Diana Strinati Baur, True Vines (and writing a book review)

I finally reached university when I was 34 years old.

I hadn't known to dream it when I was young.  My people didn't have a history of university attendance but I was a natural  researcher, a terribly curious child who became an intensely curious woman. 

My first husband suggested the marriage owed me a degree as I had followed the development of his career, moving around New Zealand's South Island over the years.

And so I began.  I dived into literature, wanting the papers necessary to apply for Bill Manhire's creative writing course.  I explored film studies, psychology, and archaeology along the way.  Then I discovered social and political anthropology and detoured off into that seductive discipline.

Degree complete and realising that there wasn't much work in New Zealand (population 4 million), divorced, and having lost my mother along the way, I set out for Istanbul.  To teach English, of course, like so many good kiwi students looking for work and experience.

Ten years later and here I am, a photographer, a writer, a woman of dual-nationality living in Belgium.

All that to introduce today's story.  Last year, one of my favourite people published her first novel. I packed it, back in November, and read it as I traveled the 16,000kms+ home ...

Home for the first time in 8 years.  But the book pulled me in anyway, despite all that was going on in my head.  I recognised situations and characters, I knew that feeling of expat dislocation ... of not being sure of where home was anymore.

And then I arrived in NZ, put the book down, and spent 5 weeks wandering my old worlds, spending time with family and friends while sinking into that landscape I love more than any other.  There were roadtrips and beaches, mountains and forests, there were bush walks, jet boat rides, rivers ... everything you can imagine and more.  And friends, so many really kind friends.

I arrived back in Belgium ... that other home, to a life that demanded quite a lot of me.  4 hours on public transport twice a week, 2 hours on the other week-days.  And more.  And housework.  Life ... just the usual messy demanding life we all lead but I found it incredibly difficult to settle.

And the book review I wanted to write kept being put to one side.  I knew, part of it was that I had no space in my head for writing ... most definitely not even for serious review-style reading.  Time passed, it sat there on my shoulder, poking me occasionally, waiting.

Back at university we knew that to write an essay worthy of an A+, we needed to adopt a written language we called wankspeak.  Delightful I know but it was a way of recognising the elevation of language required to be truly worthy of an A+.

It terrified me.  I love poetic prose and always understood that that wouldn't get me an A+.  I developed a kind of nervous tic when it came to formal writing ... I required time, usually an extension on date due, and much misery.  You could say I developed a certain technique that got me through with maximum suffering.

Back to the present and somehow I had decided this book review needed to be worthy of an A+.  I should have pulled that idea out of my head at some point, discussed it with someone, had them say, Di, it's not about earning an A+.

Today, more than 4 months after opening the book, I decided it was time.  And I wrote.

I was stunned to find that I didn't need to reread the book, making notes and laboriously researching secondary sources.  I was stunned to realise that Diana's book had remained inside of me ... like the story of an old friend that I hadn't forgotten.  And that I understood, somewhere deep inside me, that it wasn't about wankspeak ... it was simply about tellling my truth.

Imagine that!

Anyway, let me introduce you to Diana, or a glimpse of her, via the photograph below.  Taken in Genova in October last year ...



Tram-Napping and Other Things ...

As I write this, the predicted snow is beginning to fall ... sigh.  We were all so hopeful when the temperature cranked up to 16-18 celsius last week.  So hopeful that Spring had arrived.  The current prediction is for up to 10cms of snow overnight.  I hope that they are so wrong and that it's less.

Meanwhile I've been holed up at my desk for weeks on end, or so it seems.  I have had all the photographs from Flanders Fields to process and get back into the world as quickly as possible for any publications that might have wanted them.  I had the wedding shoot too.  They are in-process and almost done.

One of the more difficult things about being the photographer is that your work can go on long after the event, long after those who did their work on the day ... in the moment, are finished.  It's a strange and lonely job sometimes, with 80-90% of the work happening after the event, in some lonely room somewhere.

However the adventures are grand.  And I'm pleased with the results.  There should be more than 200 wedding photographs by the time I'm finished.  Photographs that tell the story of a beautiful wedding here in Belgium.

Flanders Fields ... well, that's always about the people I find there.  Old friends, new acquaintances, and some delightful adventures.

I'm hungry to travel again but I am making myself sit still until I am organised here.  I have spent these grey freezing cold winter weeks organising my working life, exploring new directions, especially writing again. 

Old friends have appeared in my inbox and there was a whole lot of delight over the idea that Murray might pop over to visit.  Murray from those 4 years back when I lived on the airforce base in New Zealand.

One of my oldest friends arrives later in June and that will be grand.  It's been a long time since I've seen him.  And there's a wedding to photograph in France in August ... the photography workshop in Italy too.  The last being the pièce de résistance perhaps.

