You can already feel summer taking its leave—in the cooler air, in the scent of early morning fires in the fields, in the sun reaching further in the room. I've barely had a chance to look at the last several months' photos until now, as I design the 2014 calendars for PaperSynthesis... In a way, I have also been reliving the summer. I equate fall with nostalgia, something I always assumed was related to decades of back-to-school memories, but lately I've been wondering if maybe the nostalgia is for those hot, glorious days of summer. I know some are ready to embrace fall (and I can relate to this because it was my favorite season ever since I can remember), but as I get older I find I love summer even more. Before it slips away this time around, I thought I'd share a few moments of this summer.
The photo at the top of this entry shows a weaving I made with these strips of green 'ribbon' that came in with Venice's modest tide each day. They smell like seaweed, salty & pungent. Below is the weaving back in the studio, after being pressed/preserved in my journal for a few days. I was surprised to see that the green strips had retained their color, as the handful I brought back in my 'shell' tin had blackened as they dried. So now this 'weaving' joins those I have been working on in the studio over the last eighteen months, since my early forays into found poems (images to come, one day).
It can actually be quite discouraging to see how long it takes me to carry an idea to 'completion', especially since I usually seem to 'get' about ninety percent of the way upon the initial inception of a concept...it's that last ten percent that can take months, or even years. But I also find the 'magic' comes from those last ten percent, so I believe the wait is worth it.
I have been trying to make more time to read fiction, and what better time than summer? The vast majority of the books on my bookshelves are non-fiction, and I'd say I probably acquire seven or eight non-fiction works for every novel. I had been looking forward to reading Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers since picking it up on my final bookstore browsing session in the US. It finally came along to the beach with me earlier this month; in the (occasional) periods when I could tear my attention from the water, I enjoyed losing myself in the story of the main character, Victoria—a young woman whose traumatic upbringing in the foster care system made it difficult to communicate with the world, but who managed to find her voice through the language of flowers.
A dictionary of flower meanings is included at the back of the book, as well as an interview in which the author comments that "some will never forgive me for attaching a negative definition to their favorite flower!" Indeed, I was a bit disillusioned when I learned the meanings of some of my favorite flowers. Hydrangeas signify 'dispassion', acanthus 'artifice', and peonies 'anger'. (But then there are dahlias—'dignity'—sweet peas—'delicate pleasures'—orange roses—'fascination'—and ranunculuses—'you are radiant with charms'.) I loved how Victoria was able to silently 'speak' her feelings with a well-chosen flower. At first it would be one that expressed sentiments like the anger, bitterness or mistrust she felt. But eventually, as chapters alternate between her past and the present as it unfolds, in the role of a florist she finds herself fashioning bouquets to convey the emotions her customers sought either for themselves or wished to elicit in the recipient. Ultimately, Victoria reaches a point where she can expresses positive feelings of her own: forgiveness, reconciliation, gratitude, hope.
I finally finished reading the book, a chapter at a time with morning coffee, after returning home. I liked that it wasn't a 'page turner' (a type of book which I tend to avoid). The first-time author describes some of the writing—and the inevitable rewriting—of the book as quite intense, but I came away feeling that her delicate crafting of the story paid off beautifully. And, with its salt-air & salt-water wrinkled pages, it will serve as another reminder of this sweet summer. (Not to mention as an inspiration when I participate in National Novel Writing Month again this November).
The heat in Florence can be pretty energy-sapping & brain-numbing in July and August, and a/c is not a given. One way we stay cool is by making granite (plural of granita). Machines at the front of most bars (i.e. cafès) in Italy churn around colorful icy mixtures that are generally flavored with fruit-'inspired' syrups (though some of the better gelaterie make them from fresh fruit). At the sea, a granita generally means a cup of granulated ice squirted with what is probably the cheapest, highest fructose corn syrup-y liquid available (but my, do they taste good after a few hours on the beach!). Making them is so easy, though, and I've found you can use just about anything, from cranberry juice to limeade, orange soda and milky coffee. And no extra sugar needed. Simply pour the drink of your choice into a freezer-proof glass that can withstand prodding from a fork & freeze until it begins to harden. You can break up the semi-frozen liquid with a fork at intervals during the freezing process or leave a completely frozen glass of your chosen beverage at room temperature for ten to twenty minutes, then use the fork to break up the semi-melted mixture until it's uniform.
The granite shown below are, from left to right: cranberry juice; almond milk with cardamom & cinnamon; pineapple & watermelon blended into a juice; and tonic water + lime juice, garnished with mint (unfortunately this last one had melted considerably by the time I got the photo, but was still icy-cold & very refreshing).
Though the Red Hot Chili Pepper's Song in the video included below is not named for the Italian Venice, but rather Venice Beach in L.A, I can't help but think of 'la bella Venezia' whenever I hear it—the melody is haunting, soulful, multidimensional and beautiful, just like Venice. The lyrics are a tribute to the woman who counseled lead singer Anthony Kiedis to the other side of his drug addiction, and sadly died of cancer soon after he bought her a house in Venice Beach. Below I've included a live version played at Slane Castle. Around minute four, John Frusciante picks up his acoustic guitar, taking the song to a whole new level. The studio version can be found here.
Some of my favorite lines ~
...In the moment of the meantime...
...Do it all then it all again...
...Disbelief that I do suspend...
'Venice Queen' is from the 2002 album By the Way, which my daughter & I finally bought in the US this summer, and played over & over on a road trip to visit our friends in Chapel Hill. Besides 'Venice Queen', my favorites are 'Universally Speaking', 'Dosed', 'The Zephyr Song', 'Midnight', 'By the Way' and 'Can't Stop'. I only have to hear one of these songs—or, better yet, the whole album—to take me back to Highway 85: windows down, hair flying, singing at the tops of our voices. Even though we traveled in the slow lane (it had been seven years since I'd gotten behind the wheel), that trip embodied the sweet freedom of summer.
And on that note, my word for August is 'dream'. It seems to encompass my frame of mind at the moment, as I dream on these perfect summer days of dreams for the future.
Wishing happy dreams to you as well...