Monday, May 26, 2008

Speaking Italian

I've always had the feeling that I used my hands more when I'm speaking Italian than when I speak English, or Croatian.

But I have also thought maybe I just feel like I'm using them more, since I'm aware that Italians use their hands more, and therefore I become more self-aware when I am using them, giving myself the impression that I use them more, but not really. (Yes, I tend to over-analyze things.)

After seeing these pictures from the retreat where I spoke, I'm thinking that it probably isn't my imagination...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Milano, Part I

Welcome! This is a sign on the children's classroom of the church in Milano. I loved the colors and just that some teacher made her doorway so welcoming.

Here is the little one-room attic apartment I stayed in while preparing for the retreat I spoke at later, thanks to a generous girl named Katie Cross, who moved in with friends and let me have her place. It was perfect! The foldout bed is on your right, and the kitchen component is just out of sight to the left. The balcony had a wonderful tree outside with a longer view to the Hippodrome just a block and a half away.

The famosissima Cattedrale di Milano. The detail is amazing. Lewis Short met me downtown and showed me around the cathedral area.

I would call this an experimental photograph, but the truth is I didn't realize I had my camera on some odd setting. But I like it!

Here is the unaltered view of the same subject. Just in case you can't tell, these are candles in the cathedral.

Now I understand why the windows of the cathedral are so talked about. I would love to return with hours to spend there looking at them.

Milano has the first "mall" ever built, a really beautiful galleria that puts any American mall to shame. It is so much more than a shopping place, though it is certainly that...for anyone who can afford it, which would not include me. This is, well, just what it looks like, a dome which forms part of the roof overhead.

Talk about a glass ceiling....

Loved this statue of Leonardo da Vinci, who will show up later in my Florence pictures and my second trip to Milano. It's too dark, but the little bird on his shoulder made the shot worth it.


(Milano Part II will come after I leave Florence the second time...)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oleggio, beyond the barn

I could see this church almost from my hotel, way up at the top of the city. To keep myself from falling asleep, I went for a walk, and this became my goal: to find the way to that church and get there.

I made it, tired as I was. Once I was at the top, I really didn't want to backtrack to get back down, because I had a hunch there was a shortcut if only I could find it.

I asked a friendly woman who lived there, and she told me to look for the cobblestoned walk that was very long and steep. I found it. It was long and steep!

The man and his daughter who walked down behind me seemed friendly, too. I asked him for directions to the Ramada Hotel. He said, "Oh, that's far from here. You have to go there by car." I said, "Well, I walked here, so I think I can walk back, if you can tell me how to get to the main street."

Was I sure? I could call a taxi, you know.

But he did point me to another cut-through, and I did make it back, a piedi.

And this time my view was of the mountains covered in snow, so strange to see, having just arrived from Memphis. Despite the power lines they were majestic and beautiful.

The last photo is taken from my little balcony at the hotel. How often do you stay in a nice hotel and see a tractor working the green fields outside your window? (I think you'll have to enlarge it to see the tractor....)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Munich Airport

I think I mentioned in my first post from my trip that there was a room in the Munich airport for quiet and meditation. This is it, at least as much as I could get a decent picture of.

The light came from below the floor, and that is a real tree trunk in the center of the room (the right side of the photo.) Just inside the doorway on either side was a small bench, and there were cushions and mats if you wanted to sit or kneel on the floor.

It was really lovely. Airports are, outside, about the noisiest place I can imagine. And inside they are full of psychic noise, if not decibel-type noise. And in an Icharus sort of way, they symbolize the way desire for speed and power and innovation can "unground" us, both literally and spiritually.

(Not that I'm trying to make a statement about flight or techonology here. I'm thankful for both.)

So my appreciation goes out to whoever got a room like this put into fast-paced Munich airport. It made a difference in my experience, without a doubt.

The second photo is from the wall outside the room, in sort of an entry hall. There were scriptures from several major world religions. I am pretty sure it is the beatitudes, but please correct me if you know Greek and can enlighten me.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Paris, Rainbows

It just began pouring down rain here in Memphis.

Which reminds me of the double rainbow Lisa and I saw from the train as we were leaving Paris.

Enlarge and enjoy a mystical moment.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mayflowers in Memphis

Yesterday, driving to my office, I saw something I knew I had to return to today, camera in hand.

This is two blocks from my office. My office in the part of town so many people won't come to. Since I began working there almost four years ago, at least three murders have made the news, all occurring within less than a mile from our building.

It is a very poor area. It is largely a racially segregated area. It is a part of town that got split in half by plans for an interstate that in the end was not finished. It is an area with more than its fair share of trouble, for many reasons.

And yet as I have written earlier, there is beauty here. Beauty in the people who live here, beauty in the people who are working to make things better, beauty in the hope and faith that refuse to give in to all the problems.

And so I had to photograph these flowers. They are blooming next to litter, in a lot between the failed interstate (now a partial bypass) and the house where one of the horrible murders occurred.

They are part of why I love my job!

Here is what the flowers see if they look north from their position.

The gutted building you can see is the old elementary school building. At one time we hoped to buy it and rennovate it, but it proved too expensive an endeavor.

A church on our street does, however, use part of the building (a part that does have windows) for outreach ministry to the neighborhood--a food pantry, making clothing available--and today I heard that we may start partnering with them to offer counseling through their ministry.

Flowers can grow just about anywhere, as long as there's good soil, light, and water. And hope and faith. I'm sure even flowers need those in some way.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I bet you didn't expect this from my trip to Italy.

After flying to Milano, I spent one night in a "Ramada Hotel," and now I realize I did mention this in my "Bella Italia" post. Well, it was lovely to be out in the country, and I was very surprised to walk along the road and find cows in a barn not twenty feet from where I was walking.

And not far from the cows was the huge stack of hay. It looked like a farm, and it smelled like a farm! It was an unexpected treat, much nicer than staying somewhere in a hotel in Milano would have been.

I hope to put more of my photos in an online album (wish me luck!) and just put highlights in the blog. When I get it done, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Home at Last

John Denver said it: Hey, it's good to be back home again, yes, it is.

From Zagreb to Vienna to Chicago to Memphis, I finally got home on time yesterday around 5:30. After a short night of sleep, two really rough landings, no sleep on the plane, and still dealing with a bad cold, I was ready. The exhaustion hit somewhere between Chicago and Memphis.

Thanks to terrorists and the fact that people aren't allowed to meet you at the gate anymore, it took Drazen and me a while to find each other, but thanks to cell phone technology, we were happily reunited at last.

We had a pancake supper at Perkins and came home, and I am so happy to be home, cold and exhaustion and all. As you can see in the photo, even one azalea bloomed late enough to welcome me home.

I have to brag on Drazen for keeping my maiden hair fern alive for six weeks. All my houseplants survived, except one that was already sickly when I left. I was impressed.

And I have to brag on him again, for being a husband who didn't protest his wife being gone for six weeks. He was wonderfully supportive, and I am thankful.

These little guys seemed a bit confused by my presence at first, but once they realized who I was, Paolo hasn't stopped licking me (and he is not generally one to lick people), and both seemed to be happy that I stayed home all day today and was available for general petting purposes.

It's good to be back home again.

(And trip photos are still to come.....)