Tag Archives: my cup runneth very far over

A Note On Love

28 Oct

How much do I love spaghetti?

PESTO FACE. I love spaghetti almost as much as I love when you decide not to make fun of me for the giant bathing suit wet spots in this otherwise-choir-of-angels-worthy picture.

How much do I love jello wrestling?

So after giving it some thought, Jess isn't sure she should answer this question. After all, Jess's father reads this blog, too. (But if you really want to know -- I LOVE PIERSON JELLO WRESTLING. It's like the cause and effect lovefest of "If you give a mouse a cookie" but with "If you give a girl a handful of gooey gucky yellow jellow")

HOW MUCH DO I LOVE MY FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND THAT ONE RANDOM WAITER AT THE NEW YORK RESTAURANT WHO GAVE ME A SOMBRERO FOR MAKING MY 21st BIRTHDAY SO INCREDIBLE?!?!

Yeah, that’s right. I love that crew most of all.

A Strawberry Daiquiri, Scotch, and Cosmopolitan, in that order, at my "Costumed Cocktails" celebration. Don't all of your classy drinks usually start their evenings with a few giggles?

My childhood in pictures. Thank you, Grandma, for surprising me by digging these out! Thank you, dance competitions of my youth, for putting me in that fashionable delight of a purple tutu on the upper right!

P.S. In the upper right, there is something eating my mother's head as she cradles my baby self. I've heard rumors of it being one of her 80s-style perms. Not so sure I want those rumors confirmed. XOXO MOM I PROMISE I'M (MOSTLY) DONE MAKING FUN OF YOUR YOUTH NOW

(I don’t have a picture for this one, but THANK YOU Nana & Grampa for the card and for the advice on “not getting too sloshed”! One of the wisest – and most fun – things I have been told all year.)

Only the best dads take their daughters to celebrate a birthday in a restaurant where they make her wear a sombrero! In other news, yeah, that happened.

I can't even feign sarcasm for this one. I just love my family. Though I can add a shoutout to all of you who weren't present that evening -- I, and everyone else making thorough fools of ourselves, missed you in our conga line.

My friends made a scrapbook of 21 pages about me for my birthday?!?!?!?!! I know. Pinch me, please.

AND a surprise birthday chair in the dining hall?!?!?!

Feelin' like the luckiest gal on the planet. Or at least the luckiest gal on the planet wearing her very own giant "It's my birthday" button.

So, in sum:

I love spaghetti. I love jello-wrestling. And I LOVE YOU for making me feel, at 21 years old, that life is goofy, fun, and oh so good.

THANK YOU, CREW!

infinite xos

J

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Things That Are Great

23 Jun

Tonight –

wine-tasting, Sicilian grapes

night soccer on one of the hills of rome

the boys making us all an incredible dinner as I type this – sausages, garlic bread, mushroom and olive sauce, strawberry dessert, MMMM (i can say it here even if its not sophisticated enough for the wine tasting)

studying byron extra hard for my class presentation tomorrow

reading byron aloud, playing “she walks in beauty” over and over on youtube

meeting someone new

drinking straight from a fountain after soccer and getting water from Roman aqueducts accidentally sprayed across my face

seeing some of the most famous Bernini statues (and the most famous statues, period) in person during class today

Bananagrams in pajamas (like the show “Bananas in Pajamas,” but better!)

two yellow roses on our dinner table

And City By Morning

22 Jun

I wake up fourteen minutes before my alarm to a combination of light soaking my bed from my massive storybook windows and the talking going on outside of my doors. It is, barring one dim morning, always sunny. There are, barring three quiet nights, always accordion players who played me to sleep the night before. And I am, barring nothing, always pinching myself I’m in Rome I’m in Rome I am waking up in Rome.

Some mornings it is a drag to get out the door, generally due to wine-happy antics the prior evening and an early class time. Most mornings, though, are like this one: we emerge from our rooms slowly, we slip into clothes (it is now our fourth week of the trip, so the girls have started swapping dresses. Also, we are all out of appropriate-length church clothes), we put our bags together with whatever syllabi and guides and water bottles and sunscreen we will need for the day.

