Welcome Back

As I sit here trying to put this post together after the 2+ month hiatus Gina and I took from Living Here and There (well, not from living here and there, but recording our experiences of it), I’ve found that my wheels are requiring gallons of grease and I’m needing to bribe myself with more than a few Netflix breaks in order to get rolling again.

I’m disoriented here at the keyboard and navigating around WordPress seems like wandering through a familiar but patently foreign land. It turns out that not all learned skills are as easy to return to as that bicycle and this particular practice, for me anyway, requires recalibrating and re-tinkering and time. As for sharing my thoughts (and my writing) with an audience of greater than one again…well, let’s just say I’m going to be here editing for awhile tonight.

That said, I’ve missed the company of my friend and the peek into her world over There, that this blog provides. That I got to enjoy a birthday lunch in SoHo with the actual, not virtual, Gina–as well as share a few meals and chats with her and the kids around my kitchen table–was a certain gift. Now, however, so many weeks later, our time together seems like a dream and I’m ready for some tangible, printable contact again.

Before we get started on what’s going on now though, here’s a little recap of what’s been going on Here, on this side of the ocean, for the past many weeks.

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August is my favorite month. Mostly because it was my favorite time of year growing up (my birthday falls during its first week) and while I don’t celebrate my birthday as whole-heartedly as I did when I was younger, Ray and Noah and I managed to do it up small this year and go on a birthday hike and out to dinner and eat cake. We also were able to see friends and family for various meals and cocktails during the beginning part of the month and soak up the still-strong sun and warm nights.

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Noah gussied up for my birthday dinner at Riverview.

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A late lunch that morphed into an early dinner at Michele and Dan’s.

The Hudson Valley is bursting with green in August and though sometimes the nights get chilly, the bounty of the harvest and the still-later-than-wintertime sunsets create an internal heat that keeps me from lamenting the coming fall (too much). In August even the river is balmy–the water temperature can reach upwards of 70 degrees–so Luca spends lots of time swimming and Noah and I spend lots of time chasing him around trying to dry him off.

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August sunset over Storm King Mountain.

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Swimming and stick-throwing.

Of course the cherry on top of my birthday week was Gina and the kids visiting us for a few days. To have them in our house again was so much fun and made me so very grateful for things like airplanes and trains and fossil fuel. The boys took up again like not a minute had passed since they were cavorting around Bologna last fall and, though Gina, Michele and I had to work hard to keep the yarns of our many conversations from becoming one giant, verbal knot of crazy, we managed to swim and hike and lunch and shop and drink a few gallons of wine. It was, to be trite, a divine time.

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Swimming at Michele’s.

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Gina & Leeloo considering the ducks on our hike around Little Stony Point.

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There’s always time for Minecraft (after lunch at Homespun).

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Snuggle pile in front of the TV. (Sometimes the moms get talking in the kitchen and forget that the kids get tired from all of the swimming and the hiking and the Minecraft.)

Even though leave-taking is becoming one of the brightest, no-longer-worrisome stitches in our relationship, saying goodbye to our friends is never easy and this time it especially sucked because our time together was so short-lived. (Here’s counting the days to Christmas in Philly!) Lucky for us, however, we saved our vacation until the end of the summer so we had something to look forward to once the Bouvarez clan had taken flight.

Cape Cod, Massachusettes here we come!

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Driving due east over the Bourne Bridge onto Cape Cod.

Cape Cod is a tiny spit of land that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean just south of Boston. My parents spend a good part of the year there and I’ve been visiting the place for most of my life, so in many ways driving over that bridge feels like coming home.

Our time at the Cape is slow and easy. What with the long days at the beach, long bike rides along the rail trail, trips to Provincetown (one of my favorite places on earth), yummy seafood dinners and plenty of sand and salty air, the Unwinding and Relaxing are sure things. This year, in addition to my parents being with us, all three of my brothers and my sister-in law were there. Noah had a blast swimming and playing with his cousins, and I had the chance to catch up with my beloved family members–all of whom I don’t get to see often enough because they live all over the world–which made this year’s trip extra special. The lot of us crammed into the tiny kitchen of our Cape Cod cottage and talked and laughed and ate and were very, very loud. Just like when we were kids.

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The pilot & co-pilot hunkered down for the five hour drive.

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(Sometimes the co-pilot needs a nap.)

