This must be Italy….

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Yesterday was day 8 here in Italy, and it finally sunk in that we are here.  Before that, it was more like being at “Giordano’s house”… where the “extras” just happened to speak in mostly indecipherable, robust, ticklingly rhythmic tongues.  As soon as we dressed and ate breakfast, we piled into our little Fiat for an extended pilgrimage through the countryside, in pursuit of fresh, raw milk and cheese. While he was at work yesterday  his mamma blew up his phone (five times, to be precise), to report a source of organic raw milk at the farm just below her home, in the hills above Assisi.

 

My moon blood had just begun to flow- a sacred day I designate for rest and introspection (if such a thing is possible with a two and a half year old…).  I was not expecting the exxxtended amusement park ride along narrow, rutted gravel roads overlooking stunning, steep green and golden hillsides rolling across all space.  Turns out, he didn’t really know “the way”. All he knew is that the farm was “below the house of his mother”. My breath became involuntarily shallow, my body tense, after the gazillionth dramatic twist about the infinite span of ruined road.  I tried to let go and surrender to Giordano’s questionable leadership. But at some point, I lost it, and venomously begged to turn the fuck around and forget it. Nope. Driven by raw instinct (as he mostly is), he kept driving. Within a minute we pulled into the driveway of a massive stone house.  The kind you see in movies- sturdy rectangular boxes, with small, precise windows framed by wooden shutters. The surrounding land, lush, green and laden with friendly trees, spilling offerings of fruit and shade. Three happy country dogs greeted us, and called to their Master.

 

He emerged from the fairytale house, unkempt brown hair and overgrown beard flying everywhichway.  He was slender, with a hint of pot belly and posture that whispered the tale of a life of hard-assed, though gratifying labor.  Giordano got out of the car and greeted him. I could pick out a few Italian words… I think he said that he was the son of Raphaella, and she had told him they had raw milk for sale?  Eventually, he gestured for me to get out of the car. I unbuckled Serena from her carseat, and greeted the warm-hearted farmer. A voluptuous woman with pale, maudlin blue eyes, wide awake baby on her hip emerged from the house.

 

Together we ascended the stone stairs and crossed the threshold into a darkish, cozy kitchen.  It felt intimate and brimming with life. Serena immediately spotted the baby’s bouncy seat, and brazenly demanded to climb in and press all the musical buttons.  Into the kitchen wandered a little boy, not too much bigger than Serena, wearing only a t-shirt. Rippling streams of Italian conversation filled the small kitchen as I stood receptive and shy.

 

They gave us tiny cups of their homemade yogurt to sample.  Then the man and his pants-less boy escorted us through the charming, wild garden to a dark barn, guarded by a silver horse.  Giordano fed the majestic guardian one of the fallen apples he had foraged for the cows on our walk through the garden. In the barn, five cows eagerly licked the remnants of their breakfast from the feeding trough.  Giordano offered them the remaining apples, which they gladly devoured. Their udders were small and freshly emptied. I petted each of their wide, soft faces, marveled at their massive strong bodies and wondered how I can eat beef and live with myself.  

 

We left the barn and meandered around the back side of the house, into a basement room, where giant slabs of dead pig hung from the ceiling.  Our kind host showed us a hutch filled with rounds of homemade cheese. But not enough to sell, they said.

 

Back in the house, our host offered us coffee, “strong enough for Mexicans”.  As I was neither Mexican, nor in need of excessive jacking up, I declined. Giordano accepted.  The ample, lactating queen of the castle brought us a large plastic water bottle filled with that morning’s milk, which they insisted was a “gift”.  We schmoozed a bit more before exchanging friendly goodbyes. “Ciaos”, actually.

 

The drive back to the main road didn’t seem nearly as long and daunting.  

 

Not too far down the main road, we arrived at a (relatively) more commercial  farm, where Giordano bought some fresh mozzarella and ricotta. Serena was thrilled to see long lines of holstein cows fiercely committed to munching massive piles of hay.  The smell of cow shit filled the warm, humid air.

 

We hopped back in our little Fiat (who runs on propane) and traversed more windy roads, in pursuit of MORE CHEESE.  Haha. This time it was another family home. A friendly man with a full, grey beard, shining eyes and strikingly short denim shorts greeted us, along with two small, eager dogs.   He and Giordano exchanged some friendly words and then the man led us into his kitchen, which was flooded with sweet, buttery aroma. A woman with short, grey hair, joyful eyes and a german accent greeted us.  Monica. Though she wasn’t “fat”, her “extra” suggested her love of baking and partaking. She was rolling out greasy cookie dough. Her teenage daughter, exuding a modest presence, sat at the far corner of the table, spreading some kind of chocolate goo on toast, making intermittent crunching music.  

