Palermo Street Food

We had a delightful 3+ hour tour of street food today, taking us through the Capo market. We were a group of 14: a newly married Swiss couple, a couple from Italy, a German woman, and Americans from PA, NJ, New Orleans, and one living in Brazil. In addition to food the tour included local history. Forbes rated Palermo’s street food 5th in the world.

The Capo market was created during the time when Sicily was controlled by the Arabs: 875 – 1075. Before then the market area was open countryside.

Our first stop was for Frito which is made up of left over parts from animals, what exactly our guide, Giorgio, couldn’t say. It’s a food tradition dating back 500 years. The Frito is brought to the market warm and kept in the bottom of the basket behind Giorgio.

The vendor reaches down into the basket and either fills the paper cup he is holding or puts it on bread. We had it from the cup and it, whatever it was, was delicious. After, we had prickly pear from the many cactus plants covering Sicily, which did not have a lot of flavor.

Everything in the market is local and seasonal except for a few imports from the tropics. This includes the fish. Much of the fish is oily fish – mackerel, anchovies, sardines – so healthy.

Next was fried veggies and fish in a kind of tempura batter. Street food is mostly fried because it was a way to gain the caloric intake that the poor people shopping in the market needed.

We had octopus, sardines, anchovies and shrimp along with broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers. In addition there was eggplant rolled around raisins, cheese, and breadcrumbs with a tomato sauce on top. Yum.

Giorgio and some of our group

We also had white wine made with the Grillo grape indigenous to Sicily. Like all their wines, it is mineraly. Light, fresh, delightful.

Next up: panelle, arancini, and potato croquettes.

Panella in front, arancini back left, potato croquettes back right.


Panelle are chickpea fritters made from chickpea flour and parsley. The croquettes are mashed potatoes and mint. Arancini are rice balls stuffed with beef, carrot, peas and mozzarella. The root of the word arancino is orange and they are shaped kind of like an orange. Here, we had a nice table wine.

Next was a bit more challenging! Parts. The first is spleen called pani can meusa cooked in pig’s fat served on bread with salt and lime. I had the tiniest piece and it was actually pretty good.

Pani can meusa – bread with spleen

Then there are the parts I couldn’t do: lung, feet, penis!

To clean that away: autista. This is a drink made with fruit juice, a bit of simple syrup, and soda water. Just before you drink it they add bicarbonate soda which makes it boil over. It’s added and you are supposed to drink it before it spills.

Boiling over!

Tasted like lemonade and was quite good.

From here we walked to the center of town to outside La Martorana, pictures of which are in my previous post. Here we learned that the Norman’s conquered the Arabs in Sicily in 1075. They used Arabs as workers and designers. This is the reason for the Arab influence and the Norman-Arabic building style, influenced too by Byzantium, and thus the unique-to-Sicily building form. Lovely.

Finally we went for granita, the flavored ice treat eaten for breakfast as well as at other times of the day. And to a place that roasts their own coffee, and where I’ll be going tomorrow morning!

Truly a wonderful three hours. If you are ever here, it is worth the 30 Euro, plus the 10 or so you spend buying food.

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Palermo’s La Martorana

Also known as the church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, this stunner is a 12th century beauty initially planned as a mosque – an example of the rich interplay of cultures that make Sicily so fascinating. Fatimid pillars super the dome, it has beautiful Byzantine mosaics. Sadly a Baroque makeover changed the facade and destroyed many of the mosaics executed by Greek craftsman to be replaced with baroque ornamentation. This took place when the church was given to Benedictine nuns under Eloise Martorana in 1433. We’ll see plenty of baroque in Sicily so it is the older parts that I photographed, including the beautiful Mosaic floors.

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The Mystery of Me

I have been coming to grips with the Divine at my core for some time now. For twenty years at least I’ve been aware of an inner river that surfaced periodically to guide me. Only recently have I come to define that as the Devine in me.

This awakening has been spawned by my entry into yoga, begun simply as a way to gain flexibility and balance. It is through the most remarkable of teachers an astounding 40 years my junior, that I came to understand and embrace yoga as something much more. Under her guidance I have been meditating for over a year. It is here that I have, on occasion, felt that I am something more than my human self.


Cathedral in Assisi

I believe this to be true, yet feeling it is quite elusive. More often I remain as I have been most of my life: absorbed by me. When I consider my deeper self, I am still confused at the competing selves I seem to be. I am reading a sad, uplifting, funny, depressing book written by Florida Scott-Maxwell called “The Measure of My Days: one woman’s vivid, enduring celebration of life and aging”. Born in the 1880s and written in her eighties it is an interesting read. Here is a deep reflection on me.

But who is it that knows me so well and has to endure me? There is the I that has to bear all the other I’s and can assess them correctly; and there is the I who feels such sick distaste and drunken elation at being itself, all its selves, who is even thankful for the opportunity of having been itself, uncomfortable as it has been. Is the judging I a separate entity, and who can this wise I be? It feels higher, greater than I. I fail it, it scorns and rebukes me. . . .  I am my chief interest because to me I am life. My curiosity, delight, pain tell me about life itself.  This makes me a monster of egotism, but that is what I am and have to be, for how else do I know, really know anything?


