These stories tend to focus on special individuals or couples who have something in particular to say, or represent something specific worth documenting. They certainly aren’t always big names, or popular figures, but can be quiet and unimposing personalities as well—with a story to tell.

Healthy never tasted so good.

Recipe for health

Recently we stumbled upon a recipe on Instagram. Our nephew Joshua described a simple dish that we think is worth sharing far and wide.  Josh decided it was time to take some action with his general health. He needed an energy boost and a way to lower his cholesterol without taking meds. So, he developed this natural, organic miracle breakfast that you might find appealing—you know, “set your cork-a-bobbin’,” as we used to say in the midwest (an old fishing metaphor).

Josh and Yuri

In the post, Josh casually boasted about his 35 point reduction in cholesterol. His missive was quite detailed and got our attention. Hmm. Could it really taste as good as he says and be that effective? We fired off a personal message to ask Josh for the details. He graciously shared all the particulars without hesitation and even gave us permission to distribute it “far and wide—the more the merrier and healthier.” We named it the “Poet’s Power Porridge.” (He’s a poet and musician among many other rare and delightful talents.) So, here it is:

Poet’s Power Porridge

Before mixing

Every morning (or thereabouts), begin with boiling water to make one single serving of steel-cut oats. Whilst that yummy base is simmering on the stovetop, chop/combine the other 21 ingredients: walnuts, poppy seeds, black sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax meal, pine nuts, cacao powder, turmeric powder, ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground coconut, dried currents, plain yogurt, maple syrup/honey, maca powder, mulberries and a few blueberries perhaps sprinkled on top.

After mixing

Mix all of those crazy-tasty ingredients together with the cooked oats. Add a little almond milk to thin, as you like. And then, in a slow, respectful meditative rhythm that feels right to your body and Soul, take slow bites, savoring the distinctive co-mingling of all those tantalizing flavors.  As Josh says, “It ends up being a nutrient-dense start to your day (or later if you prefer), that can keep you fueled for up to 6 hours.”

So there you have it, a not-so-secret recipe for health, happiness and lower cholesterol, straight from the Poet’s mouth. Give it a try if you’re so inclined and feel free to spread the word “far and wide,” as Josh says. Any comments or testimonials about your experience will be appreciated.

Salute, (to your health!)
Cheryl, Emerson and Joshua

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The Fountain of Youth

A quarter cup a day keeps the doctor away! That’s the adage that our friend Giacomo‘s father lived by well into his nineties. A quarter cup of what, you ask? OLIVE OIL. Signor’ Martini actually drank it—in addition to what he typically drizzled over every meal, every day of his life. In ancient Greece, […]

Good for What Ails You

A while back, we experienced a serendipitous moment. While browsing online for a nearby restaurant, we came across one with a curious name: Vino y Otros Remedios (Wine and Other Remedies). The name was intriguing with its suggestion of healing the body with great foods and wines, but it was the many reviews that really sold us. We cross-checked a couple of sites. Yep . . . it looked like a winner. Since it was located only a block and a half away, we were out the door without giving it another thought.

 

 

Summers’ submittal

On a beautiful morning, July 1st, 1849 Dr. John Edward Summers, an Army physician was on duty at the Mission of San Diego de Alcalá. His task was to record the weather conditions at the post. So he followed orders, even though they were out of the ordinary, and submitted his findings to Washington. In doing so, he became the first official “weather observer” in what was to be the city of San Diego, California—in the United States of America. That simple action began a maritime tradition that would continue on into the future.

Urban Lighthouses

Fast forward 155 years to 2004. The beautiful city of San Diego had grown and changed dramatically. The twin residential towers called “Grande North and South” on Pacific Highway neared completion with a surprise in store. Artist, Spencer Finch, was diligently designing a special project for the apex of the architectural masterpieces. His vision harkened back through time to Dr. Summers, his fateful orders and the ongoing seafaring tradition of reporting the weather. The Grande sculpture became a modern-day “lighthouse,”  with a dramatic effect, visible for miles around.

Watercolors of the sky

In his own words, Finch described his inspiration and intention: “My vision was to create watercolors of the skies that would become a project of light and shadow in the sky at an enormous scale, thereby making the connection between the picture, the idea and the weather forecast.” His creation would tie directly to weather data, giving immediacy and accuracy to his ever-changing climate-predicting message.

