Tag Archives: backpacking

B: Botticelli…A-Z Challenge.

This year my theme for the A-Z Challenge is Letters to Dead Artists. Yesterday’s artist was A: Alexandros of Antioch who reputedly sculpted the famous Venus de Milo.

Today, I am writing to Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445 – May 17, 1510), an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance. He belonged to the Florentine School under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici.

The piece of music I have chosen to represent Botticelli is: O Fortuna – Carmina Burana

I was introduced to Botticelli’s works in 1992 when I visited Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, as a 23 year old Australian backpacking through Europe. That was when I first saw The Birth of Venus. I was awestruck, and loved it enough to buy a print and cart it all the way back to Australia in my very overweight backpack. That says a lot!

In addition to admiring his achievements as an artist, this letter also addresses Botticelli’s role and possible participation in the Bonfire of the Vanities.  On the 7th February 1497, supporters of the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects such as cosmetics, art, and books in Florence, Italy, on the Mardi Gras festival. It is believed that Botticelli may have added some of his works to the pyre. It is hard to comprehend what went up in those flames, but there’s no doubt that priceless works of art and other cultural treasures were destroyed.

Sandro_Botticelli_083

Probable self-portrait of Botticelli, in his Adoration of the Magi (1475)

Letter to Sandro Botticelli

Dear Botticelli,

How are you? I expect that’s a rather rhetorical question these days. I was only being polite, but if you feel like responding in some way, I’d only be too happy to hear from you. Sometimes, the walls between heaven and earth aren’t quite what they seem, and people might even wander in and out. I don’t know. They’ve never spoken to me.

Anyway, I am writing to you to ask you a question. While that might seem simple enough, it’s much easier to ask a lot of questions, than it is to narrow it down to one, especially when I’m writing to such a monumentally great artist like yourself.

Botticelli, I first came across your paintings in the Summer of 1992 when I spent three days in Florence. It was stinking hot and I still remember the relief of an icy cold, real Italian gelato. Although I’d already visited The Louvre in Paris which had blown my mind, going to the Uffizzi Gallery, also felt like all my senses were being energized at once. I still remember seeing The Birth of Venus on the wall with its fairytale beauty and Venus standing in the shell. It was mesmerizing. Yet, it didn’t end there. Like a glutton at a sumptuous feast, there was more, including Primavera (1470s or early 1480s) and Pallas and the Centaur (1482-1483). I had just had my heart broken and I knew that anguish screaming through the centaur’s eyes. I also remember being swept away by your more religious works, although I can’t remember them by name.I don’t know how to describe that enormity of feeling. The best I can do, is compare it to falling in love…all consuming, passionate, divine.

Primavera

Primavera, Sandro Botticelli, Uffizi Gallery.

I don’t know whether it’s right to pull apart those feelings, or to try to work out why. Or, whether I should be pulling apart and analysing the life out of such a masterpiece. Or, whether it is better to simply leave it be as pure, unadulterated  awe and wonder.

One thing’s for sure. I didn’t want to hear this magnificent reflection of something in my soul denigrated by my future boyfriend as: “the naked woman standing in a shell”. What? How could he? Philistine! Despite being a Christian, I didn’t denigrate it because it was “pagan” either. How could I let ideology or doctrine come between me and something of such beauty and spirit?

This brings me to the Bonfire of the Vanities and my question.

How did you allow yourself to be swept away by Girolama Savonarola? How could you even be a bystander to the Bonfire of the Vanities on February 7, 1497 in Piazza del Signoria, Florence? Indeed, it’s even been suggested that you even added some of your own works to the pyre. I’m sorry if I’m coming on a bit too strong, but I can’t understand how an artist like you could stand by and do nothing. Let it happen. Or, even worse, join in and be a part of it.

That’s not to judge you, Sir. I didn’t mean to get so fired up. However, it terrifies me that The Birth of Venus and your other so-called “pagan works” could have been, in effect, burned at the stake, and humanity robbed. Indeed, I shudder at all the artworks and treasures that were lost. No doubt, you do too.

Strangely, I only found out about the Bonfire of the Vanities last night. Of course, you can’t know every piece of history. Yet, as a writer, a photographer, a creative who fears the mighty forces of fire and flood, I should have known about that. Marked it on my calendar every year to remember how doctrine and politics can destroy the creative spirit and its progeny.

I wonder how you feel about all that now. Is there regret? Perhaps, but I hope you’re primarily proud of how your works have been revered and considered among the greatest paintings of all time. You’re a genius!

Indeed, I wish I could meet you and not just sit down for a coffee, but to see you paint. Hear you speak. What inspired you? How can a 21st century woman on the other side of the world, possibly tap into whatever that was?

