Sunny Afternoon in Florence: The Painter Who Never Runs out of Colours

Walking down the ancient streets of Florence I once met a painter. He only had one arm, with his long mustaches and his brown beret looked like he had come out of a painting himself! His work was different from all the other artists’: he was not interested in drawing landscapes or portraits he would only paint beautiful castles made of ice, stones, marble or flowers. And in order to make people believe those castles were real he would include furniture of all époques and a full floor plan of course. Observing him from the side he seemed like the type of person that, regardless of his misfortune, would never run out of colours.

“Castles, I sell castles,” He would shout every now and then to the crowd of tourists around him before painting his silent notes and thoughts back on canvas. Isn’t what art is all about? Depicting yourself raw and sour?

“Wish such palace did exist,” I whispered

“It does!” He exclaimed. “I built it! I can built more sequoia and a marble fountain in the middle of the garden if you like…it would be the envy of all the world.”

“No, thank you” I chuckled amused. “You have built an imaginary castle.”

“Isn’t it all we have sometimes?”

“Maybe,” I looked down. “Sometimes is just the image in our mind of how things are supposed to go or be.”

Signorina, somebody once said that only reality must prove itself again and again to questioners,” He said without never taking his eyes off his canvas. “It is the fantasy which goes on without contradiction, without having to prove itself (…)”

And it’s in a day like this where I feel the need to lock myself out in a magic bubble that looking back to the sunny afternoon in Florence I could not agree the most. And now thanks to the painter who never runs out of colours I can lock myself out in my beautiful castle with sequoia all around and a marble fountain in the middle of the garden. I picked the finest Cantonese desk and chair made of Rosewood inlaid with mother of pearl. There’s a big Renaissance fresco decorating the ceiling and a small marble fireplace with a gold detail cornice warming my thoughts as they pour down like silent notes of colours on this white paper.

And I do not feel the need to justify myself anymore, I do not feel the need to explain the reason why…

“To sleep, to die…” And the city is a silent ash of fog

It was a cold night. One of those nights where the ice steams up the windows’ cars while your body heats up and the city is a silent ash of fog. He was waiting for sleep to fall heavy on his eyelids: “To sleep, to die. No, no how did that damn poet say?” He thought out loud before blowing the last cigarette’s smoke. “To die, to sleep… come my sweet death so I can get another glance of her.”

He wasn’t sure whether it was love, obsession or simple folly he was wary of her like the poison and yet he needed her like water that quenches a man lost in the desert. Suddenly it came clear to him: falling in love was a bit like falling asleep, slowly and deeply. He blamed the stars for that; he cursed the full face of the moon that every night with her charm and mystery could turn a man into a beast.

Then sleep came and so did she with her black gown that fell to her bare feet. The soft, deep plunge of her dress allowed a glimpse of her round breast half hidden by her long hair provocatively parted over the shoulders. A shudder passed through his body as she sat beside him: “Maybe I’m the one dreaming,” she whispered softly in his ear. And then she enticed him, she clasped him with passion and strength as afraid to let go of that dream and its ephemeral pleasure.

As they both sunk into the love pleasure, the moon laughed at their fate getting dressed, behind a cloud, of a poker shape. The loud tick of the clock made it impossible for her to sleep. She put her black gown on and looked outside the blurry window. “To sleep, to die… No, how did that damn poet say?” She laughed out loud before blowing the last cigarette’s smoke.

And the city was a silent ash of fog…

A Strange Encounter in Madrid: The Man Who Carries Time

Isn’t it funny how sometimes all we need it’s a plane ticket, a walk in the city and a friendly word from a stranger to realize how we really feel. A few weeks ago I finally got to visit Barrio De Las Letras  (Literary Quarter) a famous neighborhood where some of the greatest Spanish authors have once lived and written. Through those narrow streets of Madrid you could breathe art, history and taste some of the best “Chocolate and Churros” in town. Well, I can assure you they were some of the best because I did try them and sip some of that delicious chocolate in a sunny spot in Plaza San Ana.