Sunny skies tomorrow

To this day, beacons of light announce the upcoming weather. A plaque on a column at the Grande Towers bears the 2000 year-old saying: Red skies at night, sailors’ delight. Gray skies at morning, sailors take warning. Every evening the massive lanterns mimic the layered Pacific skies—with either an orange/red mesmerizing glow like a California sunset, (signaling yet another clear day of delight) or, both towers become a moody gray/blue/violet (if rain is in the forecast). A passing glance at the colors, orange or blue, communicates tomorrow’s prediction. Reporting the weather has never been easier or more straightforward.

Whether you’re an art aficionado, a weather enthusiast, or just wonder if you’re going to need an umbrella, you’ll love Spencer Finch’s Grande idea.

 

Related Story and Music

Still Water

Still Water.

Discovering the Grande Towers and their maritime tradition, we were taken back to a storied time of our own when we battled “Will against will, with the sea.” Fifteen years ago seems like yesterday with fond and vivid memories for sure. We had decided to go on a week long sailing trip to Croatia with friends. It was unlike us, certainly not our normal routine, but we approached it as an opportunity—a very different kind of “workshop” that would certainly teach us something important about ourselves, since it would be so different than anything we had ever done or known. It did exactly that! [. . .]

This is the second “breadcrumb” we’re leaving along the path that we call “Toward the Light” of aging. 

Let’s face it, no one is exempt from growing older. Some changes may be subtle, while others are more drastic and obvious. This series of posts called “Breadcrumbs” is an attempt to find our way in and through the aging process, while continuing to mature and develop further. So, as we meander and stumble along this trail, we’ll drop as many breadcrumbs as we can. Perhaps, as we follow the clues left by other wise Souls, we too can find our way “Home.”

David Bowie

David Bowie left us all too soon, but certainly seems to have poured his heart and Soul into living Life to the fullest. He created countless moments of meaning, whether through music, film/video, performance, or painting that continue, beyond his physical presence. As we hike our trail, our path, one of Bowie’s clues about life resonates with us. 

“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”

For us, that short quote carries an extremely important message, basically turning Life upside-down. Rather than feeling as though we are losing cherished pieces of ourselves (disintegrating), he’s suggesting that we are intentionally and painstakingly examining what remains. He suggests that our true Essence is the Pearl we seek. We open and shed that which is unnecessary or no longer needed—eventually letting go of anything and everything that isn’t our “Essential Self.”

Mark Nepo

The poet/philosopher Mark Nepo speaks about this pursuit, this process of life-long “Pearl-essence” in a different, but poignant way when he says, “Like a comet worn to its center by the time it reaches Earth, the gravity of our journey leaves us bare and unadorned as we reach the simple, enduring center where all souls meet.”

However we choose to envision and articulate this life, the process remains the same. We simply consider it the never-ending work of the Soul—the journey of a lifetime. 

Thank you David and Mark! 

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Uncommon Promise

We were living in a friend’s cottage south of Florence, a different side of the city for us, providing many new experiences, including a delightful walk into the center of town from the apartment. Trying to distract ourselves from the studio’s much-delayed completion, we were struggling with seemingly constant waiting. It was a challenging time, […]

Out of the Block
This story is about breaking out of social molds and constraints. We felt as though we were sculpting new lives for ourselves and wanted to capture the joy of creativity, the tireless commitment and the surprises that result from such an effort.

Letting Go
With much to consider, our conversations settled on the idea of letting go, and how important it is for us to move on and release that which can no longer serve us—no matter what stage of our life.

Libra is Latin for scale or balance and in ancient Rome became a unit of weight (around 12 ounces), the forerunner of the pound. As the 7th sign in the Zodiac, Libra represents someone born between September 23rd and October 22nd, who may harbor a fixation on balance and harmony. A true Libra may be obsessed with symmetry and strives to create equilibrium in all areas of life.

Equity is also reflected in the familiar symbol for fairness—the blindfolded goddess, Lady Justice, holding the scales of equality. She symbolizes the judicial system’s obligation to one and all, blind to prejudice and bias. Her only focus is balance and equilibrium, conjuring a notion of competing or opposite forces—equally strong. Balance can also refer to emotional stability or calmness, as in, “It took me awhile to regain my equilibrium.” The idea of balance is a practical and symbolic aspect of everyday life.

