Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Week in Muskoka

Last week John and I had five days on Walker Lake in Muskoka, Ontario, near Huntsville.
The Norseman is a cottage-rental resort and restaurant off the beaten path
When you pull in off the highway you find the restaurant and main building.
Most of the cottages for rent surround a communal dock. There is an inflated swimming raft and there are canoes, kayaks and a pedal boat for visitor use.
We rented the most remote cottage with its own floating dock.
We've visited four times before with our friend Omid but it had been 8 years since our last visit. The place was much like we remembered it.
We love the screened-in Muskoka Room.
We put out peaches and tomatoes to ripen, just out of reach of local creatures.
It is a also good work space.
I was working on a study from a dream I'd had in Rome based on Baroque ceiling art and something that I'd wanted to explore for Arabian Nights watercolour drawings.
We spent leisurely hours reading alone or chatting on the deck.
The little deck is a great vantage point for observing the cottage above,
the lovely moss-covered rock face and foliage,
morning mists
and the fascinating changes of skies over the water.
Omid liked the kayaks and would sometimes appear at the dock on his explorations.
I personally loved the water reflections when all was calm
and slipping into the lovely warm waters
with John.
I was reading Elena Ferrante but John was gobbling Jeff Vandermeer and Luigi Ghirri.
Muskoka is pure delight.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

One Night in the Piazza Navona

After an evening drink at one of our favourite Roman bars 
Bill and I would often pass through the Piazza Navona on our way home.
The dusk light softened the crass edges of the busy piazza.
Even the buskers seemed more romantic.
Bernini's famous fountains were glowing
in the yellow floodlights.
There is much crass caricature and portrait art being made  in the Navona,
but one night we came upon an artist doing nice work.
We were happy for the young couple, perhaps honeymooners,
who would go home with a charming holiday portrait from Rome.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Temple of All the Gods

The Pantheon is John and my favourite building. It was built by Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D., to worship and honour all the gods of Rome. 
Our local grocery was just off the Piazza della Rotonda so we passed the Pantheon from different directions and at different times almost every day.
The historical centre of Rome is full of narrow streets that suddenly open up onto a bright piazza.
You can come upon the Pantheon from half a dozen different streets.
With each sighting the shock of the building's size and shape returns.
Let's go inside!
The height of the dome equals the width of the diameter -- 142 feet.
The lush marble interior has recently been restored.
The original marble interior has survived because when Christianity was adopted by the Romans the building was turned into a church. Monotheism reigned but preserved the pagan temple.
Christian uses have been found for the niches that once held statues of "all the gods", but the Christian altar and seating is unconvincing. It is dwarfed by the size of the interior.
But Raphael's tomb works.
I love the view of the Baroque fountain and obelisk when one leaves the building.
If you only see one ancient monument in Rome make it the Pantheon.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Gruzzuti Harrison moment

Every time John and I walked by the Pantheon in Rome we remembered how one of our favourite travel writers described the bliss of sitting in one of the nearby cafes.
 Barbara Grizzuti Harrison's Italian Days (1989) is a wonderful memoir of Italy and it contains a hundred and fifty ecstatic pages describing her experience of Rome. John wanted to sit on the patio where she had sat and have a drink in her memory.
 The only problem is that the Piazza della Rotonda  has become a tourist trap with overpriced everything and the whole circus -- mimes, persistent hawkers of this year's junk novelties and endless tour groups.
So the reality of sitting in this square seemed pretty unappealing.
But nevertheless one evening we spotted an empty table. We were soon seated and served. We toasted our beloved Barbara Grizzuti Harrison with her own words:

 "I sit here for hours. Dear God, let me be this happy in Heaven. If Heaven rejects me, I have had this."