“Feelings are just visitors, let them come and go,” A young charming man sitting in front of me at the cafe said out loud interrupting my reading.

“Excuse me?” I asked unsure whether he was talking to me or not.

“Feelings are just visitors, let them come and go,” He repeated letting out a hint of Portuguese accent. “Your postcard, I’m just reading what your postcard says.”

“Ohh this is a little reminder to myself,” I chuckled embarrassed. “I actually use this postcard as…as bookmark.”

“I see,” He smiles

“Talking about visitors, are you also visiting Madrid?” I asked noticing a small hand luggage next to him.

“Well, I actually live here. I carry my luggage with me every day.”

“You must carry something really precious in there.” The thought of a man carrying around a luggage with him every day both scared and intrigued me.

“You have no idea…”

As already mentioned in “My letter From a Solo Traveler in Peru’” when you travel alone your instinct is more acute and please do listen to it if it says someone is to trust. That little voice inside my head was telling me that man, other than carrying a hand luggage with him, was also carrying a message for me. So I allowed him to be my Cicerone for the afternoon and discovered not just interested places that I would have never being able to see if I was alone, most importantly, I discovered something new about myself.

See, I went to Madrid with one question in mind: why this continue urge to pack my bag and travel? There must be something I’m looking for, something I want to change as so far life hasn’t turned how the way I planned it to be. Let’s face it, life sometimes totally sucks!  It’s a continue battle between the mind and the soul. It’s a war against procrastination, because, paraphrasing Burkeman’s words, too often we perfectionists are secretly proud of our affliction: we’re convinced that this time, finally, if we pulled out all the stops, we might get things exactly right. The bracing Gnostic response is: forget it. Creation is imperfect by definition; when we are young we tend to run towards time, we embrace life fully and we’re aware that in order “to bring something into being is unavoidably to screw it up.” Nothing can stop us. We’re invincible. As we get older we often prefer to make stops on the way to reflect and ponder on our decisions and mistakes and the only thing remained running is time.

“Time???You’re carrying in there time?”

“It’s a metaphor,” The Portuguese man laughed. “Time is number one humans’ enemy: we rush into our decisions because we fear we don’t have enough time or we wait for something to happen because we feel everything will come at the right time and so on. We are the creators of this terrible invention and the only way for us to live our life fully is to pack away our fear of the past and the future and take full control over it.”

“I don’t understand,” I chuckled amused. “Isn’t it haunting walking side by side with Time?”

“No, I’ve finally made peace with Time: I’m not chasing it, I’m not running away from it. I’m actually learning a lot about Him. Think about it: we tend to idealize or escape from something when we don’t actually know it. It’s a bit like your postcard, the luggage is a reminder to myself that time doesn’t exist and I should not be afraid of it. Regardless your destination, life is the journey and we should enjoy it all the way; instead, contrary to what people think, happiness is not a destiny .”

The next day, on my way to the station, I saw the same man with the luggage sitting at the “Chocolate and Churros” bar in plaza San Ana, I waved to get his attention.

“I see you’re ready to set on your journey,” The young man said out loud from across the street.

“I am! And I’ve packed away time, it’s coming with me,” I smiled

“Good for you! Well, what can I say, visitors are just like feelings: they come and go”

 

 

Happy New Year Fellow Bloggers!!!

The Beauty & Danger of Dreams? Wide Awake or Asleep nothing is ever what it seems…

As soon as dusk turned into night Morpheus made his way into her dreams.

He hesitated for a while before crossing the gate of his cave perhaps a little bit afraid of what might lie ahead.  He could not quite comprehend how it was possible for a fragile human creature to arouse such a desire in his mind now imprinted with images of her body; he did not understand how something completely intangible and formless was able to fill his soul so deeply. But one thing did become clear to him: he had to find out where her dreams would take him.

