St. Joe’s Island is a place I keep going back to whenever I’m in Northern Ontario. The island sits at the end of the St. Mary’s Rivers in Lake Huron.
As kids, Rainer’s mom and dad would take us to St. Joe’s to fish and to pick blueberries. We would do the 20 mile drive following the St. Mary’s River through the Indian Reservation and end up at the dock to wait for the ferry to take us onto the Island. The ferry held maybe 10 cars. I remember rough, white-capped waves and staying in the car while the ferry navigated the narrow channel. In the late 70’s the Provincial government built the current bridge. The image on the left is the bridge going over to the Island.
And this morning I got to shoot a photograph that echoed back to one of my favorite paintings – Casson’s “White Pine”. AJ Casson was one of the Canadian Group of Seven – artists who, after WW I, fled Southern Ontario for the Georgian Bay and Algoma areas to paint. Reproductions of their famous landscapes were in my basal reader. I remember being proud to see the landscapes that I saw everyday living in the Sault captured in canvas, reproduced in color in my reader. (It was great to see recognizable wilderness instead of Toronto streetscapes and Ottawa parliaments.)
This is one of my favorite images – Seane, Connie and Christian.
The light-green finger, the white tank-top, the blue hair-clip, the black hollow, the sun tanned shoulders, the brown T, the yellow-green leaves, the grey culvert, and the checker-board shadows; Sean protecting, Connie leaning, Christian walking over; serendipity.
Northern Ontario, in early August, still has a summer sun. The evenings are deep-red and soft. Twilight lingers.
It was Christian’s birthday, we had just finished eating and went walking in the evening light; three of us led by an adventurous aunt.
When they got to the culvert, they walked right out onto it. As the reporter and interpreter, I can assign motivation and action to the characters in the image – Connie needs to see what is in the water; Sean is hesitant and cautious; she’s trying to make sure her aunt doesn’t tip into the stream; Christian meanders; the uncle stays back, pushing the shutter-release.
I’ve waited to write this entry, because I wasn’t sure what perspective to take. And I didn’t know how to tell about a place that was nothing like anywhere else I had been.
When we were trying to find a mid-way point between San Francisco and Pittsburgh that was warm, New Orleans popped on the radar. I headed south with little thought of place. I was more interested in the fact that I was going to visit with one of my oldest friends and that it was going to be warm.
Flying in and circling the gulf was amazing. The flat waters were littered with rigs and other oil producing super-structures. It reminded me of a spring garden – all pegs and stakes waiting to be covered with summer green. And heading into the runway, you saw the famous levees like giant potholes scratched in the landscape. We stayed downtown on the edge of the French Quarter.
Friday night we walked the area around the casino. This is all new construction. We found a decent beer garden and sat and talked in short sleeves. (The last time I was in warm weather in February was 2001 and never before then.)
Saturday morning the whole area was wrapped in fog. And not knowing the surroundings I had no idea what the fog was hiding. This time we did get into the French Quarters and I had my cameras.
The young man in the photo reminded me of Paris twenty years ago where I saw similar performance artists. They are living statues spending the whole time immobile. The difference was that in Paris they were all dressed as angles or devils. I guess in 21st century America musicians and robots are our angles and demons. (Will these present-day saints take requests? Will they hear my prayers and intercede?) The black and white cones on the right are for the tourists to deposit their offerings.
It wasn’t until Sunday that I began to see the old world in New Orleans. The first time through the Quarter, I was too disoriented and in a fog to pay attention. But the second time through I could look and see the muted colors of French country houses, the now-memories of long ago, the shutters, the floor to ceiling windows, the lace-iron balconies.
The shutters and louvers of the windows in the pic on the right, remind me of the country houses we saw on our road-trip south from Paris to Ronchamp. Back then, the five of us – Rick, Sarah, Shana, Mim and I – stayed in a farm house before we headed to Ronchamp. Back then, I saw the chapel in the rear-view mirror and I was lost. Back then, we climbed the mountain-road to Notre-Dame-du-Haut. Back then, in Corbusier’s chapel, I knelt and prayed. (How is it that 20 year old memories and 40 year old feelings find their way back to the present?)
Sunday morning the Quarter and the square in front of the Cathedral were filled. This was the pre-Mardi Gras crowd. The taxi driver, who took us to the airport, told us that by the week-end the place would be crawling with out-of-towners. (The city had already placed road barricades up and down the parade streets.) On one level I was glad to be heading home and away from the pre-Lenten ritual.
