Circe in the moment / Napoli

It’s the moments that flicker past your half-closed eyes — like blinding patches of sunlight you can’t help but look directly into — for that sweet temptation of pain that’s warm and bright and just stinging enough to feel more alive, more wild, to feel right now — but you turn away before you burn because we all want to see again eventually, we need to see clearly the far off promises of beautiful experiences something just within reach, a blue horizon haze of blue and gray and green … some imperceptible breath away from the first day of the rest of your every thing. Every thing that will make it all worthwhile. That will make you worthwhile.

That will make you before we’re all undone in the shadows. ———

Napoli is a metamorphosis, a beautiful growling animal built by Circe’s hands, singing songs to travelers who love a little doom and gloom with their beauty.

Death becomes her.

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Autumn In Rome, Italy.

Autumn In Rome, Italy.
Persimmons and Cupolas.
Church bells ringing in your ears awaiting the final hour.
The sun turns steeples and domes from cream-cracked marble to a slow-burn deep gold.
Everything shines in this orange hour, a last flash in the pan, you want this fire and this flame, you want the flush and the heat before stillness and sleep… and indigo creeps in and this gold turns orange, turns pink, … turning into navy and finally violet skies before disappearing into black velvet.
The shadows of the city reappear out of the cracks and crevices and pockets like Victorian roustabouts on a silent crawl looking for trouble, somewhere, anywhere, always, trouble waves them over since time immemorial.
The outline of the city is a different joy to behold in the evening.
Families make way for the lovers under the gas and electric lamps.
The Eternal City never feels the same way twice in a night where life is always on the cusp of being tasted, of being taken. Roma feels like ten centuries in one burst, a slow, deep, long kiss before dying.

love and the colosseum

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The Colosseum from an off the beaten path vantage point in Rome, where we all want to feel beauty and find love.

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Rather than just street views up close, some of the ruins can be viewed from greenery, captured like a stolen moment between lovers.

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The sun breaking through the “windows” of the colosseum still inspires excitement in me after 20 years in Rome.

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See how small we are in this world, and how the ancients wanted to remind us of that?

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The view of more centuries of history mashed together from atop the crowds, with the ancient symbol of fecundity a pomegranate in bronze.

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Arches built for faded triumphs, still gazed upon thousands of years later.

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The verdant hills of the Palentine whisper of a pastoral Rome found normally on the winding road of the interminable Appian Way.

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Angels were found in Classical Antiquity, and have guided me along my own travels in the Eternal City.

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The marble of Roma seems the only thing built to last some days.

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A Roman bride as bright as a white dove sent as some augur of hope amidst the ruins.

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Love can not wait for time to take over and wreak havoc.

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A Renaissance fountain and umbrella pines tucked away quietly from the crowds.

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Water and moss glint in the sunlight and shadow.

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The present is pulled between the past ashes and the future hopes.

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When in Rome embrace love, life, and passion in the moment… bathe in warm sunshine before the sun crawls west and the moon rises in the east again, except for two days of the year.

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The moment is now, the touch is palpable, the hum of machinery is drowned out by the flight and song of sparrows, the cypress and umbrella pines wave in the breeze, and the scent of wine and food beckons like a kiss from nearby.

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Laugh in the face of death while you still can, make love in the dying of the light to make your embers burn deeper, richer, more wildly.

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The gods have left their dice behind, we only have to roll them.

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Remember what has been, recognize who you are, breathe it all in, and then move with the traffic to the next thing.

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The vestiges must be broken from something solid and beautiful before we are all dust.

 

let us lose ourselves 

 
Are they a shadow now? Can they hear your thoughts now that they’re ether, a chimera, soon to be dust? What becomes of love when you lose the object behind it?

To think you will join them one day; older, wiser, less you than they remember.

Your dust will never become theirs. There is no map to follow, no compass, no ship or footpath to take, no direction to fly in except to fling oneself back into space.

The will of love, the struggle, the battle for tender ownership is gone. They have vanished, you will vanish, it appears life is lived to once more succumb.


What are subterraneans to each other but cells divided once more and spread through the earth? That cold science of it, when emotions which once ran hot have now ended.

What is love but a bargain with a dream to not yet wake up?

You love your visceral charge, the pulp and sponge of brains and bodies mingling, the clawed caress of longing. The rush of losing. The falling. A little pain goes a long way towards desire, toward the fumbling of the living.

