Traveling Again? Are You Sure?

It’s a funny thing how much we forget when we look the other way. To be honest, I always assume that “what you know” is what you know, and it’s yours for life.

Cue laughter.

Cue more laughter.

But it seems that during the pandemic, when we fashioned a whole new way of living, a lot of the daily stuff fell right out of my brain due to a change of focus. Sure I wrote a lot and published a book, but the truth is that when they say “use it or lose it” — well, it’s not just a poetic suggestion.

As it happens, I’m about to return to travel, and surprisingly I find myself looking through old trips to remember what I used to pack. Honestly, it’s a bit mortifying. And since I’m scheduled for four delightful outings this year, I need a primer … and I need it fast.

It used to be so easy. I knew exactly what I needed for the time of year and location, I knew exactly where it was in my closet, and I knew exactly how much (or how little!) to pack. Dare I say … it was fun. And I repeatedly threw it all together the day before take-off.

This year, ahem, I pulled down my faithful suitcase, stared at it for a couple of days, and then started a walkabout to decide which items might be selected. Basically, I needed to be warm and dry, which is not always easy in Ireland. So basically, that meant dry clothes to wear while wet clothes are drying.

And then there’s the task itself. Yes, I remember how to pack (roll it up). Yes, I remember WHAT to pack. Well … mostly. But if I forget something, I can probably get it there, right? Probably maybe.

But my biggest pickle is with the airlines, which I suppose is nothing new. Two legs over and two legs back, with the middle legs on a different airline. (Cue laughter)

How hard can it be to reserve a seat? There are people, there are seats, and the seats are designed to seat the people. Voila. And yet ….

To be fair, the airline provides some directions for claiming a seat. “Please ensure that you are aware of the latest travel requirements for your destination prior to arriving at the airport.”

No biggie. I click on the italicized portion and … nothing. I eventually find and click on a much longer description of available seats (with photos!) and … nothing.

So here’s the deal. Basically, there are seats for anything and everyone, including musical instruments and pets, But somehow, there’s no way for ME to reserve a seat. There are words about choosing and reserving your seat, which is lovely, but the actual directions for claiming a seat appear not to exist. The seats just sit there, refusing to allow even the tiniest, softest click.

You can, of course, return to the beginning, where they will string you along with another option for claiming a seat, but … there’s no link for clicking or claiming or exchanging or sneaking or stealing — leaving me with only zero options. No phone assistance. No website assistance. No feeling that everything is under control. I do have a piece of paper that looks rather like a ticket and a six digit number that could, I suppose, perform the duties of a ticket … but … is it really? And if it is, why can’t I claim it???

And so my return to travel takes on something of my younger days, when skies were indeed friendly, the leather seats were deep and wide, and the gates were rife with family members hugging goodbyes as you as you flew seamlessly into adventure.

Only with none of that.

Mosaics in Ireland

My studio mate in Ireland and I are both mosaic artists. One of us (NOT me) churns out gorgeous new work daily, and you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on her!

I, on the other hand, tend to spend a lot of time in my head and approach the actual work with the zeal of a sloth and the pace of a snail. I’m tempted to start making pieces now, so I can simply pop one out of my suitcase every other day and wow myself with my “productivity.”

Does that count?

But sometimes, and often in Ireland, I’m so overwhelmed by beauty and generosity that art just rolls right out of me like so many thank-yous to the universe.

The art above is one of those gifts.

On the left is a slightly blurred photo that I took about a decade ago on a gorgeous windy day during my first residency in Listowel, Ireland. We were exploring and enjoying a glorious walk on a glorious sandy beach — first along the high dunes and then down to the water under brilliant blue skies. That’s where I discovered the yellow shells shown in my last post, as well as a host of pink darlings twirling joyously in the breeze that immediately became my inspiration. On the right is the stained glass mosaic that I created from my photo.

If you happen to find yourself in Ireland during the month of April, please stop by and say hello. If we’re lucky, you may be be able to join us for a workshop! (Date to be determined; likely mid April)

Dear Ireland: I’ve missed you so!

I’ve missed your lonnnnnnng frothy grasses, your ubiquitous flowers and delightfully moody seas. I’ve missed your shells of every color, and certainly your mind-blowing hand-built walls. And your stripey stones — how could I turn away from such whimsy?