The pic of the shutters and louvers is from the courtyard where Tom and I had breakfast Sunday morning. The fog was gone.
Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
and frolicked in the autumn mist . . .
Our first trip, Sunday morning, was to the beach at Hanalei Bay and Rose and Derrick pointed out the mountain range that in local legend is associated with the Peter Yarrow song Puff the Magic Dragon. The long line of mountain bumps and humps is supposed to be the dragon’s back. He’s lying on his stomach with his head flat on the water. The image on the left is the snout and eye of that rascal Puff.
The small town of Hanalei and crescent Hanalei Bay are magnets for the left-over-hippie set, the natural-food-beauties, the gel-haired youths on fancy boards and the 30-something, over-weight surfers. The bay was covered in mist and Rose and I tried figuring out the words to Peter Yarrow’s child-song.
Earlier that morning, as I stepped onto the lanai that surrounded the two-bedroom condo, a rainbow arched the mist. Its right curve was anchored in the manicured Makai Course and its left curve on the mountain slopes. My very own welcome mat.
We decided to walk down to the St. Regis, the 4-star hotel in Princeville, for mimosas. The view from the restaurant terrace overlooks Hanalei Bay. I asked the nice waitress to take our picture.
The visit continues our pattern of dropping in on fancy hotels. In Panarea, we sunned on the deck of the Hotel Raya. I went up willing to pay for a day pass to sit under an umbrella and away from the over-heat, the old woman who owned the place must have like little, old me and offered us the patio; in Gubbio we sat in the courtyard of the Bosone Palace and had gelato and caffe; in Princeville we paid tourist prices to drink tropical mimosas with the well-heeled.
Priceville is in the north and is a self-contained, gated community of up-scale homes, condos and golf course. The condo we stayed was on the 12th Tee; the Pacific on the horizon, the bunkers and green holding up the blue.
The St. Regis is at the end of the compound and cascades over the cliffs that hold Hanalei Bay.
On a catamaran – we sailed from Port Allen on the south-western shore into the blue Pacific and the Na Pali coast.
Before heading out there was all this talk of seeing Spinner dolphins and whales. I assumed it was all an exaggeration to get well-heeled tourists out on a day-trip. Also while waiting to board the catamaran, our fellow passengers were not only well-heeled, but some of the strangest body-types I had ever seen in swimsuits. (Some people should just stay covered. Because you’re in Kaua’i, doesn’t give you license to wear a bikini.)
The south western coast is the beginning of the dry almost desert part of Kaua’i. The beaches as empty, and beyond Polihale State Park there are not roads only cliffs that fall into the ocean. We followed 40 miles of coast.
We weren’t too far out when we spotted the first dolphin. This was a loner who stayed around while the tourists ran from one side of the boat to the other hoping to capture on digital its jump out of the blue waves. This excitement was followed by a whale sighting. Now I was interested. (The dolphin was a single and not worth chasing across the deck of the catamaran.) The whale on the other hand was huge. I’ve seen pictures, but nothing prepares you for the actual thing. It is so big that after it dives, it leave a footprint – a flat water area the size of the mighty beast. The legend of dragon in the sea, comes from early sailors seeing two of these giants frolicking in the waves. Having seen the whale, I can see the dragon stories.
Eventually, we did see the Spinner dolphins. they travel in schools and are very playful and they do jump out of the water and spin before they fall in.
The sea creatures were nothing compared to the cliff of the Na Pali Coast. Sheer green-covered lava-rock rising into the clouds from a deep-blue ocean. (No Photoshop enhancement was needed to get the blue. It’s natural.)
On Wednesday I did a north shore shoot with a local photography company. Five of us tourists spent the day in van being driven around the north shore. The young man who led the tour was very good. He took us to locations that were off the beaten track – great overlooks, small waterfalls, secluded beaches, state parks, the lighthouse, and the taro fields.
Taro is a root vegetable and is sometimes called the potato of the tropics. At one time it was the staple that the Hawaiian diet was based. But it has long been abandoned and the modern American diet is now default. The plant grows in conditions similar to rice – in paddy fields.
The last remaining commercial fields in the state are on Kaua’i in the Hanalei River valley. The flats on either side of the river are flooded and filled with taro plants at various stages of growth.
Outside of the over saturated southern shore and the northern gated community of Princeville, the coastal plain is green. It’s culture rural with a slow tempo. The taro fields – commercial and family fields – look back to an old time.
