Dear Ren ... a letter to my wise & beautiful poet friend in Norway

Dear Ren

I love your idea about our Senses ...  the possibility of reclaiming of the only things that truly make-up our lives? Touch. Taste. A sense of balance, perpendicular to the earth, in vrksasana. 

And then, reading that there may be as many as 21 senses. I was quietly delighted. 

I think my senses are my way of negotiating this world Hunting for the light, and really tasting all that I eat and drink.  I am so particular.  Listening, as I wander ... to the extent that I can't bear to have anything playing in my ears.  Not music, not interviews.  I want to hear all that is going on around me.

The idea that there are more 'senses' than I already knew about...   Yes.  That delights me.

I am so sorry to read of your corset of sorts.  The breathing ... it doesn't surprise me as a response to Now.  I'm surprised not to be suffering more from it but I have theories on why I'm calmer than I've ever been ... calmer at a conscious level anyway.

I have mostly stepped away from the protests being organised around the world. I have this idea that my role is always to be something like the canary in the coalmine - to be there at the start, sharing from various sources.   People are discussing it now, protesting it.  They don't need my voice.

Is that a cop out?  I don't feel like it is.  I want to grow strong for whatever is next.

I'm not sure I understand why you were shamed, silenced and confused about the short life of a woman's son ... mostly because you stepped away from the insanity so long ago.  It's not who you are. And even if you were there, you would be fighting for human rights, not acting in ways that were shameful.

You are ... I was going to write international but it's more than that ... you are whatever we become when we live in countries not our own and begin to understand the fluid nature of things like identity, belonging, nationality. 

You came from that country but you left it.  You didn't go 'home' when you could have.  You keep choosing, when so many float.  I see no need for your shame.

I'm skim-reading social media these days but it remains my point of contact with family and friends and so, I remain online. I have lost interest in newspapers.  During the American elections, at some point, I realised that no one gave me a clear sense of what was 'really' happening, and I wanted 'really'.  Then again, I'm not sure anyone knows anymore ... nor have they ever.  Everyone has a 'position' but that's about all I am sure of.

I smiled when I read of your yoga and meditation ... that squeezing of another peaceful half-hour of life in case the world ends.  Wise woman.

You know, I actually made myself buy a light novel the other day.  It was so incredibly difficult.  I've become quite the snob ... a brat perhaps, about books.  Actually, about coffee, wine and food too.  I think I was always this way but I'm becoming more comfortable with it all.  No apologies. If I'm spending money, I don't want to waste it on things I don't like.

I wanted to lose myself somewhere and the lighter, well-written, novel has always done that for me.  I couldn't quite go to Danielle Steele but it was on that end of the scale.  And yes, for the days that it lasted, it was fun to 'escape'.  To pick up on the clues there for the reader ... to be right. I finished it last night, sad that it was over.  I'm not sure what to read next. 

My room has piles of books scattered around it.  Not as many as I would have liked came with me but there are more than I hoped for.  I shall have to dip back into something from there I think.  Biographies, fictional biographies too.  I found a set of fictions based on the lives of Hemmingway's wives.  I loved those.  I have never read Hemmingway, just books about his life.

When I look at my books, and compare them to the lives I've lived ... I see that perhaps I've been searching for 'tribe' in my reading.  I never found them while I was growing up, those people who would have shone a light, guiding me into my life.  Role models like Katherine Mansfield weren't mentioned in school.  War photographers and journalists, I had no idea about them.  I see how both would have appealed, mostly because I suspect you find real life out there, in those wars.  It's more difficult to find 'real' in the suburbs I spent more than a few years living in.

There were no strong role models in my world.  Now I see what I could have been, if I were awake, or awakened, way back then.

I wish I could write the reality of my life here, the stuff that remains private.  It's both beautiful and difficult out here.  The padding, or cushioning, has gone.  But the freedom to do whatever I please is divine.  I'm learning to sleep in.  I'm learning not to think of others when deciding on anything.  I'm learning ... a lot.

I suspect I am good at selecting which stories I tell.  There's only so much I can expose without feeling raw and undone and so, my stories must be selected and yes, told truly but not all stories are told.  But I've probably written that before.  It's a bit of an issue in my life.  I would like to be transparent but I've always been private ... more so than people realise.

I love my new home, and my landlords who have opened up a corner of their home for me.  They make me laugh, so often, and their kindness undoes me sometimes.  And yes, sometimes I do float home after a night in this city of musicians.  Actually, going 'up' I ride the ancient elevator.  Currently I only float down the marble staircase.  I had another run-in with anemia.  Neglect ...

