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.

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standing at the ruins on a quiet roman night

Rome is pieced together by fragments old and new; a broken clay pile of people who have lived and died, and are forgotten, rivaling the Monte Testaccio in size and obscurity.

Rome is the heaviness of time. It is the marks left on humanity. It is a walkable history book, forever unfolding its pages.

Rome is monuments of the big whigs leaving you breathless with their grand scale and an overwhelming rush of beauty.

‘Everyone is dead here’, the city whispers, in a voice softened against the bone-white marble of ruins.

The palatine lies silent under the stars. This is your one moment to catch your breath and savor Rome.

Try to stop time by breathing it in slowly. Hold it in, and take a sensory snapshot. Stand there, holding your breath, recording, feeling as immovable as a statue; a Henry James’ American willing a sacrifice to the pagan gods.

‘Just let me remember this. Let this enter me. The endlessness of it. The cobwebs. The broken stone. The bones. The dust. The pulse remaining somehow. Let me carry Rome where ever I go. Let it become a part of me. No, let me become a part of Rome. Another story never writ, another name unknown.’

     

   


Italy and England 

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There’s old Winston Churchill watching Big Ben, in Westminster, London, in March 2014.

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An anglophile’s dream: the omnipresent iconic red telephone box.

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Wandering around Portobello Road, in the Notting Hill neighborhood.

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The street art / grafitti is like The Sex Pistols and the Bbc all rolled into one.

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Tea at Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s house was quite amusing.

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Enjoyed searching for british china tea cups and white darjeeling on a half deserted faire.

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After wandering the many lovely garden parks of london wound up at  Buckingham’s Gate.tumblr_n2din7vCpZ1qznevxo4_1280

Making the pilgrimage to John Keats house at Hampstead Heath, London, after years of visiting the flat he died in, and laying flowers at his grave, in Rome.

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A room with a view…over the Thames, I was always excited to wake up to (and to raise my glass to) Big Ben.

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Saw the beautiful La Boheme set in 1940s Paris at the Royal Albert Hall.

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From the window of “221 b Baker Street, London

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From the beautiful garden of John Keats home, where he fell in love with Fanny Brawne and wrote some of his greatest poems.

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From the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. I do love a cloister.

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You have no idea how deep my anglophilia goes because I am always going on about Italy but these signs gave me a profound joy.

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This sign is so British it hurts.

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One of those moments in London an American or most foreigners savor.

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Always, a pilgrimage, a  beauty, a joy. John Keats forever. English Romanticism forever. B3-yzpZIAAIuVOk.jpg-large

Down the cloistered hall… like a dream of English classics, literary characters dancing in my head, London, a city looming in my brain of larger than life characters and eccentric, wonderful stories and frightful tales.

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The heartbreakingly beautiful dream of Italy view from my dreamy Sorrento hotel room terrazzo.

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Walking along the Appian Way on a quiet, car-free Sunday in Rome or along the Renaissance Via Guilia, I am forever excited and in awe over the small beauties and signs of the ancient world in this magical, mysterious city open-armed to the world.

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The architecture and cafes are familiar but I feel and live Rome anew each visit. There’s always something new to discover or a passion to stumble onto. Life is in the moment. It is heavy with the past, it is so alive it smacks of the future, but it is so wildly, lightly felt in the now, in the moment, Rome is like dreaming awake, feeling everything. Everything!

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Finding new off the beaten path cafes was a big favorite of mine in Italy this year. Always in search of the quiet moments and the hidden corners of Rome. This cafe was in Trastevere where you can sit and sip espresso and gaze at a Baroque Madonna painted onto a church exterior wall.

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I love the Eternal City because it has so many layers of history and love and unknown stories and marks of time and beauty in decay and new life bursting forth in a macabre, colored, brilliant celebration in Roman life today.

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Took a boat around my favorite island and swam in the Tyrrhenian sea on Capri, a place which invokes everything beautiful, lush and ancient about Southern Italy. There’s nothing quite like it.

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Returned to a lot of the same pleasures of the past, freshly squeezed oranges and lemons, under the Italian sun, by a Neapolitan woman who sings all day as she flitters around her Kiosk on the gorgeous Via Tragara.

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A return to Pompeii, the fascinating buried city with Vesuvius watchful in the distance.

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Meeting new friends abroad 🙂

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Long walks soaking in the sun and the past.

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Architectural details in half-obscured gardens of small villa art museums (full of amazing Renaissance, ancient and baroque Italian art)!

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Being the foreigner in a city you fall into like a comfortable affair.

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The moments you can’t anticipate but happen upon in the most beautiful of happenstances.

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My favorite spot on earth for the golden hour, on the Pincian Hill in Rome. This is before the view of the Popolo.

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A typical Roman street, wrapped into the mystery of fragments and pieces of history.

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The beauty of being overwhelmed in Rome.

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Cafe life in Italy, a class of wine or a coffee, a little treat, there is nothing like it. Another layered moment captured, to be savored and remembered palpably.

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On every wall there is a reminder of death and a reminder of love, the eternal kind, of love that lasts, and of life in the hand too.