The minute we get to the Cape house we drag everything out of the car, put on our bathing suits and head TO THE BEACH!

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Cousins setting up the court for some kind of sand game involving paddles & balls.

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Noah and cousin Daniel braving the Atlantic with Uncle Dan.

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All set up for a day beneath the dunes.

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Obligatory sand pit photo.

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Clams the boys dug with help from Uncle Dan & Uncle Tom.

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Lobster Roll.

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My brothers and me. Rarely is it that we are all on the same sofa. Most of the time we aren’t all on the same continent.

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Grandma & Papa & the grandkids.

Each year Ray and Noah and I take a day to ourselves and head to Provincetown–a village on the very tip of Cape Cod–and each year, after we’ve had some lunch and a beer or two at Governor Bradford’s and walked the length of Commercial Street, stopping into our favorite shops and bakery, we seek out the real estate listings and try to formulate a plan to move there someday. It truly is one of the most magical places I know–artists and writers roam the beaches for inspiration, tiny piping plovers–an endangered bird that conservation groups rope off miles of shoreline for–roam the dunes for food and mates, and human beings of every color and stripe dress in sequins and glitter and bows and dance in the streets, whooping and hollering and being wholly and fully themselves. There’s a nude beach, a festival week that rivals Mardi Gras and more natural beauty than seems fair for one tiny town.

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View from the end of Provincetown Wharf.

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Noah on the boardwalk.

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Rules of the beach.

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Race Point.

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One last look back before getting in the car.

 

And then September arrived with all of its natter and noise. It’s a month laced with beginnings and endings–as I suppose any month is–but September’s changes seem stern and definitive and cruel. School started for Noah. I got a job. Ray is interviewing again.

The gazebo is empty now. This past Sunday we wiped down the patio furniture and took away the candles and hauled everything into the shed where it sits, packed away for the long, cold season to come.

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First Day of 7th Grade.

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Last gazebo dinner of 2014…unless Stef lets us ring in the new year out here. We could do it with a couple of heat lamps and a case of frizzante, no?

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Empty gazebo.

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Morning full moon over half-bald mountain.

 

I’m trying to stay positive despite this morning that came upon us with no warning about a week ago…

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As I was hiking with the dog the other day, , however, I (sternly) reminded myself to honor all of the beauty that autumn brings. The hills are on fire right now, bursting into a hundred shades of orange and red and gold. The sunsets are still stupefying. October will bring Halloween and Noah’s birthday and longer, darker, more restful nights.

And besides, homework isn’t so bad…

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and neither is reading your favorite book about your favorite holiday to your friend…

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nor September sunsets that look like this…

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The other day there were four bald eagles circling over the river behind of our house. Google will tell you that the meaning in this sighting is that illumination awaits.

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Two of the four eagles I saw circling overhead last week.

I’m looking forward to it.

Forza Azzurri! Forza Italia!

It’s starting to feel like the Shakira La La La (Brazil 2014) hit all over the streets of Italia. All the little ones at school sing the World Cup anthem, talk of the Mondiale slips into every conversation for people of all ages, and I am doing the unthinkable, writing a post about sports.

And it appears that I’m not the only one in my family to have been touched by this madness. My son, who has never followed sports all that closely, totally surprised me the other day when an acquaintance from school stopped by our cafe table. They quickly got around to the games, and not only was my kid asking relevant questions, but he appeared to know the schedule of matches and names of players from all over the world. Now if I could just get him out on a field…

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And of course, its not just the pre-pubscent boys who know every detail of what’s… ahem… afoot (Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself.) I’ve had two occasions already to witness the fever that overtakes middle-aged men during the World Cup. It’s like some kind of rejuvenation spell is cast, and all of sudden, there’s more drinking, more laughing, more dancing, more singing, and more of all of it spilling out onto the streets. And that’s before the match has even started. (We see them particularly late here. Italy’s first game ran at midnight, but that didn’t stop the bars and streets from being packed with fans and celebrants of all shapes, ages and sizes.) The ladies have the fever too, some a bit more than others.

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After a pre-opening match dinner with a merry group of friends in Bologna, Zoel and I stayed up to watch Italy and England duke it out. Sleep won the battle with Zoel mid-game, but I made it to the end, and was treated to a post-game wrap-up on one of Italy’s main networks, Rai Uno, which, of course, featured a shapely babe in a skin tight black dress as our hostess for the evening. While the serious male pundits sat behind official desks, this lady sauntered about in the middle on her 5-inch heels. It looked like it absolutely had to be a Saturday Night Live skit, and yet… it was not.

