The Sabine Hills

Just a 45 minute drive from Rome, you can climb up into the sky. Below you are cherry trees, olive trees, and apple trees, that you can stop and pick from along the way. As we drove back to the city, smog and noise welcoming us at the gate, it took all we had to not turn around and go back. We live in cities for work, for opportunity, connection, but I am starting to think it’s not worth losing the stars. I asked my husband last night if the next stop can be right under them.



Through your eyes

We’ve had a good deal of visitors here in Rome. At first, I enjoyed being a tour guide, but after my eighth trip to the Colosseum I started to feel like I’d rather pull my hair out than climb those steps again. But then something interesting happened. I learned that if you see something through someone else’s eyes, you will see it for the first time, every time.

When I took my husband’s parents to the Pantheon recently (my favorite ruin), they both showed me something I had never really noticed. His father, while everyone was drooling over the columns, stood marveling at the woodworking high up in the rafters. A builder himself, we cranked our necks backwards as he taught me about rivets and beams and the intricacy of craftsmanship and now I never pass it without looking up at them.

His mother showed me how the tiles must have been from one piece, split into two as a mirror effect, because each piece of marble is like a human fingerprint, completely distinct.

I started to see this in other areas of my life as well. Last week, when we went to the country, I couldn’t take my eyes off the beautiful flowers. Then my husband said, “Baby, look at this. There are five different kinds of cereals in one square foot!” I would have stepped on each one of them without ever seeing that.

This is the same man who watched the royal wedding highlights on the news with me and could only comment on the well-trained horses. I honestly don’t think he ever once looked at the bride and groom. He was completely enthralled with how well those horses did in that kind of crowd, which he assures me is no small feat.

I recently spoke to one of my oldest friends who lives on a mountaintop in Vermont. She went on and on about the soil she was currently planting in. Where some may see dirt, she sees a whole world, a masterpiece of life and art and now when I look at my window box plants, I try and see them how she would.

I’ve missed so much detail along this journey. I think of Uganda all the time and wonder how much I really let in. Was I so busy “surviving” my new life that I only saw the big strokes? I hope not. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this blog, to remember all that I can and to now try and see more. So I will use my eyes, and all the eyes around me.

Take a deep breath

I am going to paint a picture for you. Imagine a small windowless room down a flight of stairs in a nondescript strip mall in the outskirts of Rome. Next door, to the right, is a pizza joint. To the left, a nail salon. In between these is an empty room that holds the flight of steps. Down this flight of stairs, in the windowless room, there are about 50 people all dressed in white getting ready to breathe. A shaman steps to the front of the room and tells everyone that the deep breathing they will all be doing for the next hour will perhaps bring out tremors, tears, joy or darkness, but to not be scared, as there are “helpers” there in case of trouble. The lights are turned off as deep drumming music begins. Everyone lies down on the floor. The helpers take their place along the walls, also swathed entirely in white. The “breathing” begins.

A have a friend in town from Los Angeles who follows this Shaman. He thought I might like to check it out.

Unfortunately, I don’t have white clothes (not something you buy a lot of when you have a toddler), but I do have lungs, so I thought why not. I’m always up for a new adventure.

Here’s why I should have said why not:

I was the only one in black.

My back pressed to the wall, I watched the bodies around me convulse as each and every one of them began to not breathe, but hyperventilate themselves.

I thought, okay. I learned this as a kid in a friend’s backyard in Florida. Only then you were supposed to hold each other tight till you passed out. Yes, stupid, but not a lot to do in rural settings. And it’s all I could think of sitting in that room. I wanted to shout out, “Of course you are going to “feel” something! You are changing the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. It’s not magic.” But, of course, I had nothing but respect, so stayed silent and tried my hardest. I squeezed my eyes tight and puffed away, but I’ve never been one for really working out. Always preferred a glass of scotch or wine in front of a nice fire while everyone else skied down the mountain.

Apparently there are drugs involved sometimes. I think I could have used some.

This Shaman and his followers are all here for the Shaman’s wedding. He’s marrying a young California girl whom my friend introduced me to. She told me she loved me.

We were supposed to stay and “share” at the end but I sneaked out early. I grabbed a slice of pizza, jumped on the subway and the whole time, with cheese running all over my hand, was breathing just fine on my own.

And truly no offense, each to his own and yes, I do believe in magic.