Friday, April 30, 2010

More...Power of Place - The Getty Villa

Okay, this weekend...more karmic constellation of good. Lee had his final class at Pacifica - in Montecito, after, hmmmm....five years...or is it almost six? Because he knew he may have to start looking for work, yes, even in LA, he decided to take off Thursday and Friday and invited me to join him. So I flew out Wed night. We return Sunday to real life. When Lee told one of his parents he was going to be in LA for the weekend with me, they offered us their 1920's Spanish beach house with traditional courtyard, killer kitchen and the ocean out the French doors off the Living Room.

I am so happy traveling that I am starting to think I should be a travel writer. But, I HATE, HATE, HATE hotels. So I could only travel if I had real homes to stay in - or apartments. Or whatever. Just NO, NO, NO hotels. I don't want to see a TV and I want my own espresso pot to make coffee in the morning. Also, I like to cook. I want to cook when I travel. And, somehow this is what we have.

Anyway, sounding bratty and spoiled that I have had the luxury of spending one weekend on the Atlantic and the next on the Pacific, I swear that some guardian angel is looking out for me. Maybe Grandmother Lulu, my great-grandmother. Nothing, really nothing, heals me like water - the ocean. I am married to a Pisces, my son is a Pisces, my father is a Pisces, my first boyfriend was a Pisces. I like water. It is the missing piece of the puzzle of my psyche. SO when I am here, I feel whole.

Next how do I live on an ocean? Well, who knows. That is next.

But...for today, we decided to leave this shangri-la for the city - for LA, for the Getty Villa. We were meeting friends of Lee's, as much the point as the place. In the end, the whole thing made me breathe a little easier, feel like we deepened friendships and transported me to Tuscany in 2007 when I did the Villa and Garden Tour there. The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades is one of this country's treasures. And I am not a big fan of LA, in general, so this is saying a lot! Don't miss it if you are anywhere nearby. And have lunch on the terrace.

But...what is the Getty Villa. When archeologists began to unearth the remains after the Mount Vesuvius erupted at Pompeii, a villa was discovered. The Gettys bought it hundreds of years later, loved it so much that they decided to rebuild it on the hills overlooking the Pacific in Malibu and fill it with their collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman art. Now, this, in my mind, is a very, very good way to use one's money. It is ridiculous - down to the hand cut mosaic tiles that can't be more than 1/2" x 1/2". The road pavers are from Rome. There is more marble in this place than any one quarry could have possibly provided. The olive trees make me weep. And, then, there is the Pacific. Check out the website. But, more than that....just go. Or book a ticket to Italy. Same difference.

The Power of Place

After one of the most difficult couple of weeks of my life, I remembered how powerful PLACE is for me. Lee and I had been invited to spend last weekend in Bridgehampton. Part of me didn't even want to go - I was so raw. And we would be spending the weekend with some people we had never met, others we only had met a couple of times. My girlfriend, Jacqueline, organized the weekend at her old beau's home - Roberto. They have this magical friendship; adoring, cajoling, loving each even after having ended their relationship ten years ago.

Roberto, as you might imagine, is Italian. I refer to him as King Roberto because he rather holds court. But, he is, thankfully, the most benevolent king. He adores women, is kind, attentive, funny and a sharp observer. Oh, and he cooks. Oh, and he has the most beautiful home in the Hamptons, thanks to the talents of Jacqueline - she did the home when they were together, and continues to tweak it as needed.

I boarded the Hampton Jitney at 8:30 a.m. a week ago, and attempted sleep after being awake most of the previous night. (I had awakened at 2 and not gotten back to sleep.) I was transported from the pedestrian traffic in New York, where I honestly felt I was being pummeled that morning. It was just a bad day. Jacqueline picked me up at 11. We arrived at Roberto's weathered shingle cottage with everything we needed for lunch by the pool. Avocado, tomato salad, salami, olives, crackers, cheese. And a friend.

I poured out my woes. She listened and occasionally even made me laugh. The garden was lovely, a country garden. The magnolia was fading, but beautiful in its demise. A bed of flowers was planted in a large rectangle. The entire place emphasized 90-degree angles, a form that makes me feel ordered and upright. I am most at peace in that form. The pool was simple - a large flat rectangle in the ground with a cuff of limestone around its border. Weathered teak lounge chairs sat in a row on a wooden deck overlooking the garden. An outdoor brick oven seemed to have been there for a century. A birdhouse calmed the formality. and a single arched gateway led to a second garden. Huge Italian pots waited for the rosemary of summer. Ivy climbed the fireplace. A white bench sat in a solitary spot near the sunny forsythia bush. The temperature was about 70 and the sky was clear. I laid on the lush grass on a beach towel, soaking up the healing sun. It had been a long, cold winter. My heart was frozen.

