Archive for June, 2012


There is an afterglow that happens after being in Italy. It doesn’t take place in the first week or two after returning home. But it begins to emerge, slowly, imperceptibly. You find yourself smiling, remembering things. You are transported back to a place where you were immersed in life, in the moment, full of all the sensory stimulus that is this amazing country filling you full of joy and ecstasy. It is bliss.

It is, typically, a solo kind of experience. Anyone who hasn’t been there with you simply can’t relate. The looks are blank. And so you stop expressing it. But, you enjoy it anyway. It is yours to revel in.

Truth be told, it will fade. Daily events and deadlines and pressures will intercede. Still, while it lasts, revel in it. Let it imprint on your mind – well, actually, it is already imprinted! You did have an amazing time. You did see incredible things. You did savor unbelievable food, and wine, and companionship, and joy. Know it or not, you have already embraced it, taken it to heart, tucked it away.  It will warm you on a cold night.

For even though it fades in the short term, it will return, unexpected, unbid, unforeseen – for years to come. It is a gift, a blessing. And it is yours forever – yours from Italy. Grazie mille Italia!

Orvieto Sunset – Afterglow


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Two Continents, Two Homes

I left Orvieto with some sadness a couple days ago. I miss the intimacy in all its many forms. It is a uniquely beautiful place for us to be, to live, to relish.

Then this morning, Mark Nepo, as he so often does with The Book of Awakening, spoke to me. First he quotes Tejo-Bindu Upanishad:

To direct the mind towards the basic unity of all things and to divert it from the seizing of differences – therein lies bliss.

Then Nepo writes:

The eye can see what we have in common or focus on what keeps us apart. And the heart can feel what joins us with everything or replay its many cuts. And the tongue can praise the wind or warn against the storm, can praise the sea or dread the flood.

It’s not that there are no differences – the world is made of infinite variety – rather it is the seizing of differences, the fearing of differences, that keeps us from feeling grace.

Paradoxically, everything in life touches the same center through its uniqueness, the way no two souls are the same, yet every soul breathes the same air.

When we fall into the illusion that one creation is better than another, we remove ourselves from the miracle of being and enter what the sixth century sage Seng-Ts’an called he mind’s worst disease: the endless deciding between want and don’t want, the endless war between for and against.

So, do I focus on the differences between Orvieto and here? Last night as the setting sun streamed into our oh so cozy living room I was warmed by the richness of our life here. And  I think, “How lucky am I? Two homes, two continents. Different, yet each uniquely beautiful. How lucky am I?”

Orvieto’s intimacy

Cozy Morganton home

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It’s what I miss most about Orvieto on my return to the U.S. yesterday. Orvieto is intimate.

  • The streets are intimate with few cars and their medieval scale
  • The stores are intimate with their small sizes
  • The gardens hidden behind the stone walls are intimate
  • Our relationships with all the wonderful Orvietani are intimate

The place embraces you.  You are held snug and secure. It is beautiful.

Yesterday on our return we headed to Ingles, not our favorite store, but the most convenient for tired travelers. Its cavernous. And impersonal. And cold. So not intimate. The alimentari at which we shop in Orvieto would fit in one half of one aisle of Ingles. In it, we are greeted by friendly faces and personal attention. Every visit is an exchange between you and the familiar people working there. They cut our bread for us, fill a container with just as much pesto as we need, cut the cheese to our specifications. It is completely personal.

The only really big space in Orvieto is the Duomo. Rather than cavernous it is soaring. It has natural light filtered by the alabaster windows softly illuminating the space, not the harshness of fluorescents.

Inside the Duomo

So not Ingles!

So yes, I am missing the intimacey that characterizes our stays in Orvieto. We’ll find it in downtown Morganton when we go for coffee this morning. But, for the moment, I savor the intimacy that was our three weeks in Orvieto.

Waiting on Rolanda who usually waits on us – intimate friendships

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