With a smile he walked on encouraged by a gentle breeze that carried her voice and spoke to him about hope and long forgotten times. In her world day and night, spring and autumn lived together so at times he would rest on top of a green hill to salute his brother Sun or welcome back his mother Moon. Although he was very familiar with the cycle of nature yet, for the first time in his immortal life, it seemed to him that he had not seen or felt anything like it. The sky would tinge itself with orange and purple and the rivers would borrow from the night tiny pieces of stars to make their water more brilliant when playing games of light. Wide fields of lavender and ivory covered great part of the land surrounded by thick and red leaf woods made naked by autumn’s impermanence and nearly shorn of the joy and fears of her dreams. And when the heavy rain of reality would fall unexpectedly upon the land he would carry on walking drying the path with his long, black cloak.

As he reached the crag above the ocean he noticed that a few poppies were growing here and there amongst the rocks, he picked one and a smile crept on Morpheus’s face: “You knew all this time,” He exclaimed out loud aware that this is where he belonged. Every night, the mighty of dream, would assume human form and give to her woman a poppy in order to put her asleep and make love with her through her dreams. “What an unfair and cruel destiny has Zeus reserved for us,” he said throwing the flower into the water. But as he turned to leave a strong wind made him faced back the ocean whose waves were crashing and echoing angrily against the shore before rising up high and majestically with their white hems of foam and buttons of seashells.

“Ay Poseidon,”

“Ay Morpheus,”

“King of oceans and supreme governor of sea life, do allow me to sail your waters and move forward into this journey to her.” Morpheus said with a hesitant voice recognizing his beauty and danger.

“Oh Morpheus you are indeed the God of Dreams and most likely a dreamer yourself.” Poseidon laughed.

“Do not make fun of me nor my nature Poseidon. It’s easy to talk for the God of the Sea who sings with dolphins and make love with mermaids for they were made of water and to water will return. No glory for the mighty of dreams that lives inside a cave and watch from the darkness, that golden glint of wonder and mystery each mortals have in their eyes before falling asleep. To me the gift to take human form without enticement of the senses; to me the ability of sending off dreams but not allowed to have one. After all, what purpose I could serve in being an eternal dreamer? It would be a burden greater than the one Sisyphus has been condemned to.”

“And what cure have you found for this affliction? Another affliction: falling in love with a mortal woman.” Poseidon said sadly. “You do have more gifts than you believe and I think very highly of them. To you have been given the knowledge of the stars and the universe, to you the ability to uncover all the secrets of human hearts while governing their minds. I may inspire artists, poets and lovers though you speak to them: you have the capacity of experience. Although you carry the image of a daemon, your nature is sensible and belongs to the world of ideas, thoughts and desire. I know the depths of the earth and sea; you know the depths of the soul. Zeus has given you the power of creating infinite possibilities that go beyond the ephemeral temptation of the senses.”

“Alas Poseidon, Time has not by my side. To the hyperuranion has given too much praise. Gods of my nature know nothing about space and the value of passing seconds and minutes that like your waters create and destroy, reveal and then take everything with it. My love for this woman is sincere and I shall marry her with or without your blessing.”

“Dear Morpheus, you’ve been spending too much time with humans lately whom, like many other temporary living creatures, have yet to learn a great deal about love. Look around you my friend, in her dream you are the sun – she is the moon; she blooms like a flower – you strip her of her petals.” Morpheus attempted to reply, but then gave a bitter smile before bowing his head. Poseidon continued firmly: “You know what is the beauty and danger of dreams? Wide awake or asleep nothing is ever what it seems.”

Waiting for The Night to Fall…

Letters From The Clouds

It was dark. We were both lying in bed when he began to stroke my hair.

I love the night; I’ve always found it fascinating. When I was a little girl I would imagine the night like a mysterious man covering the world with his dark blue cloak made with satin and stars. Humans feeling protected and hidden by it would finally feel free to reveal their true selves. Poems, dreams, perversions, fantasies, ghosts, tears and prayers: don’t they all belong better to the night?

I love darkness. You don’t need to close your eyes to drift somewhere in the clouds; in the darkness I can be wide awake and still dream of you.

