Roma

“Rome was mud and smoky skies; the rank smell of the Tiber and the exotically spiced cooking fires of a hundred different nationalities. Rome was white marble and gilding and heady perfumes; the blare of trumpets and the shrieking of market-women and the eternal, sub-aural hum of more people, speaking more languages than Gaius had ever imagined existed, crammed together on seven hills whose contours had long ago disappeared beneath this encrustation of humanity. Rome was the pulsing heart of the world.”
― Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Forest House

Mykonos!

Mykonos1 045

Skipping over Thessaloniki and Athens for now as I just processed the Mykonos photos. I felt the need to revisit. Ahhhh Mykonos, such a magickal, mystical island. When my son, Chad and I landed on the shore by ferry boat from Athens it was windy and a bit cold. It was mid-March and way before the tourist season was to begin. Everything was closed for the season and many were out painting and doing construction to get ready for opening day. We literally had to eat in one small section of the island as the only cafes serving were down on the bay front. I missed the wonderful veggie crepes that my daughter Stacy and I bought and ate back in 2005. The crepe stands are everywhere and are delicious! All of the bars were closed much to my sons disappointment. But we did linger in the waterfront cafes over very good pasta, pizza and risotto while drinking Greek wine and gazing out across the blue waters. Enjoy the gallery of images here.

The Times They are a Changing…Still and Forever

mothergoddessearth

If I had to define my belief system at this moment it would be ” a follower of signs from the Universe.”  Now, in the next moment the definition may be completely different. I feel most at ease and peaceful when my sight is open to the synchronistic revelations that appear all around me everyday but on many days I am too preoccupied with mundania to “see”. I feel at my most optimal, creatively, at these open time periods. I can make sense of my path up until now, I can look back with more clarity than I had going forward at the time, I can see how all the minute pieces of passionate discovery fit together and add to the layers of generation. This morning I had a window of this blissful, purposeful time and found quite a few bending moments while following threads of knowledge, one tidbit leading to another, leading to another, leading to another.

This link is to a lecture by Marija Gimbutas. It is quite long at 1 hour and 42 minutes but I can tell you I was mesmerized the entire time. I had several revelations and made even more connections while watching. Professor Gimbutas is a weaver most definitely. I believe that the collective “we” are heading back to the Paleolithic period in terms of returning to the earth. We have been traveling through the sky far too long and have forgotten our roots that come from the earth. Gimbutas discusses in the lecture the pre-Kurgan invasion of the horse riders and the patriarchal (Sky God) beliefs. Sustenance for all came from the earth, agricultural and arts were an extension of spiritual practice all tied into reverence of the Goddess. There was no war, no violence. It was an “earth loving, art loving culture”. I can see a huge movement back to this time when we ate local, grew our own food or bartered for it, goods and services were not transported long distance. The earth was given thanks for it’s sustenance and it was cared for as a reciprocal practice of give and take in the circle of life. The balance was in the regeneration from life to death and back to life. Sustainable practices were not a catch phrase, it was a natural way of living off the earth.

We have become too much in our minds and technology has created mini-Gods of our brains that we worship above all else. Learn to make it easier, better, cheaper, faster…man-made is where it’s at! We are our own God. We can create it all. No need for a reciprocal connection with the natural world. Plastic does not die, it can never be a part of the regenerative cycle.  The disruption in Paleolithic times when those first horse riders rode in and decided that hunting by men was better than agriculture by both men and women was the turning point. It is apparent where this has taken us. Now the natural world is taking us back home. Through climate change, extinction and global eco disasters we are being told “No More”. The return to the old ways is upon us and I for one am looking forward to the changes and getting back to the basics that feel stable and life affirming.

Sofia to Thessaloniki

My son joined me in Sofia, Bulgaria in early March and we were at the apartment for about a week before we left the snow behind us and went on to sunny Greece. Here are a few pics taken in Sofia.

Sofia
A building on our street next to our apartment building
Our apartment building in Sofia, Bulgaria
Our apartment building in Sofia, Bulgaria
A bar at the end of our street that was hopping every weekend.
A bar at the end of our street that was hopping every weekend.

I was so very happy to finally be on the train and headed to Thessaloniki, Greece. We had a train compartment all to ourselves and we were very comfortable for our trip through what looked to be Siberia out our windows. Arrived after dark in Thessaloniki to an empty taxi stand and deserted street but eventually a taxi pulled up to drop people off and we flagged him down. Our hotel was in a great area with plenty of places to walk to and no taxi needed to just wander around and reach the cafes and waterfront.

Our hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece
Our hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece

We immediately set out for a restaurant since we hadn’t eaten in awhile. We were directed by the desk clerk to a local buffet style cafe that looked to be just closing and had no customers but the man greeted us enthusiastically and welcomed us to come in which we have come to learn is the Greek way. Instead of menu he told us our options and we both chose the soup. Nothing like a great big hot bowl of soup after a long trip. The waiter brought out a plate of big thick slices of homemade bread to soak up the soup. Of course we had wine with dinner and at this point we hadn’t yet learned that it is pretty much served automatically like water in Greece. We were pretty happy. And it is in those few moments that come here and there and often without warning that you learn to cherish the adventures of traveling. Alas I have no photos from the place as we were too busy enjoying the experience. In the above photo you can see the outside seating for the restaurant where we had a great first meal and incredible hospitality.

