The BeautifulBeautiful is easy here. It's everywhere you look. Here's the evidence of that:
|Castello Maniace, in the light of the setting sun|
|Sometimes it was the January weather. But only sometimes|
|But when it was the weather, it was truly beautiful.|
|Everyday it was breakfast at the best cafe, perhaps in the universe.|
|Siracusa's youth gather to watch the sunset over their city's storied port.|
One place, at first, seemed beautiful. And the perfect location for me to write my novel, which begins in 1692. I had rented an apartment, and unbeknownst to me, it was located in a 16th or 17th century palazzo--exactly the sort of place where the main character in my WIP would have lived.
|Inside the street level door is the cortile, open to the sky.|
|Looking back to the street entrance.|
That door in the yellow wall above the archway leads to the room where I slept. I was delighted when I saw it; I had already imagined its exact dimensions and set an early scene in it.
I stayed for a week with visiting friends, but the apartment, though swanky, turned out to be too uncomfortable to bear once I was there alone. Insufficient heating (the weather was remarkably cold for this part of the world) failed to warm the ancient stone walls, and I couldn't sit still and work, though dressed in several layers and wrapped in blankets. I decamped to a hotel and arranged for an early return to Florence and to my own place--far less regal, but one hundred percent comfortable.
Mid-Jauary this year had billions all over the world riveted (many in horror) on Washington DC. We here in Italy certainly had that miserable business on our minds, but we were spellbound by a perfect storm of catastrophe. The mood of these events brought me back to my early childhood, when a little girl in California fell into a well and everyone in my house was focused on radio reports of attempts to rescue her, and people in the streets talked of little else.
Starting on 16 January, a series of four strong earthquakes hit high in the Abruzzi, just about simultaneously with a blizzard of unheard of proportions, which dumped more than 15 feet (5 meters) of snow on the area. Thousands were stuck in mangled houses without heat or light or phone service. Then an avalanche buried a small hotel, trapping 30 or more people--families, the staff. Rescue workers could not get to them for more than a day. A few went in on skis, but the wind was too high at first to allow helicopters anywhere near the mountain. And cutting a road in was extremely slow, with a wall of the white stuff dwarfing a huge plow.
|Machines that can quickly clear 15 feet of snow do not exist.|
|Cross-country skiing members of the Vigili del Fuoco reached the site. This|
one is looking at the roof of a three-story building.
|They dug out nine survivors, at first with their hands. including three children. |
Twenty-three people died or are presumed dead.
The Bad and the Beautiful
In the Cathedral at Noto, we saw sculptures made from pieces of refugee boats that have washed up on Italian shores.
|The brass plate at the bottom says, "Who will pray for those|
| "The Wooden Cross" ordinarily refers to the cross of Christ. |
It breaks my heart that so many who call themselves Christians
don't feel this in their hearts.
My cousin Anna Puglisi teaches in this public school for 14-19 year olds. Please keep in mind that these kids opted to major in Science.
This year, for the second in row, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, they and their teachers turned their entire school into a Shoa Museum open over the weekend. It was one of the most moving places I have ever been.
|"Not To Be Forgotten"|
|In the classrooms along this corridor,were displays of visual arts, dance, and music.|
|This student made a replica of the little suitcase of a girl whose life and|
movements she had researched.
These future scientists dedicated their room to portraying the evil experiments of Mengele, the angel of death.
|The students acted out the history, while the lad in the foreground|
delivered an emotionally charged narration.
|Photos of children robbed of their childhoods|
Students had collected identity card photos and the biographies of lost children. Several students gave first person accounts of the lives of child victims. They did this one to one with visitors. Impossible not to weep during their performances.
The students wrote their own lines, made the sets and costumes. And they created and engineered videos. Many of the performances were remarkably intense. I reiterate. This is not a school of the arts. And these are not children of privilege. They are middle class and working class young people whose own hearts have been touched by what they learned and who have developed a passion for communicating these stories to their own community.