Talk about a cliche title. Rather, two weeks ago I was looking out from the balcony and saw the cloud, the ocean, the palm trees and the golf-course. Tonight, here in Pittsburgh, I got to sit on my porch and write in my journal. It was the first writing session of the 2011 season. Below me the garden is beginning to grow into the new green of spring.
The dove is back in its nest in the Japanese lilac; the chives are reborn; (I had some in my salad tonight.) the hosta and peonies are soft and new-born green. Soon they will fill the backyard with color and leaves.
Twilight is sweet on this night that is free of rain and severe cold. (Tonight, I was wrapped up in sweat-pants, sweat-shirt, and a red, Lifa toque.) In Kaua’i, I was wearing shorts and enjoying the heat of twilight.
I want to frolicked in the autumn mist, in a land called Honah Lee.
The last time I was at the Paris airport was 20 years ago. I was with the Wertheimers and once we retrieved our luggage we headed into town.
The Charles de Gaulle airport is all renovated. Security is double what it is at any other airport. (Twenty years ago there were soldiers with machine guns walking around.) And the French are efficient, but miserably detached and non-friendly. (The Zingas are originally from France that may explain some of the family characteristics.) It’s the only airport where they had me take out all my camera equipment and put it into one of the security trays. And on the flight from Paris to Rome, the pilot and attendances would give these long explanations about Genoa, Torino, the Alps in French and then two sentences in English. At first I thought they just don’t have the facility with English that they have with French. Wrong! (It’s the French, F the rest of us.)
One of my anxieties about the trip was getting from Fiumicino – Rome Airport – to Stazione Termini – Rome Train Station. (The Roma Termini pic is something I found online.) I had all these concerns that I would get a rogue cab-driver. Instead I ended up with the airport taxi-group. The driver had on a shirt-and-tie and a jacket, very professional. The ride into town was 50 Euros, around $80. (That is what I had expected.)
Stazione Termini was the best. First there were support people everywhere. And the people . . . If it’s wasn’t my first time back in 40 years, and if I wasn’t exhausted from the flight, and if I was with someone else, I would have taken out my camera, assembled the lens and shot and shot. The place was crawling with humankind. These people were all real, they were alive. They were the regular-folk wrapped in their Felliniesque costumes and Italian manners – muzzled dogs leading owners, cigarettes dangling from red-red lips, stiletto heels holding Rubenesque calves, man-purses slung on narrow shoulders, left-over hippies looking for their euro-rail passes, and young kids slumming it, because it’s cool to take the train with the regs.
The train left on time and got to Fabriano on time. It stopped at Spoleto and I was nostalgic for that trip, because it was a great one. On the way I texted Rose and Derrick to tell them where I was and once got off at Fabriano, there they were on the platform.
From Fabriano we drove through the country to the house in Isola di Fano. The landscape was magnificent.
We rented a renovated workers’ cottage. (When I told my dad where we stayed, he laughed. He grew up in one of these workers’ houses. It was home to some 18 family members who worked the padrone’s land. The first floor housed the animals; the sharecroppers all lived on the second floor. The sharecropping system, abandoned after the war, left many workers houses vacant. In modern times, these cottages have been reclaimed and rehabbed.)
The image below is the view from the kitchen window.
Rose’s comment was, “When you have this outside your window, who needs a painting?”
Large farms cover the northern section of le March. They crown the hills and the tree-lines serve as fences separating one farm from the next.
One of the things that I’m doing in this set of journal entries is using larger images. I really like this one.
After getting off the train in Fabriano, I said to Rose and Derrick that I needed to do something that told me I was in Italy. (Up to then, I had interacted with traveling attendances – memorable are the nasty airport workers at CDG – but no Italians, no landscapes, no art, and no food.) Well, first came the drive back to the house in Isola di Fano. There was the landscape; nothing like it anywhere; yes I was in le Marche. The house – cale cerque – was the next surprise. (The branches behind Rose are le cerque the oak trees that give the house its name.) Set in the rolling hills, its beautiful yellow-orange stucco blended with the natural colors of the plowed earth that sheltered it. And finally came the food and the wine.
Rose and Derrick are always ready for meals. They spend time shopping for food, cooking it and then sitting down and enjoying it. Dinner was a simple affair. Pasta with fresh tomato sauce, cheeses, a salad and wine from the agriturismo they were at before heading to le Marche. The table is on the upper portion of the property, it’s under a pergola and back-dropped by rolling farmland. This is the northern section of le Marche.