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Rome, a city to return to, one that keeps its shutters open to the world, long enough for an unforgettable peek.

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Since that first moment I arrived there, now, and always, for Roma.

For traveling, for seeing the world, for meeting new people, and for being at home in the world.

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Here’s to 2014… and here is a cheers to 2015 and a new year of adventure and experience and chasing beauty!

Anaïs Nin’s 111th birthday

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Today, February 21, 2014 is Anaïs Nin’s 111th anniversary of her birth. She died in 1977.

She was the artist and writer who inspired me to read more books (she detailed and listed classics of literature in her literary diaries and helped in no small way to introduce me to much of the more interesting side of the western canon.

 

I found her through Henry Miller, who was recommended to me at 17 by a smug faced twenty something dishwasher at the restaurant I was a cashier girl and bartender for, the famed Harvard haunt Bartley’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

I found Anaïs searching for another Miller book to read after Crazy Cock and Tropic of Cancer, and ironically, (I would find out later), I found Anaïs and forgot about Henry for awhile , until I got to Henry & June, in which he featured.

 

I spent a lot of time as an English major and bookish girl trawling the college library shelves and the second hand bookshops of Boston and Cambridge. Nin’s childhood diary Linotte literally jumped from the shelf when I was looking for Henry and landed in front of my feet. How could I refuse a book hurling itself at me? It was a sign from the fates.

 

I picked up her beautifully written, rather innocent, girlhood journal which began as a letter to her absent father at aged 11 as she sailed across the sea to New York and the new world with her European mother and brothers. I couldn’t put the book down and when it was finished I eagerly sought out the continued series of Diaries which detail her whole life from ages 11 to seventy something. I also read her fiction, novellas, poetry and my personal favorite, her astounding literary criticism and advice on writing. D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study and In Favour of the Sensitive Man are two stand outs.

 

As I sit here and sip champagne and blood orange juice and re-read her timeless quotes, I am reminded of how radical her thinking and living was to a teenage girl who loved the lost generation and the 1920s. Anaïs not only encouraged me to travel, she encouraged me to read what I wanted and to write, to paint, to sketch, to meet people, to look for adventure, to see the magic in every day life, to risk things. To question authority and identity and ask myself the questions: is there really only one self or multiple selves? Can dreams ever be actualized? Can a woman really live more than one life? Can life be fantastic some times? What role do I want to play in the world?

 

Although, like Anaïs, I grew up with an absent father and an artist mother who had to work very hard just to feed, shelter and clothe her and her children, and who was poor growing up, I followed her lead in dreaming big and making plans to see the world and pursue art and culture because that is what mattered to me. I refused to see them as out of reach. And today I have been able to realize those dreams, step by step, of traveling and becoming intimately acquainted with Italy and other places I love. I have pursued my love of photography and writing.

 

It is not always easy to feel talented or confident about your work but I do try to search for the marvelous in every day life and seek out the fantastic and what moves me.

 

I try to engage with people who are also questioning life and their assigned roles, other artists and thinkers. I pursue passions and pleasures and try to find a balance…

 

I can be too much of an extremist, hedonist or dreamer some times in an absent minded professor way, which isn’t always great for paying the bills and attending to mundane responsibilities!

 

But I have had the attitude that we are here now, we live now, and I don’t want to wait until I am retired to see and experience the world. I also look for art and culture where I live and in creative friendships and partnerships which enrichen and enliven, as Anaïs did with some of the most creative and eclectic minds of the 20th century.

 

Nin’s dragged up relationship dramas aside, I focus on the brilliant, courageous, rebellious, mischievous, fascinating, multi-layered, artistic, open writer Anaïs Nin was and in her gorgeous, atmospheric, insightful writing, I find that constant source of clarity and inspiration I need to live fully in my dreams and in the day to day.

 

I owe such a tremendous debt to Anaïs Nin and her work.

 

You can also find me on twitter quoting her work:

http://twitter.com/anaisnin 

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I had always believed in Andre Breton’s freedom, to write as one thinks, in the order and disorder in which one feels and thinks, to follow sensations and absurd correlations of events and images, to trust to the new realms they lead one into.

“The cult of the marvelous.” Also the cult of the unconscious leadership, the cult of mystery, the evasion of false logic. The cult of the unconscious as proclaimed by Rimbaud. It is not madness. It is an effort to transcend the rigidities and the patterns made by the rational mind.

