04 July 2012

Entering the second half...

July! How did we arrive here so quickly? Those of us in Florence have been sweltering; even Montepulicano, the cooler hilltop town where we retreated to visit my parents last week, was uncomfortable. Few of our plants are still alive, and simply the act of breathing makes me feel as though I've just run the 100-meter dash in record time, over and over, all day long.

We adjust our daily rhythms to the temperature. Only those with no choice venture out in the most intense heat of the day, and I imagine the concept of the pausa begins to make sense even to visitors who are used to cities being open 24/7. The enormous Piazza Pitti that stretches in front of our apartment is typically full of picnickers & sunbathers (which is why we call it Pitti "Beach"), but these days the the vast sloped square remains virtually empty until night falls, when small groups of people gather under the stars.

Our fan whirs day and night, and in anticipation of another 37-degree Celsius day, I finally gave in and closed the shutters over the weekend. While I understand the logic behind this Italian habit that does indeed keep the house much cooler, it's one tradition I can rarely bring myself to observe. All winter I wait for these days when the apartment is full of light, and I hate to spend even one day in half-darkness.

* * *

Backtracking a little . . . June was unusual. The official school year ended and my daughter completed her last year of middle school. But instead of the party the students deserve for reaching this milestone, in Italy they then go on to face an intense exam period that concludes with an oral exam covering all of the materie (subjects) they have studied over the past three years. Perhaps one day I will write more about this final chapter of our experience with the educational system, but for now I will say that I am, all in all, very impressed with the education my daughter has received in this country. At times, the bureaucracy, the scioperi (strikes), and the seemingly utter lack of organization have caused me to wonder how the students manage to actually learn anything, but there is no denying that, somehow, it has worked. Looking back, I wish I could have started alongside my daughter when she entered first grade here. Her knowledge of Italian was limited to gelato flavors, colors, and animals when she first stepped into a classroom of Italian children who had known each other since they were in diapers, but it didn't take long before her Italian surpassed mine. Eight years later, as I continue to stumble along, her Italian is indistinguishable from that of any other fiorentina.

Because of the long exam period (which was also stressful for the parents) I'd say "limbo" best describes the state of our lives last month. But now, despite the heat, I am feeling re-energized; my word for July is riprendersi. (Sometimes a single Italian word best captures the essence of what I mean; riprendersi encompasses everything from gathering oneself to collecting oneself, reviving oneself, and recovering.) Yet another major furniture-rearranging session has essentially doubled the size of my studio, which I have desperately needed. In fact, my work space is rarely orderly, which I don't usually mind. I tend to associate creativity with the presence of some degree of chaos, so I was amused when (after witnessing the after-effects of trying to squeeze in a few projects while hosting several visitors over the past month, which always entails rearranging rooms and furniture) my father commented that he had "never seen such an unproductive space." But now, one day at a time, the studio is coming together—and so are the many projects that haven't had much attention lately.

One of these is my first alphabet for A Letter a Week, a creative challenge I have been participating in this year. The aim is to create one letter each week, for a total of two complete alphabets by year's end. O
ver the past six months, I filled twenty-six squares of a forty-nine-square grid (with the idea of leaving some breathing space among the letters).

Much like the ever-changing slant of sunlight streaming through the window, the project has served to mark time's passageNow that the summer solstice has passed, and as I begin my second alphabet, the sun is once again reaching farther back into the studio. Happily, July and August still stretch luxuriously ahead . . .

{Click on the images below to see larger views of the final piece; my post on the ALaW blog is here.}


  1. Hi Lisa-Absolutely LOVE your alphabet! And especially love the photo where the sun is hitting it.

    Seems like high heat and humidity abounds in the Northern Hemisphere this summer. It is hot hot HOT in Northern Virginia (DC area) where we are all recovering from a crazy summer storm that hit last Friday night called a Derecho. There are still at least 100 thousand folks without power.

    So...that is a bit of the excuse as to why your orange fabric has not made it out to you yet. The Post Office was closed for a couple of days with no electricity. I've been at work the last 2 days and today is The Fourth. It will be out in the mail tomorrow...I promise!

    1. Thanks, Julie! It was hard to get the contrasting colors to show up accurately with the camera, but having the late afternoon sun in the background seemed to give the best representation.

      I can't believe how hard your area was hit by the storm - I hope things return to normal again soon. And thanks for the update...I'm excited to receive your beautiful piece of fabric!

      BTW, happy belated Fourth to those of you in the US. I had meant to mention it in my post, but hit 'Publish' just minutes before flying out the door to catch a train to Milano...I always seem to think of more things I would have liked to write (which is why it's often so long between Arzigogolare posts!).

      - Lisa

  2. Gorgeous colors as the sun hits and makes everything dance!

    1. Thank you, Lisa...late afternoon is definitely the best time of day in my studio - not just because of the light, but also since this is when all of the day's thoughts, ideas & energy seem to finally come together.

      I just wandered over to your blog - what beautiful collages you create, and congratulations on your "Layers of a Woman's Life" show!

      - Lisa


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