Then, breakfast. This morning, we made crepes filled with honey and fresh cherries, sugar and cinnamon. Often, I eat whatever I’ve bought from the outdoor fruit and vegetable market down the street. The first time we went there as a group, we turned into humans who had never seen fresh strawberries before – we bought buckets of fresh figs and grapes half the size of my palm and fed them to each other like couples in love, juice dribbling all over our faces. More than the ruins, perhaps, I will miss this fruit.

Other mornings, we eat breakfast at San Calisto, our bar (bar in Italy is a multifaceted institution – it acts as cafe, gelatteria, and permanent home to old men playing briscola.) Another morning, I will give San Calisto the homage it deserves. But for now, think of a group of four girls crowded around one rickety table outside, licking creme off of the pastry that the only-Italian-speaking owners now anticipate us ordering and hand us right when we arrive. Imagine drinking espresso out of cups that, to us, seem doll-sized and making it last for an afternoon. Imagine the unspoken rule of saying “ciao” into the air of the bar as you walk in and “ciao” into the air of the outdoors as you leave. This, too, I know I will miss. It is a morning ritual for me, someone who has never had morning rituals, and it offers far more to me than the coffee shop clusters around campus.

Good morning, Italia

And then – or, for this morning, “and now” – it is time for work or class or explorations. Yesterday I walked around the city and saw the innards of five churches; today I have a writing assignment due and a reading about St. Peter’s before seminar tonight outdoors on the Aventine Hill and our final fancy class dinner.

By this, my fourth week in Rome, it is a way of living that has embraced me, and I am glad.

And sometimes, you find paradise.

19 Jun

I’ve gotten good at this. Finding paradise, that is. It’s not all that hard when I’m in Italy. It just requires letting go of my normal thoughts for a moment – the physical aches of my shoulders and feet or the technological zips of Facebook alerts – and letting my senses take over. No planning ahead, wearing watches, or using maps. Just wandering, observing, touching, and trying to consume as much as possible in real-time memory-making.

Urban studies has a term for this method of approaching cities: the dérive. Students abandon their normal methods of navigation and, it is hoped, their native misgivings and instead journey based on instinct and emotional response to their surroundings. If a certain street looks inviting, they walk down it. If they turn back and switch direction, they note it and later try to determine why. Why enter this piazza? Why not put your hands in that fountain? Why are some parts of the city magnetic and others repulsive? It is a technique that gives weight to the individual experience within the context of the urban whole.

I bring this up because I have spent several of the past few days going on my own dérives. Finally, I feel as though I have gotten to the point where I don’t need a map here (which doesn’t mean that I know my way around, it just means that I’ve gained a certain familiarity with the north-south-east-west bearings of the landscape), and I’ve started taking some solitary afternoon walks (mainly to the computer repair shop, which is how I am typing again. YAY.). From this perspective, the city feels completely different. I pay no attention to street signs and instead orient myself based on gut feeling (“where is the Tiber? where should I be in relation to the river right now?”). I don’t take pictures. I don’t slow down to read the plaque on every building. Instead, I make eye contact with the trees and the drivers, and I shake my head with a smile at all of the “bella! bella! ciao, bella!” from Italian men, and I let myself be drawn into the everyday bowels of this eternal city.

But back to paradise. The one that I visited most recently was a series of villas during our big class day-trip to Tivoli yesterday. Tivoli is about an hour away, so we were on the bus at 8:30am and back in Rome by 7pm. Within that time, we visited Hadrian’s Villa, Villa d’Este, and Villa Gregoriana, and the best way of describing the landscapes that I saw is to think back to those old puzzles – yknow, the ones with vibrant greens and distant mountains and always a waterfall, that have at least 500 pieces in them that all blend together because everything is so lush, and you are convinced it’s just a painting after all? yeah, those puzzles – and imagine walking through them, and realizing that they are real, and that your feet – those same dirty feet that played soccer on New Hampshire fields and tottered for hours the night of prom – are touching that painted earth. It is a landscape that forces poetry or prostration, perhaps both. If you are ever in Rome with the chance to take a day trip, this is it. The big and beautiful kahuna.

First, Hadrian’s Villa. We just finished reading an exquisite book called “Memoirs of Hadrian” by Marguerite Yourcenar – one of my all-time favorite books, please please go add it to your list – and so I had some background heading into the day. I knew, for example, that Hadrian had been a Roman emperor right after Trajan, and that he lived from 76-138 AD. I knew that he was an extremely well-traveled man who barely spent any time in Rome and instead slept at the edges of his empire, trying to keep it secure. I knew that he had a love affair with a young boy named Antinous, of whom he had many statues made. And I knew that he was rumored to be an amateur architect.

