One of our favorite morning walks in California takes us through the gardens of the beautiful Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts. You never know what you might find around each wooded turn because they’re constantly changing the outdoor sculptures, providing that element of surprise. One day we found an artist constructing a fairly large house out of sticks. Another time we came upon a new fortress in the front yard made entirely from stacks of paper (even more interesting after it rained). Then there were the strange heavy, unexplained floating objects. And let’s not forget the creepy giant cocoons the size of a small car, we found laying by the path up the hill. But today, our  sculpture hunt was a little more challenging—like up in a tree! (more…)

We like to play a little game called Follow That Thread. It’s really simple and great fun because we never quite know where things are going. It’s also good exercise for slowing down, paying attention and trusting the process. It leads to the most curious things, but to make it work, judgment has to be suspended—accepting whatever shows-up. It feels like wandering through back streets and alleys to discover new places and things.

Here’s an example of a thread I followed a couple of weeks ago. (more…)

We went to the Teatro Odeon the other night to catch the new movie called A Dangerous Method starring Keira Knightley, Vigo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender. We were excited to see their depiction of the two pioneers of psychotherapy, Freud and Jung because we’ve always been fascinated with their incredible contributions to the field of psychology. In fact, many of the concepts, therapies and ideas we take for granted today were products of their fertile early 20th century minds. (more…)

Ah, the ever popular stuzzicadenti, toothpick. Yes, they are readily available the world over. In any grocery store, a hundred can be had for a few coins. But the picking of one’s teeth shouldn’t be limited to processed slivers of wood. Oh, no! For those of you who are already a bit confused by the title, we’re not suggesting that istrici, porcupines have discovered the secret to perfect teeth. Certainly not! Most of them have nasty overbites. But, we are saying that the curious gift of the porcupine can make a difference in our dental hygiene, while making the world a better, tidier place. All we have to do is start using quills instead of toothpicks when the judicious picking of i denti, teeth becomes necessary. Let us lay out the argument and then you can decide for yourself. (more…)

Belonging is really important to us, although we’ve never been joiners in any traditional sense. We never had a desire to be Italian, even though we joke about our quest to become “true Italians.” That, of course, could never happen. Nor do we intend to become naturalized citizens even though we could. However, what we’ve always wanted from this journey is the chance to dig deeply into the real life experiences of another culture. We wanted to go so far in, that we’re changed at the core of who we are. Becoming and belonging takes years, if not decades to happen naturally. After years of personal investment, conversation and shared experiences, we begin to really “belong” somewhere. Italy is like that for us. Our lives have become delicately interlaced with the lives of others, in ways we don’t really understand—yet it matters. (more…)

My name is Emerson, and I have a problem. I’m not too proud to admit it.

It became apparent to me the other day when I was shaving. We all have routines. Right? And sometimes they become so repetitive that we go into “auto pilot” mode and don’t even need to think about it anymore. We just keep doing whatever it is, not even realizing we’re still doing it. Like “zoning out” while driving. You know what I mean? You get into the car and then you arrive at your destination, but you don’t remember anything about the route. (more…)

Well, autumn is just around the corner and it’s mating season here in Italy for the Caprioli, Roe Deer. We hear them in the dusky hours every evening and in the misty dawn, making their unusual call of the wild. What a sound! It’s unbelievable. Seriously, the Roe coughs out a disgusting guttural grunt/scream noise that would put a halt to any possibilities. The first few times we heard it, we thought there must be some monster of the woods—some creature both dreadful and loathsome. We wanted no part of it. The only deer references we had were 1.) the sweet, docile and perpetually hungry ones that live in Indiana and Ohio; and 2.) Bambi. (more…)

A cherry-plum tree is right outside our bedroom window—so close, you can almost reach out and touch it. On Wednesday morning when we looked out, on the delicate branches that are contrasted with beautiful deep purple leaves, we spied a bright green caterpillar. If they came in sizes, this would have been an extra-large. Curious, we looked around the tree and sure enough there was its twin just a little higher up on another branch. Having discovered a matched set, we felt like it was our lucky day. Cheryl named them Catia and Claudio—after all, they are Italian. (more…)