We were born under the signs of Sagittarius, the archer and Taurus, the bull. Yet we’re curiously drawn to the fundamental value of “balance.” For years, we had a framed picture on the bookshelf of the sketch by artist/sculptor Alexander Calder called “Tightrope Artist,” which served as a playful reminder for the importance of maintaining balance in all that we do. That doesn’t mean for a second that we’ve been able to achieve this illusive quality, but we keep trying.

In a stroke of genius in 1931, Calder broke through the established notion that sculpture was solid, static and stationary by reimagining it as light, delicate and dynamic. Voila! Suddenly the “mobile” was born—many smaller forms leveraged against larger ones. Not only was his sculptural work balanced, but usually swayed in subtle motion, ready for bolder action. 

Calder – Untitled Standing Mobile

Calder’s reinterpretation brought the element of poise into play. Most of us probably understand that balance is essential in our lives, but also feel that balance alone isn’t quite enough. In addition to stability, we find ourselves striving for an even more anticipatory stance—dynamic, poised for action. Like a Calder mobile, our balance is free-floating, with slight movement nearly undetected—awaiting action. With Calder’s shift from “stabile” to “mobile,” stationary balance became the prerequisite for the shift to movement, potential change and graceful possibility.  

Years later, we found an old scale in an antique shop. It hung over the stairway in our former home and now resides in the living room, suspended above the sofa as a hovering reminder of equilibrium, justice and fairness. We like the simplicity of it—rustic and ordinary. It seems perfectly straightforward, with no delicate calibration needed. It’s just a basic everyday scale, suspended on twine and easily gaged at a glance—in balance or out. Simple. The slight turning with the breeze, catches our eye to nudge sweet memories of scouring salvage yards for treasures, as well as being a symbol of that never-ending pursuit of balance. It also serves as a nod to Calder’s mobiles.

Calder mobile at the National Gallery

We’ve decided to keep the Calder sketch and the rustic antique scale as reminders of the basic need for balance and equilibrium in our lives. Yet, we continue to be fascinated with the notion of being poised for action. Alert and at the ready, we wait and watch with quiet anticipation, imagining our very lives to be similar to a dynamic Calder construction. Will there be a dramatic sweeping movement or just silent subtle shifts, drifting slowly in the breeze of inspiration? We’re eager with anticipation. After all, isn’t Life a series of balancing acts, of repeated efforts to regain equilibrium? Let’s examine the possibilities. Let’s weigh the options.

 

Thomas Bayes

Start with a flat-out guess about something. Imagine the probability of your guess being right on. What are the chances? Or perhaps your guess is a little off. Which is it? Why? Return to the question. Add information. Watch closely. Observe objectively. Gather evidence. Then modify your original assumption based on what you just learned to create a new and improved model of your original guess, or at least a better-understood, more refined version. Easy-peasy, right?

This method was developed by Thomas Bayes, a brilliant English mathematician and theologian (1702 -1761). The “Bayesian inference” is an inspired model of thinking—of being “rational.” How radical!

The Thinker by Rodin

“Bayesian thinking” can be applied to whatever subject or topic you want—engineering, philosophy, sports, walking the dog, or life in general. You begin with a question or assumption and then basically add more information to your starting point. Your first thoughts are formed with what you already know—your “prior” information, your basic concept, your preconceived thoughts. Then as you add more information, you rationally “update” what you know. As you gather more and more facts, you can’t un-know them. So, you’re wise to keep adding information, despite the fact that your original assumptions may no longer be valid. Your basic data-base expands, your knowledge-base grows and you get  more objective, more effective and much more rational!

Bayesian Pop Culture

Today’s popular following of the “Bayesian model,” has simplified the whole idea, as you might expect. That simplification has resulted in a 3-word slogan, which of course, can be easily printed on T-shirts—”UPDATE YOUR PRIORS!” That concise phrase is meant to encourage everyone to constantly evaluate their knowledge (their personal data-base), fold in current observations, and with those adaptations, create a new and expanded baseline of information—an ever-expanding view of the world!

The little Thinker

So why are we talking about this today? Well, quite frankly, Bayes’ idea, stripped down to the bare essentials, has actually become a critical part of living life in the 21st century. In fact, our 4-year-old granddaughter already has her version of the theory down pat. She isn’t unique,—just observe any young person you know. Every day she’s making new observations and assumptions about life, language, feelings etc. and immediately putting them into practice. She doesn’t labor over the new details that are challenging what she thought she knew—she just casually takes each new understanding out for a test-drive. Then, she observes and modifies accordingly. Simple, right? She repeats this process over and over from dawn to dusk. Her ability to learn and adapt occurs at lightning speed, leaving many of us in the proverbial dust of our own habitual thinking.