 

Serena was dying for a cookie.  To my relief, they weren’t ready yet.  Poor thing. I wish I’d never let her eat a cookie… or even watch a show in which they ate cookies.  Because Pandora’s box is officially OPEN.

 

I felt my aura tucked close to my body as I spoke with effulgent Monica (in english) about simple things like her love of baking, her grandchildren in Germany, her daughter’s longing to get a nose piercing.  She pulled a small, homemade calendar from the wall and beamed as she showed us photos of her children and grandchildren. She promised Serena a raincheck on cookies, which she even threatened to deliver to our doorstep on her way to town one day.  

 

We eventually left with a huge round of sharply scented sheep cheese.  

 

The heat of the day was now upon us.  Our meandering morning outside of time suddenly came to a jarring halt.  We still had an errand to run in the town of Assisi. I felt hungry and aware  that Serena’s nap time was approaching faster than was convenient.

 

Hence we embarked on another epic leg of our day’s journey, which included driving through the stunning center of Assisi (OMG, I can’t believe I live a stone’s throw from such an ancient, mythic “destination”), spending “hours” in a massive store, in (fruitless) search of a mosquito net to protect us as we sleep (Serena is getting devoured every night and my heart aches each time I look at her sweet face, dappled with inflamed, red bumps.)  Exiting the belly of said store, ravenous. Resigning to eating lunch out, even though money is feeling uncomfortably scarce. Climbing to the highest hill in Assisi, to a restaurant overlooking the Whole World, owned by two brothers who press Giordano’s olive oil. Everything in their restaurant is organic, and mostly grown and made by them. Even the flower in the hearty, country bread and pungent, buttery blue cheese.

 

I could write a whole story about lunch.  But I don’t feel like it. My body craves yoga.  And the moral of this story, is that in Italy, “going to get milk and cheese” is not a minimal, colorless endeavor.   It is a weighty, relational Happening, which requires half a day and fully awakened senses.

Let it be noted.

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Babies Bobbing In My Bath

It’s windy right now.  There’s something vulnerable about watching humans in the wind.  Watching their hair flail about and plaster to their faces, sensing their simultaneous discomfort and rapture.  Anyway, the good news is that I figured it out!!!  I figured out the purpose of long term, committed relationship! (If I were you, I wouldn’t take my claim sitting down though…)  Did I REALLY figure it out?  Probably not, but it “seems” like it.  Ahhhh, the seeming.  Holy smokes!  Seeming for president… Actually, I’m pretty sure that seeming IS the president, and has been for centuries.  But this is not a political rant.  Who cares about politics when there’s human relationships?!?!

I knew that Mykael was gonna spend the day with a friend today.  And I felt jealous because they are going to this beautiful beach, which according to Mykael is covered in rainbow colored rocks (but like I told you before, he has wizard vision.  He sees rainbows in your garden variety, organic grey scales), and I felt left out.  I haven’t been getting out into nature enough, so here I am A-gain, at the café, feeling the stream of traffic and psychic chaos as if it is all flowing right through my center, which I guess it is, since I am the dreamer, dreaming this dream of the main thoroughfare of Piedmont Avenue, teaming with oh so civilized civilization slicing right through the center of my mind, suckling my nerves like over grown babes with oral fixations.  Anyway, so this morning I asked Mykael if he was excited to spend the day with this dude.  He said he was nervous.  That threw me off.  Why would he be nervous about going to the beach with a good friend?  Because, he informed me, he would be “shrooming”.  OH!  Well this is fucking news to me.  And I felt bitch slapped by the spontaneous additional information.  Alienated, excluded, surprised, confronted… and you throw those ingredients in the pot and simmer them under the hot flame of exacerbated old wounds and it becomes an alchemical disaster.

Today I believe that a cornerstone purpose of relationship, at least in MY world, is to serve as a magic mirror.  A magic mirror that is way harder to break than your garden variety glass and metal job.  Or even any other fleshy rendition of reflectivity.  Mykael has been a broken record, constantly bringing it to my attention that I am choosing to see the worst in him.  It’s true.  I have been having a really challenging time focusing on the good things about him. (It’s not hard, given how he’s behaving… but still…) Feels like an addiction.  And speaking of addiction, I can see that my ways of being in Relationship are WROUGHT with addiction, and this is a big piece of why I have been plotting my escape.  It’s really my additive behaviors that I want to break up with. I hate admitting this, because automatically, this confession of awareness raises me up to a new level of personal responsibility… which I suppose is good, but confronting too.  That’s what I love about writing.  I love to show up on the page as deeply honest as I dare to dive, and inspire you to choose the same game, the same journey into self and Self.