You know, I had never thought of my life as a triangle consisting of a social life, creativity, and the personal.  Thank you for the gift of that description.  I see that my creative life has suffered from needing to earn a stable income.  My social life comes and goes.  My personal life ...I'm learning what that is.  I had never considered it before.  I was almost always part of a family ... and so, to have the freedom to create my very own personal life ... it's kind of divine.  I think I'm old enough to do it this time. 

Initially, like an orphaned kitten, I wanted a home and a life.  A fire to curl up beside.  Someone to care for me ... someone for me to care about.  But that has passed.  I was fortunate not to find anyone in those terribly lost and lonely days.  I felt like the Little Match Girl for a while, nose pressed against windows ... wistfully watching people whose lives were 'normal'.  Instead, I suspect I've been given the freedom and the space to become who I would have become if I hadn't been asked to play small all my life. But yes, that's under construction, let's see how it goes.

That student of yours ... I was horrified too but I think I see it in Italy.  Not the age limit on success but the belief that one must put aside childish things ... passions, to be 'successful'.  It breaks my heart a little.  I think, in the future, people won't believe how we put 'a successful career', as defined by society, before personal happiness and the pursuit of a full life.

Do you allow yourself to believe that your life sucessful, Di?

I think I do believe my life has been successful, so far.  My idea is that I will die rich in stories.  And that's okay.  I would rather be full of stories.  I like the way I have lived this life of mine so far.  I have been fortunate, in so many ways.  Country of birth, husbands, opportunities, friends ... yes, fortunate in so many ways.

I'm glad you experience life as meaningful of its own sake. Of itself

I suspect you might be surprised how your 'teenagers' view you.  I'm sure you have changed lives, or been a strong example to those who needed it.  I'm sure they listen too.   The way you turn up in the world is special.  I promise.  And so worthy of respect, and love. 

Thank you for the ideas and images you gifted me in your letter.  I will carry them with me, as usual, adding them to the 'Notes to Myself' story I have going on in my head.

I wandered out onto the terrace here, in the palazzo I call home for the moment, and spent some time writing but the sun was so strong that I could barely see my screen.  I ended up leaning back in my chair and simply bathing in the heat for a while.  I'm still glowing.  I need to go wandering again, before losing the light. 

I have so much still to do, and a nap appeals too.  Weekends are so complicated ... they're free time and yet, with so much to be done, I feel a very real sense of panic on my two days off.

And so the real world seeped into me as I wrote this, and now I feel I must hurry off and 'do' those things waiting to be done.

I hope your weekend was divine.  I'm adding some photographs taken over the last 24 hours ...

Much love, Di

This is one of a series of public letters to Ren – a friend, a writer, a poet, and an extraordinary woman who writes to me via her own blog.

Please click through to her website:  Ren Powell: Poetics & The Good Life

An Exciting New Camera - The Light L16 Camera

The L16 captures light through many small apertures and uses folded optics technology to bounce light off angled periscopic reflex mirrors and through slim, horizontally positioned lens barrels before reaching an optical sensor.

The result is a camera capable of taking DSLR quality photos that can fit in the palm of your hand.

The Story of Light, the company website.

Imagine a compact camera that uses multiple lens systems to shoot photos at the same time, then computationally fuses them into a DSLR-quality image...

 I can't imagine that ... I'm an artist, not an engineer however I am incredibly curious about this new camera that can fit into the palm of my hand.  You see, I don't take my much-loved Canon 5D, MkII every place I go because it's heavy and bulky.  I dislike admitting this but yes, sometimes in my beautiful Italian life, my camera is left at home ...

Packing my camera gear has to be more about a work gig or a planned wander.  I was just out today, that New Zealander living in Italy, and I came home as excited as a child about the images I had found.

Spring has arrived, it's sunny and warm, the light is divine ... and I had nothing else I had to be doing. It's Sunday.  So here I am, sitting at a wooden table, on the terrace of the ancient palazzo I call home, blogging ...  it's not a bad life.

So you see it, I love my Canon.  We're doing okay but when the time comes, I admit to being both curious and excited about trying this new technology ... I love the story of it.  I can really relate, although I'm not using a cellphone.  I'm just waiting, for the right camera ...

As for the fun my Canon and I have ...I have this thing about reflections.  Puddles, ports, glass ... anything that offers me a reflection of something beautiful.  

