poetry, prose, and image by Brittney S Holland

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Roman Holiday Faves

...in no particular order
  1. the pastries
  2. the espresso
  3. the wine
  4. cobbled stone streets
  5. street side cafes
  6. the little, old men (so charming)
  7. the windows in my hotel room
  8. confession at The Vatican
  9. mass at The Vatican
  10. The Sistine Chapel
  11. The Basilica de Santa Maria in Trastevera
  12. the piazza in Trastevera on Sunday afternoon

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Who Knew?

I promise to continue my posts on Italy, but today I want to write about something else, a jewel of a discovery I made while browsing a vintage bookshop on Friday. Eudora Welty was a photographer. Yes, Eudora Welty. Who knew?

Don't know Eudora Welty? That's quite alright. She's an American author, highly anthologized for her stories set in the American South. You perhaps read her along the same time you read stories by Katherine Anne Porter and Flannery O'Connor. Don't recognizes those names? Perhaps that's because their stories too often pale in the literary lights of William Faulkner, Earnest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. Those were, indeed, "hard acts to follow"...especially for a Southern woman.

Such is life.

But it's Eudora's photographs I want to talk to you about today. They are truly captivating. Vintage...yes. A little rough at times...yes. I think these add to their character. And...perhaps my fascination with the recently discovered Vivian Maier and her soon-to-be-released book of images (November) predisposes me to such excitement, but I am truly enchanted. For those of you who are photography buffs, Eudora's images are not fine art photography; they are street images. Mostly, she captures people living in and around Mississippi, people who resonate with the images I conjure when I read her stories. And...perhaps it is this that captures me.

I , too, love watching people, filing them away in my mind for a future speaker in a poem. I also love the insights I gain about humanity while watching others (especially when they don't know I'm watching).

If only I possessed Eudora's courage. (Alas, I am shy.) Her images, unlike the street shots I posted from my trip to Rome, are intimate. Her subjects clearly know they are being photographed, and many times they look directly into the lens.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

love and water

Rome, Italy 2011

I have come to understand that love is like water. Try to resist love, withhold love, contain it…it will forge its way forth. Consider the Grand Canyon. Erosion exists because water must find its way.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

savoring the moment

-espresso at a street-side cafe in Rome, Italy, 2011 (iPhone image)

Here in the US, a cup of coffee is often an afterthought, something we order to accompany something else. “I’ll have a blueberry muffin and a large coffee with two creams.” “I’d like a piece of your apple pie and a cup of decaf.” And with the help of Starbucks’ marketing, cups of coffee have even been ushered into the realm of modern accessory (still an accompaniment). “Sunglasses…check. iPhone…check. White, paper cup with cardboard sleeve…check.”

What’s that?

Do you doubt me?

How else can we explain the popularity of “coffee drinks,” many of which are ten percent coffee and ninety percent syrupy, creamy goodness? Those, dear readers, are for the consumer who likes the idea of coffee more than the coffee itself.

In Rome, however, a “cup of coffee” – more specifically espresso or cappuccino – is both an event and the star attraction. Every cafĂ© I visited had an espresso bar, appointed with stools and brass foot rails. I saw no drive-thru service options, and I saw no paper cups in the hands of passers by. Romans take time for a leisurely cup. They sit, they sip, and they talk.

(I’d also like to add that their servings were mostly very small and very dark. No fluff there, honey!)

Here’s a thought…

How often do we take time out of our day for a cup of anything? Time and out are the operative words in that question. Time spent doing nothing but enjoying a cup of coffee or tea or even ice water? Time spent with our own thoughts, or time spent enjoying someone else’s company? So caught up are we in the fashion of multi-tasking, that I suspect most of us are mindlessly sipping while checking our e-mails or texting or driving or watching television. Some of you, perhaps, are sipping while reading this blog.

That is certainly our way in the Holland house. Regardless of the beverage, multi-tasking supersedes human-to-human interaction. The television is almost always on. There are three people, three laptops, three cell phones. It should go without saying, then, that my favorite times of the day are school mornings, dinnertime, and my son’s bedtime.

Mornings, because my son’s face is the first face I see (well, the second actually, since Simon’s is the first…met about two inches from my nose.) Then while my son showers, Simon and I go outside for some early-morning fetch beneath the stars…and yes, I always sip my morning cup.

Bedtime is when I get to enjoy some surprisingly quality moments with my son. (Sometimes I think he’s more talkative at bedtime to prolong the inevitable, but I’m not complaining.)

Dinnertime, unfortunately, grows increasingly hit-or-miss as his activity schedule becomes more complex, and as our house increasingly becomes the neighborhood hangout for his friends (I’ve finally convinced his father that this is a good thing).

With all this multi-tasking and digital media that’s supposed to help mankind streamline lives, why are we not discovering more time for each other? Why do we seem to grow more and more disconnected from one another?

Here’s my challenge to you.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, or a cold beer if that’s your preference, and turn off the television. Close your laptop and silence your phone. Then…spend however long it takes you to SIP your beverage enjoying the moment. Enjoying someone’s company? Well that’s an added bonus.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"For us to go to Italy..."

"and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery –

back, back down the old ways of time....

Strange and wonderful chords awake in us,

and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness."

Sea and Sardinia, D.H. Lawrence

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Time to Focus on Me

Rome, Italy 2011

If you have been following Simon Says for a while, then you know I contracted Dengue Fever while in Puerto Rico. At the time, it seemed a terribly cruel twist of irony…I finally had an opportunity to travel beyond the continental US, and I came home with an illness that landed me in the hospital.

Dengue Fever isn’t something we see much here; I believe I was one of five reported cases among Georgia residents (since the 90’S?). My blood work was sent to the CDC for an official diagnosis, and it was the CDC who “followed up” with me after my release. So, when my physician admitted me to the hospital, he sent me with the knowledge that there are four strains (one of which can be fatal) and the hope that mine would be one of the other three. I was classified neutropenic and denied visitors, flowers, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. I was hooked up to IV fluids and told to wait. Wait and see what happens. Wait on the CDC. Wait.

Idly waiting is not something I do well. My patience is only as good as my ability to stay busy. There, in that hospital bed, with no energy and no one to keep me company, all I could do was lie there and think. I thought about my life and of all the things for which I still hoped. I thought about the thin line I walked between nobly accepting circumstances and my own cowardice. I am not unlike Thornton Wilder’s Marquesa in The Bridge of San Luis Rey. I too realized the reality of my life. Thank goodness God has afford me a different fate than Wilder afforded The Marquesa. (She fell with the bridge two days later.) I recovered from Dengue and continually strive to live differently.

When my time comes, no one will care how smart I am or how many degrees I hold or how many scholarly texts I write. What will matter is how I loved. So I have given up my pursuit of a PhD, not because I no longer wish to teach literature at the college level, but because of the sacrifices the coursework demands. I have given up my position as the English Department Chair where I teach. I have given up my Advanced Placement classes. I have given up these things because of their demands on my time, time I want to spend being a fully-present mother while I still have a child young enough to need me. And...I now have time to write for pleasure and garden and cook and run and take pictures and play the piano. I now have time to spend a leisurely, Sunday afternoon cuddling on the couch with a lazy, lovable weim. I now have time to go to museums and to the symphony, time to study a little Italian, time to drop everything and go to Rome.

With all this time on my hands, I am a much happier person than I was before Dengue. I smile more. I laugh more. I love more openly and more fully. I see moments now, moments I might otherwise have missed.