In this magic mirror, I am seeing all my incongruencies.  I see that often times, the wounded little girl is in the driver’s seat.  She is needy and clingy, punishing and demanding.  As I evolve, I am discovering that I am a very powerful woman.  But my power is unripe and even dangerous when the aching three year old is the one wielding it.  Yikes, right?  “LOVE ME,” is her ceaseless mantra, and no matter how much she is loved, it is NEVER ENOUGH, and all the while she is swinging a samurai sword three times bigger than she is.  I believe that we are all wounded children, imagining the most epic mother of all betrayals.  The betrayal of God.  (APL= All Pervading Light, for those of you who wake up in severe night sweats due to the abused, battered, scarred “G word”)  Anyone who is paying attention must feel the ache that it is to be invested in this dream of separation.

Love.  To be made of the stuff… and still acting as a beggar at the door to our very own nature.  That’s enough to drive even the most average, corporate person mad after enough cooking time.  But we all have this program uploaded in our collective mind that tells us that finding a mate will cure us of this consuming ache.  It won’t.  Once upon a time, I used to find my wounded behaviors acceptable.  Now I am thirty and life is pulling me deeper into my core, purpose, truth, maturity.  And it is becoming intolerable to let little baby me have the wheel so much of the time.  Doesn’t work.  I want to grow.  But I don’t want to change, I don’t want to let go.  Yes I do!  No I don’t!!!  NO!!!! YESSSS!!!  You see?  It is like this in me.  Is it like this in you?

Just for the record, Mykael is totally imperfect.  But just for the record, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is totally imperfect.  The question is, do I want to traverse my short time as Athena Grace, with my eyes fixated on the faults of myself and others?  No thanks.  It’s a bad habit.  (One that according to vedic astrology, is a much stronger inclination to one who was born in the dark of the moon.  That would be yours truly.)  (I am feeling calcified and stiff from all this serious talk, so I just stretched and breathed and looked around at the café full of PEOPLE.  This rainbow of skin tones and ages and life experiences.  So many hands lifting refined flour and sugar lumps to open, anticipating mouths.  Proper mouth wiping with crumpled brown paper napkins.  Eyes lost in distant, lonely dreams or buried in glowing screens.  Voices and silence and bad modern rock music.  Woops, the old man with the long scraggly white hair and salt and pepper beard and mustache combo dropped a layer of croissant sheet in his pint glass of milky coffee.  He fished in for it with his weather beaten hand, on the pinky of which he wears a thick turquoise and silver ring.)

What was the turning point inside me, when I realized that Mykael was the ally, not the enemy?  I can’t even remember.  But what I DO remember is that time after time, he steps into me.  Moves closer even when I invest all my strength in pushing him away.  I find this odd. Why doesn’t he break and quit?  I would if I were him.  Curious that this woman with abandonment issues would keep attracting the most loyal, indestructible men on the face of the earth, eh?  (If only he was RICH and loyal and indestructible… Ha!)  Another question I have is, WHY do I fight so hard to stay closed when I touch my pain?  I want to be great enough to open in the face of my ache… but every time, I fight.  WHY?

Look at this~ I say I want to feel what it is to be alone, Athena with nothing added, accountable to no one save herself.  Then, Mykael hangs out with a guy friend last night instead of going to Shabbat dinner with me, and then he makes plans to go out and have a psychedelic play date with another friend the very next day and I am devastated.  Independence~ the very issue that I take a warrioress’s stand for becomes reality, mannifest and I cast it to the stone floor, wishing, in a state of hot, childish passion to smash it into an infinitude of useless pieces.  What the fuck?  I need to herd all these rebellious cats inside of me, and hitch them to a sled, so that they can race at full speed toward the Land of Milk and Honey from whence I sprung back in the old days before Jesus and the dinosaurs.

It feels harder to stay in relationship and behave in new, intelligent, empowered ways than it would be to “close up shop”, leave and do it all by myself.  I am going to take the liberty of making a broad generalization now, because I am a studier of humanity and I think I am pretty damn accurate.  Okay, here goes:  In relationships, modern day humans seem to find solace in shoving each other into tight, comfy little boxes.  We create all these mostly unspoken rules, pictures and expectations of the other, and strike this precarious balance by being who we are supposed to be in order to get this scarce commodity called “Love” from the other.(Which as it turns out, is not really Love at all.)  And when one person behaves not in accordance with the “contract”… look OUT.

So you see, I can’t leave.  There are too many stones unturned.  Too many babies still helplessly bobbing in my bathwater.  And sending babies down the drain is a felony, I think.