"The City By the Bay"

I fasten my seatbelt and peer out my window as we taxi down the runway. I love the liftoff, and I equally hate the landing at the other end. I always find myself wondering, are all three wheels going to touch down together, or is the plane going to land just a little off balance and we'll skid into the gate on one wheel and a wing. You know the wing and a prayer thing. I'd be the one praying. I always give a big sigh of relief when I hear the pilot announce, "you can take off your seat belts.

It's a sunny fall day as we walk into the terminal in my favorite city - San Francisco. It is also my favorite city to land in. As we approach the airport the plane seems to become one with the bay as we glide so close to the water you can almost smell it. I let myself dream that as the wheels come down they skim the water just before touching down on the runway.

Our days in San Fran are always filled with visits to Golden Gate Park and the Japanese Gardens for tea and cookies, driving down the crooked street, wandering Union Square, the farmers market on the wharf, shopping at Pier 39, dining at our favorite restaurants and taking pictures of the fancy bellman in his red suit and top hat at our hotel. And of course a visit to the "City by the Bay" wouldn't be complete without a "hot fudge sundae" at Ghirardilli.

I get caught up in the energy that fills the air in this city, the cultural diversity, yes, even the crazy street people that make me wonder if I should view them from a distance. The locals that look like they just stepped off Wall Street mixed with the tourists in their San Francisco sweatshirts. Each in their own way adding to the ambiance of the city.

All too soon it's time to head home. As our plane takes off and lifts us above the clouds I look forward to returning to my little cottage on top of a hill near my own little "City by our Bay".

Italian Memories

It was a year this past Wednesday that we were in the air flying over the ocean making our way to Paris and then onto Florence where we picked up our little silver car and headed out into the countryside of Tuscany. When I look at this path that I walked on last fall in a park in Cortona, Italy it's easy to take myself back there and feel the excitement I felt of just being there, and remembering the peace and tranquility that filled that space. Even though the path is absent of other people, (I think my husband removed them to show the beauty of the path - photographer that he is) we met many Italians that afternoon who were strolling and visiting or reclining on one of the many park benches scattered throughout the park and enjoying the views of the vineyards and rolling hills that lay just beyond the brick wall. The thing I most love about Italy is that people gather every day to walk, sit together and often sip a glass of wine along with their Italian bubbly water. By the way, we fell in love with their bubbly water and brought their custom home with us. But I think their real purpose is just to connect with others. It wasn't as if they needed to work at making that happen, it's just the "Italian" way. There was always a sense of community wherever we went and I noticed how laughter always accompanied these gatherings. Most Italians are extroverts, at least the ones we encountered and as we passed them on the cobblestone walkways I could feel some of their energy and passion attaching itself to me. I look back over this past year and realize how we so easily fell back into the busyness of our western lives that we promised ourselves we wouldn't do when we returned home. We wanted to incorporate more of the "Italian" lifestyle into our life. I miss the simple little villa that became our home that was so easy to maintain and yet so full of ambiance with it's tile floors, and wood shuttered windows that opened up to rolling hills and vineyards that lay just outside our front door. And our new farm friends, Leo the dog and his pal, the farm cat, who showed up at our door every morning to share breakfast with us. Even the animals knew about the importance of gathering. Or at least they knew there would be milk and bread waiting to be shared with them if they just showed up. Isn't that how life is sometimes? We are rewarded if we just show up.
As I settle into the new fall season that seemed to arrive overnight without warning, replacing the warm summer days with blustery winds and rainstorms, I find myself moving into my winter nesting mode and cozying up in my office to make time for creative writing, filling mugs with hot chocolate, and giving time to daydreaming about my next trip to Italy. What I've realized is that the pleasure of a trip isn't just for that particular moment, but the memories feed our spirit for a lifetime.