As the moon silvered the twilight, we ate, drank and laughed. I had gotten there late, but I was in finally in Italy doing the things Italian do.
On Thursday we decided to go to Urbino. From Isola di Fano it was a half hour ride. This hill-town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (When I told Paul we had gone to Urbino, he announced that no one knows where that is. I hope it stays that way.)
I love Piero della Francesca’s painting of The Duke of Urbino.
(I want his hat.) How did he produce the red pigment that he used for the hat and the coat?
We approached Urbino from the south-east finding it on the horizon whenever the tree-line broke. It sat across the valley, its cathedral a blue crown.
We entered through one of its ancient gates to find a lived-in, medieval town absent of tourists. (For me that was the best. It’s hard to not find tourists in Italy, in August.) The rock-paved streets are wide letting the August sun in and the cars through without scraping the walls or the walkers.
Reminders of its Papal State status are everywhere in the city center. The cathedral and ducal palace are riddled with papal crests, statues and sacred liturgical artifacts.
Urbino is also the birthplace of Raphael. And that artistic legacy is embraced by the university. As we walked, hiding in the shade, students were going in and out of palazzos that have been turned into classrooms and offices.
On our way home from Urbino, I suggested we go up to the monastery and then back down to the cemetery in Fossombrone. (I had noticed the signs and today we had some time.)
The road up to the colle dei Cappuccini was out of a Calabrian nightmare. In a province covered by round, cultivated hills, the road was narrow, scratched with 90 degree turns, and ledges that looked down and down and down.
Rose was beside herself. Derrick and I were surprised to find this mountain road. At one point we met a driver coming down. He had to back up and make way for us, because there were two cars going up. Also, we had no room on the right to pull over. The over was into the valley.
It took us a good half-hour to reach the top. And there was the Cappiccin Monastery. But the view was the thing. Before us was the valley of the Metauro and the terra cotta roofs of Fossombrone. (I am in front of the monastery, at an overlook and I am shooting into the valley.)
The monastery was established in 1528. I cannot image walking to the summit, let alone bring up building materials.
The expression in Italian for someone going into a monastery suggests that the person is going away from the world. Up here at the summit of the colle dei Cappuccini I finally understood the expression.
The church, swaddled in green gauze, was part of the original Cappuccin complex before two monks left and went up to the mountain to find solace and solitude and ended up founding a new branch monastery. The old church and monastery cemetery are now the modern cemetery of Fossombrone. After years of neglect the old Cappuccin church is being restored.
The cemetery is one of the most efficiently designed and planned burial ground that I’ve ever seen. (In mountainous Calabria where flat land is a premium and the ground is rock, level expanses are given over to the fields of the dead. And tombs are wide-spaced, stand-alone and above ground.) Here in Fossombrone the cemetery is probably half the area of the one in Aprigliano, but holds double the number of dead.
The tombs are all underground crypts and the bodies are stacked one on top of the other. The mausoleum on the right already has 13 people buried in its crypt. And there’s probably room for another 10 or so. All the family crypts have a decorative marble/stone cover.
On the inside, the perimeter wall is lined with porticoes and under each arch is a family mausoleums; evidence of the wealth in the region. On a second ring of porticoes were many crypts in modern design. This was a surprise. And in the middle of the old cemetery were single graves with mounds of earth and stone. The grave-markers on these mounds were make-shift and temporary. (I would not be surprised if these are temporary graves and the family is waiting for room in the new, mausoleum.
There are so many shelves on the above ground crypts that the cemetery provides ladders so family members can reach the flower vases. (It looks like Home Depot with its ladders-on-wheels in the middle of the isles.) These modern hives are two stories and so well planned that the street-level is a piazza like space.
The emotional effect of this planning is a less morbid environment. I was more intrigued by the design, the traffic flow and the lack of funereal boxes than the atmosphere of a place of the dead. It all made for a neutral response. (I don’t know if families who come to visit their loved ones have the same detached response.)
We left Fossombrone and headed north-east to Ferrara. Our last visit to Emilia Romagna took us to Bologna. We went there to eat and were not disappointed. (We have now been in Emilia Romagna twice and the food is absolutely the best.) This trip, I suggested Ferrara hoping for the same eating options. And we found them in droves. And because it’s off the tourist route, prices were amazingly low and the food was amazingly great.