My life seems like a big old complicated tapestry.  I've been been woken at 5.15am these last few weeks, as my daughter wakes to go out to work.  Then I'm up and out the door, catching trams to get little Miss 8 to school on the other side of the city Tuesday till Friday.  It's a 2-hour round trip and definitely hasn't helped with the winter blues. 

Rinse and repeat, as I'm on pick-up duty Monday to Wednesday.  I'm dragging myself around by Wednesday, dreaming of open-roads and long journeys as I try not to fall asleep on the tram home.

I have been reading when not tram-napping.  Superb books ... two fictions based around actual lives: The Truth About Lou by Angela von der Lippe and Seducing Ingrid Bergman by Chris Greenhalgh.

Lou Salome seems to be a fascinating creature who first came to my attention in Irvin D. Yalom's book When Nietzsche Wept.  I am now pursuing Lou via various means.  The second book is about Robert Capa's affair with Bergman.  I have a few books on him so this dip into a kind of fact-based fiction is delicious.

And I picked up the second book by BBC journalist, Frank Gardener.  The first, Blood and Sand, was a fascinating read. 

Still to come is my big book review of True Vines, written by the multi-talented Diana Strinati Baur.  A delicious novel that came with me across the world when I flew home to New Zealand.  The same Diana I'm putting the Your Beautiful Truth Retreat with in August in Italy.

I love books ... rereading the best again and again over the years.  I've had Isabel Allende's My Invented Country tucked away in my handbag for emergencies.  It's small and packed with wise words.

And that's me lately.  Photography, reading, tram-riding, houseworking, winter me.

The image: a tray of champagne that floated past me at the recent wedding.  Random but beautiful is my idea of it.

Diana Baur, a meeting

At the weekend, and thanks to the kindness of Stefano and Miriam, I finally met one of my favourite bloggers, ceramic artists and B&B owners ... the lovely Diana Baur.

Diana and her husband run a beautiful B&B in Acqui Terme, Northern Italy, and it so happened that I discovered that they were located just a few kilometres down the road from where I was spending the weekend. 

I will use their words, already written, to introduce you to their beautiful B&B in Italy: B&B Baur is a top-rated inn, located in the beautiful Roman Spa city of Acqui Terme, in Piemonte, Italy.  Surrounded by history and thousands of hectares of wine hills,  Piemonte is known to gourmets and wine experts from all over the world as Italy’s premier gastronomic and enological region.  To read more ...

Diana showed us around on Sunday, explaining the renovations, and talking with Stefano and Miriam of NYC.  A place much-loved by all three of them.  

Anyway, I can't recommend this beautiful place highly enough, and Diana and her husband are delightful hosts.  You can get a sense of the B&B via her photographs here.

Her art and ceramics can also be viewed on her website.  And she has her first book being published soon but you can read more of that on her blog - A Certain Simplicity.

Grazie to everyone who made that meeting possible.

take-root, a blog

Just woke up thinking of some of my favorite faraway places, and how I carry them around with me, like home, wherever I go. 

And how when I settle in someday, plant my roots for good (or nearly good) I want that place I make—wherever it might be—to be a testament to all these other quietly loved places that have made, and continually make me awake to the world.

Found on take-root blog

Whoever writes this blog made me say, 'yes!' as I read the above.  I found it over on facebook, thanks to Diana.  I recommend you calling by to check out her blog, A Certain Simplicity.

When I settle down one day, I'll know it's the place because there will be something of every other place I've loved, woven into that home, that location, that country ...

I took this photograph from the lawn of my funny little cottage, located on the edge of Otago Harbour, Dunedin ... in 2001 maybe.  The dates are imprecise now but it was after that divorce, way back then.

Time ...

"Gradually my perspective on time had changed. In our culture, time can seem like an enemy: it chews us up and spits us out with appalling ease. But the monastic perspective welcomes time as a gift from God, and seeks to put it to good use rather than allowing us to be used up by it.

A friend who was educated by the Benedictines has told me that she owes to them her sanity with regard to time. "You'll never really finish anything in life," she says, "and while that's humbling, and frustrating, it's all right. The Benedictines, more than any other people I know, insist that there is time in each day for prayer, for work, for study, and for play.

" Liturgical time is essentially poetic time, oriented toward process rather than productivity, willing to wait attentively in stillness rather than always pushing to "get the job done."

Kathleen Norris,  extract from The Cloister Walk.
The truly lovely Diana, introduced me to the blog of Sofie and I believe I may have found a delicious new blog to add to my google reader.  I particularly enjoyed Sofie's post titled The Liturgy of My Hours ... oh yes.