After time in the sun, I went to my room to nap - and slept for two hours. My dear hostess just let me be. No expectations to chat, to shop, to do anything other than just be.

The home sleeps twelve, not including large sofas. The rest of "the gang" as she called her friends and cousins, joined us later that night and we shared the first of the weekend meals at a long European farm table. My spirits began to lift. Lee was there and I was so happy to be away with him - even in this company of strangers. We laughed and talked at the table until 11:30 - all padded off to bed.

We woke to the iconic full blooming spring day. Lee and I took our cappuccini to the garden and tried to imagine how we arrived her - what angel brought this to us. The sun had its arms around us, but there was the sweetest damp coolness to the morning air. Roberto made us Tuscan eggs and we sat around the kitchen table like children as Father prepared the count to order. Jacqueline had three. I had one.

The beach was next. About a mile away, it was a 20-minute walk. We shed our shoes at the dune and climbed it to see the vast Atlantic Ocean laid out like a blue blanket on the earth, edged in foamy white. Others walked. Lee and I laid down on the sand, side by side, hand in hand. Shavasana (corpse pose) on the sand. The sound. The sound. I could feel my stored sorrows begin to rise up, like grieving a death. The pose seemed right.

After lunch, we napped again. Then up to prepare for the evening - a dinner party for 14. Guests were coming. Roberto made Zuppa di pesce. Jacueline made an arugula salad. We drank Cava, Spanish "champagne." Well, others did. I drank wine. I would have been an unwelcome guest had I had too much Cava - it makes me sick.

Candles, a fire in the fireplace, music, placecards, and the most divine soup of shellfish in a delicate tomato broth with crusty bread and olive oil. Simple food, good people, Roberto and his friend Mario speaking Italian, French Moroccan Janine and her friend, Mirelle speaking their native French, weaving in and out of the English conversation nearby. I just took it in, talked with my neighbors, glancing across the table at my husband, so happy to see him there and wondering how we just have this auspicious way with PLACE. For people without a lot of money, we end up in really good places. And, I needed it. PLACE heals me. People heal me.

I left the weekend with most of the stuffing back inside my body and felt loved, cared for and appreciated. I hope I returned the favors.

(Izzy Update - she is crabby and knows it. She said she just wants to punch people today. It made me laugh. I told her I thought she had grief about her illness, like some freedom was stolen from her. Some youth. "Anger is a stage of grief, honey." She understood. She is such a smart young woman. I miss her so. We are exploring where she should have her surgery, the best option for someone her age.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

When Life Simply Sucks

I have been missing from action. Sorry. It’s been the two weeks from hell and I won’t go into all the details but it includes a decision by the College of Out of Touch Control Freak Idiots (Oops! My claws are showing.) at the Rudolf Steiner School to not invite my husband back as a teacher next year. It has caused much gnashing of teeth, sleepless nights, the consideration of lawsuits, the mention of hostile work environments, 7-year old children running home in tears to announce that "Mr. Stevens won't be our teacher next year," parents leaving the school for more fair-minded pastures and generally great upheaval for Lee and me. In nineteen years of teaching, this is the first time he has not been deeply respected and appreciated by his colleagues. It is demoralizing and infuriating. Lines were drawn and one Board Member said it was going to be China Syndrome revisited if people didn’t calm down. Who knew my husband could be such a lightening rod for trouble?

Where will we live? What will he do next? Those are the kinds of questions on our mind. These things are stressful to a marriage, making people do and say things they do not mean. Oy. Then, as if that is not enough to noodle on, I got a call from my daughter, Isabelle on Thursday from Madrid. The call went something like this:

“Mom, I’m okay. But, I’m in the hospital.”
“You’re what?” I say, calmly, in the moment.
“My cardiologist sent me to the hospital for a procedure by a specialist. (Okay, excuse me here, but if a cardiologist isn’t specialist enough, what could possibly be so life-threatening that you need something more fucking specialist than a cardiologist???!!!)