We, on the other hand, have a tendency to function in a very un-“Bayesian” way. Start with a preconceived notion, then work like hell to make everything conform to that way of thinking. If, by chance, we encounter ideas that just don’t match, we try to figure out how we can manipulate others’ thinking to prove our point. The kicker though, is that many other people are doing exactly the same thing at the same time. Hence, we have a world full of competing agendas, anger, waste, wars, death and destruction, to name just a few nasty by-products of inflexible, non-updated thinking.

Albert Einstein

Perhaps we have simply failed to UPDATE OUR PRIORS! Albert Einstein took this idea to an extreme when he said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Basically he’s saying that closing our minds to rational observations can only lead to a “Ground Hog Day” of the same assumptions and results. Life is far more dynamic than that. Very few things stay the same. So, okay, okay. We’ll UPDATE OUR PRIORS, already.

Seriously, Thomas Bayes had an important idea that raises many critical questions about life. In order to be “rational” we will “UoP.” Creating that simple habit can have profound positive cultural, national, global and personal implications. For us, we’re starting with the world of information where we have some personal interest and control—the world within.

Credits

The featured image at the top of this story was courtesy of Dr. Trevor Bazett
All other images are part of the internet public commons or purchased from Canva

Related Story

We wrote another story several years ago called “Free Advice” that you might want to check-out. It deals with the topics of “social-correctness,” “spontaneity” and “truth.”

Coffee is an integral part of Italian culture.

Intreccio

Every morning begins with an espresso, a cappuccino, or a caffè macchiato (an espresso, stained with milk). A fresh pasta, pastry, typically accompanies the coffee. Just those two simple ingredients constitute collazione, breakfast. There are coffee bars in almost every town, even tiny burgs where there are few, if any other shops. We’ve enjoyed the simple ambience of many and how they must compete for the loyalty of locals. Now that the Tokyo olympic games are over, we thought it would be fun to conduct our own little competition for the best Tuscan coffee bar this season!

The criteria for judging this play-off has been established as follows:

(1) best espresso—duhh?

(2) friendliest barrista/staff 

(3) yummiest pastries—whether made in the back room kitchen or brought in daily from a nearby pasticceria, pastry bakery

Sara waiting to go for coffee

(4) best dog treats (Our ever-present doxy, Sara insisted.)

And since we’re reasonably sure that we’ve visited just about every bar in Tuscany at least once for the past two decades, we consider ourselves “expat-experts” of sorts.  

Three outstanding bars made it to the last round of the competition after extensive discussion and debate. The finalists are: 

Bar Cesare in Florence, definitely excels with its in-house pasticceria. Their sfoglia con ricotta, crispy-layered pastry with sweetened cheese, are so delicious that it jostles memories of the famous cartoon dog who floated mid-air with delight when he was given a dog treat. But alas, Bar Cesare offers absolutely NO dog treats. Sara gave it a “dew claw down” (the doggie version of a thumbs down). In fact, the owners, staff and patrons pay very little attention to Sara. Too bad guys! 

Cafe Lorenzo, (which we have written about before) is located in Pian di Mugnone. Great ambience, yummy pastries (made fresh every day on site) and macchiati—so good that we had to restrain ourselves from excessive savoring, to accommodate the rapid 2-sip custom. However, despite their strong competitive scoring, their dog treats are always scraps of cornetti (croissants). So, due to that avoidable, yet critical omission of actual heart-healthy dog treats, we moved on. Sorry Lorenzo

Outstanding K9 hospitality

Cafe Plineo, located in the river-town of Sieci, proved to be the toughest of all competitors. Their coffee is excellent; the owners are delightful; they have a pastry called an intreccio—a cinnamon braided pastry with walnuts (with an outlandish premium 10 ₵ surcharge); and they ALWAYS, ALWAYS make-over Sara and give her a wholesome dog treat just for being cute. Needless to say, Plineo won the competition “paws-down” with the warmed-up intreccio and hearty treats for sweet Sara. According to Sara, they won by a nose—which, for a dachshund is a significant point margin. 

Walter, Simone & 2021 Trophy

Congratulations to Walter (say Vall-tear) and Simone (Mario, unfortunately wasn’t there for the closing ceremony). We appreciate all that you guys do each day to make our Italian bar-hopping experience more delicious and enjoyable—also, for the heartfelt hospitality you extend to dear Sara, our poochy companion. She appreciates your attention to the moon and back.

