I wanted to tell you a little about the inspiration for the title track, Souls of Castelmuzio. One of the first nights we stayed in Castelmuzio both Roger and I were awakened with a unique restlessness at different points in the night. Later the next morning we shared our experience of feeling centuries of lives lived within the walls of Castelmuzio. It was interesting to us that we both had this shared experience of feeling what we called then "the souls of Castelmuzio".
The next day just before dusk we were sitting on the park bench just outside your villa overlooking the beautiful valley and a man came up gently holding a bird in his hands (the bird had been trapped in the restaurant). As he approached the edge of the wall he carefully held the tips of the bird's wings and released it to the valley. The three of us watched as the bird found its ability to soar and eventually fly from our sight. There was something very beautiful and loving in the way the man released the frightened and trapped bird and the way in which the three of us held the bird in our gaze until she was gone from our sight. It made me think of the ways we humans can be trapped or the ways we can be trapped and the gifts of being lovingly released. Sometimes it is another human, or a place or an experience that helps in the release.
Lane and Roger
When I left to go to Italy, an adventure I longed for
and dreamt about often, I wished to stay in one place only.
I wanted to be still, listening to the rhythm and the sounds that
one can only hear if one is silent and does not move.
I watched one plant outside my door grow and fulfill itself,
if for only a small portion of its time here. Just to smell the ground,
the same ground in the morning, in the evening, after it rained,
it was always so different.
To absorb the essence of life from my trip in Italy, that was my desire.
Many people go to a new and fascinating place and rush about
in hopes of seeing all that they can of highlighted places. But me,
I wanted to just stay still. Watch the harmony of life passing by
me, as it does every day, as it will each day after I have left.
When one makes eye contact enough times with the same
people, there is a silent recognition. It is the smile, or the unspoken
hello that hides in the little lines around one’s eyes.
Each day I woke and found an infinite palette of colors. The light,
the food, the people, the sounds, all awaiting to be absorbed.
The mother cat in the sunshine of the stone courtyard lay on uneven stones,
and she, with her very large kittens, still nursed them and cleaned them.
How like Italian mothers, the age and size of their children does not stop them
from their nurturing and loving them so completely.
Italy embraced me, and I was safe in her arms. I felt in the
earth, trees, and vineyards, her heart beating.
I took a sip, a mere taste of her sweetness, and I came away drunk.
I am as intoxicated today as I was the day I left and again dream of
the time when I will feel her heart beating once again.
Portrait of a Chair (in La Cantina) by Julia Kelly
You are always sitting,
you cannot help yourself.
Relaxed, at ease, in the corner of the room, your silly fat bottom, dimpled smile, grins at me when I walk into the room. You are as I left you months before.
Time ticks by, and you wait, basking in the afternoon sun, you are never in a hurry.
You wait for someone to come. People, cats, children, they have always found you waiting.
Arms enfolded, you embrace each visitor as if they belonged to you. Like a mother, or a grandmother, for a moment, we are wrapped in your warmth and comfort.
Red leathery folds, like the face on an old one, are worn gently, and you beckon the visitor, the weary traveler to rest, to nap, to chat, to ponder, to wonder.
Like an old friend, you greet me and make me smile.
It is now six in the evening, the sun is slowly turning into
yet another delicious orange that dips down behind the
lavender hills of Montalcino. The layers of soft pink and blue
melt together with the yellow ocher clay of this, the Val d’Orcia.
Each mountain, smooth and round is fertile and gives back to
its caretakers, in return for their toil, life-giving wheat, sheep, cheese,
and wines. Each layer of hill, diminishes in size and intensity of
color until the one closest to the horizon is a mere dream.
Each layer tells ancient Tuscan tales of Romans, Pilgrims,
Etruscans, passing through, staying behind, farming, raising
families, turning over the soil, once again to reclaim for a
moment this life-giving earth.
Standing in the olive grove at Cretaiole farm, it is sublimely
quiet. There is new grass starting to work its slender way
up through the clods of gray clay. Grass so brilliant green, yet
soft like new babies’ hair. The kind that stands straight up, reminding
me of soft baby chick down. Little breezes blow across the tops of
the grass and make it quiver. Electric. Not like when things shudder
in the wind, but more as if they were tickled like the hairs on your
The long slender leaves of the olive trees are decorated with fruit,
here and there, hanging like special jewels adorning delicate bows.
Not in great bulging clusters as the grapes.
Refined and important each green olive hangs awaiting the
day of harvest. In steady rows, casting soft shadows in this late
afternoon. I stand listening to the tiny birds singing and
twittering, hidden in their jewelry box trees.
The beauty around me is so overwhelming. It is in every mouthful
of air. I can hardly swallow. It is in every sound, like a thousand
symphonies playing at once, it is on the breeze caressing me
to the point of explosion, touching me all the way through.
All this filling up my senses till I can drink no more and it
overflows from within me as tears,
I become keenly aware that God is with me, My life cannot be
made fuller than this moment. All moments. Each gift divine and
for this I am most grateful.
I am listening to my Italian Cafe tape,
the one I sent to you all a while back.
I find myself singing the words, still not knowing
what they are, but singing just the same.
I sometimes think of the people who sing a song in a foreign language, you know they are
saying the words, but do they really know what the words mean? I don't ...
con ta to bla bla
ti face coin nye nye
I am standing in my studio, surrounded by paintings of Italy, Pienza, little villages, vineyards, cafes, and the moon hanging over the street. All seemingly waiting, speaking to me, singing to me, in words I do not understand, but in a language beyond words that I do
understand. So it has always been.
Time, marches on, like an army, leaving behind memories, some wonderful, some devastating, but time, it never looks back, and marches on.
When I look in the mirror I see the trail it leaves on my face, in the lines, in my expression, in my graying hair.
