Creating a Life: Inspiration from Orvieto

Pamela GoodeThere are those who ask me why I love to travel. In a few words: the exploration, the reversion to a simple and spare life, the crisp solitude of being alone in a new culture and unfamiliar language. Quite simply, stripped of my accustomed ways of being, I open my eyes and see. I remember who I am (and who I am not) and redefine the ways I want to experience my finite number of years. Travel sets me free to choose anew and gives me focus.

Below are a few things I’ve learned about myself during a cultural immersion week in Orvieto, Italy, and a handful of images to remind me when I’m tempted to give in to big city ways and forget.

I Want to Live a Life

I want to live a life on the edge — a life between consciousness and culture, between solitude and community, with easy access to the gifts of both.

Adventures in Italy

I want to live a life where city walls both shield and embrace, but also beckon me past my accustomed boundaries.

I want to live a life engulfed in scents and tastes and textures, with visual surprise around every corner, be it a new village or a just-unfurling jasmine bud.

I want to live a life where the strong and stalwart and majestic serve as constants for the fragile, a land where the porosity and lightness of stone do nothing to diminish its fortitude.

I want to live a life where both the dead and the living are honored, and joyously — a life where Etruscan tombs from 400 BC sit beneath the waving of wild cherries, and a waiter from lunch three days ago will wave you down in the lane for a smile.

A life where it’s okay to say hello to anyone you pass, to acknowledge life wherever it exists, including your own.

I want to live a life on many levels, from the surety and abundant offerings of ground and field to the communal path, the surprise and joy of rooftop gardens, the soaring art on soaring cathedrals to cotton ball skies and Jupiter shining above the lane after dinner in Charlie’s gardens.

I want to live a life where children in gingham smocks gather magnolia leaf bouquets and squeal with delight, where song is a part of every day’s curriculum, where physical safety is a given.

I want to live a life as many-layered as this cypress, this town, these rooftops.

I want to live a life with as much community as these vibrant streets and as much peace as these convent gardens.

I want to live a life as broad as this vista, completely unbounded by my psyche and conventions, my habits and my fears. I want a life with such clarity and vision that all of my options are recognizable.

I want to live a life where unexpected joy exists stunningly, and sometimes consists only of a gathering of simple greenery. Where the breezes dance, where the air is cool and clear and food holds the tastes of sunshine, rain, and origin.

People ask me why I travel. I travel to pull myself out of daily habits and rituals that keep me from growth. I travel to empty and refill my soul, to recapture moments that makes my heart beat faster.

So Go. See. Assimilate. Love It Up and let it make you better. And do whatever it takes to sear those images and awakenings onto your heart for the days ahead. Take photos. If there’s one thing I’ve learned taking 57 million photos of life, it’s this: turn around. From every position, there are at least two views, and they will constantly surprise you.

P.S. I’m very blessed to be traveling for six weeks in Italy and Ireland. Endless thanks to Adventures in Italy for giving me the fabulous opportunity to teach, to the loving and adventurous  group that accompanied me to Italy, to Olive Stack Gallery in Listowel Ireland for gifting me an entire month to explore and create, to the inimitable and wondrous Olive herself, and to Laura McRae Hitchcock, best residency partner on the planet. You can read more about my Irish adventures for the month of June at https://exciraanddelira.wordpress.com. Love to All!

Little Hurricanes

Prettier in Paris

My daughter arrived on Wednesday, creating a little hurricane in my carefully organized room, and isn’t that what we all need? Someone to stir the pot, to rustle us from the same old, to say “no” to our plans and shoulder us into the new?

She was ten when we first came here together, posing beneath the miniature Statue of Liberty in Luxembourg Gardens and dressed all in purple and pigtails. She won’t let me show the photo and she knows a secret: Honor the past, but don’t let it define you. I need to remember that myself.

Dressing this morning, she pulled a straw-like and scythe-shaped grey hair from her locks and held it toward me. I told her it didn’t belong there and not to worry; it had most likely blown off the weathered head of a boat captain as we walked along the Seine last night. Another gift from getting outside your self. He knows secrets too, but we decide to only imagine them.

 

Strapped for Time

Strapped for TimeSo I’m wandering down an empty lane thinking about how I’ve gotten myself into a place where time has me by the short hairs when I glance up and suddenly burst out laughing, quite alone and suddenly quite relaxed to spot my feelings so blatantly displayed for all to see. How likely is it that someone would have taped up this clock and dropped it onto my path on the very day I’m feeling overloaded? Strapped for time, that’s me, and a big thank you to the universe for letting me laugh it out in a big way.

I’m not sure about the nature of time. I know we all want more of it, but we’re quick to specify that we want *this* kind of time and not *that* kind of time. More time with those we love, and less time paying bills. More time to learn and create, and less time studying for finals. More time to savor a good meal and less time standing in supermarket lines. Of course there are a few enlightened souls among us who can make the most of the lines and the numbers and the tests and find joy there, but mostly we tend to bargain with time — this for that — rather than changing the way we experience it.