So, Dear Readers, if you ever find yourself near the small town of Sieci, along the Arno river, you must stop at Plineo for a taste of an incredible intreccio and where you can get a dog treat to go!

Thus ends the annual “Best Italian Bar” competition for 2021 (special pandemic edition). 

Ciao, ciao, ciao!
Cheryl, Em and Sara

You might also enjoy another doggy/bar story complete with music called “Isabella“—written in 2013 about our other previous Italian Doxy companion.

There’s an old saying about Tuscan wines—a Chianti wine you want in front of you at the table. A Pomino wine you must keep by your side—so special, it’s to be reserved for just the right moment.

Pomino

While hiking on a crisp, clear spring morning in the Pratomagno hills of Tuscany, we came upon a valley view that drew us deeper into the Frescobaldi family history. Pomino (which means little apple) is a small town tucked away in the Tuscan Hills that surround the beautiful Renaissance city of Florence, Italy. In 1716, the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici identified the four most highly prized territories of Tuscany for the production of wines. Today, not many know about the intimate burg of just over 200 people, but they certainly know of the famous wine that’s produced there—Pomino Bianco. The town’s elevation is some 600 meters above sea level, where white grapes grow best, so that’s the specialty in that small region. Pomino and its renowned wines are a relatively small part of the historic Marchesi de Frescobaldi estate, which has remained a family operation for over 30 generations and 700 years.

Castello Pomino

Clearly we are not wine experts, but we are compulsively drawn to the serenity, beauty and history of Tuscan culture. Surrounding the ancient Castello Pomino, lay an incredibly lush valley of vineyards. The castle was built in the 1500s and now serves as the centerpiece for that unique wine-making territory. The owners refer to the area as: “Elegance and femininity. A hidden gem that’s revealed among the woods of the Florentine mountains.” Irresistible!

The Frescobaldi family made wines that were well known throughout Europe. They socialized with the likes of artists, such as Donatello, Michelozzo Michelozzi, and Filippo Brunelleschi. Most Florentines will tell you that their city, although cosmopolitan, actually enjoys a “small town” feel. Everybody seems to know everybody else. So it’s no surprise to learn that Frescobaldi furnished wines to the well known locals, and further afield to the Papal Court in Rome. After all, at the World’s Fair of 1873 in Vienna, the wines of Pomino won coveted awards, and in 1878 took the gold medal at the World’s Fair in Paris, the highest international recognition of its time.

Splash of white wine

You might say that our story is similar to a Pomino wine—you want to save it until just the right moment. We find ourselves reminiscing about those beautiful treks through the rolling Tuscan hills. Now, some 10 years after that quiet hike in the Pratomagno, we decided it was the right time to “uncork this story.” Ahh, breathe in the distinct magic of the elixir! We savor every sip of those memories and hope you too become a bit intoxicated by the romance of it all.

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Tuscan Hills

You might also enjoy another story about inspiration in the Pratomagno mountains called Nipozzano Castle—have a look! And just to get you in the mood for a hypnotic Tuscan adventure, below is our song called “Tuscan Hills” written in 2003. Enjoy!

Gallery

This is a short story with a long, happy ending.

Sometimes, we want something to happen so badly, that we will do just about anything humanly possible to make it so. But, no matter how hard we try, plan and anticipate, it seems that we just can’t force a yield. NOPE. Not happening. 

Then, in that final minute, we wonder whether trying one last time might be the magical push that will work—or maybe just one more try after that? Perhaps another?

Let’s face it. It seems that it would be a cryin’ shame if we gave up just one moment too soon. Then, how do we know when to stop? A reasonable person would understand how to decide that tricky question. But, are WE reasonable? Sometimes, we’re NOT!

Voila!

So, here’s the deal. All we wanted to do was create a little one-room studio apartment in Italy. That sounds so romantic, yet easy enough. Then the twelve months project turned into four grueling years, and we were on the verge of giving up—calling it quits—surrendering to the powers that be—bowing to the bureaucracy—admitting defeat. Then, Voila! One last gut-wrenching try turned our building dirge into a victory dance. Ahhhh!