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Built-in chauvinism aside, I’m looking forward to some more World Cup fun in the coming weeks and am hopeful the Italians will stay in the game for a while, so we can experience first-hand what happens in a soccer country when the national team makes it through a few rounds. The US will have made its Mondiale debut against Ghana by the time this posts early Tuesday morning, and it would also be amazing to see them win at least one. (Forza Stati Uniti!) As Spain’s El Pais sees it, the U.S. team is looking for the definitive push that would help (finally) popularize the game in the States. In case that never happens, I’ll be enjoying some World Cup frenzy while I can get it.

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Go…..team?

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I can’t believe that I’m writing a blog post about sports, either (*see Gina’s side). I’m not much of a sports fan, as I’ve mentioned, but I’m trying to join the world this month and attempt to understand why so many of its inhabitants are riveted to televisions and ESPN.com. My Twitter feed is overrun with hashtags marking team match- ups and popular players and their stats (at least I think that’s what all those numbers are). Even one of the more feminist leaning blogs I regularly read has gotten into the game, if only to showcase the ‘hotties’ of the sport (so much for realistic body images and curtailing the objectification of human beings).

I don’t mean to be a stooge about this. I know quite a few things about the sport actually, and really, I don’t hate it–in the sense that I can’t imagine why people play or want to play. In college I dated a guy who was a Division 1 soccer player and, in addition to his very firm abs, there was something appealing about watching him on the field and, afterwards, listening to him talk with his teammates about this beautiful game with an internal passion that I had yet to discover in myself. I remember him saying that he felt most like himself–and the most unencumbered about how to live his life–when he was in the middle of a game and his team was two goals down and his attention became singularly focused. His mind in those moments–despite the exhaustion of his body–was sharp and crisp and utterly clear.

Isn’t that the point? To cultivate our living and curate our circumstances and prepare ourselves, in the best ways we can, to stumble upon moments, through training and discipline and multitudes of time, when we are no longer distracted by worries or fleeting pleasures? Moments when the rattling of the world and of our minds falls away and we are one with everyone and everything around us?

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An image from the 2010 World Cup.

In this World Cup frenzy I understand the motivation to seek that rapture–for the players, anyway–but I’ve always been a little dubious about fans siphoning off their high. Does that feeling of freedom and alive-ness enchant someone who is simply watching a person follow his bliss? How about an entire stadium full of Brazilian futbol fans? (How about a stadium full of American football fans?) Or that guy, pictured above?

I know I’ve felt something like magic course through my veins at times when I was only a spectator. At a particularly emotional Bruce Springsteen concert about six years ago and during the final curtain call the first time I saw Les Mis on Broadway and when Donald Hall read a poem to a shocked and aching room and comforted each of our broken hearts with his words and his wisdom.

Maybe sometimes action is overrated. Maybe sometimes it’s our job and our duty to watch instead of move. Maybe for this month the world gets to turn its attention away from politics and the crappy economy and global warming and war crimes and place it, instead, on a group of ridiculously fit, wholly dedicated men whose skills and intentions will not save the world, but whose inspiration and example might just influence a few of us watching from the sidelines, who will.

In that spirit, here’s “my” team:

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…a team that, as I was writing this post, beat Ghana 2-1. Go Team!

Also, there’s this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destination: Tennessee

Here is a photo-journal of our trip to the Destination Imagination Global Finals in Knoxville, TN. Noah and I spend four glorious days on (and another two traveling to) the campus of the University of Tennessee where we spent days walking around campus, hours preparing and rehearsing for Noah’s two challenges and many late nights pin-trading under the party tents. The experience was over-the-top from beginning to end, and I’m just beginning to acclimate to real life to a degree in which I can discuss it all. To be at a place to be able to write about it will take a few more days.

Still, I want to share some moments with you all now (after all the hype of my previous posts it’s just the right thing to do). The trip to DI Globals truly was a once in a lifetime thing (for both me and Noah) and though I realize that I’ve been speaking in hyperbole, I will assure you that I’m not when I say that I’m thrilled that I got to share the excitement and the over–the-topness of it all with my favorite person in the world.

