Monday, March 20, 2017

Going to Extremes

Annamaria on Monday

My winter in the Eastern Hemisphere was extreme in a number of ways. 

At 83 days, it was my longest time away from home ever.

I logged a lot of air miles: one trip took me from Hoedspruit to Jo’burg to Dubai to Rome to Florence in 28 hours.  And the trip back to New York, last week—from Florence to Dusseldorf to London to New York, lasted just under 24.

During my stay in Cape Town, Stan took us down to the Cape of Good Hope, which to me, growing up in New Jersey, has always seemed like the other end of the world.

But more than the physical, it was the emotional extremes that made my last three months so intense.    

For one thing, my adventurous spirit burns as bright as ever, but I am still learning to fly solo.  So venturing forth comes with a great high of anticipation, but also a daunting unfilled need to validate the experience by sharing it with a dear companion.  Full and empty at the same time.

This yin and yang followed me wherever I went, most intensely during that week I spent in the bush, where my soul was nourished, as it ever has been in that sacred environment.  But still my heart was tugged by an ever-present longing for what was missing.

I carried two photos with me the whole while.  One is my favorite photo of myself, at age 14 months.  I still feel this exuberant, enthusiastic, loving child inside me, reaching out.


The other is my favorite picture of David, one I took of him looking out over the vast Serengeti.  What I had with him is also still with me, though it is gone forever from my daily life.

While in this complicated state of mind, it helped me to pay close attention to the night sky.  Perhaps that old saw is truly wise—that the vastness of the universe puts our petty problems in perspective.  But perhaps there is a deeper truth—that all that darkness and those intense lights become truly beautiful only if we experience them as two aspects of the same picture.

The Moon and Venus as seen from my terrace in Florence

There is a tree next to Stan’s bungalow at Ingwelala.  He told me that elephants had come into the garden and, inexplicably, after eating a few leaves from the top, broke the tree in half, leaving only a stump.  It seemed dead.  Then, afterwards, a new branch grew from the bare trunk.  I fell in love with that tree.  It seemed symbolic of my life.  Something came along, something that seemed random, that tried to kill it, but it grew a new branch, and it lived.

At my request, Stan took this picture of me with that tree.



  1. Two beautiful photos of two beautiful people...and the one of the tree makes three.

    1. Thank you, my brother. Now all I need to make my return completely joyful, is a lovely dinner out with you and wonderful Barbara.

  2. You were adorable at 14 months, so full of life and curiosity. And you still have that same zest and inquisitiveness.

    Sad about your spouse. Life throws a lot of curve balls. I've had my share.
    So I get it. It is sad.

    But look at all that you have done in 83 days. My head is reeling from reading about the air travel alone.

    But you went to so many countries and cities and took terrific photos which will be new memories for you.

    1. Oh yes, Kathy, I am making new memories all the time. That is my revenge. And of course, having wonderful friendships; belonging to this M I E tribe is a great part of it all.

  3. At least you had your time in the sun.

    So, you left the sun and came home to winter. You left home when Obama was in office, and came home to winter (some names should never be spoken). Such a sad tale. It's a good thing I know you well enough to know that you've already raised the ebullience level in New York by a solid 3%, all by yourself.

    Welcome home!

  4. EvKa, My penance for not being exposed to a constant diet of all that poison was to be repeatedly called upon to explain the Electoral College in Italian, a language I did not begin to study until after I was forty. Fortunately, guessing at words turned out to easier than I would have expected. "Constitution" = costituzione. "To Vote" = Votare. I got really good at it after the fifth or sixth demand for an explanation from stupefied friends--small consolation for what we are all suffering. Arghh!!!

  5. Yes, I'd like it explained to me -- and I live here!

    Only thing to do is call him "the new guy" or "President Agent Orange." One day after another brings new horrors.

    I hope you can retain that sunny outlook. I'm overdosing on political comedy on TV. The comedians have a lot of material; unfortunately, some of it is awful for many people.

  6. Next time we meet, Annamaria, you can explain the US voting system to me, too -- English will do, but I doubt I'll quite understand what happened :-)

    I am, as always, in awe of your adventurous soul. May you -- and the tree -- continue to flourish, no matter how the elephants of life come at you!

    1. Zoe, I can tell you about how it happened. Why it happened is up for conjecture. The why seems to be the same as the why for Brexit, or the rise of the extreme right in far too many places, if you ask me. We are both adventurous women.

      "The elephants of life." You are aware I am sure of the mascot of the US Republican Party. I absolutely HATE it that such marvelous animals are saddled with that image.

  7. You are a inspiration. You should have a 5 minute slot on the end of the news for some feel good tv!

  8. I agree about the same reasons for Brexit motivated many votes for President Agent Orange.
    But also some people did believe he'd bring jobs.
    Also, I was surprised to see a town meeting in Kenosha, Wis., with Bernie Sanders after the election. He asked the audience of white, middle-aged folks if he thought "the new guy" would build a wall at the border and deport Muslims. They said (unbelievably) that he couldn't do it, the Constitution and courts wouldn't allow it. (Huh -- read Japanese internment and quote for Jewish and other immigrants for decades).
    Then Bernie asked why the'd vote for a liar? No one could answer him.