundhog Day, Candlemas, Feast of the Presentation.

First: I didn’t know that February 2nd marked the mid-point of the season. The confusion comes from the fact that the carol – In the Bleak Midwinter – is part of the Christmas repertoire. And even though it makes no sense to reference the middle of winter in late December, I went with the timeline – it’s a Christmas carol. But when I calculate the length of winter 2020 – there are 89 days – February 2nd is day 43 and close enough to claim the mid-point.

Second: Groundhog Day is famous for Punxsutawney Phil and the Bill Murray, Andie McDowell movie. The famous Pennsylvanian rodent is an American icon and this year predicted six more weeks of winter; the movie wonderfully captured 1990s America – stupid, harmless, oblivious, repressed …

Third: I first came across the term Candlemas, in the 1970s, in the Deryni novels by Katherine Kurtz. The author did an amazing job blending Catholic monasticism and Church of England traditions in a surreal feudal landscape. The main characters are hybrid monks with great powers and Candlemas was a day to call up strong magic.
Wikipedia says the following about the day. (The Mother Church sarcasm and calling-out the hundred-year olds are all mine.)

Candlemas, is a Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It is based upon the account of the presentation of Jesus in Luke 2:22–40. In accordance with Leviticus: a woman was to be purified by presenting a lamb as a burnt offering, and either a young pigeon or dove as sin offering, 33 days after a boy’s circumcision. And using Holy Mother Church’s trumped up calendar, it falls on February 2.
On Candlemas, many Christians, (especially those over 100) especially Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox and Roman Catholics also bring their candles to their local church, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year.


Fourth: The Andrea Mantegna painting of The Presentation At the Temple is one of my favorites.
the child is swaddled in a fassa – an old Calabrese word. I still remember my sister being wrapped up when she was first born; (we’re talking 1955) my mother claimed it was to insure that her legs would grow straight
the frame is part of the painting – notice how the mother’s elbow rests on the bottom horizontal
the line halos are the best
– the middle figure – who the hell is he; who pissed in his corn-flakes (bet you it’s Joseph)
– and, nothing like dressing up a group of humble, devout Jews as Italian Renaissance aristocrats (I want the rose robe Simeon is wearing – look at that embroidery; even his skull-cap would be OK on a cold winter night.)

1. The winter landscape, at the top, is by Peder Mørk Mønsted.
2. The featured-image – the post thumbnail on the main-page – is of the small church of Santa Maria dell’Assunta in Aprigliano.

in the long ago - 1

January 22, 2021 2021, diario/journal

Two events – a FB posting and an old old photograph – stirred memories of that long ago.

One – Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo

Between April and August of 1972, I lived in Perugia attending the Universita per Stranieri – Italian University for Foreigners. It was a program similar to what today may be called Junior-year Abroad; in other words, my course-work was pre-approved by Manhattan College and I received credit for my Italian classwork.

  • In the late 20th century, Perugia was still a hilltop town. And the main street – Corso Vannucci – was the center of life for us stranieri.
  • One of our favorites was the fancy espresso bar that was presided over by a most masculine woman. (In the early 70s, masculine women were a novelty; and we would gawk every time we walked by. But prices were way beyond our student budgets, so we ventured in maybe once a month.)
  • I lived in rooms that a nice woman rented out to students. There were 3 of us. I shared a room with a young-man from Georgia, and the other was a single.
  • The young-man from Georgia, had begun his time in England where he bought a Triumph and then drove it down to Perugia.
  • There I was, studying Italian but on weekends, the young-man from Georgia and the transplant Calabrian, via Canada and New York City, headed out into the Umbrian countryside.
  • Assisi, from down in the valley, from the back of a motorcycle, was a fairy-tale landscape.

One afternoon, I was exploring the area north of the university and I saw this round structure at the end of stone-paved alley. It turned out to be a beautiful Medieval chapel.
I saw no signage, so had no idea what it was. I went inside to discover a chapel of sorts. The place was empty, but around the altar, on a raised dais were sheaves of wheat – which the sun, from windows up in the dome, bathed in golden light.

Even now that sweet memory lingers.

For some fifty years, I’ve been trying to figure where that chapel was. But memory is fickle, it’s elusive, it’s unreliable and I never figured out what I had stumbled on, all those years ago.
Until today.
There on Facebook was my chapel from memory. I recognized it from the one pic in the post. And that led me to Google Maps. It’s the Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo.

Here’s the Wikipedia entry for the small church.