I hope. I dream. I write.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Rowena in Florence

Photographed at a monastry near Florence in 1992.

Letter From Botticelli

Dear Rowena,

Thank you very much for your letter.

Now, what was your question? Please excuse me. I’m feeling a bit foggy today and haven’t had to bother myself with earthly matters for a very long time. Indeed, much of your memory gets deleted once you enter the pearly gates. After all, you’re not supposed to be spending eternity regretting things on Earth when you’re in heaven!

Yet, nothing could erase those flames, and seeing those precious masterpieces burning up. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, we followed him like lambs to the slaughter house. Florence was magnificent…the jewel of the Renaissance.  She wasn’t perfect but, it wasn’t Sodom and Gomorrah. It wasn’t hell on Earth. Well, that is until he stepped in.

In my defense, Rowena, I would like to suggest that you can’t always control of your own strings. Not that you’re a puppet, but even an artist has to eat and to some extent, each of us has had to sell our soul. Serve it up on a platter. That’s just the way it is…or how it was.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard that they now hide artworks away during times of war and keep the world’s great masterpieces away from the battlefield. Protect what is more than just a reflection of humanity, a mirror, but also radiates the human spirit. As you might appreciate, art crosses language and cultural barriers and draws humans closer together. Well, that’s if we allow ourselves to be moved.

Anyway, I haven’t asked you if you paint? I’ve always been a great teacher. If you feel like popping back, I’d be happy to teach you.

Best wishes,

Botticelli.

 

A Walk in Dulwich Park, London.

Tonight, my dog Lady and I went for an extraordinary walk, touching down in Dulwich Park, in South London to catch up with fellow blogger and author, Geoff Le Pard and his furry friend. I even found a cafe and met a few dog walkers to boot. How good is that?!!

This all came about after reading Geoff’s latest post: Milling About…Finding A Home, which talks about how he and his wife found their home in Dulwich Park, South London. I must be a bit low on patience this week, because I decided I’d had enough talk. I wanted to get to London myself> Walk the streets, museums, galleries and park my butt in a cafe. Not in a creepy, cyber-stalking kind of way. It’s just that I’d had enough of looking through the window. I wanted to be there instead.

So, I found a local park with a cafe frequented by mild-mannered local dog walkers. Now, I’m just waiting for Geoff. If I’d got onto this earlier, I could’ve been there in time for the Bloggers’ Bash. BTW, it’s just like me to run late!

However, there’s just one small problem with getting to London.

As you’re probably aware, I live in Greater Sydney, Australia. So, I’m hardly living next door. Moreover, as much as I’ve wanted to visit London and check out Geoff’s haunts, there’s been a small hitch. While they might have sent convicts out to the colonies at Her Magesty’s Pleasure, they’re not footing the bill to send us back. Indeed, I’d probably need to rob a bank to fund my ticket. However, knowing my luck, instead of running off with the loot, I’d pluck this card out of the pack: “Advance to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not collect $200.”

Reg Spiers

Aussies have done outrageous things to overcome the “tyranny of distance”. In the mid-1960s, Australian athlete Reg Spiers found himself stranded in London with no money to buy a plane ticket home. Desperate to get back to Australia in time for his daughter’s birthday, he posted himself home in a wooden crate and travelled as freight. You can read the full story here: The Man Who Posted Himself Home to Australia. It’s great reading.

While Reg might have been given a hero’s welcome, I decided to Keep it Simple, Stupid (the KISS Principle) and let my fingers do the walking. I travelled to London via Google maps. While I know this could be construed as cyberstalking, I picked a park on the map, found a cafe and thought this would be quite appropriate for a cyber coffee catch-up. I even took a photo…just to prove I was there.

As much as I love meeting fantastic people, especially fellow writers from all around the world through blogging, I often lament the ultimate Aussie devil… distance. That as much as our global isolation has made and shaped us as a nation, that I feel like sticking an outboard motor to the bottom of Tasmania and giving us a bit of a nudge North. Travelling to Europe is so expensive when you have kids, mortgage and an auto-immune disease to factor in.

So, while I’m waiting for Geoff, Lady and I went for a walk in the park. There were so many large, leafy trees and I certainly picked out a few oaks. It is Summer in London and while it’s partly-cloudy today, it is 20°C. Humph. Hang on a minute. We’re in the middle of Winter here in freezing conditions rugged up like Eskimos and it’s 16°C here. I’m feeling a bit ripped off. Well, at least, I’m catching up with Geoff and going on one of his many tours of London. So, the weather doesn’t really matter, does it?! After all, nobody goes to London for the weather!!

So, now that I’ve got the hang of Google maps, is there somewhere you’d like me to visit? Wow! This is starting to sound quite exciting…like climbing to the top of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree and finding yourself in the midst of a magical land. Where will I be going next?