Somebody once said that we all have a lot of darkness in our souls – Anger, rage, fear, sadness- and it’s part of the human condition. In the course of life you figure out ways to…

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THE LIBRARY AND THE POETRY BOOK: I GIVE YOU HERE, NOW, A MAGIC KEY. WHAT DOES IT OPEN? THIS KEY I GIVE YOU, WHAT EXACTLY DOES IT OPEN?

A stranger once told me that there are always three reasons that make you take drastic decisions: hunger, despair and a broken heart. As much as banal this may sound wherever I have traveled to I have always found someone who was pushed to change pattern in life by one of those three reasons. In Peru’ I have met a man whose business failed in Australia and unable to make ends meet he looked into a more simple and spiritual lifestyle in South America. In London I have met an Italian woman who had everything – a well paid job, a house and a loving partner, but she was not happy: one day she decided to leave Italy and everything behind and found a job as a tequila girl in a bar. Many people had moved to New York to find themselves again: they had got lost in unhealthy relationships or they were still grieving the loss of a family member.

So I got to think about my own life changing reasons, yes you know that type of thinking that makes you do a little soul-searching, the way one does when feeling drab and restless, when sensing that nothing surprise you anymore and all you want is getting your luggage ready and move to a far, far place somewhere in the world. But where?

Well, I was not sure so I went to the library instead. I went straight to the Travel Section and asked for a sign – the only possible sign was to see “the intended” Travel Guide falling off the shelf right in front of me.

I waited and waited. All those guides and manuals appeared to be glued to the shelves rather than just tidily lined up in alphabetical order as they wanted to make me believe; perhaps not even a mysterious force of gravity would have moved them from where they had been placed. My eyes ran through thousand of titles: Colombia, Thailand or Vietnam? I was definitely more attracted to those exotic destinations. “That’s a start,” I thought.

In front of one large set of shelves there was a sliding wooden ladder which appeared to be rackety and wobbly, but decided to climb it up anyway. I was not really sure what to look for, all I knew was I had to give destiny a hand. As Paulo Coelho once said – The first step to go somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are right now. So I looked for any attracted images or titles, I moved books around and even looked behind some of them.

“Young lady,” An old English man spoke from behind me. “Could you please not mess the alphabetical order of those guides? Can I offer any help at all?”

“I wish you could,” I said disregarding his request.

“Well, ok. As you are up there could I kindly ask to place these three volumes in the third and fourth sections on your left under letter B and C, please?”

I rolled my eyes and took the books from his trembling hands. As I went to put away the first two travel guides I noticed I was left with a small poetry book by Robert Hass. I decided to flip through the pages and opened randomly the thin volume:

“Put it this way,” read a line of a poetry called Interrupted Meditation. “I give you, here, now, a magic key. What does it open? This key I give you, what exactly does it open?”

“Anything…” I said out loud as the question had been directed to me.

“Anything, anything! But what?” The American poet replied back through his work.

I hesitated. I put down the book, but that question was still echoing in my head. I had being so caught up in thinking about the reasons that were making me run away from my current life that I was missing to see where I was actually running towards.

Ok, something is not making us happy so we decide to move away from it. But are we simply running away? Or, are we actually running towards something?

Too often people focus on what they don’t want rather than what they want. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy: the more we concentrate on our past, mistakes and failures; more likely it is to fall into the same wrong pattern. Understand your present life and accept things as they are. Easy to say, right? But, hey, we need to try.

Whatever your reason is that has made you contemplate a life change, allow me to say that there is always a big reason above all that make you take that step: courage. I’m not just referring about the courage to hand your notice at work, sell your house or move abroad. I’m talking about that type of courage that sparks a little flame within you and make you look and find inner peace first.

In the end I went up to the old English man to hand him back the poetry book.

“Have you found all you were looking for?” He smiled rather satisfied.

I thanked him and smiled back: “For today, I think so…”

 

Why do We Need Another Half?

I was looking outside the window when he reached for my hand.

“Can I ask you something?” He said. “Why does he make you so nervous thinking that we are not alike?”
“No, it doesn’t. I just feel it’s nice to have something in common,” I replied freeing my hand and turned around to face him.