You like your love laced with sadness, no, you like your misery traced with desire, you like the reaching out to hold onto another who turns and looks and then really sees you. No motherly embrace, no fatherly pat on the hand, no lone anchor inside yourself compares with the mirrored eyes of a lover.

To know the unknowable, to reach the unreachable, to fold into a future grief as though the stars made a gift for only you. The pulse means more when there is someone else to listen to it. The ticking clock of your life suddenly speeds up… Every bell once a death knell has become a hallelujah.

The blush of love is the breaking of sun through the tops of trees, the breaking of the waves, the sky after the storm, the first cry at birth, the first hint of pain that can be sweet. To become alive in another’s eyes and heart, to ignite a mind, to wish for them more than you wish yourself.

—An excerpt from one of my pieces in the ongoing writing and audio installation series “Let Me Lose Myself” in Skogskyrkogården in Stockholm, Sweden, 2016 — for ccseven.

On Italy, on Love, a Keatsian letter never sent

I write to you from Italy. It’s where I belong, if I belong anywhere in this world. I should be writing this in Italian, that beautiful language… the language of Dante, and poetry, and of the maestros, but I’ve mastered one language only, English. Mastered it with the devotion of a life long lover who never grows bored. Such is my devotion to Italia itself. To the stories of Italy, to the soil, the sun, the gleaming stripped marble of ruins, the art, the hum of life for centuries still playing in stone.

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Love and Italy are entwined for me. But love for a place feels less dangerous than love for another soul. What is it about love more than any other sensation or state that makes it worth dying for for nearly everybody? Is it the intoxication? Is it that danger of falling; first in love, —the surrender of giving oneself so completely to another, and then, —the alluring danger of falling into disrepute and disintegration? 
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You’ll never have nowhere to go, I heard in a song once. That’s the other thing about love too, isn’t it? If you are my fail safe, I’ll be your home. We’ll never have nowhere to go, we’ll never be quite alone, never be utterly lost in the world with our pieces of love tethered to an anchor. Love gives you the buoyancy of floating, even at the end of a rope. The deeper the love, the deeper the water, the longer the line, the sweeter the kiss, the saltier the tears. The deeper the knife plunge. Something like that.

 (Shot by me, double exposed b&w film, protestant cemetery, Rome, Italy, 2008)

Loving is swimming that feels like floating, falling that feels like flying, until loving feels like drowning when there’s still a spark in the brain and air in the lungs, — quickly quickly at first, then slower, slower so there’s a flicker of hope, until the last tick tick tock of blue veins and dark arterial blood, and with the sounds of a few trite memories, voices of ghosts before you’ve forgotten, —then the spark is faltering again, then flickering out, the air is now escaping, —then, at once — nothing.

 (shot by me, portra film, capri protestant cemetery, isle of Capri, Italy, 2013)

Keats said, “Love is my religion; I could die for it.” Not for religion, not for country, not for god or even one’s soul, but for love itself, that fickle slow dying and quickening and petering out and rushing back and dissolving of self, that is worth dying for, each and every time. 

We hope for one great love in life, but perhaps there is a beauty in a few great loves, slipped into and out of like different characters? Multiple loves for multiple lives. 

 (analog photograph by the amazing Francesca Woodman)

That’s what we have, you and I, isn’t it? We fall in and out of love, in and out of each other? We hunt and repel, we submerge together, and reemerge on opposite sides, —we crash back into, then back away, sometimes we look away when speaking… 

Tell me when does love stagnate? When the newness of sex becomes too familiar or the nuances of our narratives loses their mystery? When we lose ourselves a little too much to capture the other, and no longer “get each other?” When the brains soften followed by the body?   

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I fear I’ll never feel that with Italy, my love will never die for its myths and beauty. I’ll always return to its warmth, its reminder of death, and of the temporary. My love for you also feels endless, for it is already a ruin we revisit, happily, to hold onto the dust a little longer, to declare we were once here, to hope when we’re carrion our love will find itself in the hum pressed into stone too.

throw out your guidebooks

Throw your guidebooks to the side (after you’ve seen the major sights) and get a little lost for an afternoon in Rome.

Side step vespas and taxis and pilgrims and other tourists behind maps, and get lost for a while. 

Do as the Romans do.

Bow in and out of the slants of sunlight and vespas, use sounds of water fountains and laughter as your navigation. 

An off the beaten path is not merely a passage but a rite and a full circle. 

When walking in Rome you are witness to the many passions of people in a cacophony of color and sound and motion. 

Roma begins to makes sense to you as you feel follow its rhythm; it is foreign and antique and familiar all at once. 