What I didn’t know was that his villa (and here’s an important point – unlike our connotation in English, the word “villa” in Italian does not refer solely to a house, it refers to an entire estate) is cradled by hills out in the countryside, and that he had built houses, as the guide said, “capable of architectural flirtation.” I didn’t know that his admiration of everything Greek led him to build pools that reflect water in moving ribbons across marble columns, or that I would be surrounded by the remnants of curves and shadows, pillars and grids. “Get drunk on art,” the museum there encouraged us. And so I did, imagining what the tumbling down brick halls looked like when they were first painted with their frescoes or lined with colored marble statues. And we all did, as we delighted in Hadrian’s ability to fuse the organic and the constructed by building man-made fountains in the natural curvature of a valley.

Then, we piled onto the bus and back out at Villa d’Este. Built much later and with the ruins of Hadrian’s Villa in mind (and in hand – many of the decorations at d’Este were in fact stolen – er, scavenged – from Hadrian’s original structures just a few miles away), Villa d’Este is a place where luxury and whimsy gave themselves permission to run rampant across a hillside. It is home to sun and shade and oasis and retreat and olive trees (with the most unbelievable, gnarled and time-wizened trunks) and above all, WATER. Edith Wharton wrote about the gardens here, as do the guidebooks, because of the fountains within them. More fountains than you can imagine, about 500 individual jets of water, all celebrating their surroundings through reflections. I am aching with the beauty of the space before I even make it down the first staircase. This is a planned place, a scripted place, meant to be romantic and evocative, and it succeeds; there is a marking in the exact center of the gardens, and when I get there, I lay down on my back and closed my eyes, and when I opened them, I said something silly and romantic and exactly like what the architects wanted me to say, something like, “I am waking up from a dream and seeing through my heart.” I was actually exhausting myself with my lofty odes. We picnicked in Villa d’Este and ate a cake we had brought with us for someone’s birthday, and as we left, I spoke with someone about how much more disciplined this villa had seemed than the crumpled one before. “That’s true,” she agreed. “But think about it – even with this planning, the water is still slowly wearing down its stone fountain containers every second of the day. At some point, it, too, will go back to nature.” And it’s true – in one hidden corner, I found a dormant statue so covered with moss that it seemed to be clenched by the greenery. It all circles back into itself in time.

Finally, we arrived at Villa Gregoriana. Unlike the other two sites, Villa Gregoriana has no house within its walls; it is a villa of nature, but is well-known for human engineering in addition to its beauty. That engineering diverted the Aniene River from its normal flood path (right through town) and to a safer set of tunnels and pools within the hills. Pope Gregory XVI turned the space into a public park in 1826, and Pliny and Goethe, to name just a few, both mentioned it as one of the most beautiful spaces they had ever seen. I have to agree, if only because so many of the signs used the term “grotto,” and that word in itself connotes a place of splendor, doesn’t it? Either that or the Little Mermaid, who would have been proud of the way I clambered down rock steps and over barriers to dip my feet in waterfall pools.

In all of these places, we wandered. Yes, we talked, and at Hadrian’s Villa, we were taught in a linear fashion by our on-site professors, but we were walking differently than normal, allowing our feet to drag just a bit longer in the ancient dirt and actually reaching out to touch the evidence around us. In the boys’ case, of course, this also meant reaching out to touch every lizard and bug they could find, but it was all part of the classroom experience. Again, if you get the chance, go see them. And if you don’t, well – here it is in pictures. My little slice of paradise.

Hadrian’s Villa

A guesstimated model of what Hadrian's Villa looked like during Hadrian's lifetime. My reaction: "Well...I guess I wouldn't mind living here. If I HAD to..."

The class at Hadrian's Villa. Our professors are the two women in sunglasses.

Olive trees. I am beyond positive there are mythical creatures living within these trunks.

I am a pillar of strength! Also, a dork.

Villa d’Este

The entrance hallway at Villa d'Este

Me in front of the first fountain I encountered. And no, you are not the first one to poke fun at me for not being able to touch my feet to the ground.