Winter, 1931-1932 The Diary of Anaïs Nin , Volume One 1931-1934

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You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book (Lady Chatterley, for instance), or you take a trip, or you talk with Richard, and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death.
The Diary of Anaïs Nin , Volume One 1931-1934

italian journey

  • Rome is a Fellini movie. It is the annual barbarian invasion. It is a lack of catalytic converters. It is hundreds of vespas whirring and beeping through roundabouts. It is a hypnotic siren screaming through the city.
  • Rome is an open-aired art museum, a feast for all the senses. It is packed with all that I want out of life, footsteps away from the next breathtaking view or taste. It is life and death in some delicate balance, in a dance on the edge of something imperceptible. It is the footsteps of Artemisia Gentileschi, it is the footsteps of the Caesars. It is 6,000 year old Egyptian obelisks, it is 1800 year old Aurelian walls, it is the Grand Old Tour still walkable. It is the burial grounds of the English Romantic Poets. It is a dream. It is the eternal city. All roads still lead to it.
  • Venezia is a Grimm fairytale come to life, a place of winding, labyrinthine bridges and walkways. A place for spies and mercenaries. A city of corners and gondola rides at night, when no-one else is on the water and the gondolier sings old songs out into the dark while you float past the Rialto Bridge and the apartments of Casanova. Venice is the 1700s. Venice is a child’s dream, or nightmare; a place to wander to hear the echoes of your footsteps over endless stone. To move in and out of chocolate shops, each window more and more decadent in their display, until your pockets are overflowing with Venus’ Nipples and confectionaries. Venice is candy and wine, canals and shuttered windows with a latch missing so you can listen to a record playing Billie Holiday songs, her voice finding nowhere to rest, because Venice is not made of earth it is made of bones. Venice is gnocchi and gorgonzola. It is carnival masks and orchestras. It is the smell of water and decay. It is a memory.
  • Firenze is for the maestros. Florence is sweet shops and pignolis and bridges. Florence is theRenaissance. It is inventions and giants and towers. It is candied almonds and hot chocolate and olive trees. It is truffled pesto. It is chestnuts and hazelnut cream. Florence is old bookshops and new students among a sea of young faces and young lovers’ bodies. It is rolling hills and gardens. It is palazzos and art museums and intrigues. It is Dante’s inferno. It is Savonarola’s funeral pyre. It is the last gasp of the Medicis.
  • Milano is birds and textiles and modern life teeming with the future. It is fashion. It is elegant and impersonal. It is brief. It is closed for renovation so you don’t get to see Da Vinci’s Last Supper, which is the reason you went there in the first place. It is Occidental, it is larger than life, it is dry white wines and prosecco. It is always moving.
  • Capri is Tiberius’ playground, it is the Blue Grotto, it is a private boat around the island, it is climbing jagged rocks and everything painted Santorini like; blue and white, yellow and gold. It isAna Capri, it is postcard pretty, boutique hotels, it is capreses and spumante for breakfast. It is the blue-green sea and sailboats glittering among the Bay of Naples. It is the jet-setters and the day-trippers. It is one little piazza and two cafes. It is the Madonna of the rocks. It is the Villa San Michele. It is the bird’s eye view of everything. It is the sparkle of sun on the water.
  • Sorrento is a bustling city-village. It is on the edge of the Bay of Naples, the connector to sights and sounds of the Amalfi coast. Sorrento is orange and lemon scented. It is orange and lemon groves and tomatoes on the vine, ripening to a deep red. It is gigantic, fleshy lemons used for white fish and sweet delicate lemons for limoncello. It is capers and shellfish and bufalo mozzarella from Campania.
  • Napoli is the street, it is life in the streets. Naples is long, narrow alleyways, with tiny rows of iron balconies draped neatly with laundry. It the smell of the sea. It is the best view of Vesuvius. Naples is a garbage problem. It is 30% unemployment thirty years running. Naples is beautiful between the shadows.
  • Naples is a sprawling, glittering, wild animal of a city, it is the pulse and growl of a wild thing. It is a faded kingdom, a half empty castle, a city on a hill. It is the Spaccanapoli, it is the best coffee in the world, the best bread, the best pizza. It is the tarnished jewel of the south, it is, as oneMilanese said to me recently, the North’s shame. It is proud.
  • Naples is a living, breathing chiaroscuro. It is Caravaggios getaway. It is fishing boats. It is theMuseo Archeoligico, the Capidimonte, the cloistered gardens filled with painted Spanish tiles. Naples is the house for the spoils of Pompeii. It is an opera, played out in the living room of the town square, it is the family pasiegetta. It is Januarius’ blood, it is the outstretched wings of aswallow, it is the solemn hum of machinery. It is ecstasy and despair. It is a crying out.

    It is see Naples and die.

  • – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

  • * an extra note on rome:

    Roma was my first European city.

    It was my first glimpse of the things I find most beautiful in the world.

    There were ruins, Renaissance architecture, 600 year old fountains and marble floors. 

    There were Greco-Roman mosaics, pagan temples, frescoes, umbrella pines and cypress trees in manicured gardens.

    And ancient aqueducts to wander around in.

    There was hot espresso and spicy wine to drink and penne all’arrabbiata, a classic Roman dish, to taste.

    Rome had decayed beauty balanced out by its bright earthy colors against the perfect sunsets.

    There were fat clouds against azure skies. 

    When in Rome that oft used but true cliché – that la dolce vita – the sweet life, is alive and well in the eternal city.

    There were a thousand church bells ringing throughout the city on afternoon walks, from the very churches packed with masterpieces.

    There were elegant villa museums full of Italian art and baroque curves and decorated with ancient statuary. Rome was everything all at once.