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Here he is. Getting ready to fly. Noah’s a big fan of air travel. I, on the other hand, like to walk places. Luckily the weather was delightful on both days we had to travel and our flights were on time and, for the most part, relatively easy.

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When we arrived on campus we checked into our dorm room and then followed the crowd down to the square that served as the social center for kids from New York, Tennessee and Michigan. It took them about twenty minutes to start talking to one another and about twenty two minutes to find a ball and start playing a game.

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The opening ceremonies took place in an arena built to hold over 20,000 people. The place was nearly filled to capacity–a crowd much larger than the ones our kids from a town of 2,000 are used to hanging around.

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The opening ceremony consisted of a parade of states/nations, a rock band, the national anthem sung by an American Idol finalist, a laser show and this guy…who danced whilst hand-painting Einstein’s silhouette on a huge plexi-glass canvas.

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Early the next day, pin-trading commenced on lawns and under tents.

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For some folks, it got serious.

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The kids handled the pressure of their Main Challenge (and the giant room within which they had to perform it) with panache–even when their handmade, recycled tree fell during the middle of their skit.

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Post-Main-Challenge euphoria (or daze).

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Noah dressed up as Darth Maul for the Duct Tape Ball. Yep. A Duct Tape Ball. His entire costume (except those fancy socks and sandals) was fashioned out of duct tape. A World Record was set that night–the night that 3,000 kids covered themselves from head to toe in the stuff.

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Noah’s team was more than ready for their Main Challenge, but one of the trickier elements of the week was the Instant Challenge–when the kids are given a problem to solve and they have to come up with a plan to solve it in four minutes and then present their solution on the spot. Parents aren’t allowed to watch this part of the fun but, afterwards, the kids treated us to a little rap.

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Letting off some steam and nervous energy at the fountains–site of the the 1982 World’s Fair.

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A scene from the final night’s celebration. Noah’s team ended up coming in 17th out of the 90 teams that were competing in his age group in his division. Not too shabby for a group of kids from the sticks.

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Best photo of them all–Noah’s rendering of our descent into JFK. Home Sweet Home.

 

Journey to Binghamton

On Friday afternoon Noah and I headed to Binghamton. Not to be ill-mannered, but Binghamton, NY is hardly a tourist destination. It’s a large, sprawling manufacturing city located in New York State’s southern tier, about 15 miles from the Pennsylvania border and 150 miles from Cold Spring. (I will say that the car ride west along the Susquehanna River was very pretty). It’s not glamorous or even that interesting of a place, but we were’t there to see the sites. We were going to Binghamton so that Noah and his teammates could compete in the New York State Destination Imagination (DI) finals. (You can read about his adventure getting to the state championship in my post from last month here.)

The competition consisted of Noah and his team presenting their central challenge (in the form of a skit), completing an instant challenge (click the link for more information about that) and meeting & hanging out with the other kids  from teams around the state.

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Noah’s team (named “Stooges DI-ing for Sardines” (it’s a long story)) presenting for the judges.The kids built the entire set by themselves, including their time-keeping tree (in the middle by the cooler) and the recycled potato-chip bag tree (to the right).

As I’ve mentioned before, Noah loves to travel–distances both near and far–and when he gets to spend the night in a hotel, well in his eyes, it makes for all the better of a trip. This time the hotel we were staying at was packed with dozens of kids in town for the DI tournament, as well Noah’s teammates and their families–who were scattered in rooms up and down the halls of our floor. Talk about a party! Door slammed and elevators ran all night long. My parents drove to Binghamton for the weekend, too, and we shared a delicious pre-competition meal with them at a local hibachi restaurant before heading back to the hotel pool so the kids could blow off some of their nervous energy and have some fun.

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Excitement and nervousness meet in the water.

After a good, though truncated, night of sleep (the kids had to report to the competition venue at 7:30am) Noah’s team rocked the first portion of the day (see the first photo above), but then had several hours to wait until their next contest. Luckily, the folks who run DI are creative, energetic and thoughtful folk who knew that allowing 700 kids to run rampant all day would not be a good idea. So, in several classrooms (the event took place in the local public high school) games and mock instant challenges (see above) were set up and the kids could play and watch and get to know one another while having some good old-fashioned, non-device-manufactured fun.

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For this game the goal was to put a ping pong ball into cups that were taped to the floor and marked with point values….but without touching the ball. Light-headedness ensued.