As for me, I’d like to invite you to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It really is an amazing experience.

Happy travels.

xx Rowena.

 

 

Tasmanian Weekend Coffee Share.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share.

This morning, we’ve having coffee at the Hobart Airport Holiday Park in Tasmania. We’re leaving at 10.00 AM and unfortunately we’ve run out of the provided sachets of tea and we’re down to International Roast, which we Australians generally deride. This stuff is what I’d call “Clayton’s Coffee”…the coffee you have when you’re not having coffee.

map_of_tasmania

As we need to pack up and vacate the place, this is going to be a very hasty chat. If you could see the state of my bag which looks like an exploding volcano with everything piled up on top, you’d understand that I really have to get moving.

How’s your week been?

I’m afraid this is a rather rhetorical question as I’ve been having woeful, if any, WIFI.

So, I’d encourage you to look back through my recent posts to catch up on our Tasmanian adventures and stay tuned for more.

Catching the Spirit of Tasmania from Melbourne to Devonport.

Pengiun, Tasmania

Exploring A Ferny Paradise.

Deloraine.

Blown Away By Stanley

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS My views are currently sitting at 59,734 hits. If I was at home, I’d eagerly watching the count and celebrating reaching 60,000 with a bang but must keep moving.

Weekend Coffee Share December 4, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Would you prefer coffee, tea or something else?

Can you believe it’s December already? I sure can’t. Well I sort of can because all that end of year madness is already in full swing. Aside from buying presents, I haven’t even thought about Christmas.

school-spec-amelia

Rather, the end of the year is also concert season. Last week, our daughter performed at NSW Schools Spectacular in Sydney and next weekend, is the dance concert. Miss does jazz, modern and ballet so that’s three costume changes. Today, there was a rehearsal and tomorrow is photo call. Well, there’s photo call after she does a guest appearance at her friend’s birthday party. I know she’s doing too much and it is exhausting, but I want her to have a balanced life. Friends are important.

scan10538

I have some exciting news this week. I’m finally making progress on the book writing front. For many, many years now I’ve been reworking and reworking books in my head and I can see the words cascading like a fountain without sticking to the page. For me, the trouble has been knowing where to start. How to start. Moreover, just when I’ve got in the groove and the flow is well and truly flowing, there’s been some significant catastrophe which at the very least, has blocked the flow or redirected it. Finishing a book is not that easy, especially when you can’t get started.

So, I’m thrilled to have a plan and even though I’m back to my usual “research mode”, I’m making headway. I can see a structure, a plan, a purpose.  Even better, I can feel it all coming together.

That’s why I’m fessing up here. I need to make myself accountable. Commit to this course of action in paper and ink…even if it is more a case of tapping away on my laptop.

Anyway, I’ve spent much of this week trying to immerse myself in Paris to reawaken all those slumbering brain cells of mine. I need the to take me back to the past to lead me into the future. Fortunately, I have photos, diaries, letters from the trip as well as the world wide web at my disposal. I guess you could say it’s now been redefined as “material”.

You might like to check out some of my Paris posts:

Poem: Amnesia Paris 92.

Writing Memoir: Paris Encore.

Virtual Cafe Crawl Through Paris.

I am continuing to read  Tim Harford’s:  Messy: How to be Creative in A Tidy-Minded World. I’m now about halfway through and am going to try to keep going with it while throwing myself into Paris and that writing. I find it hard to split myself up like that, especially when I’m already juggling the family and the house. Well, I’m not exactly juggling the house. I think I dropped it on its head awhile back and it’s never recovered. Besides, I’d much rather write.

I’ve had another go at Friday Fictioneers. The prompt this week depicted a camping scene. My effort is called The Camping Virgins. I should point out that the title refers to first time campers…nothing more, nothing less.

The rest of the week feels like a blur. I’m sure it’s there somewhere.

How was your week? Good, I hope.

This has been another contribution to Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

Writing Memoir…Paris Encore!

A few days ago, I started getting stuck back into writing a memoir about my time as an Australian in Paris in the Summer of ’92.  I spent 6 weeks in Paris during a rogue backpacking trip after graduating from university.

The memoir revolves around a solo poetry reading I gave at the Shakespeare & Company Bookshop and spins out from there. It was a time of particularly deep thought and soul searching, not only for me but also most of the recent graduates we met. I’ll add that that there was also falling in love, being dumped and all the usual things that come with scraping up the entrails of your heart off the tarmac after taking a direct hit.

Poetry Reading

Poetry Reading Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, Paris.

At the moment, I’m only at the early planning and dare I say research stage, although I’ve handwritten a few pages a day of actual text. (I usually find handwriting my work helps gets me into the flow).