I’ve missed your waterside horses and donkeys and cows inching closer and ever closer while hoping to get to know us better. I’ve missed your poets and your deep love of writing. I’ve missed your lovely tea rooms, your lobsters, your ubiquitous inlets, and your spell binding vistas over land and sea.

And I think —

You’re waiting for me, aren’t you?

Only 13 sleeps … and some fleece-lined pants. And two wool hats because one will need drying while the other is worn, and weather-proofed boots ….

But IRELAND!!!!!!!!

I’ve missed you so ….

Little Darlings

Last week I had the supreme pleasure of playing with babies, and I can tell you right off that there’s nothing better.

Nothing. But you knew that.

It all started with a parental trip to the hinterlands of a 40 foot snowfall — the perfect adventure in the perfect location, otherwise known as “too far away for the sitter to throw a tantrum and beg them to come home.”

Consequently, it didn’t matter if the kiddies loved me or loathed me — they were 100% stuck with me for a week. I, of course, was in heaven.

I now realize that I never really envisioned heaven properly. I knew it involved glitter, Bluey, dancing raucously atop the four foot high marble island, tiny tea sets with tiny spoons, and running with scissors. Still, while my own imagination may have begun drooping at least hourly, these babes never once drooped, not even during my mental collapse and their subsequent invasion of the blue and white “good” china. “Ooooh, let’s play flying saucer!!!”

Bath time rodeos? Check! Midnight sonatas? Check! The quick consummation of 5 bags (at 48 pieces per bag) of chicken nuggets for dinner three nights in a row? Check! Painting grandma’s hair with glitter bombs? Check!

But oh the joy of it all — I just can’t tell you — though I’ll gladly share a bit below:

Images taken at Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Fernbank, and Virginia Highlands, left to right: Smiling Giant, Wishful Thinking, Giant Wooden Forest Tulips, A Garden of Mesh Birds, the Water Maiden, Happy Frogs, Planting for Spring, Pure Joy

Barcelona Anyone?

I’m heading back to Barcelona in June with a group of fabulous women. It’s one of those cities that I just can’t spend enough time in for oh so many reasons. A few, and only a few, are listed below.

1. The first thing you’ll notice about Barcelona is that she’s raucously colorful, and I do mean COLORFUL. From the exteriors to the ceilings to the street art, Barcelona is vibrant, shimmery, and alive.

2. She’s her own self, legally separated from Spain proper, and proud of her independence.

3. Barcelona reeks of art, from the galleries, to the buildings, to the streets, to the people.

4. Don’t get me wrong — everyone still wears black of course, but they’re too nice to snub you if you show up in chartreuse.

5. She’s easy peasy breezy — fully walkable with a mild Meditteranean climate.

6. And of course, it’s smack dab on the ocean. You can walk a few blocks and stick your toes right in that gorgeous sea.

7. Did I save the best for last? Food Heaven. Lots of bits and bites everywhere you go, and the restaurants are top notch and inventive. You should know that restaurants open at 10:00. P.M., of course.

See below for descriptions of the images above:

  • 1, The Rooftop of Casa Battlo, otherwise known as The Dragon. And yes, they do have events up there!
  • 2. The face of Casa Battlo. After a tour, have your photo taken from one of the balconies.
  • 3. Political Street Art
  • 4. Palau de la Musica stained glass
  • 5. Mosaic and tile ceilings at Hospital Sant Pau
  • 6. Beautiful Street Art

Stay tuned — more soon!

Travel for the Faint of Heart

Balk all you want about the agonies of airline travel, the bitch of baggage, the crunch of crowds, or the plethora of peddlers trying to pawn off umbrellas in the rain, but travel rocks.

Sure the first day is an overload of exhaustion, logistics, and deer-in-the-headlights incomprehension of the local ways of doing things. Or in many cases, simply not doing things. Because, you know, there’s so much to celebrate, to savor, to explore, to talk about — who cares about schedules? If you’re thinking Romans, you’re oh so very helplessly wrong. But once you throw your own expectations and habits out the window, it gets pretty damn interesting.

If Travel Season isn’t quite upon us, it’s knocking on the door. Have you made plans? Picked a country? A city? Five cities? Five countries? You’re my Girl!

Things I Learned in Rome, or Travel Tips for the Squeamish, by Pam

1. Relax. The hardest thing I’ve had to do on this trip is gut it up to open the prosecco bottle by myself. It didn’t kill me.