Rome is history in the bones of the city stirring the blood.

Roma changes you.

What could I suggest to you but to drink in the sublime here? 

See the city for the thousands of layers rather than one wild jumble.

Beauty is on display, oh yes, —but so is reflection of the human and the divine in every corner. 

The celebration of the individual is found even in the smallest of details in Rome. 

Art is a living thing. 

The story of mankind is in a treasured relic, and in a sip of espresso, and in a stolen kiss. 

Life is found in another language where the words are less important than the feelings they conjur in us all in the moment.

Rome is the tug of a heartbeat in a pulse before the veil falls over you.

Rome is a reminder of death that is very much a reminder to live! To live now!!

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villa farnesina

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The Villa Farnesina is an early 16th century Renaissance suburban villa in the Via della Lungara, in the district of Trastevere in Rome, central Italy. It has incredible frescoes by Raphäel,  Sebastiano del Piombo, Giulio Romano, and Il Sodoma. The villa was built for Agostino Chigi, a rich Sienese banker and the treasurer of Pope Julius II. It was later purchased by Cardinale Farnese (future pope and brother to the Borgia mistress, Giulia Farnese).

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I had always missed visiting the lovely Villa Farnesina on earlier trips to Rome so I was delighted to finally see it in person in October 2012. The villa has a pretty little garden in the courtyard and larger gardens (fenced off) on one side. There is an understated elegance to the grounds and exterior architecture for a Renaissance palazzo. There are pink roses and pomegranate trees in clay pots.

FH050003And little lemon trees and stone lined pathways. Trastevere is a great neighborhood to visit when in Rome and this villa is even more off the beaten path if you are looking for an alternative to the usual Roman Holiday Tour.

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After the initial two or three visits to Rome I’ve tried to visit more of the quiet corners of the city and get to know my favorite spots better. It’s a “slow food” approach to travel and it’s worked pretty well for us. FH050004The large grande dame museums of Rome are wonderful to visit, especially if you have limited time in the city. But if you have an extra day or the off the beaten path vacation is more your speed, I suggest visiting one, two or three small villa or palazzo art museums. Farnesina, Doria Pamphlij, Spada, Borghese (the Queen) and a few others.

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The Loggia of Psyche by Raphaël and his workshop

It’s difficult to convey how astounding it is just standing on the marble floors, looking up at all the beautiful frescoes. Walking the same halls so many infamous and interesting figures had crossed centuries before.

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The museum was quiet and there were a few small groups moving in and out of the rooms. I had time to view the work in complete silence and solitude which rarely happens in a larger, more popular museum.

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Venus, Ceres and Juno

I had run out of color film so I shot these magnificent frescoes in black and white. I think they at least capture the richness of the dark colors and the creaminess of the “skin”. The color in person was vibrant for such old masterpieces.

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Cupid and The Three Graces, 1517-1518

A part of the great appeal Renaissance art has for me is it’s allusions to classical literature and mythology. In order to understand the works beyond my emotional response to them or my aesthetic pleasure in them, the allegorical works force me to learn the meaning behind them and catch a glimpse of the artist’s intention behind the work. What does the piece mean philosophically? Politically? What does it say about love? Man? And God? About life? And death? What historical event are they re-imagining? Beyond the beauty I am hungry for the history.

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Venus on the Chariot Pulled by Doves, 1517-1518

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The Council of the Gods, 1517-1518

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When I was there I was amused to find graffiti carved into one of the walls in German! Well, normally I’d be less amused but it’s from a later Barbarian Invasion of Rome in the 16th century! At the time I couldn’t find anyone to translate it for me.

During recent restorations, an ancient “graffiti”, in German gothic, came to light between the columns. It marks the passage of the Lansquenets and states: “1528 – why shouldn’t I laugh: the Lansquenets have put the Pope to flight.”

From the windows on the first floor there is a beautiful view of the gardens. A pleasant stroll under the laurel bower leads to a marble plaque which bears the inscription:

Quisquis huc accedis: quod tibi horridum videtur mihi amoenum est; si placet, maneas, si taedet abeas, utrumque gratum.

[Trad.: Whoever enters here: what seems horrid to you is pleasant to me. If you like it, stay, if it bores you, go away; both are equally pleasing to me. ] – Academia Nazionale die Lincei

The Villa Farnesina in Rome, Italy is open from

Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.,

Closed on Sundays and holidays
Guided tours on Monday, Friday and Saturday at 12.30

 

//photographs copyright rebecca price butler …

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