I won’t lie, it was a very long day. Even with the distraction of games and a quick trip to Wegman’s (a most amazing supermarket) for lunch, waiting around until their 1:30 instant challenge call and then the 4:30 awards ceremony (so the kids could learn their fate (and whether or not they would be traveling to Knoxville, TN in May for the DI Global Championship)) was tedious. We played games and told stories and wandered the halls. The kids kicked soccer balls around on the grass and talked non-stop–agreeing and disagreeing about the quality of their performances and their chances of winning (the teams that placed 1st and 2nd would move on). Mostly we watched the clock.

Finally, at about 5:15pm the scores were ready and the winners were announced to a excited, exhausted, impatient crowd and…..Noah’s team won!

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Noah’s team (standing with the light blue shirts) accept their 2nd place medals while the crowd looks on.

Well, actually, they came in 2nd place in their division/age bracket which means that, if the fundraising goes well this month, we’ll be headed south for a week at the end of May.

At the Global Tournament, over a thousand DI teams gather from around the world to create and think and problem solve and make stuff out of duct tape (there’s even a Guinness Book of World Records attempt (involving duct tape) taking place), but I’ll tell you more about that adventure as its time gets closer.

For now, we’re just basking in the glory of the win.

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Standing for their official team victory photo.

April is National Poetry Month

I’ve never celebrated National Poetry Month in any way, and know very little about this art form, but I do know that for Christine, the poem is {please insert lyrical metaphor that connotes the importance of poetry to said Christine.} I also know that she always has the perfect poem at the ready, and I can’t wait to hear more from her on the topic this month. For more on that, visit the column to the right please. When she suggested that we post a favorite poem to kick off April, I had a giggle and then started to sweat, but strangely, I found what I was looking for quickly, a poem that speaks volumes to me right now as I miss all my people from over there, including my friend, the poet next door.

 

ON FRIENDSHIP
Kahlil Gibran

And a youth said, “Speak to us of Friendship.” 

Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

April is National Poetry Month

For those of you who don’t know, poetry is my literary drink of choice. I like a nice big serving of it in the morning and in the evening and whenever I’m feeling sad or mad or glad. For nearly two decades the Academy of American Poets has deemed April National Poetry Month in America, a time when libraries and schools and bookstores around the country celebrate poetry through readings, festivals, book displays and workshops. I’ll write more about poetry in the days to come but today I’ll simply share a favorite poem (it’s impossible to pick just one) to get the conversation started.

 

From Nowhere
Marie Howe
 
I think the sea is a useless teacher, pitching and falling
no matter the weather, when our lives are rather lakes
 
unlocking in a constant and bewildering spring. Listen,
a day comes, when you say what all winter 
 
I’ve been meaning to ask, and a crack booms and echoes
where ice had seemed solid, scattering ducks
 
and scaring us half to death. In Vermont, you dreamed
from the crown of a hill and across a ravine
 
you saw lights so familiar they might have been ours
shining back from the future.
 
And waking, you walked there, to the real place,
and when you saw only trees, came back bleak
 
with a foreknowledge we have both come to believe in.
But this morning, a kind day has descended, from nowhere,
 
and making coffee in the usual way, measuring grounds
with the wooden spoon, I remembered,
 
this is how things happen, cup by cup, familiar gesture
after gesture, what else can we know of safety
 
or of fruitfulness? We walk with mincing steps within
a thaw as slow as February, wading through currents
 
that surprise us with their sudden warmth. Remember,
last week you woke still whistling for a bird
 
that had miraculously escaped its cage, and look, today
a swallow has come to settle behind this rented rain gutter,
 
gripping a twig twice his size in his beak, staggering
under its weight, so delicately, so precariously, it seems
 
from here, holding all he knows of hope in his mouth.

 

Cosa Fare a Bologna?

What to do in Bologna during the coming week?

 

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It looks like I’ve missed the majority of the “Settimana del Libro e della Cultura per I Ragazzi” (The Week of the Book and Culture for Children), but if I can organize my schedule today, I’d love to check out the Illustrators Exhibition at pavilion 33 of the Fiera of Bologna (libreria internazionale nel padiglione 33 di Non ditelo ai grandi) where 100 classic and brand new children’s books’ illustrations are on display. In case I can’t get it together, a few festival-related events around the city will be running into April. They’re listed here.