2. Rent an apartment instead of a hotel room. More for your money, room to spread out, the option to eat in (or have a pre- or post-dinner Prosecco at the ready, and best of all, it’s yours.

3. Reserve a room with a tub. You’ll be glad.

4. Prearrange a car from the airport to your hotel/apartment. You don’t want to be hauling-too-much-luggage while trying to find the right train unless you’re 22 and tireless. You’ll still be tired. Reserve the car.

5. Bring at least one pair of shoes that you can walk in for 10 hours a day, and the bandaids to go with them. Good bandaids. Strong bandaids. Bandaids with as much cushion as you can scare up. Keep the bandaids right next to the American Express (as in, don’t leave home . . .).  NOTE: And yes, you CAN stack 10 bandaids between a blister and a shoe. Ask me how I know.

6. Find the closest grocery store the first day. You’re sure to need something, and you probably won’t know the Italian/French/Croation word for shower cap. Knowing the closest pharmacy will also be useful.

7. Don’t bother learning to pronounce Arrivederci. The go-to phrase when leaving a shop is Grazie-Ciao-ByeBye-Buona Sera-NightNight. Apparently in Italian-speak, this is one word.

8. Don’t worry about what’s going on at home. Stuff will happen. It will get taken care of. And you’ll come home with a clearer perspective — and the travel bug.

9. Mornings and evenings are the best time to wander. Fewer tourists, less noise, and the locals you run into will be doing interesting things, like scrubbing down the step into a cafe, polishing a crate of tomatoes, or setting out tools in their workshop.

10. There is much less crime in Europe, and people out walking at all hours. Take a deep breath and look around; you are so much safer here than in the US. It feels good, free.

11. WARNING: There have been a few moments on this most recent trip to Italy that have made me wonder if my traveling days are coming to an end. I can pretty much sum up those moments in one word: Cobblestones.

I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Italians don’t really use grout, do they? Add a few centuries of freeze/thaw cycles and it’s increasingly rare to find two contiguous stones at the same height. So I should have anticipated that navigating the streets/sidewalks/lanes is less an act of walking and more a sort of calculated selection and tentative toeing from one 3″ x 3″ island to the next. But hey, if the Italians can do it in heels, and they do, then I can find a way.

12. Which brings me back to my son’s mantra: It’s All About the Shoes.

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

She’s Not Here

Photo and Sculpture by Micheal Pardue

On the beach and far from phones and computers, my thoughts turn like homing pigeons to laundry lists of tasks both real and imagined, and I wonder peevishly how long it will be so. How long before the wind shakes me silly and the sun evaporates every drop of logic until my cranium is hollow, bone dry and thirsty for folly and impulse?

The ocean is tricolor today: aqua near the sand, then teal, with a thin navy stripe that hugs the horizon. How do I move from the frothy edges to the navy depths? Why am I stuck in minutiae?

I’m willing to wait, but I’m anxious. Maybe eager is the better word, but anxiety lurks. I love the deep. I live for the deep as much as life allows, and in this instant when life is handing me an unexpected gift of time and sand and sea, I struggle to be here now.

If I tilt my head just so, I feel the heat of the sun on my left cheek and a sea-cooled breeze against my right, and it charms me to learn that two divergent climates can co-exist on my one small head. I think two lives are spent here as well.

In truth, the voice that pulls at me is not minutiae, and therein lies the rub.

I could stretch myself flat in the sun by the sea quite joyously for every day of the years I have left, until my brain is so bereft of new stimuli that I begin to grow worlds in its place, and I sometimes wonder if that is precisely the life I was made for. Egos crushed like periwinkle shells into smears of yellow or purple against the sand, hair blown wild into a wooly nest for puffins, with skin the color of night, the texture of winds, quite pockmarked with stars and story.

Instead, the sun teases the too-well-known out of us for only moments at a time, until some trivial matter demands our attention and we leap, almost grateful for permission to return to the safety of the familiar, that easy cloak (tired, worn) that fits so effortlessly even though we meant to trade up so many resolutions ago.

The truth is that I’m experiencing a major life-shift, and I don’t yet understand how to walk it. Given the hours to stare into nothingness, understanding will come, but the days that have filled and will fill out this year have not been slated for me; my diligent attention is called for elsewhere and I am honored to give it. One day there will be time and presence to spare, and I will surely miss today. And so for now, I’ll try to make peace with not letting go.

What Are You Waiting For Blog

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.