Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pigeons, Fonte Gaia

An elaborate fountain sits near the top of the shell-shaped curve of Il Campo, the main piazza in Siena. The original 15th century figures and bas reliefs have been safely carted off to a local museum and replaced with copies. The pigeons don't care. They perch on the ledges and flutter their wings in the spray. They squabble and fight for the right to tiptoe out onto the forehead of the marble wolf, then stretch out a beak to drink from the trickle of water. Sometimes they lose their balance and tumble down onto the wolf's paws. The wolf stares straight ahead, unmoving, oblivious to the pigeon toes and beaks and feathers. He has been sentenced to an eternity of being surrounded by annoying pigeons. I feel a bit sorry for the wolf.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cherry Blossom Shower

The cherry blossoms have opened and are already mostly gone. The annual show is fleeting. For a week, if we are lucky, barely-pink clouds line the Tidal Basin and hover in front yards. Then, one morning, we wake up to discover that the pink clouds have been replaced by fresh green leaves. My favorite stage in the life of the cherry trees is that moment just past their peak. The slightest breeze releases showers of petals. They flutter like indecisive butterflies, then come to rest in a pink-tinted carpet. To stand in a cherry blossom shower is a blessing and a reminder to enjoy delights such as this whenever they appear. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015


At the moment, we are all looking up, scrutinizing the trees, looking for flowery bursts of pink and white on the branches of cherries and magnolias. At the base of those trees, in the dappled sunlight, hellebores are blooming. Dressed in tasteful woodland hues of dusty rose and creamy yellow, green creeps all the way up around the outer petals. The buds nod modestly earthward. They do not shout their presence. When the buds open, it is obvious why they are known as the Lenten Rose. So look closely among the fallen leaves. Enjoy the quieter party that is taking place in small crowds, right at your feet. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Resurrection Fresco, Cloister of San Marco

Have you met any of your own personal  "Most Important Works of Art?" They are the ones that make you think and feel, that stir your soul any time you conjure up their vision. One of mine, painted  by Fra Angelico and his assistants, lives in a monk's cell. Meant to be contemplated during prayer and study, it is simpler and more subtle than most frescoes found in public spaces. What speaks to me? The achingly beautiful colors, the mix of confusion and surprise told with hands and eyes, the Virgin Mary's "thought balloon" of a vision as she realizes that her son has risen from the dead, the sense of glowing light emanating from the angel and the resurrected Christ, the sense of hope for everyone---all created from ground-up bits of earth and minerals on a 600-year-old wall.