Bottom line – Izzy had a couple of incidents of an extremely racing heart since she went to Madrid last August, one which led to a short period of blacking out when she was traveling in Morocco over Spring Break a few weeks ago with friends. She went to check it out with a cardiologist when she returned to Madrid. During one of the tests, he discovered something that troubled him and decided she immediately (as in, “Do not Pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to the Hospital”) needed to see an electro-cardiologist in a hospital setting. She spent 24 hours there, where they kept her under careful monitoring and did a creepy sounding procedure where they put wires through her groin and arm into her heart and sent electric impulses to test the ventricles. I packed my bag for Madrid and waited to hear about the results of the test.

The good news is they discovered that she did not have what they feared and has no organic deformities, but she does have something called atrial fibrillation- rapid and is currently on medication to stabilize her heartbeat. She goes back on Monday to her original cardiologist to get a report on next steps. All I know is that he does not want her traveling anymore while she is there; he wants her near a hospital. This is not the kind of thing a mother wants to hear – especially when your child is 8000 miles away. But, I can tell you that the kindness of strangers in Madrid was extraordinary and made me weep. On Thursday night, after remaining calm all day, even through my therapy session, I absolutely melted down. The China Syndrome happened within, not without. Well, within the walls of our apartment, at least.

I did not have to go to Madrid – at least now. But, I had yet another sleepless night and woke up exhausted and almost delirious. So, by now, I have painted a picture of the past two weeks (and have left out one more painful discovery which is not mine to tell, so won’t) as two of the most tormented in my life.

I will tell you next what is healing it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cool stuff

Always, at ABC, I see something in a new way. Here's what I found this week.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Scenes from Spring in New York ... more later

I have little time to write now...or is that little spark to write? It's been a bad week. Will see if I can write more about that later. But Spring has its arms around us here, so here are a few of the sights just out my door.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I need your opinion, Miss Manners!

I am at the hairdresser and a lovely, rather chic mom and her pretty teenaged daughter just walked in. They sat down in front of me to wait for their appointment. They are both chewing gum, with their mouths open. Madly and with great gusto. Now they are talking and chewing gum and we get to see it! They chew, smile and talk like they are cheerleaders for a winning team. Oh, and now the mom is doing that thing where they stick their tounge out and spin it between the teeth and tongue! It is a veritable circus act going on in front of my eyes. This makes me long for the day people smoked to manage their oral fixations!

I do not like gum chewing in public. One of Isabelle's friend's mothers did not allow her children to chew gum - she thought it looked like a cow chewing its cud. And I realize I think the same thing.

So...please!!!! Weigh in. Am I waaayyyy off base here? Should I lighten up, get over it? Live and let live. Que sera!

Since I am not going to get these people to give up their gum, should I also back off my husband and daughter if they want to chew it sometimes?????

Help me Miss Manners!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Morning Call to Prayer

Out my 2nd floor windows, I get to watch Duncan's garden come back to life.

The sunny tulips from dear Anna Kohler.

Lee is on a two week Spring Break. He needed it. Apparently I needed it too because I got the most ridiculous cold which migrated into my sinuses and set up a small city there. Now, I was feeling rather pompous about not having been to a doctor (okay, except my wellness care - get your PAP smears and mammograms, girls) since the summer of 2007. I have been going to an acupuncturist, almost monthly for what I call my tune-ups, since then and have been well. Until two weeks ago.

When...I caught this bug. I had gotten lazy about washing my hands in NY, especially. And, really, does anyone want to imagine the critters that camp out on the posts and railings in a subway? So, I dragged around like a toddler's overloved stuffed monkey, shredding at the seams, for 12 days - then said, "Enough" and went to a doctor and got antibiotics - and I am on the mend. I know it because I am happy again after being miserable for a week.

It is 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday. My apartment is clean. There is this tender cool breeze coming in my second story window. The light is glorious. My friend, Anna Kohler, came to visit last night and brought me a voluminous bunch of sunny tulips that, at this moment, look lit from inside.

Because it is Spring Break here in Minneapolis too, the streets are deserted. Even 50th Street, usually filled with Volvos and vans with kids and sports equipment, is empty. I can cross leisurely on my walk. Lee commented on the silence. "This is like a retreat. It is surreal." (Of course, this is a man who has been in New York since last August.) One of my neighbors has hung a low-toned chime. The sound has lulled me to sleep for the last few nights with windows open. And, when I awoke to it this morning, I felt called to rise - as if to morning prayer.

So, that is how Spring in Minnesota feels on this morning. I feel called to prayer, one of gratitude - for Lee, for the many friends that we have spent time with this week, for my apartment, for my family, for my work, for this day.

Happy Passover and Easter.