Rome, Rather Vatican City

st peters roofBus to Rome, then off to Vatican City. The lines to Saint Peter’s Church were horrendous, so I took a picture of the roof – such workmanship and detail but so high you can’t see it with the naked eye!

Next we went to the Vatican museum.

Oh, no, not another museum…but did you know it has a huge a section on Egypt? I have to wonder why the popes had with such pagan stuff, but it’s fantastic. Now I hate mummies, which were once real people and shouldn’t be treated as objects, but I love Egyptian art. The mask on the lid of a sarcophagus. mask
A tiny man put in a grave to serve as a servant in the afterlife. closeup statuetteconcubinesAn array of concubines, ditto.



Their fascination with cats and ducks and how they turned animals into gods (my dogs would approve of that.) bird

People kept blowing by us with glances and disinterest. Where’s the Roman stuff? Their loss. Then we got to the Romans– of which we’d already seen a bunch, so WE blew by. Mostly.



Later on, halls of fantastic tapestries. My favorite was by Raphael, the slaying of the infants. Not the children dying, of course, but the sorrow captured in fabric. The blurry picture was caused by a bump from a visitor; the halls were crowded. But look closely. The image is beautiful, if sorrowful. I imagine how many eyes were ruined making them. Does that mean I’m allowed to appreciate them all the same?

tapestry angeltapestry sorrow
Toured Borgia’s apartments – didn’t know they had a pope, I think of them as evil. Filled with gold, art, decoration. The ongoing joke with my hubby: why doesn’t our house look like that? Nevermind, cleaning would be a nightmare. The ceilings throughout the museum were fabulous.

Finally the Sistine Chapel. Packed, no pix allowed. The guards kept yelling “No Pix” and “Silence” which rather ruined the mood. Michelangelo could only paint a ¼ of a panel a day because it had to be done before the plaster dried. The figures are of different sizes– when Michelangelo saw the first half from the floor, he thought them not strong enough, so he made the second set of scenes more heroic. The restorers left a couple of spots un-restored and they were totally black. I actually liked the bright colors.

Wobble home on stubs, exhausted. Had dinner across the street – the best pizza I’ve ever had — grilled eggplant — and the fabulous Italian beer. The place was empty when we entered at 7:30. When we left an hour later, it was packed with Italians. Not an English speaker to be heard. (Pix below: a lion who served as a leg under a sarcophagus. And a window well. Glorious details were everywhere. After a while your eye just goes numb.)

lion window seat

Hand-Thrown Pot

brad 1This is a piece of pottery made at the Arkansas Arts Center by my friend Brad.  He was a multi-talented fellow, potter and a good ballet dancer.  He and I danced together several times which was great fun, although I think we made a somewhat odd couple, he being long, tall and lanky, and me…well let’s just say I’m on the short side and willowy is not one of my attributes, despite the expectations for ballet. He was a considerate partner and I enjoyed dancing with him; I always knew he would catch me if I bobbled, important when wearing pointe shoes.

The Arts Center was a marvelous place to work.  I was first hired as an actress in the Tell-A-Tale children’s theater troupe. It was exhausting work – not only did we act (I had 5 cohorts), but we drove from school to school, set up the stage (or lunchroom, or gym or wherever we were assigned), made-up and got into costumes, performed, did a q&a with the students, then broke everything down, including untaping and rolling up the dance floor and DROVE TO ANOTHER SCHOOL. Rinse, repeat, as they say. A little known fact about Little Rock – it was a test case for the first ATMs, and those ATMs saved us actors. The bank was always closed when we were off work…

After Christmas, I was asked to head up a dance company – right up my alley. The Center had a very nice stage, full lighting capability, and ballet classes taught by Manolo Agullo, a Cuban charmer of the old school who was training some decent dancers. I had a blast. So why did I leave? As in many a story, love called in the form of my now-hubby who wanted to be in the movie business.

Manolo is dead. And I’ve lost track of Brad.  But I keep this little pot on the window sill above the sink. I love the delicate crazing, the shape and the reminder it is to me of a very happy time.

brad 2

Turkish Plate with Turbans

turban plate1Souvenir plate from Turkey

This is not actually mine; it was a gift to my sister-in-law.

Mother and I traveled to Turkey on a tour. Loved the country, such a variety of ancient and modern. In addition to Turkish wonders (Pamukkale, the beaches of Bodrum, the Blue Mosque), we were taken to many Greek sites, Epheusus, Troy, Didyma but my favorite site was not famous.