Like most, I experience change and attribute many of those changes to the passage of time. But how often have we said “it’s as if time stood still?” So change isn’t dependent on time, and time doesn’t always equal change. If I allot eight hours and fifteen minutes to a flight, I can walk the streets of Paris instead of Charlotte’s, but can I not *feel* Paris in an instant on any day of any year? And I can guarantee you that I’m able to dedicate eight hours to writing a proposal and get absolutely nothing of value accomplished. So honestly, the concept of time is pretty wishy washy, and how can I hold myself so accountable to wishy washy?

Let’s say I have ten great years left, and fifteen good ones, and five glad-to-be-here years. As a girl, my dad was really big on the Ten Year Plan, and he was always asking us about ours. At 25, I figured I was young enough to feel my way through it. At 60, planning my next Ten Fabulous Years has become high priority. Fortunately I’ve learned along the way that life can be pretty much exactly what you make it, and I love that daily creation.

Except for the unexpected. Never discount the unexpected. After 50, always eat dessert first. Don’t put aside your hopes and dreams.

So I’m going to look at this giant banded clock another way. Instead of Time wrapping her arms tight around me and demanding a response, I think I’ll tie these big blue bands around *her* for a week and breathe, dream, plan, and grab my joy. Sometimes You Gotta.

Reinvention

Paris Portal I try my best to remember how long it’s been since I traveled alone. Where I went, when I last felt this blossoming possibility of quietly intense discovery, the possibility of returning to the pulse so firmly silenced by the minutiae of days upon days of falling further behind with every tick of the clock. Melodrama, and yet the truth of it eats away at me.

I’m certain there are bad meals to be had in Paris, and certain that the odds are good on a street just off the plaza in front of Notre Dame, but the dressing on my salad of bright greens and deep purples is as light and crisp as air, and the generous slice of quiche is so breathy and moist that, having baked a gazillion quiches in my life, I can’t imagine what alchemy has gone into this one, how the maker has combined eggs and cream and cheese and ham and crust to bring forth a meal totally unlike what I know as quiche. And it strikes me how life is like this: how often we look in the same direction we’ve always looked, grabbing the same materials to create a life day after day. I am a mix of A, B, C, and D, and that mix creates X. Why do I so rarely see that ABCD can create P just as easily? How are we clear-eyed and blind simultaneously?

I’ve come to Paris to meet my daughter, who’ll be reviewing hotels. But I’ve arrived a few days early to get my bearings on my own terms first. It was a stroke of genius, but the timing is awful. I’m hopelessly behind on several deadlines, struggling with remnants of the flu, and I’ll return amidst frenzied preparations for our biggest event of the year.

Notre Dame GardensAnd yet, of course, the timing is perfect, coming as it does at the moment before implosion. I’m at a tipping point, and I desperately need the space and time to reinvent. How much easier it is to take the hard looks and consider alternatives surrounded by strangers instead of those we don’t want to disappoint. How much easier it is to imagine change when everything I see is already a drastic departure from my everyday.

The girl at my left has managed all of her salad, a slab of French bread, and at least 4/5 of her enormous quiche. She sips randomly on a lemonade, an ice water, and a glass of white (not bothering to choose only one), scrolling her phone and smoking in the breezy sunlight. A couple several tables over pays and stands up to leave, the woman becoming louder and louder as she speaks with agitation to the owner. I can’t/don’t-want-to hear her, don’t want to know if she is French or American or Other, don’t want to wonder what stuck in her craw on this gorgeous day of freedom and light. She leaves and we all shake it off and try to move back to ourselves.

So what will it be Pam? In the last 37 hours of flight and flu recovery, I’ve slept 16 hours, read a 451 page book, eaten two meals, and downed 8 cups of tea. I’m primed. Let’s get to it.

Hôtel de Ville, Paris

Crazed with Light

Italy Mosaic Workshop

It’s cold and gray on the long march to Spring, and I’m in love with these words by Italian poet Eugenio Montale: “Bring Me the Sunflower Crazed with Light.” What I wouldn’t give to wander a new path and come face to face with a field of bright suns shimmering in the subtlest breeze and arching heavenward with never a doubt or “what if.”

One of the best gifts of too-many-gray-days is the chance to mosaic again, no matter how briefly. In the past couple of months I’ve managed to knock out two bursts of color in a new series, Postcards Home. Both created primarily with Mexican smalti (plus a little Italian, dalle de verre, glass rods, and some art glass), they represent the personal travel talismans we’ll be creating in my mosaic workshop this May through Adventures in Italy. I think we all need to be reminded, and fairly often, of our sum total — our quiet insides as well as our shiny feathers, our bucket lists as well as our To Do lists. I call these mosaics “minis” even though they’re pretty good-sized postcards at 6″ x 8″, yet still pocketable enough to follow me around and keep me warm when skies shed snow and ice and hearts sigh a bit more often.

Pamela Goode MosaicsThe first in the postcard series was a very simple lane lined with cypress. Some years ago Sweet Pea and I bought a watercolor path through the trees titled “The Road Home” — still a favorite. And yet sometimes I wonder about that word Home, which certainly holds at least a double meaning. Where we’ve been, or where we’re going? What we know or what we seek? Easy chair or the (rocky) road less traveled? Head or heart? Beyond the arms of those I love, where is Home for me? For you?