 

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We’re still in time to catch the start of another citywide event that starts on Friday, La Scienza in Piazza 2014, Food Immersion! It’s an annual festival when Science takes over Bologna’s central piazzas and those of a few neighboring towns. This year, the organizers have cooked up 17 days of exhibits, workshops, and kids’ labs centered around…what a surprise…food! Specifically, all the events will connect the audience to the science of food. The line-up of happenings for kids looks interesting, but of course, they’ll be in Italian. Although hour-long lectures about food-related science might be a hard sell in this family, I may be able to get them to motivate for one in particular called “Ciocco Science“, chocolate science! I love that even the Museo Civico Archeologico (The Archaeological Museum) is in on the festival with a degustazioni (tasting presentation) tying food to the science of philosophy. “The meeting will conclude with a cocktail cured by the “chef of history” Claudio Cavallotti, who will offer the public tasty, but philologically rigorous, recipes from Greece and Magna Grecia handed down from ancient sources.” When would I get another chance to taste philologically rigorous recipes?!!

 

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I’m most looking forward to this one, the Future Film Festival, the International Festival of Cinema Animation and New Technologies, which starts next Tuesday. Their program for the week includes short films and features in diverse styles – stop motion, 2D and 3D animation, even old school hand drawn films! – created by artists from several different countries. They also have labs for kids, including one workshop with well known animator, Stefano Bessoni, who will show the children how to create and animate fantastic creatures in clay.

Buon divertimento! Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s going on in the Hudson Valley?

What to do in the Hudson Valley this week?

 

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On this Saturday night only, an organization that Gina worked with in the states is hosting its annual fundraising party and auction. The Garrison Children’s Educational Fund is a fantastic nonprofit foundation that raises money and provides grants to support educational, artistic and athletic programs at Zo & Leeloo’s old school (the Garrison Union Free School District) back here in the Hudson Valley. The programs the Fund supports go beyond what is offered in the school’s standard curriculums (specifically hands-on activities and classes that enrich the children’s knowledge and understanding of the art, history, science and culture of the Hudson River Valley and their effect on Philipstown and the nation). The reality that parents and local businesses are the folks who are financially responsible for ensuring that our children get exposure to the arts & nature is a blog post for another day; it’s the posters advertising this event that are hanging all over town that have me roused this week…though I won’t be attending the party this year as Stefan’s date as I have in years past. I know that the basis for the design of the thing is the work of my now-Bologna-living friends and it makes them feel closer somehow.

 

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OK. This one is an event that actually ended two days ago, but since its topic is so relevant to the goings-on here on the blog today, I can’t let this post go by without acknowledging what a delightful two weeks this was for the Hudson Valley. Each year over 180 restaurants throughout the Hudson Valley get together to offer fantastic deals on lunch and dinner meals for two weeks during the month of March. (Hudson Valley Restaurant Week 2014 featured prix fixe, three course dinners for ~$30(US).) During these cold, dreary, dark weeks of the year it was so uplifting to see all of the windows at the restaurants here in town packed with foodies and regular folks who just needed an excuse to get off their sofas.

Ray and I had thirteen restaurants on our list that we wanted to try, but only managed to make it to one–a local place where we had a delicious lunch with my parents. There’s always next year.

 

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The Jacob Burns Film Center–a wonderful, nonprofit cultural arts center about 30 minutes south of Cold Spring–is dedicated to presenting independent, documentary, and world cinema to the Hudson Valley. For the rest of this month (and into the beginning of April) it will be hosting the Westchester Jewish Film Festival, a 39-film celebration that reflects the diversity, spirit and resolve of the global Jewish community. This year’s lineup of dramas and documentaries includes magic, Israeli history, family secrets, and the most joyous person you’ll ever meet (who happens to be the oldest living Holocaust survivor).

The films I’ve seen at the Jacob Burns Film Center always leave me moved in some way–and inspired to write or read or do any kind of art–and I’m sure these movies will be inspiriting and stirring as well.

 

Voting for Peace

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This past Tuesday my village of 1,993 residents voted to elect two new members to its Village Board–a board that, along with the mayor, forms the governing body of our tiny community. The Board has many responsibilities: finalizing development plans, negotiating with the sanitation department and other village committees, determining budgets and approving building proposals. They also set the tone for the community at large.