I look forward, to Italy, to seeing you all, to painting there, and being inspired by the air, the light, the food, the people, all that is Italy.
Best to you friend, Julia
In Spain they’re called tapas, in Greece, mezes, or mezethes. Where I live, on the West Coast of the U.S., they’re small plates.
These are small helpings of interesting food, often unrelated to each other, that taken together make a filling substitute for a standard meal. You choose from a varied menu, eat only one if you’re not hungry, more if you are.
They are not intended—or used—as appetizers but are complete in themselves, usually accompanying a beverage—fino sherry in Spain, ouzo in Greece, wine, cocktails or designer water in the U.S.
I call the writers’ equivalent of small plates Miniatures.
Just like home
I don’t recall ever seeing a photo of Tuscany in the rain. A warm glow always highlights the lonely hillside cypress, the golden stone farmhouse, the olive orchard.
But our week was pulled straight from the Pacific Northwest playbook. It was nothing onerous. The rain was gentle and sporadic, a bright Tuscan sun daily broke through drifting clouds. Often it was clear enough to play table tennis under the hundred-year-old olive trees, or visit idly while sipping the owners’ good wine on the double swing that overlooked the valley below.
The locals said: We need this rain. It’s been very dry.
Cretaiole, a farmhouse near Pienza, Italy, June, 2008
Not in America Oh, yes, the plump, self-assured doctor said in the emergency room of the Montepulciano hospital. I know this injury…I am team physician for two soccer clubs in Florence.
He made a right-handed fist and smacked it against his left hand. You jammed your toe on that curb in the city. It didn’t hurt for a day or two, but you’ve injured a ligament just here.
Jim winced at the touch. It will take some time to heal.
The foot dominated our next month. It asked to be iced, it wanted to be elevated, it required the occasional hobble. It said No often. It sapped Jim’s energy as he walked gamely over cobblestones and ancient stone floors with his heel and outside foot-edge leading in an awkward gait.
But before all that, the Tuscan doctor explained that Barack Obama was a day or two from having the Democratic nomination sewed up, but that he couldn’t win in the general election.
Not against a war hero, he said. Not in America. A farmhouse near Pienza, Italy, June, 2008
John Kroeker Song lyrics (sung by John while at Cretaiole!)
Cretaiole, Luciano, Carlos, and Isabella
My wife and I, travelled to Italy.
We fell in love, with sunny Tuscany.
The hill top towns, that dot the countryside—
Are joined by crooked roads, that turn from side to side.
The green grainfields, wave in the springtime breeze;
And serenade, the old gnarled olive trees.
The vineyard vines, stand proudly in straight rows—
Spell majesty on visitors, which grows and grows.
Cretaiole, which we found just by chance,
Rekindled a, --new a long lost romance.
Our friendly hosts, Lucian’ and Carlos—
Are only outshone by, the one ev’ryone knows.
Victoria Doss Warm and Wonderful Cretaiole
Cretaiole worked its magic--we loved our time with you!
Sunrise, sunset, the moon lighting the view.
Salami and cheese, olives and wine,
Isa's warm guidance and ambience so fine!
Crowning it all was the warm family feel,
And Papa Luciano who made it so real.
We've all loved it so, we hope to return,
and hope to guide others whose hearts, too will yearn!
Il cielo rosso
il profilo delle colline
mentre i cipressi
ai margini del prato
Nell’aria tersa della sera
e di rosmarino
Non c’è nessuno
Gli ospiti stranieri
sono ancora in giro
a scoprire le meraviglie
di questa terra felice
e Luciano ha concluso da poco
la sua laboriosa giornata
la lattuga, il basilico
le cipolle novelle
E’ fresca l’acqua
della piccola fontana
e gli ulivi centenari
per altri secoli
la mano solerte dell’uomo
Di tanto in tanto
un fruscio leggero
inframmezza il silenzio:
i due gattini piccoli
rincorrono fra i cespugli
lucertole e farfalle
o giocano tra loro
un interminabile nascondino
Si chiama "La cantina"
il mio monolocale
Forse un tempo custodiva
nelle botti di legno
il frutto di questi vigneti
quando Cretaiole era solo
una fattoria solitaria
baciata dal sole dell’estate
spazzata dal vento
nelle fredde sere d’inverno
Fra poco sarà notte:
i giorni che verranno
saranno ancora, qui
La voce del mondo
che arriva da così lontano
sembra sfiorare appena
la pace di queste valli
Oggi ho visto dall’alto
nel campo di grano appena tagliato
un piccolo capriolo
Carlo mi ha detto
che di mattina, all’alba
se ne vedono tanti passare
mentre vanno ad abbeverarsi
Stasera metterò la sveglia
e domani, all’alba
mi sembrerà di essere
come dentro un film
Angolo di Toscana
angolo di Toscana
nel casolare antico
è un posto in cui sostare
Cretaiole delle aiuole fiorite
degli olivi rigogliosi
del grande prato
da cui lo sguardo spazia
sul verde e sull’oro delle colline
segnate dai cipressi solitari
e più lontano, ancora più lontano
fino ai limiti del possibile.
Cretaiole della fontanella nascosta
con l’acqua fresca e pura
e del piccolo orto
gradita sorpresa per gli ospiti.
Cretaiole dei cento gatti
che ti vengono intorno tutti insieme
il boccone migliore.
del piacere di dare
delle passeggiate in gruppo
con la guida sapiente di Isabella
delle semplici cene conviviali
sulle panche di legno
degli scherzi e le risate
fra un bicchiere e l’altro.
E mentre passano i gorni
in quest’oasi di pace
il cielo dentro di te
e ti senti pronto
Cretaiole, un posto autentico
che resterà nel ricordo
e dove sarà bello tornare.