Archive for April, 2011

“Living in modern times has turned us into watchers, placing a sliver of distance between us and everything we meet.” Mark Nepo

One of the magical things about Italy is that you do not watch, you are completely engaged. And it is magic. There is something so compelling and engrossing that you simply are part of the moment, completely immersed in the place, fully alive. It is wonderful.

Learning Vacations

Living life on the streets

And Italy manages to do this in spite of all the things that “place a sliver of distance” in modern day life. When we began our trips to Italy 8 years ago, most of the many ways that we now use to “connect” didn’t exist. The only thing really, was the Internet cafe. Nobody brought a phone, you didn’t have devices like smart phones or computers that could hook up to wifi. Today, many people travel with these devices and use them.

Still, it is amazing how Italy removes that “sliver of distance” and how those

Italy trips 2011

Making umbrichelli in one of our cooking classes

means of connection get turned on less and less the longer you stay. You slowly begin to recognize that by plunging into the tiny screen in front of your face, you are missing an amazing world of life all around. And that life is so rich, and joyful, and engrossing, and compelling that you simply do not want to miss it. It feels good. Shoot, it’s life.

All the ways we have to connect today – phones, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, et al – serve a purpose. They also do turn us into “watchers.” And we were meant to live not watch. I love Italy for bringing us back to life. Slowly, inexorably as you spend time in this country you find life. What a gift!


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Sometimes, while taking a workshop, one’s ego can get in the way as you compare your work to that of others. It can appear as if everyone else’s pieces are better than yours. Yet, in Italy, the place is so inspired that it infuses your own work. Somehow, the ego is diminished, in a good way, leaving you more open to learning.

Mark Nepo, who I’ve quoted here before and who I am enjoying reading said something beautiful about learning. “It’s not by chance that the dark center of the human eye, the pupil, is actually an empty hole through which the world becomes known to us. Likewise, in a spiritual sense, the I is the empty center through which we see everything. It’s revealing that such a threshold is called the pupil, for it is only when we are emptied of all noise and dreams of ego that we become truly teachable.”

Local artisan, Alberto, at work

Orvieto creates a teachable environment. It is so inspired that focus is enhanced, noise reduced, the ego fades, the ability to use your pupils to be a pupil enhanced. Here, in this city where Michelangelo drew inspiration for his Sistine Chapel, where the landscape and architecture and cobbled streets and cloth covered tables at meals and store window presentations all speak of beauty and art and devotion and care, it is natural to immerse yourself in your art. It is all so incredibly amazing that you are led to create, to try your hand at things you never thought you could do, to somehow capture the remarkable quality of everything around you in a piece of work that will help you remember forever.

So it is that the artists traveling with us create beautiful things. They often surprise themselves with their ability and skill. Learning in Italy is magic!

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