Early spring in Italy: this year our friend Stefano, an expert in the world of plants and trees, taught me the time-honored art of pruning olive trees. What’s the big deal?, you might ask. Well, actually, we’re talking about the heART of the Tuscan culture, and not just a simple snip, snip, snip, and you’re done. It’s important for us to know rather than just have someone else do the work for us. Little did we know how complex my experience would be. (more…)

We share the same middle name—Emerson.

I miss my dad.

About a week ago, an envelope arrived in the mail. The address was hand written in a recognizably flamboyant style, using what appeared to be a black Sharpie felt-tip pen. Clue number one was the unmistakable script—none other than my mom’s handwriting. Inside was a short letter scrawled on an odd piece of notepaper, on which she’d written that she had found some old pictures of her and my dad’s wedding. She thought we might enjoy seeing them. She was right! (more…)

Unfortunately, it’s true.

One year ago I visited family in Indiana. Strolling from the plane to the baggage claim, I admired the Weir Cook Terminal at the new Indianapolis International Airport. I thoroughly enjoyed the architecture, the open spaces and the great environment that had been created. It was functional yet beautiful. Nice! Job well done! But above all, I was thrilled to see the artwork that was included at key locations. A commitment to the arts has always been a sign of civility and appreciation. It speaks of broader perspectives—leadership and vision. The Arts bring a much needed reflective quality, a sense of playfulness or a nudge of provocation—while they speak of the unseen currents that animate our lives. Powerful stuff! (more…)

Without thinking.

I sat down at the computer—completely in the moment, and a word unexpectedly popped into my head—spontaneity. “Why not write about that?” I thought.  “Okay!” You are now reading the words that flowed onto the page from that stream of consciousness.

The word spontaneity triggered an image of my friend from 40 years ago, Jed Free. Yes, that’s a real name! I have no idea what ever happened to him, but he was clearly a “free” spirit, so to speak, an unusually independent person, a loner of the nth degree. He only spoke on rare occasions, and when he did it was in a rather cryptic but meaningful way. Mostly, he just silently shuffled along with shoulders rounded, as if clutching his latest Bob Dylan album to his heart—always looking down in the vicinity of his frayed gray sneakers. I can’t say that I ever really made eye contact with him, but in some strange way, I have to admit that the guy actually changed my life. (more…)

Where do science and religion intersect?

According to artist Cornelia Parker, the two opposites are currently merging in the corner of a room in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. She calls it Anti-Mass, and the work of art is currently housed at the de Young Museum, gallery 16, to be exact.

Recently, when a soulful Southern Baptist Church burned to the ground at the hands of arsonists, Cornelia, with permission, collected and reclaimed the charred timbers of the once-vital wood structure. And then, without permission, she began her magical transformation that would, in her own artistic language, fuse science and religion; mind and heart; tangible and spiritual; grounded and otherworldly; violence and reverence into a powerful image, to lure people out of dualism and at least momentarily, into an awareness of the underlying unity of all things. (more…)

According to the classic story of the Velveteen Rabbit, becoming REAL is everything in life. And if that story has a thread of truth in it, then Brandi Carlile is well on her way. At 30-something she has talent and insight beyond her years, as anyone who listens to her storytelling can attest. We enjoy her music and have been trying to catch one of her concerts for years, but we were never in the same place at the same time—that is, until last Tuesday. (more…)

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…)

Italy has an impressive system of roads that range from the strada bianca, white road (gravel), to the autostrada—which is the equivalent of the interstate in the US. You pay your way in Italy (in more ways than one). Actually, it’s not a bad idea. Those who use the autostrada the most, pay the most. It’s sort of like the state-owned and operated toll bridges in the Bay Area. Both systems provide quite a few permanent jobs, so in these economically challenging times, there’s nothing wrong with that! And by the way, every autostrada comes fully equipped with more than a few autogrills! (more…)

In the Ligurian town of Rapallo, along the northern coast of Italy, three brothers are making a name for themselves and their restaurant.. They attract a diverse crowd at their popular place called K2—but that’s only the beginning. More than a mere meal, what really happens behind the driving beat, the flashing big screens, the delicious food and great conversation is a real Italian experience—Sicilian style!

While visiting the famous and beautiful coastal towns of Portofino, Rapallo and Santa Margherita, we discovered that the main attraction for us was the restaurant, K2 (Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli, Rocco and his brothers). Here the brothers Costanzo charm your socks off, and give you a first-class lesson in following dreams and values. Our first dinner was a magical evening that made the visit not only fun, but memorable—perhaps even life-changing. (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…)