We went by bus to a tiny town on an estuary and from there hiked up a hill with our guide. When we reached the top, the view was spectacular – everywhere aqua sea sprinkled with sails. The guide took out a whisk broom and dusted away a layer of dirt to reveal a mosaic floor. He then showed us the outline of the house, well hidden by bushes. The reason for the concealment? Pirates (his word) came by sea, climbed the mountain searching for antique treasures. When found, they were dug up and taken away to be sold. They had lost quite a bit of their heritage this way.

220px-Grand-Bazaar_ShopThis was bought in the famous Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. A veritable warren of shops that goes on for miles. Research tells me that the shops within employ 26,000 people and visitors number from 200-400K daily. There are no restrooms, but there are ATMs!

I got lost there returning to an ATM. I couldn’t see the shop where I’d left Mother. I must have looked distressed; a man stopped to ask if he could help. When I told him the problem, he shrugged and said, “Good luck.” Fortunately I realized the way back as THRU a shop, not on the main path.

turban suspicious men1turban two men
I loved the colors and detail. I think the pair of men on the left look suspicious. Perhaps one has taken a bite of food from the other. But what a feast.

West Virginia Stumps

stump two of themIn May we were out to West Virginia for the first time since autumn and were surprised at the number of trees downed. For miles, the verges of the highway (not an interstate, so imagine heavy curves and narrowish road) were lined with stump after stump. Up in the woods, tangles of fallen trees.

stump batman1It seems that Hurricane Sandy dumped snow on the state. The road we usually travel, had been closed in October for 3 or 4 days because of fallen trees. They are still running along the roadsides with chippers, trying to get rid of all the cut logs.

This set of logs was along a roadside that is seldom used. They remind me of great pumpkins and the crack in the 2nd picture is very batman-like. I liked the ridges from the saw, the bits of green leaf and the little fungus that had grown up inside the most hollow trunk. So…a stump series. Tres arty!
stump double
stump ringsstump mushroom

stump w leaf

Hand-woven Tapestry from Peru

Tapestry allA fantastical Peruvian tapestry.
I’m going to say it’s in the style of “San Pedro de Cajas.” It is definitely padded and woven as tapestries from there are described, but the style looks different than those I found on the web.

As this is Mother’s day, the post is in memory of my fabulous mother, with a shout-out to my mother-in-law who is also fabulous-she raised my lovely husband.

My sisters and I bought the tapestry as a present for Mother’s 60th birthday. My Norwegian sister, Merete, had visited us (with her entire family) in Los Angeles and one day we all went to Olvera Street, which is full of Mexican stores/restaurants/color, where Mother admired one of these tapestries. Her birthday was coming up and Merete said that in Norway that particular milestone is celebrated with a special gift. So we four daughters bought this for Mother.

Mother wasn’t able to hang it right away. She stored it rolled and unfortunately, because it’s made of wool, there was a bit of moth damage. Still, it is beautiful. When Mother died, my husband and I took it and now it hangs in our house evoking terrific memories. Today I’m particularly thinking of Mother with rolled up pant legs strolling along the sand as Merete’s daughters frolic in the California ocean. A bit warmer than that of North sea. I’m also remembering another Norwegian cousin who arrived at our house for a visit, the color of the sun in the tapestry. Too much enjoyment on the beach! I always swore I’d learn Norwegian, but I got side-tracked. Maybe with so many family members there, I should try.
Now take a closer look at some of the details:

A bit about how this was made. It’s an unusual style of weaving, known as padding, in which dyed but unspun wool is stuffed into the warp of the loom, each colored piece arranged one by one, much like brush strokes in an oil painting. Whoever this artist was, he/she had an active imagination and a terrific eye.

Tiny Treasures

Tiny flowers and grass under my feet, plus the treasure of a yellow bird. The flower will become a blackberry if there’s enough water. The grass is unknown but ubiquitous, and I think the bird a gold finch.

When I walk in the woods, I have begun looking at my feet. It started because West Virginia is very rocky and you never know when you’ll be tipped over by a hidden bump in the grass. And although I still love looking out over the trees and mountains, I am finding the there are terrific things to see if I focus in.

You have to understand that as a ballet dancer I was trained never to look at my feet. You show your face to the audience, not the part in your hair. This habit had funny consequences on my first trip to Europe. Many of the streets were cobblestones. I didn’t want to look at them when there was so much to see – church towers, castles, history rising up from the ground. With pleasure I looked up, as I had been trained.

My sister, who often walked with me, still tells about how she would be talking to me and suddenly I would disappear. “One minute you were beside me, the next gone. I’d look back and there you were, sprawled on the street.” She refused to walk European style, arms linked, for fear I’d take her down with me.

So much for the grace of a dancer.