I had been making great progress on “Paris” about a year ago, until a hail storm peppered holes through the office roof and brutally destroyed my flow. The entire office had to be evacuated and the mess wasn’t pretty.

Anyway, at the moment I’m seriously trying to immerse myself back into my Paris. Kick start all those near-dead neurons and getting the party started.

Unfortunately, I’ve hit a frustrating hitch. I can’t remember the name of the cafe we used to hang out and it is rather central to the plot. So, yesterday I started hitting the problem with every tool at my disposal…from the sledgehammer through to the magnifying glass, but I’m still not convinced that I’ve found it.

Finding the cafe isn’t only hampered by a lot of water under the bridge. I also have no sense of direction and struggle to find my feet, let alone retrace my steps from 24 years ago. Indeed, after all my meanderings yesterday, I was lucky to make it out of the labyrinth alive and am pleased to report that the Minotaur didn’t get me either.

My first step was to dig out my Paris photos for clues.

Immediately, I hit another hitch. The album was missing. I was pretty sure it was readily accessible but with so many photo albums, books, book cases, nooks and crannies, it was looking like mission impossible.  Don’t you hate it when this happens!! As if the frustration isn’t bad enough, there’s also that self-righteous voice in your head saying you should be more organised. Declutter! (That’s where a fly swat comes in handy. Whack! That should do the job!)

Humph!

I try to wing it online and try various Google searches.

Nothing!

Nothing!

Nothing!

Finally, I find the photo album but there’s only one shot of us sitting outside at the cafe. Even after scrutinizing the photo, I can’t find a name anywhere. What I do remember is cheap coffee, not having to pay extra to sit outside and a broad area of outdoor seating. Also, it was on a sweeping corner with plenty of space.

Yet, this physical description fits many cafes.

Fortunately, despite my abysmal sense of direction, I’ve been able to limit the search zone. The cafe is on the Left Bank in Quartier Latin somewhere near Rue Dauphine, the Luxembourg Gardens and St Michel. In retrospect, I’m thinking that was something of a “pedestrian passenger” blindly following my friends to the cafe  without gouging the route into my neuropathways.

Yet, through the fog, there is a glimmer of light.I cross over Pont Neuf into Rue Dauphine in my head. I have a general direction but then the vision suddenly goes dead with no cafe in sight.I simply don’t remember. So, that leaves me playing detective trying to piece together foggy memories, Google searches, walking through the streets on Google maps. I even emailed a friend.

scan10538

My feet in the Luxembourg Gardens. Aren’t those flowers spectacular!!

I must’ve been in one of my doggedly persistent moods because I wasn’t going to let it go until I found it. I Googled cafes and boulangeries around St Michel. I consulted Google maps and walked at street view round and around and around the streets of the Left Bank and crossed one by one off my list. Indeed, I was trawling through Google like a crazed stalker and I wasn’t giving up.

By this stage, I was starting to think writing memoir was seriously over-rated and that I should turn this thing into a novel and be done with it. Then, I can simply make everything up without all this arduous digging.

But I’m NOT GIVING UP!!

Instead, I’m off to Paris. Well, I’m off to Paris via Google maps.  As much as I would sort of love to be in Paris and retracing my steps in reality, it doesn’t matter if I get lost in Google maps. Eventually, I’ll make it back to Pont Neuf without being exhausted.

Well, to read about my virtual cafe crawl through Paris, you’ll have to wait for the next installment.

Hey, if you have any idea where the cafe might be, please put me out of my misery!!

PLEASE!!!

Have you spent much time writing memoir or non-fiction? How did it compare to writing fiction?

I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

The Great Breakdowns of Travel Legends.

When your home is your vehicle and your vehicle is your home, your worst nightmare is a break down! Well kid’s, hate to tell you this but nightmares do come true. This last week I noticed our 1978 Toyota Chinook was starting to act up on a daily basis. Of course it’s normal to have […]

via Mishap of the Month : Our Toyota Chinook Chinooked! — roamwildandfree

M-Mary Stevenson “Footprints” Replies.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for sharing how my poem has touched your heart and helped you through difficult times. It sounds like our Lord guided you to Heidelberg and gave you the love and community you craved. I don’t know much about hydrocephalus but it must be such a relief that you finally found out what was going on and had the surgery. I can’t imagine what it would have been like being so far away from home with that time bomb ticking and having no idea what was going on. You have great courage.

Our Lord understands us better than we could ever imagine and leads us through dark valleys and into the light, filling us with his strength. I have never understood why bad things happen to good people but I trust that our Lord will carry us through it all.

You have probably read this passage from Isaiah 40 before but I find it so encouraging

The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Love and God’s richest blessings to you and your family!

Mary Stevenson