Where ever I have lived in the world, I've always tried to see what I photograph in a 'new way'.  In this exquisite ancient Italian city ... a city with the largest intact medieval centre in Europe, my intention has been to capture it in a way that makes people curious to experience more. 

I was quietly pleased with this image of the city reflected in an unexpected place.  Painters have mistaken it for a painting - every single time.  And the Genovese seem to approve too. 

And me ... well, I love it because it's all about light, and about luck.  Luck because the reflections aren't always there.  

Mmmhmmm, I wonder how the L16 and I would see the city ...

'They Might Save My Life' ...

The nest of fish was crisp under a coarse snow of salt and smelled so simple and good I thought they might save my life.  Just a little.  Just for that moment.

Extract, 'The Paris Wife', by Paula McLain.

Dear Ren,

I have been writing to you for weeks, then discarding all efforts as unworthy ... unable to finish them.  I even bought a notebook for the thoughts I had while moving from task to task but I change bags, depending on my destination.  The notebook ended up living on my desk, always out of reach whenever I needed it.

Nothing has worked, complicated by my ideal  ... which is to wait for that golden moment, when I'm in the flow - writing straight from the heart.  But those moments are so rare these days, they need time.  There has been no time, no space, for that state of mind.

But here I am today, at one of my 'haunts' .... I have favourite places, scattered all over this ancient Italian city.  For hot chocolate, for espresso, for crema brioche.  For ravioli, for pizza, and for my new love, calzone.  For music, for wine, for aperitivo.

I spend sparingly.  Aperitivo must count as a dinner and of good quality.  The hot chocolate must be in a space that allows the creation of, at least, one good lesson plan.  The ravioli must satisfy at every level.  The calzone ... there are just no words.  I'm still completely in love with that cheese, ham, mushroom and tomato creation.  I leave so full and so comforted.  I will enjoy that for now.  It won't last forever.  

Today I opted to go wandering without my laptop because I had to replenish my coffee supply, which means walking a distance, and my laptop is heavy.  It was raining.  I bailed and left it at home.  However I didn't pack a pen, nor 'your' notebook.  

And it has to be noted that asking for a 'pen' with my New Zealand English, takes quite some courage in countries not my own.  They tell me that my pen still sounds like 'pin', and so I have learned to distract them from the vowel sound by pretending to write ... at the same time.  

I see their bewilderment as they listen, then comprehension dawn as they see my hand move, as if writing.  

I survive.  I'm working on moving my vowels back into general European usage but it's a big job.  Actually, in a side note, I begin studying Italian on Monday.  2 hours per week.  Let's see if Massimo can work magic.  Paula and I will study together.

Meanwhile I'm recovering from my first 2017 cold.  It hit mid-week.  It hit everyone I was out with the previous Friday.  I was one of the last to go down with it.  I'm going to view this as my immune system putting up a brave fight however, I did have anemia again and so, I may be a little run-down.  

Self-care is the hardest lesson for me to learn, it seems.

My future, as ever, remains unknown to me but maybe that is the stuff of real life. I am unable to protect myself with a routine, a career, a place I belong ... or any kind of known future, actually.  It's all still an adventure. 

On the bright side, I am surrounded by really good people, and simply adore my current landlords.  I am so glad I came to this city I love so well..  And I am living in an ancient palazzo on the most beautiful street here in Genova. I feel quite blessed as I run down the marble staircase each morning.  I have a room, a kitchenette and a bathroom - did I tell you already? 

My social life is picking up again.  Last Friday I was invited out to a small bar on the edge of the city.  Canadian friend, Leah, and UK friend, Bianca, came with me, to hear Marcello play.  All I knew was Marcello's music was good ... I could promise those trusting friends of mine nothing else.

We had the most superb evening at Ostaia Da U Neo!!  There was live music, a band but a band without boundaries.  It seemed like everyone there at the bar was either a talented musician or singer ... or both.  Even the bar owner.  It was a massive jam session, we were there at the front table ...  it finished late.  I floated home, quite happy for all kinds of reasons, and the red wine had been delicious too.

Marcello Scotto playing at Ostaia Da U Neo, Genova

Marcello Scotto playing at Ostaia Da U Neo, Genova


Saturday morning finds me sitting here at Mentelocale, in Palazzo Ducale, drinking hot chocolate, sweating a little, writing in the back of the book I bought with me to read.  It's 14 celsius, raining ... kind of balmy.  I hear memories in my head ... Mum and Nana both saying 'it's good for the garden, this weather'. 