I could perhaps lie to him but I could not lie to myself: as much as I tried the thought of us not having much to share did make me nervous. This popular concept that our attraction to our opposite is a subconscious way to face our weaker aspects and become a more complete individual is nonsense. Why do we need “another half” to make up for something that is missing?

Something was missing though. My soul had got lost somewhere in that dark loft lighten by a weak patch of sunlight on a cloudy afternoon. I got up and went looking for it and there it was: I spotted it sitting in the corner facing the wall like an offended person who turns the other way; like a child grounded by an irrational mind.

A Place to Inspire Her

  • The idea of writing a book always stayed at the back of her mind, but “who would be interested in reading it?” she thought. Even her mum was finding hard to keep up with that busy and congested world of thoughts inside her head. She would visit the library, she would go to the park, she would sit in cozy coffee shops with no result. Where on earth was this inspirational place? “Perhaps was not on earth,” suddenly dawned on her. So she looked at the sky and said: “I’ll only start writing if I receive a sign.” The only possible sign was to find somewhere a white desk in front of a window.

    After a few weeks her mother asked the girl to go and find an antique vase in the loft. That old room had been locked in years: no one in the family had ever dared to enter it after a fortune teller had told them that the room was haunted. The girl was not afraid of ghosts, she was more afraid of spiders that were hanging from the dusty corners of the wooden ceiling; she half expected them to show their big teeth every time she would look at them even though she wasn’t sure whether spiders had got teeth.

    It was also a cold place to be: the fresh breeze of March would blow through the drought hidden behind the curtains eaten by moths. All those books, broken furniture and carton boxes scattered all over the floor spoke to her about abandonment and long forgotten times. She pulled the curtain on one side and let the weak patch of sun coming through the opaque glass and, in her great surprise, there it was: a large white desk positioned in front of the adjacent window made wobbly by the heavy chairs placed on top of it.

    How long was this desk kept here? How much time she had lost to look for the perfect place to inspire her.She grabbed an old notebook, a pen and started writing. Yes perhaps the room was cold and dusty, perhaps spirits would gather there at night, “Well be it!” She exclaimed out loud. She would listen to their stories and write tales of far lands and ancient castles where kings and knights once lived. No more time to waste. This was now her own secret place, the kind of place where only writers and their imagination go to.

     

She was his Supreme Work of Art…

It had been pleasant and had had meaning as long she was by his side. How quickly everything withered and faded and now that it was over a tormented feeling of impermanence engulfed him.

What to do? He began to draw unloading all the last images of her body from his mind: that perfectly shaped mouth, her dark dreamy eyes that, from time to time, would drift to somewhere in the clouds. How to forget those long, thin fingers that comfort him at night and the smell of lavender of her long wavy hair provocatively parted over one shoulder. The thought of her class and elegance overwhelmed him. It was the way she carried herself on those black high heels and her red dress that first caught his attention – she hated to lose control, she hated to give away any little glint of emotion secretly kept in the deep well of her soul. She was mystery.

“Isn’t what art is all about?” He pondered. “Beauty and mystery.”

So perhaps he would never be able to draw a concrete image of her, perhaps she would always remain dream, idea and fantasy. All he knew he was bound to her body and that beautiful mind – she was his supreme work of art.

Inspired by the Night

Finally dusk turned into night and the sea below her vanished in the evening mist. She was sitting on the edge of a varnish bucket filled with gold paint and lifted by a red balloon she would travel through the sky drawing tiny little stars.

Though Eurus – the wind god – jealous of the silky and starry blanket of the Night, commenced to blow harder till it made the bucket swing and drop all the paint into the water.

Annoyed by the silly prank of envy Eurus the poor girl decided to refer all to Zeus and while flying attached to her red balloon she looked down: “Ohhh!” the girl smiled in surprise. Her drawing was not bad after all: covered in shimmery painting the sea began to play games of reflection with the moon which was now so brilliant that made the all the stars pale.