Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Makes Ruining the Manicure Worth It!

Marie's Rose Garden
There was a time when the only flowers my manicured hands cared to touch were those boxed, potted or delivered in a stylish vase by a florist. The thought of actually growing them never graced my somewhat urban professional mind…isn’t that why we have gardeners? I used to think.  Yet, from the moment I closed the door on my ivy-hedged apartment in sunny Southern California and headed toward my new home, a two-hundred year old fixer upper in the fertile Venetian countryside, I let my heart—and my gardening gloved hands—take a shovel to that city girl mindset and dig into the dirty task of transforming my new home’s rustic garden into a quaint haven of tranquility.  
Rake, trowel, hedge-clippers and hoe at my side I tackled the L-shaped stretch of land that had been the wellspring of nutrition for the hungry souls who had inhabited my home before me. This traditional Italian orto—or vegetable garden—had been producing fennel, tomatoes, potatoes, arugula, zucchini, eggplant, squash, figs, plums and grapes as far back as World War II, and was generous enough to leave me with mounds of rich, dark-as-ground-coffee soil to nurture its metamorphosis into a tree-lined, butterfly-beckoning, flower garden.  
I imagine there are many of you who might greet my spirited enthusiasm for soil and gardening with a roll of the eyes; you probably view mowing the lawn or plucking weeds as just another chore you’d prefer to pay someone else to do. But I also know there are many more of you who prune, plough and plant with passion, and will nod their heads at my comparison of a fist full of rich soil to that soothing, lung expanding scent of the underbrush in the woods or forest. My fellow gardening fanatics could give good reason to why something as mundane and dirty as soil can bring such deep pleasure—and I hope they will jot down their thoughts here—adding to my motivation for having become so addicted to planting the turf. Not only do I look at sod as material to cultivate and harvest with, I see it as the tool that comforts a gardener’s mind and soul.  Because once I’ve set the stringy bare roots of an English rose, a young pomegranate tree or a mix of erbe officinalis into the ground and I've tucked them into bed, fed and watered them, all that is left for me to do is wait for spring to raise the curtain and release the scents and flavors of my garden.
Now mind you, I still enjoy the occasional ring of the doorbell and the voice of a bouquet carrying delivery person crackle the word “fiorista” through the intercom, but what I find more delightful than filling up my favorite crystal vase with cultured roses or lilies is filling it with those I’ve grown in the garden. When that happens I know I got it right.
I would have liked to post a photograph of the rustic garden I’ve just described, but since I don’t have one handy and I moved from that lovely home more than four years ago I’ve chosen to share a snapshot taken in my current home's rose garden in the spring of 2009. Sorry, but it’s still too early in the year for more recent blooms, and I can assure you these same rose bushes have begun to stretch their shoots and are promising another spectacular year!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Buon Anniversario Italia!

March 17, 2011
150° Anniversario dell'Unità d'Italia
The 150th Anniversary of the Unity of Italy

Italy to Los Angeles and Back manda i suoi sinceri auguri all'Italia ed a tutti i suoi cittadini di Buon Anniversario!
Italy to Los Angeles and Back sends its sincere wishes to Italy and all her citizens for a very Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Will we ever learn that we do not rule the earth?

Photo courtesy of

This morning I woke up with an idea for a lighthearted blog about Venetian culture, but after having scrolled through numerous international news reports on the nuclear reactor leaks in Japan and having viewed even more photos of the unimaginable devastation there, I felt a sincere need to turn my thoughts in another direction.
 As I sit here safe and warm in my home, my morning coffee within reach and I use my keyboard as a tool to share my thoughts with you, there are an incalculable number of people in Japan who through grave misfortune were fortunate to have survived the rage of the earth. Thousands have lost everything: homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, and worst of all their loved ones.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, they now face toxic waste spewing into their lives.  At a time when both of my governments—the U.S. and the Italian—intend to increase the number of nuclear energy plants instead of investing those funds in more clean renewable energy it makes me wonder if our captains really know where they’re taking our ship.
I don’t want to make a political post of this—for those of you who know me that would be my first thought—instead I want to keep it on a reflective, sensible level. I understand the need for energy; I understand the cost of dependence on other countries for petroleum based fuel. But I also understand that as intelligent and skilled as our engineers are in developing safer energy production, and as much as we have been told by the experts and our governments that other forms of energy won’t satisfy our over consumption—I am the first to admit that I take switching on a light, a stereo, or running an army of household appliances for granted—we remain vulnerable, and always will be, whenever nature decides to throw her weight around.
I, like anyone who has ever lived in a seismic area, knew the moment I read 8.9 on the Richter scale that that could only mean devastation; coupled with a tsunami it had become an apocalypse beyond my imagination. While glued to the shocking images of a tidal wave ripping a country apart, my thoughts raced back and forth across the globe between California and Italy. Both wear scars left by the rumbling of the earth and both will forever live with the threat of more to come. While California has taken advanced steps in renewable energy by increasing wind and solar production, she still houses active nuclear power plants in San Luis Obispo and San Onofre, and though after the Chernobyl accident in the mid 80’s a popular referendum caused Italy to close down her nuclear plants this government now plans on ignoring that popular vote and retrofitting a few of the old ones while building at least one within 100 kilometers of the highly populated and UNESCO  blessed city of Venice.
Though it is said that the Japanese were as prepared as any country could be for an extraordinary earthquake, the images show that we must demand that our leaders rethink how much they want to gamble with the odds of beefing up nuclear energy.  We’ve always been taught about checks and balances; well in my opinion the scale just tipped over!