San Michele Arcangelo, also known as Sant’Angelo, is a paleo-Christian temple in the city of Perugia in Umbria. The circular building dates to the 5th to 6th century and it incorporates Corinthian capped columns from a prior pagan temple. It is dedicated to the Archangel Michael, whose churches were often located in elevated spots. The small round church is also often called Tempio or Tempietto, and is located in the neighborhood Borgo Sant’Angelo, near the ancient northern gate (Porta Sant’Angelo) of the city.

The structure of the church has been altered across the centuries; in 1479, it was converted into a small fort. A major restoration occurred in 1948 that revealed ancient frescoes and sealed windows. The architecture is an early Romanesque with Byzantine influences in the chapel placement, but the circular temple is something seen in other ancient churches in central Italy.

The interior has a circumferential ambulatory delimited by sixteen columns with Corinthian capitals. The interior has some notable early Christian symbolism, including a pentagram at the entrance and some crosses belonging to Knights Templar order.

after the war

January 11, 2021 2021, diario/journal
  • Many are tired of the COVID news reporting; I’m tired of the January 6 reports. Cable news reports with the same high-anxiety they brought to election night 2020.
    I know it was horrible, but I’m not one of those people who needs convincing, so I’ve turned off TV.
  • Today Sheldon Adelson died; he was part of the white-supremacy movement that began in 2009 with the founding of the Tea Party and morphed into the terrorists that attacked the Capitol on January 6.

And now a word from the merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail …

He had it comin’
He had it comin’
He only had himself to blame

You know how people have these little habits that get you down
Like Bernie
Bernie, he liked to chew gum
No, not chew, pop
So I came home this one day
And I’m really irritated
And I’m looking for a little bit o’ sympathy
And there’s Bernie lyin’ on the couch, drinkin’ a beer and chewin’
No, not chewin’
So, I said to him, I said “Bernie, you pop that gum one more time”
And he did
So I took the shotgun off the wall
And I fired two warning shots
Into his head
Now, I’m standing in the kitchen
Carvin’ up a chicken for dinner
Minding my own business
In storms my husband Wilbur in a jealous rage
“You been screwin’ the milkman, ” he says
He was crazy
And he kept on screamin’
“You been screwin’ the milkman”
And then he ran into my knife
He ran into my knife ten times

If you’d have been there
If you’d have seen it
I betcha you would have done the same

the 12th day

January 6, 2021 2021, diario/journal



On this the 12th day of Christmas, the feat of La Befana and the day that right-wing terrorists stormed the US Capital, I wanted to use the wonderful note, from 1922, written by the young Marco. (I love the old fashion cursive.)

In the note, the young-man is writing to his dad and his mom – Babbo, Mamma. And in it, he prays that the child born in Bethlehem, will help end the war; that the child born in Bethlehem help the many wounded and imprisoned soldiers.
It’s an amazing sentiment that still rings true some hundred years later.

And to commemorate La Befana, I used a drawing of the ‘old hag’ from another antique card, as the featured image for this post.
Growing up in Aprigliano, in the early 50s, our stockings were filled for the feat of the Epiphany, when the Magi came to the stable bearing gifts. December 24 and December 25 were occasions for family and friends, for Christmas Eve dinner with Midnight Mass. We got gifts on January 6, and they were brought to us by La Befana.

Today, with the feat of the Epiphany, the Christmas Season ends.


January 2, 2021 2021, diario/journal

The above images – on the left Modular by Le Corbusier and on the right Vitruvian Man by Da Vinci – have finally been united.
I bought the Modular poster when the Wertheimers and I were in Romchampt at Notre-Dame du Haut – the amazing chapel designed by Le Corbusier to commemorate the resistant fighters of World War II. And it’s been in the downstairs big-room since then – some 30 years.
I knew it was based on Da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man drawing, but I was always too bashful about putting the two pieces next to each other, mainly because Da Vinci’s man was naked. But time and age change many things; I bought a poster of the famous geometric man and put it next to Modular.

The Vitruvian Man – L’uomo vitruviano – originally known as Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio – The proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius – is a drawing made by the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci in about 1490. It is accompanied by notes based on the work of the Roman architect Vitruvius. The drawing, which is in ink on paper, depicts a man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square. – Wikipedia

The Modulor is an anthropometric scale of proportions devised by the Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier (1887–1965).
It was developed as a visual bridge between two incompatible scales, the Imperial and the metric systems. It is based on the height of a man with his arm raised.
Le Corbusier developed the Modulor in the long tradition of Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and other attempts to discover mathematical proportions in the human body and then to use that knowledge to improve both the appearance and function of architecture.The system is based on human measurements, the double unit, the Fibonacci numbers, and the golden ratio. Le Corbusier described it as a “range of harmonious measurements to suit the human scale, universally applicable to architecture and to mechanical things”. – Wikipedia