Some local art across from our hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Some local art across from our hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece.                               

After a good nights sleep we ventured out to an outdoor cafe stand a couple blocks from our hotel. My daughter and I ate at these throughout our backpacking trip in 2005. They are a chain in Greece and sell pizza, sandwiches, drinks and cappucinos. We had a cappucino and pizza for breakfast, which is perfect if you ask me. The sun was already shining and it was glorious to be in the Mediterranean. We set out for the waterfront and along the way passed many churches and ruins of some awe inspiring gazing.

Ruins in the middle of the city! Thessaloniki, Greece.
Ruins in the middle of the city! Thessaloniki, Greece.
Walking the streets of Thessaloniki Greece was inspiring.
Walking the streets of Thessaloniki Greece was inspiring.
The hub of activity seemed to be more relaxed down at the waterfront .
The hub of activity seemed to be more relaxed down at the waterfront .

My son was a little uncomfortable at the open stares his way but I tried to explain that he looked pretty different and was wearing many labels on his clothing. Meaning that the looks were probably just looks of interest and wonder. I personally think his style is eclectic and stands out even in the U.S.! Open staring in many other countries like Greece and Italy, the two that I know of, where staring does not carry the same meaning and is not rude or mean hostility, like it often does in the U.S. We generally experienced a great deal of interest and hospitality while in Thessaloniki. This is just one of the many reasons I love traveling in Greece.

Here are some more photos of Thessaloniki, they have quite the cafe culture there and we enjoyed hopping from one cafe to another for a bit while there.

A bright inviting bar for a cool drink.
A bright inviting bar for a cool drink.
Interesting things to read everywhere.
Interesting things to read everywhere.

We took a taxi out to an indoor skate park on the outskirts of Thessaloniki for my son to meet the owners and skate the park for a bit. My son is a pro-am skate boarder and so is always promoting his team, Lib Tech while he is out traveling. He was over run by roller bladers at this particular park though and we didn’t stay long.

As soon as I get my photos organized I will upload more. After returning a little over three months ago I am just now beginning to feel like I am rested. This trip took a lot out of me in so many ways. It was so worth it though! I fell in love with Greece all over again. I will return to my beloved Greece.

Texts of Time Medieval Manuscript Exhibition

While I was working as an intern in Sofia, Bulgaria, I was also attending classes at Portland State University online. One of the classes was a seminar creating an exhibition for a medieval book of hours manuscript that the Millar Library had acquired in their special collections. The physical exhibition can be found at the Millar Library, Portland State University through June 17, 2015 and links to the online exhibition are below. I have also included a link to an article about the exhibition. It was quite the experience working on this with a team from afar and I learned a great deal. I look forward to working on another exhibition in the future!

Fig4French (Marne) BofH-Large miniature a

f.030r Annunciation, French Book of Hours 1500

Online Exhibition:

 http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/textsoftime/

Article:

http://www.pdx.edu/magazine/news/illuminating-past

Sofia, Bulgaria

Sofia, Bulgaria draped in white
Sofia, Bulgaria draped in white

A big title for a small post. I have been in Sofia now for 12 days, 10 of those days were spent in a jet lag fog and briefings at the embassy were probably lost on me. Let’s hope not the important ones! I am an introvert by nature and whenever I need to adjust to new places or ideas or comfort levels, I draw inwards. So, my number one priority when I know I will be adjusting is to find a rental space that is private, secure, and comfortable. My apartment in Bulgaria is all that and more. I hit the motherload here and it has seen me through my adjustment period very well. It has a wonderful shower complete with rain showerhead, heated towel rack and heated floor. A balcony, microwave, TV with cable and many shows in English, lots of light, comfortable mattresses and pillows, chocolate, good cookware, an espresso maker and more…

I sit here now on a Sunday morning feeling a bit guilty that it is my second weekend here and I haven’t ventured out further than to the grocery store and the embassy and back. I am sure the owners of the apartment, who live downstairs and have invited me out more than once are wondering what is wrong with me. I have to do this on my schedule and I have plenty of time to see Sofia and the rest of Bulgaria. So yeah, I just got over jet lag and now I am taking a beat to gather my thoughts and organize a plan. Sofia is covered in a mass of white snow and it is beautiful to see from my windows. Not sure I want to be out in it however. Except for maybe a walk in the park across the street later.

While I am nesting I am reading about Bulgaria’s history and trying to get facts and names to stick in my mind. Some of the plans I had about my research are changing as new information comes into play here in Bulgaria. A new layer of understanding trumps the old distant one gathered in bits and pieces online. Even the online material content available is different when viewing from Bulgaria and the embassy than back home in the states. All previous assumptions or knowledge are in suspended disbelief…pending further research. This process is exciting to me. Diving in deeper water and getting to know information that cannot be found anywhere but by being here in Bulgaria. This is why I came. Now to do the information justice by recording it and accurately disseminating it to the interested parties. I can only hope to brush the surface and give my slanted opinion mixed with some historical facts, sprinkled with interesting photos.