Flowers and trees, who doesn’t love them? The strongest talismans can be the most basic. They make me laugh. They make me long. They help me remember. They urge me along the path, crazed with light, and momentarily fearless and sure.

Back to Center

Mossy Rock

I’ve always been pretty much of a rock — at least on the outside. This is perhaps more calculated than natural, since holding steady comes more easily when you don’t give in to drama. I’ve rarely been a shrieker, if you don’t count the child who likes to jump out of closets, or a flinger, if you overlook that carton of Chinese food that sailed across the kitchen. And after all, that was only once. I used to be a door slammer, but someone-I-can’t-quite-remember guilted that out of me. So yeah, pretty much of a rock.

Lately I feel less rockish and more like, oh . . . seaweed maybe. Stringy, riding whatever wave heads this way, unable to keep all of my tendrils pointed in the same direction, but still afloat, still green, still vital. It’s a nice image I think, and serves me well in uncharted waters, but lately I feel the need for a little more control. For feet, if you will. Feet to plant, to walk, to run. Feet that allow me to choose a path.

This isn’t altogether surprising, of course.

It’s a funny thing about finding your feet, your heart, your center. I sometimes feel like I am least myself when I’m in my “element” (read home/job/loves/routines/chosenactivities). I tend to fall into patterns of behavior that work in Situation A or Dilemma B. Don’t we all? I find that I most closely resemble myself, my center, when I am far from home in novel situations with strangers and unfamiliar sights and sounds. I am most myself when I have to look, to see, to hear, to discern, to think in new ways about new concepts, to grow.

Essentially, I have a yearning to get lost. Scrape some moss off. Let some sun in. Let that wild hair reign a bit.

I Like to Pretend

When do we lose interest in “let’s pretend?” When do we stop allowing ourselves to kerplunk right down in foreign scenarios, dreams, flights of fancy? I know the why (too many disappointments to risk one more), but when is the when? And (egads) why do we allow it?

I’m “away” for the weekend — my favorite place to be. It almost doesn’t even matter where “away” is — but as places go, this one tops many lists. I’m sipping tea on a deck with a rail made of handcut and hand-reassembled mountain laurel branches — a wood and air mosaic if you will. A bird visits for handouts. A mist rolls across the faces of my hosts: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, is that an eighth? mountain ranges. Peace.

I like to pretend. What if I lived here? What would I hang on this wall, what mountain tomatoes would be the best to slice for lunch, which fruits in the feeder would bring the most colorful birds? And best of all, with ample time to look, what would I see in the faces of the mountain? What whispers would I hear in the night?

My life opens up when I pretend. I live in beautiful spaces, raw places, dine on the exotic or on the field greens I watched a woman in black gather from an empty lot in Greece. I imagine a new wardrobe: floaty and aqua near the sea, downy knits for the hills, pintucks in muted neutrals for France, accessorized by a long and skinny linen bread bag for markets.

But I can pretend just as well in my own backyard. I love to walk at night past the houses that look so alive, so exciting, with lights ablaze, the colors of various rooms leaping out (hello!), while I admire the addition of this or that piece of art. What if I lived here? Or there? Or, ooh! there!? Drop me down in a new surrounding and I fantasize: how would I be different?

Would the deep rose walls warm me? Would a daily infusion of Greek herbs clear my head? Would these blue mountains ground me, or would my spirit heal from the constant tumbling and resurgence of the sea? Am I fully a product of my current environment? 80 percent? 50 percent? How much of myself do I take with me from place to place, and how much of those places do I bring home?

Is there a dividing line between the life I lead and the life I dream, or do they commingle to make me whole?

Fall Color Wheels

I’ve just returned from a visit with my sister in Virginia, and the October slant of the sun is currently pickling even the lowliest subject matter into a sparkling celebrity in Fall’s Five Minutes of Fame. I’m a snap and run kinda girl, not by nature but by practice, stealing as many shots as I can while companions wait with varying degrees of patience ten paces ahead.

Not every face is lovely, but this one is Beyond Beautiful. Ancient Indian elephant, Wise Woman, patterns of dew-starved earth? Fall colors steal the show, but I’ve always been a sucker for the overlooked.

Eden at Edisto

Edisto Road

Love or hate The South, it just doesn’t get much lovelier (or haunting, haunted, seductive, or psychically altering) than this. I took the above photograph along a back road on Edisto Island. There’s no resort around the bend; in fact, Edisto Beach doesn’t boast a single hotel. Rent a cottage, a cabin in the woods, or snare a beachfront campsite and stare into these trees for an hour or a day, and tell me your soul hasn’t been abducted, pinned and wriggling to the wall.

Solar Decath Hits USA Today

Solar Decath USA Today

USA TODAY, WASHINGTON — “As the last truck pulls away and the hardhats come off, 20 solar-powered houses built by university students and associates from around the world will open to the public Friday on the National Mall … Through Oct. 20, more than 100,000 people are expected to visit the houses that students from the USA, Canada, Germany and Spain have designed, constructed, transported and rebuilt for the competition….” Read more here.