So I borrowed a pen from the guy at the bar, to write in the book I had brought here to read, sparked by the quote at the start because yes, sometimes these small and beautiful things, like a nest of fish ... crisp under a coarse snow of salt ... smelling so simple and good ... might save my life.'

It made me want to write to you.  It made me stop the perfectionist, I can be, from tearing this up and never finishing it.   It made me sit down and copy it out to you once I returned to my computer.  I'm stunned that I've made it this far.  There are so many discarded letters to Ren, sitting here on my desktop.

I walk alone a lot here.  I love it.  It's a return to the essential me.  I have no problems with wandering alone ... there's a beautiful freedom in choosing the prettiest way home, stopping for a slice of farinata, then hot chocolate.  You would love it, I'm sure.  Possibly I'm basing that on a photograph I took of you here, looking so lost in the place ... in the moment.

I finally understand that I love being surrounded by so many people without being a part of anyone or anything.  There's a beautiful silence somehow.

  I came home to write to you ... finally

Lots love, Di  

This is one of a series of public letters to Ren – a friend, a writer, a poet, and an extraordinary woman who writes to me via her own blog.

Please click through to her website: Ren Powell: Poetics & The Good Life

'Finding Home in Solitude' ... Alex

This interview, where Alex talks of 'finding home in solitude', there at the end ... that's what I'm doing these days.

It's an interesting process, after years of having this constant dialogue in my head ... 'What does this person need from me?'  

'How can I help them?'  there is this new process where I'm learning to consider what I want.

2 husbands ... and I lived 2 lives that were shaped, so completely, around their lives.

2 divorces ... and I lost everything, twice, including countries.

I am living in interesting times.  My book is begun, the professional photography has been put to bed for the moment.  

And perhaps ... this interview, with Alex, will give you a sense of the solitude.  The gift, and the difficulty, of learning to be alone.

Some Scottish Views ...


Scottish Landscape,

A little bit of Ice while out walking ... 

A little bit of Ice while out walking ... 

Miss 12 has a passion for stepping on icy puddles ...

Miss 12 has a passion for stepping on icy puddles ...

We could have skied Scotland but we opted not to and, to be honest, I was just trying to survive what I felt was ... an icy terrible freezing cold:-) 

We could have skied Scotland but we opted not to and, to be honest, I was just trying to survive what I felt was ... an icy terrible freezing cold:-) 

We met this local and chatted a while .... I think he wanted to come home with us but there was an electric fence involved. 

We met this local and chatted a while .... I think he wanted to come home with us but there was an electric fence involved. 

It's been so good to see Miss 12, although walking to the standing stones wasn't exactly her idea of a fun thing to do on that freezing cold day  :-)

It's been so good to see Miss 12, although walking to the standing stones wasn't exactly her idea of a fun thing to do on that freezing cold day  :-)

The roads we're walking.  The air is clear, if cold.  The scenery, winter but still beautiful.  And quiet ... so very.

The roads we're walking.  The air is clear, if cold.  The scenery, winter but still beautiful.  And quiet ... so very.

And so I follow.  Quite happily.

And so I follow.  Quite happily.

Happy New Year ... from Scotland

It's been one hell of a year but here I am, relatively relaxed and writing from a pub over in Scotland.  I have two weeks to spend with my favourite people.

They're living way out in the back of beyond, and so we're forced to pop in to pubs in the area for internet connections.  Not wanting to be rude, we also sample the whisky and play pool too.  

The locals are lovely. I'm adjusting to the weather ... kind of.  I can finally feel my feet today but the guys here just assured me that there's snow due on Sunday.   We've already had snow.  The 26th was quite white. We've also had two big storms ... Storm Barbara, then Storm Connor (I think).  

I'm not sure about all the granite here. But even so, the architecture is cute ... as seen below.   I love my Ligurian life and will be glad to get back to the colour and noise of Genova but it's good here too.  And so very superb to catch up with Miss 12 and her mum.  

I've been clearing backlogs of photographs, a few sets waiting for time and concentration.

I'm so happy to write that, after 2 months or more of the most disgusting, long-lasting cold/flu-thing I've ever had, I'm no longer sick.  Being here, living quietly, is partially about building up my strength again.   It's the right place for that. 

Wishing you all the very best things in 2017, and let's see where the next year takes me ... 

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