The Medieval Manuscript class that I am taking, half in class before I came and now online is curating an exhibition for an intact manuscript at the Millar library on PSU campus. This new (to me) view on the curatorial comes at an advantageous time for me. The focus is helping shape my direction on the research and photos I will be taking in Bulgaria. My work at the embassy will be focused on the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation and the work it has done in the past and present. We will be returning to the sites and photographing them. An exhibition could be forthcoming and perhaps parlayed into my independent research on the monasteries here in Bulgaria as some of the AFCP sites are monasteries.  So working out puzzle pieces and seeing where and how they fit together is what is happening. Along with this is my own personal take on Bulgaria and what it means to me.  Right now Bulgaria is just starting to show her self to me beyond the facts and so we shall see…with new eyes, we shall see.

Internship in Bulgaria

Alexander-Nevsky-Cathedral-in-Sofia-Bulgaria[1]

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Sofia, Bulgaria

My next journey will be to Sofia, Bulgaria in late January. I have accepted one of four offered internships at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was offered internships in Milan, The Holy See and Romania. It was a tough decision to make but I chose Sofia for a few reasons, including the rich history of the area and my fascination with how they have maintained a cultural identity given the many invasions and rulers that have occupied Bulgaria.  I intend to research and photograph some lesser known story. I will also be spending forty hour weeks at the embassy learning all about public affairs and cultural affairs in addition to working on a research project on Byzantine sources supervised by one of my professors and a PSU class online on Gothic art. I will be busy!

The internship lasts three months and then my son will be joining me in Bulgaria and we will travel to Greece and possibly Turkey for a couple weeks. Then make our way up to Germany to see my brother and sister in law who live in Stuttgart.  Another reason I chose Sofia is to take part in a fresco photo documenting expedition with the Balkan Heritage Field School. I support their efforts to document and archive the frescoes that are being destroyed and lost to history.

I have so much to learn in the next few months before I leave, I hope my brain will expand and contain it all!  I am still learning Italian, because I am tentatively planning on applying to graduate school in Lucca. I am learning some Bulgarian, which is really hard because it uses the Cyrillic alphabet. I am brushing up on my microsoft skills (ha) and learning to use excel (I use google docs for everything).  In addition I am putting together a cookbook for my son who will be living the bachelor life and does not know how to cook, some of his favorite dishes in easy to read format.

My life is really full but it is full of the things I dearly love and as my vision of how I always wanted to live becomes a reality, I can only look around in awe and say, Thank you, I am so blessed.

Fearless

I entered a contest that is based on being FEARLESS.  After studying in Italy for three months and taking my autistic son with me, coupled with my age and all the challenges that come with getting older and trying to accomplish great things…I think I am FEARLESS. Please consider following the link and casting your vote by “liking” my photo.

http://fearlesspsu.com/gallery?sort=recent&i=105

The name is Charolette S. and in the photo am standing in the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy. It seemed a fitting image for FEARLESS.

Thanks! Image

Settling In and Squirming About It

The experts say it takes as long as you were gone studying to go through the stages of reverse culture shock upon returning to your home country. That is about right. So my absence has been an adjustment period for me and I think it took a little extra time to adjust to a new city upon return. Chad and I moved into a new apartment in a new city or rather in my old hometown where I grew up and lived for most of my life. In the meantime, throughout all of this adjustment I managed to continue my classes at PSU. The first term after my return from Italy I took all classes online and then the current term on campus. Life events seem to be changing so fast. This term I find myself a senior and facing the end of my sojourn through an Art History B.A. and it seems it just began! My plan is to continue my education in art history, classical studies, conservation/preservation or some such Masters degree. I am looking at programs in Europe, probably Eastern Europe if all goes according to plan. I would love to study Balkan art history in depth and formulate my thesis on that area of art. I am moved by the history of Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. So many ancient layers of art history moved through there over the periods and so much to discover and preserve.

I am itching to travel again and while I feel weary of travel in general and am burrowing in to my new place to feel rooted somewhere, I can already feel the urge to go out and seek again. I don’t know if this ever goes away. This need to find new places out there in the world and inside myself. New sights, smells, tastes and feeling the edge so close that balance becomes mindful. It really is an addiction. I am going to the Bahamas in a few weeks to spend some time on my own, reading, writing, soaking up the sun and while there of course visiting the art museums and cultural museums to get a taste of Bahamian roots. Photos will come! I have a brand new Pentax just waiting to be explored and this trip will be it’s maiden voyage.

I am enjoying the smallness of my life right now because I know from experience that it can change and become huge in a split second. I cherish time spent with my granddaughter and her wonder over how the light turns on and off. Her joy in discovery reminds me of how miraculous the tiny things really are. We flip a switch and have energy, water, TV, music, transportation…illumination. Image