In a tiny place like Cold Spring, the Mayor and the Board Members are highly visible members of the community. Some own businesses on Main Street. Others have kids who attend the local elementary school. One past mayor used to ride his bike all over town, stopping to shake hands and hold babies and pet dogs. It can seem like a useful arrangement, this: that those living within a community preside over it, ostensibly making the community strong and stable and sincere.

As a relative newcomer to Cold Spring (I moved here six years ago) I’ve been dismayed by the politics that take place around town. I remember well the way my neighbors — sweet, protective folks who took good care of me (a newly single mom with a very young son) — yelled after to me to choose the “right” guy as I walked past them on my way to cast my vote in the first village election I participated in. (In that case, the “right guy” for mayor was a guy who had already been mayor for 16 years.)

I didn’t think much of their attempt at coercion at the time. To be honest, I didn’t really care who won that election—I hadn’t lived here long enough to understand the nuances, or the profundity, of the battle. Besides, I grew up in a small, rural upstate town—a town where my father held office as the (Republican) president of our city’s Water Board for nearly 20 years—and so understood that the genuine passion to preserve a town’s legacy trumped almost everything else during political races like that (and often for good reason).

I’m a terrible sports fan and so I’m registered as an Independent voter (because I never like to wear foam fingers or take sides), so I vote with my heart and my gut and can’t always tell you why.

Though I’d never be a good politician, my politics have always fallen very far to the left of my (very conservative) aforementioned father’s on issues such as abortion and gun control and fluoridated water but we love each other, so our differences of opinion about matters even as important as those have never descended into personal attacks. First we are family. Then we are fellow community members. Then we are people. We’ve never waded into the murky pit where enemy lines (and weapons) are drawn.

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Signs supporting the candidates waited for commuters at the Metro North station.

This year, in Cold Spring though, some folks have insisted on separating themselves by party lines. And not only separating themselves, but have made it their mission to destroy their competition. You know, the other community members they are running against. It’s been a vicious and ugly fight–one in which spying, muckraking and taking opposing sides on all matters was on full display in BOTH of our local papers. When I was at the fire station casting my votes the other day, the police were there, too–apparently called to the scene because of a disgruntled poll worker who was causing a raucous. Truthfully, I was surprised that the place didn’t erupt with violence, everybody in town has been about to blow for weeks.

This election…THIS ELECTION…has been contentious and rude from the very start and was, in the end, decided by 20 votes (17 in the case of the second place winner) but has divided our community in a most spiteful and unkind way. The malicious run-up to the vote on Tuesday, coupled with all of the accusations and attacks and nasty comments on Facebook–have conceivably injured our town’s soul in a manner that I fear it may never heal from.

I’m sad for that. For the broken soul of this adopted town of mine that I’ve grown love; a town that my son calls home.

Ours is a town that carries a physical beauty that still manages to take my breath away, despite this mercilessly cold and snowy winter. We are blessed to live in a village of unequaled allure; a community that draws huge crowds of tourists on weekends throughout the year and causes my NYC friends (who refer to it as “Brigadoon” when they visit) to comb the real estate windows on Main Street searching for houses they can afford as second homes.

Will its magic be gone now that the battlefield of our government (and Main Street) is scattered with broken swords and resentment? Will people turn their heads away from one another as they pass on the street? Will we become an “us” and “them” place, like that island that Dr Seuss’s Star Bellied Sneeches inhabit?

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The Sneeches.

In the coming days it’s not going to be the significance of who won this election that matters, but the conscious decision of the two newly elected officials to find a way to try and bridge the monstrous gap that remains between those scant 20 votes; for them to work to heal the very critical injuries this election cost the members of our very small town.

Everyone is bloodied from the fight. And everyone is tired. We will all need to work together to stave off this seemingly never-ending divisive and blood-letting fight.

It is my hope that our two newly elected board members recognize that nearly half of the vote casters voted for the other guy. It’ll be important for both of them to remember that often during the coming two years, when they are faced with opposition and disagreement; when not everybody in the room wants them there and, because this is America, you get to say that out loud.

I fell a little out of love with Cold Spring over these past few weeks, but I want to find a reason to be in love with it again. Yes, spring is coming. Eventually Dockside Park will be green and Breakneck Ridge will be packed with hipsters and cars will be fighting for parking in front of the shops on Main Street. It is my hope that, in the meantime, my community (led by those very leaders that we elected) will find a way to come together as the beacon of beauty and hope that so many from the outside come to bask in.