What we learned was this: there is no real answer to the question of when to let go. The dilemma is always “of the moment.” It can’t be graphed, outlined, critical-pathed or magic-8 balled ahead of time. We’ll quit when we quit . . . or not. Perhaps we might muster an ounce of courage and effort in the last seconds of trying. Give it one more go. When that final push results in success, we are reminded to NEVER GIVE UP! This may be a fool’s lesson, but we’ll take it. ALWAYS try one more time! TRUST in yourself and the process—there could be magic just around the corner!

We invite you to read our BACK STORY—called “Meeting the Notaio.” It’s the story with a happy ending, no matter what trials and tribulations are encountered.

Have you seen my tombino?

Wait, what? Is that a pick-up line? 

It must be here somewhere!?

NO! We just can’t find that darn tombino. In Italy, of course, language results in many quizical and/or dumbfounded glances. In this instance the word tombino verrrrry loosely translates to mean, a large underground junction box. It is the heartbeat of many systems that feed into a country dwelling like ours. Running underground for about 120 meters (roughly 400 feet) are electrical cables, telephone lines and water systems. The tombino is a heavy concrete lidded box. In our Tuscan hideaway, stealthily secluded underground are many of these cement cubes about 5 feet on all sides. Typically unseen and NOT generally a topic of  conversation. However, in these post-pandemic times, it has earned the distinction of being one of the most important talking points in our little corner of the world. Once found, you could probably hide in one, but we wouldn’t recommend it. But, WHERE, oh where, is my tombino? That’s the million-euro-question. Typically they’re fairly easy to locate, but unfortunately, ours has been covered over by years of crunched and compacted gravel mixed with gritty dirt. You get the picture?

Breakfast, lunch and dinner

It seems that our utilities have been interrupted by a tiny little country mouse who has nibbled through the yummy gray sheathing on the power cable to create a hole for water to seep in. Once the cable gets wet, you’re only months away from full-on corrosion. One day we’re feeling the “power”and the next day our “current” strength is completely gone. Living Without Power is of course, annoying, unacceptable, and even dangerous. The only way to remedy the situation is to locate the exact position of the “nibbled-through nuisance wire”—good luck with that! We had no choice but to locate all 7 of the buried tombini under the driveway as the first step in our problem-solving process. The first six, okay. Number seven, no way. What a challenge—trying to find a “nibble in a dirt-pack.”

The radiator seems so peaceful

Now, electricity certainly is a utility that we have come to enjoy on a daily basis. With the flip of a switch, we have light. The familiar click of a gas stove reminds us that it uses an electric ignition. But more than a mere creature comfort, it’s essential for surviving frigid winters in Tuscany. Without power, there’s NO heat. Without heat, cast iron radiators freeze. When they freeze, they burst. And they are NOT tidy bursters. They spray and spit rusty water as far as their cracks will allow. The force exerted from them mimics little explosions. It’s certainly not a pretty sight, and hopefully you’ll never have to witness or clean up such a disgusting mess.

Sneaky power work-around

During the pandemic, our neighbor informed us that we had suffered a loss of power in the winter. Yikes! We immediately flashed a joint memory of bursting radiators. Since it was too cold and nearly impossible to repair the electrical lines mid-winter, we borrowed electricity from a neighboring building. Using a very LONG extension cord (as a temporary measure), we kept the radiators happy enough that they didn’t crack-up under the stress. So when  warmer weather arrived, we kicked into high gear to find a quasi-permanent solution for the electricity issue. Hence, we found ourselves in a desperate search for that seventh elusive tombino, which was the key to our success.

Alongside two trusty electricians, we energetically swung picks at the hardened earth and scraped the loosened dirt with our shoes and shovels to clear the debris. After multiple attempts and without success, we shifted again and again, to a different digging location, every time someone shouted “Let’s dig here!” The driveway started to look like giant gophers had taken up residence, randomly having popped up, leaving gaping holes and massive mounds of gravel. Our day ended on a note of dismay and discouragement.

Could it be?

But persistence persisted. Later that evening, our neighbor sent a text, “WOW, I found it.” No, he hadn’t been out digging in the dark, but he had discovered an equally valuable treasure—a single photograph of the house during construction. Some 20 years before, in the foreground, just barely within the frame was an old cement-covered Tuscan wheelbarrow balanced across a hole in the ground—a square hole. Safety first! There, beside that rusty-wheeled implement was a chunk of concrete shaped like—yes, a square lid. In the silence of the night, our sleuthy neighbor dug through hundreds of photos to find perhaps the only picture ever taken of that lonely tombino during construction.

Don’t let a mouse steal your power!

