Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

I'm feeling a lot of gratitude these days - for the ability and the means to travel and learn, for the technology to share our experiences with friends and family, and for those friends and family who share our blessings and are blessings to us. That includes all of you, my virtual friends.  

We were fortunate to have returned in time to see some lingering autumn beauty in our yard when we got back home.  I took these photos last week.

We got the patio cleaned up after all of the cedar debris stopped dropping, and I cleaned out a couple of pots and added some interest for the winter. 
I bought the golden euonymous shrub and the pansy.  The rest came from our own nursery. 
That bush that looks like acuba is really just branches stuck in a container of water in a pot.  It can be swapped out as needed.
Tom's little bonsai grove was looking good.
There is more subtle color in the entry garden.
Today some of this color still lingers.  Maybe this weekend it will finally be time for a final leaf raking on the lawn.  

Our daughter and grand kids are celebrating Thanksgiving with their Colorado family.  Tom and I and Jake will be driving south to my sister's house to join all of her kids and grand kids, as well as my other sister and her husband.  We are so thankful for family to share this day with.

Today I baked pies to take: berry, pecan/hazelnut, and two traditional pumpkins pies, 
 while Tom worked outside in the balmy, dry 60° day (we are between rain storms) to get a start on the outdoor Christmas lights. 
 It looks like we will need to replace a string of lights on the bottom of the boxwood tree on the left.  There's always some reason to have to go back to the hardware store. 
I think we're breaking a rule by having our lights up and on before Thanksgiving, but with so much darkness these days, we welcome their brightness, and so we're doing it anyway!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Oh, and Go Seahawks!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rome - Picking Up the Pieces

My title is a double entendre, of course. 

Literally, Rome, as indeed with most of the places we visited on this trip, is all about picking up the layers of history and puzzling them back together to tell the story of our civilization.  We owe a huge debt to the archaeologists, anthropologists, scientists and art historians who continue to work to tell this story. 

Figuratively, as we entered our last full day in Rome, we looked at our list to see what bits and pieces we still needed to see and experience. 

The thunder storms of the last evening persisted, and on Thursday morning a violent storm submerged the city in torrential rain.  We waited it out, and didn't leave our hotel until 10:00.  Armed with umbrellas and rain jackets, we set out on the bus.  Because of the late start and the continuing threat of bad weather, we eliminated the catacombs from our list and opted to stay closer to the center.

There were several churches and plazas Tom especially wanted to get to.  Our first stop was the Gesu Church, the home church of the Jesuits. 

The facade looks ho-hum, but its scroll like shoulders were revolutionary at the time it was built in 1568, breaking the angular lines of Renaissance architecture and ushering in the Baroque.  
This is the church of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. 

 A mirror is provided to reflect the ceiling fresco, The Triumph of the Name of Jesus.

 The tomb and alter piece of St. Ignatius ↓
 The church was originally plain inside, but competition with the Protestants led to encrusting it with the Baroque we see today.  Here the Church is represented as an angry nun whipping a bunch of miserable protestants.  The man with the serpent is Martin Luther, being stepped on.
After spending so much time in historical and public places we now got a glimpse of where ordinary folks  live. 

And we found this wonderful little studio where a woman was creating mosaics in the ancient style. 

 We bought this little plaque in a classic style reminiscent of so many mosaic floors we had seem all along our travel route. 
She told us of a short cut to our next destination, the Campo de Fiori.  In ancient times this was a "field of flowers".  Now it is an open air market.
 The rain returned while we were here so we just "shopped' under the awnings. 

 Closed in shops line the square. 

 In the center of the square is a statue of Giordano Bruno, an intellectual heretic who was burned on this spot in 1600. 
 I loved these petite bouquets. 

 Shoppers return home with their produce. 
 We moved on as well, to find the Piazza Navona.
This large rectangular square takes the shape of the original racetrack that was built here about A.D. 80 by the Emperor Domitian. 

There are three fountains here. In the south end is the Fontana del Moro, with four Tritons built by Giacomo della Porta in 1575, to which Bernini, in 1637, added a Moor wrestling a dolphin.

 In the center of the piazza is Bernini's most famous fountain, the Four Rivers Fountain.  Of course it's built around an obelisk. It dates to 1650.

The fountain depicts four river gods representing the four known continents of that time. 

At the north end is the Neptune fountain, added in 1878.

Along the side of the square it the highly Baroque Church of St. Anges, worked on by Bernini's student turned rival, Francesco Borromini .

We escaped another rain shower by having lunch under an arcade just off the Piazza Navona - four cheese pizza as I recall.  This was one of our favorites. 

Following a course laid out by Rick Steves' guide book, we walked around the Italian Senate building, which had a heavy police presence, and past a few shops.

 And came to the Church of Mary Magdalene. 
 This church interior was originally built in the 1300's, but has been transformed into high Baroque. 

 And then, since we were in the neighborhood, we re-visited the pantheon. That cafe on the left is where we ate diner the night before.
 There was a bigger puddle on the floor today, 

 but the drain holes were working. 
 Different light gave more depth to the indentations in the dome.
 Finally we visited the Church of San Ignazio

 After all of that painting, they did something odd.  See that dark dome further back?
 It's not really a dome at all, just a painted optical illusion. 
 And then, for the finale, we have the tomb of Pope Gregory XV, Baroque at its best.  Look at those marble curtains!
 Only the fringe is applied guilded plaster.  The rest is marble.  

As we came out of the church the sky was growing darker and darker.  We walked to the bus stop, crowded on when it arrived, and then the heavens opened and all hell broke lose, with thunder and lightning and wind and torrential rain, kind of how this day started. We made it back to the hotel, squished after even more people crowded on to the bus, seeking refuge.

We ventured out for dinner near our hotel,  to dine one last time in Rome.

Tom says this is how I saw Rome, and by now we all know that is true.  
Creating these digital albums has been a time consuming but wonderful experience.   Putting together all of the bits and pieces of this three week trip has been a mind expanding exercise, as I have tried to tie it all together on an historical time line as well as the chronological order in which we experienced this historical grand tour. 

On Friday morning the rain persisted, so we called a taxi to take us to the nearby train station, and from there to the airport.  Rome to New York took over nine hours.  After a three hour lay over, New York to Seattle took another five plus hours.  We walked into our house almost exactly 24 hours after we had left our hotel.  It was good to be home. 

As we flew over Europe, I looked down to see the Alps.

I saw this beautiful valley, and knew there were people living there and layers of ancient history under their feet.

We are all stones in the layers of history.  I have faith that human kind will continue to inhabit this planet of ours.  I wonder what bits and pieces of us those future inhabitants will find, what layers we will leave behind.

And remember, stones have the same status as stars.  Galileo said so.