Mo' fountains.

Group fountain photo! These are the best girls. We explored together (read: splashed each other with water) all afternoon.

Villa Gregoriana

First view of the Villa. Can you really blame me for my overt romanticism in these situations?

There were rainbows. No pots of gold, though. But definitely rainbows.

And there were waterfalls. (Hearts and stars and horseshoes, clovers and blue moons!)

Annie and I on the descent. Note the backdrop.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...and I, I took the one - well, I took the one that gave me the viewpoint over the Valley of Hell. And that has made all the difference.

Caesar’s Notes: Sunday, May 30 – “Che paradiso!”

3 Jun

I figured this would be a more appropriate title than Cliff’s Notes, but that’s pretty much what this post has to be. Our days have been SO packed so far – and I have had such an overwhelming desire to explore out in the Roman sunshine (maybe too much of a desire…I am a bit of a tomato at the moment. At least everyone in Italy loves tomatoes!) – that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and put it all into words. So, here’s a brief picture-list of day one with the rest of the week on its way.

Sunday, May 30: We arrive in Rome after a red-eye flight. I have not slept. I have been listening to blaring Italian opera for seven hours and (this is beginning to become a pattern) taking bad pictures outside of plane windows.

Gee, whiz! I'm so good at capturing blurry landscapes during a flight!

I land ecstatic, as well as with a very heavy, very book-filled bag. Though thanks to my grandma, at least it is a very well-packed, heavy, and book-filled bag! We manage to scramble together five of us and split up in taxis to head to Trastevere (one of the neighborhoods of Rome). Our instructions are literally to “Meet Professors Jewiss and Fry and Richard Piccolo at the fountain in Piazza Santa Maria at 5:30pm.” Meeting at a fountain? This sounds like a good start.

Our designated meeting spot. Only, yknow, a tad romantic.

Of course, because my mother is the one who booked my plane ticket, I arrive at the piazza with six hours to spare. In this case, the early (and very tired and jetlagged) bird may not have caught the worm, but it definitely caught the gelato. We grab lunch at Caffe di Marzio – I get a panini and limon gelato – and we continue to “grab” lunch for three hours sitting at the same cafe table and crowd watching (there is no such thing as a quick meal in Rome unless you don’t even bother to sit down.)

The site of my first meal in Roma. Also the site of my first sunburn in Roma, though definitely not my last.

I discover that this little piazza in Trastevere is a wonderful, wonderful place. It also happens to be EXACTLY WHERE I AM LIVING, about five floors up. See for yourself:

A video of the piazza

A video of a walk around the neighborhood

A video of nightlife in Trastevere as seen from my windows, and a mini-tour of my apartment! Sidenote: NO ONE EVER SLEEPS IN ROME. As you can see from the time of this posting, this is one instance where I am indeed “doing as the Romans do.”

Since we STILL had time before everyone else arrived, my little group decided to go into the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere (right on the corner of the piazza). Little did we know that when we stepped inside the doors, we would see this kind of majesty:

Not bad for the neighborhood church, huh? Click on this picture (or any other on the page) to see the full version.

We also did a bit of walking and side street exploring, though nothing compared to our walking excursions of the last few days.

Three of the early birds. You might not be able to tell from far away, but our jaws are on the ground...

A street in Trastevere: Home sweet (laundry-filled) home.

Fast-forward to 5:30pm, we all meet, we go to our apartment (see the link above about Trastevere nightlife to get a peek at it!) which just so happens to be directly above this incredible square, we get a ton of fresh pizzas and wine and all hang out at our place (there are 13 of us total, by the way: six girls and seven guys) until eleven, when we crash and don’t wake up until morning.

I’d say it was worth the flight.

Packing: A Photo Essay

28 May

How in the world do I fit all of my required books for this course into one suitcase weighing less than 50 lbs?

I can just imagine my suitcase saying, "Sorry, can't fit any of your clothes in here - I'm booked!"

Wait a minute -- never mind my suitcase, how am I going to fit that many books into my BRAIN?!?!

then,

after a second,

and another few seconds…

…and one more second for good measure…

HOLY CABOODLES I'M ACTUALLY GOING TO ROME!!!!!!!!!!!!

More updates to come tomorrow, but tonight, it’s all about the suitcase arranging. Ciao for now!