As with any Italian problem, endless loud talking and arm-waving is required, along with a dash of clever insight. But the noise, persistence and cunning almost always pay off. Fortunately, our neighbor snapped pics of the more mundane phases of construction—capturing momentary glimpses of life “uncovered.” We’re not finished with the repairs yet, but we currently have direction. Having a plan and renewed hope is certainly em-POWER-ing!

Related Story and Music

You might check out another story called “Living Without Power” that we wrote and recorded back in 2009 amid a devastating hurricane. Following is the music if you want a quick listen.

 

You’ve probably heard of the dog breed called the Blue Heeler. Well, our experience tells us that most dogs are amazing healers of a different kind.

The “Mystical Doctor” is open for business

Anyone who has ever had a dog can probably attest to the fact that canines, as well as other different pets, seem to have a sixth sense. It’s a multifaceted and magical capability that goes beyond empathy, love and loyalty to include powerful “healing.” Yes, that’s a big statement, but it’s true—dogs are “Mystical Doctors” rather than “medical doctors.”

For example, our little 9-pound doxy is a profound Healer. We’ve had many dogs over the years, each with a unique personality and special talents, but none have been quite like our little Sara. She seems to be hard-wired to heal.   

If one of us is having a sad or down moment, she seems to single the “patient” out, making physical contact her top priority. She’s always focused on the one in need, leaving the capable other to fend for themselves until her healing is done. It’s as if she’s a sponge, spontaneously drawn to soak up the sad or wounded energy. We joke about the magical capabilities, by calling the process, “fur-therapy.” She thinks it’s just “being a dog.”

As long as it takes—just like her nose

In these pandemic days of video medical appointments and tele-therapy, she insists on laying on the needy lap—a circle-dog all curled-up to provide optimal care. Time and energy are unimportant to Sara. She’s there for the duration, taking in the stress while imparting warmth and comfort.

Recently, Em had a tele-therapy session and Sara assumed her normal healing position in his lap. Then, as Em became agitated, Sara suddenly began to shiver. She seemed uncontrollably cold, which is odd given that it’s summer in California and human laps are typically especially warm. Em noted her strange behavior. The session ended rather abruptly due to his intense emotional reaction. What did Sara sense? 

Following the session, Em lay on the bed to regain his balance. Normally, Sara would assume her familiar conditioned position on his lap to snooze. But she behaved differently. She refused to sleep and instead, she turned away from him and laid down at the foot of the bed. He called and coaxed her to come to him, but she completely ignored his requests and, in fact, wouldn’t even look at him. 

Then Em noticed something he’d never seen before. Sara continued shaking, but now it didn’t seem that she was cold. Instead, It looked like she was shaking to throw off the negative energy she had absorbed from him. Our conclusion was that his negative mood had been too much for her. She had reached overload! Apparently she was just too maxed-out and couldn’t convert the bad energy to good.  Furthermore, she refused to come anywhere near him for the rest of the evening.

The following day, Em regained perspective and equilibrium and Sara couldn’t get enough of him. Perhaps she deemed the remaining energy work to be possible. Or maybe he was feeling so much better she just wanted to soak-up some of that positive energy. In any case, her presence was sorely needed and made all the difference in his day of recovery.

This story is an anecdotal, intuitive recollection of “a day in the life with Sara.” There’s nothing scientific or measurable. However, when you find yourself in need of some therapy, rather than asking, “Is there a doctor in the house?”, why not consider fur-therapy. Simply ask, “Is there a dachshund in the house?” We think someone will answer the call and come running.

Healing in process

An addendum: As usual for a weekend, we went to get coffee at one of our favorite coffee bars. A woman sitting next to us, noticed Sara and turned toward her. We introduced Sara and the lady smiled and asked to pet her. Then, she requested, “May I hold her?”  We gently handed over all 9 pounds of Sara and she was immediately comfortable with the stranger. Then we  glanced at the woman’s face to see that tears were streaming down her cheeks. She said, “You have no idea how much I needed this love, thank you sooo much!”  Sara responded with a couple of quick licks—which always means, “You’re welcome.”

Related Story and Music

Sweet Isabella

Sara’s older half-sister Isabella (Izzi-B) was our previous “Mystical Doctor,” hanging a shingle outside our home for 16 years. She later became a well-known Italian personality after many adventures in Tuscany. The following story called “Isabella” was written for her in 2013 and we share it now in her loving memory.