Also, Ferrara is the city of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and a memory in Stephen Sondheim’s dreamy Liaisons.
Is this the room and ceiling Madame Armfeldt (Hermione Gingold) was dreaming about as she remembered her life in A Little Night Music?
At the palace of the Duke of Ferrara
Who was prematurely deaf, but a dear.
At the palace of the Duke of Ferrara,
I acquired some position, plus a tiny Titian.
What’s happened to them?
What’s become of them?
Some of them
Hardly pay their shoddy way.
This is the ceiling of one of the street-level reception rooms of Palazzo Constabili. The corner frescoes represent the four seasons.
(The grand palaces of Ferrara are all brick-faced. Absent are the smooth, marble facades of Tuscany.) This Renaissance palazzo is beautiful even without external ornamentation. However, the interior of the Palazzo Constabili was amazing – the courtyard-garden rippled with thistle and hawthorn; cicadas sang in the pines; and the stone well was topped with lacey, wrought-iron sunflowers; on the main staircase, the risers were written with curlicues of inlaid black-marble; upstairs the piano nobile boasted the largest Etruscan collection in Italy; (The artifacts are from the ancient town of Spina an Etruscan port that flourished between the 6th and 3rd centuries.) and the ball-room had been re-decorated with murals of Spina, the old administrative divisions of the province and maps of the Nazi occupation of Emilia Romagna. (Talk about contrasts.)
It’s been years since I was in Rome. (The Rome airport doesn’t count. BTW, I hate the Rome airport. It is one of the most difficult airports to begin a trip from; checking in is miserable. And the domestic terminals are over-run with passengers, and not very clean.)
We left Ferrara Monday morning and drove down to Rome. (We were going to return the car and stay overnight at the airport Hilton. My flight was at 7:30 in the morning and I headed over at 5:30. It took me an hour to check in. Why I hate the Rome airport.) Part of our plan was to take the hotel bus into Rome and spend late afternoon and early evening in the city.
This part of the return trip was the best. I loved being back in Rome. I had forgotten how great the city is. In Rome everything is exaggerated. The churches are grand, the streets are wide, the buildings are refurbished and elegant. And most of all, the city is big enough that you can avoid the tourists. Santa Maria in Trastevere was beautiful; Piazza Navona was over-run by tourists and we left quickly; the Pantheon was closed; Piazza Venezia was roped off, but still magnificent; and the Campidoglio was a wonderful surprise.
My favorite discovery was what has been done on the shores of il Tevere. I remember il Tevere in late August as a muddy trickle. I had never gone down to the river, because it felt unsafe. It was far down to get to the river and hardly anyone went down to the edge, especially when all that was down there was a muddy, shallow stream littered with garbage. (Different than Paris, where the banks of the Seine were full of people enjoying a stroll.) Well all that has changed. The water it high and the banks are filled with theatres, restaurants, walkways and people. The street noise if gone and you are surrounded by tents and tables; one restaurant had hookah pipes to smoke and pillows to lounge on as you watched the Romans and wannabes stroll by. Welcome to Lungo il Tevere … Roma.
The drive up to the Soo was free of snow and ice. And the time is always an occasion for self-reflection and anxiety about the upcoming holiday. (The anxiety is a new awareness, in the past I suspect it was hidden in anticipation, but I guess age strips away the need to hide.)
I went up early, because I could not stay beyond the 25th. This gave me time with my parents before the onslaught. We’ve established an easy routine – 11:30 and 5:00 my dad calls us to eat and the three of us talk all through the meal. (Let me mention that the TV is on all day, playing out the sordid details of the soap bimbos and bimbettes. The American and Italian soaps are populated by similar replicants. The difference is the words and the landscapes. The tits are similarly perky and the angst is all consuming regardless the longitude.)
Today I decided to go up to the old St. Mary’s and shoot some pics. The image below is the landscape we saw every morning as the yellow bus pulled up the hilltop and deposited us at the front door. Even though the the new St. Mary’s is a French immersion high school, students still use the same front doors we used 50 years ago. (The old St. Mary’s – Boys Catholic High School, is now at the bottom of the hill in a building that used to house a vocational high school. Also, the school is no longer single sex; it is now co-ed.)
The bridge is the gateway into the Upper Peninsula and the United States. (It’s the road home.) The smoke on the right is from the steel mill. (I worked in the rolling mill the summer of my junior year.)