Still life

These are all questions I still grapple with. It’s not as if I’ve made that leap from the intellectual understanding of my divinity to its reality. Her logic appeals to me, and, I think she offers good reasons to continue contemplating me as I mostly have all my life.

I observe others, but I experience myself. As I long to understand, even a little, who could be as helpful to me as myself, muddled creature that I am, since it is my mortification, my respect that tells me what is real.

It is all such a mystery and will remain so. As Parker Palmer says in another book I’m enjoying – On the Edge of Everything – we arrive on this planer in mystery and leave it in mystery. I do love a good mystery!


Grape blossom at Palazzone Vineyard, Oriveto, Italy

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The Magic of the Different

One of the reasons I love travel is because you see things you don’t with places that are familiar. All the senses are engaged bringing you alive. You are fully present, in the moment, totally here. It’s wonderful.

We’ve been coming to Orvieto for over 15 years so it is more of a challenge here. I’ve spent probably over 2 years here. Still, it is a beautifully textured and nuanced place. I more easily see and am fully here.

I’ve always had problems capturing this bell tower. Today it seems right

This morning we had sun for just the second time in the week we’ve been here, which is very unusual. Usually it is the occasional rain interrupting the spectacular sun and blue sky. So it was a delight to be out in the bright light. Everything was popping. Here’s what I saw.

Stunning cathedral but I also love the light reflecting off the building on the left to the building on the right

The cathedral stripes, a typically Tuscan detail tho we are in Umbria. Moorish influence

Warm, inviting, sometimes mysterious streets

Framed by the arch with blue sky and white clouds. Delightful


Details and that little splash of red

Shadows, iron work

Posted in Mindfulness, Orvieto, Italy, Travel | 1 Comment

Belonging to a Landscape

Can you belong to a landscape as opposed to belonging in a landscape? It’s a silly question really. But here we are in Orvieto on cloudy days looking at the Umbrian “green heart of Italy” which is stunning. You can see why it is called this, particularly this time of year.

A rare bit of sun this trip

I think you can certainly belong in a landscape. It might be the one in which you grew up or the one in which you have decided to live. Either through history or choice you belong in a place.

But belonging to a landscape implies that it claims you. I don’t think places claim people. Would you be missed if you were absent? Certainly by the people, but not by the place. Unless, perhaps, if you were instrumental in the creation or design of a landscape – say a Frederick Law Olmsted. But even he, with New York Central Park for instance that he designed, you couldn’t say belonged to it anymore.

Yes, silly. But it was a question that came to mind enjoying this beautiful spring in Umbria. Anyway, an excuse to share some photos.

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Uncovering Your Soul

We’ve just finished our last art/culture trip. We’ve sold the business after 15 years. The last 13 of the 15 we married a variety of art courses to the inspiration of Italian life. It has been transformative.

When we began we knew only that the way Italians lived and the intimacy and beauty of Orvieto’s streets, piazzas and buildings touched a cord in us. Over time we discovered that this pairing of art and place reconnected people to their souls. It has been beautiful. Humbling. Evocative. Renewing. Affirming. Yes, transformative.

Changing times and particularly the way technology erodes the ability to be in the moment have had an impact. But even through this very last trip art, Orvieto, and staying in one place absorbing for a week resulted in many people recounting to us how life changing the experience was.

It is a struggle for people to stay connected to their souls, to that inner compass always there to guide us, to stay true to who we individually are. What we have been so privileged to witness is how a week here with us in Orvieto reconnects people to themselves. We have received countless letters, postcards and emails telling us how the trip was a blessing, a milestone, a life changer. It’s not us. It’s this place and way of fulling engaging life, interpreted through a creative medium that opens eyes to truly see.

It touched Kristi and me early. Four years in we returned to the U.S. and knew we had to make a change. After four years of biannual visits where we were deeply connected to people and life we could no longer live an anonymous, American, suburban life. We began the search. Two years later our house went on the market and we moved to to a connected, soulful, rich life in a small town.

We are lucky. The people who traveled with us are lucky. We’ve all found – or more accurately – uncovered our soul – for it has always been there waiting patiently. For this we have Orvieto, her people, her way of life, and the creative pursuits that helped see it better to thank. There is no way to adequately say thank you. The many soulful lives growing out of the experiences here however, bear testimony to what a great gift this place has given.

Posted in Being Ourselves, Being spirit, Belonging, Inner Voice, Life's challenges, Orvieto, Italy | 4 Comments

The First Moments of Meditating

Are my favorite. They are unlike any other time during meditation, at least for me. Nothing profound or deep. They are moments of great peace, of feeling completely in myself, of feeling safe, of all being right with the world. In those first few moments I feel called to sit, to be quiet, to just be there, to surrender. And I answer the call completely, wholeheartedly, without reservation, with relish. It is the most sublime of feelings and sublime of times.

Why? I have no idea. It is like I am falling into myself, into the perfectness that is me – for me. John O’Donohue said,

“Everything that happens to us in the world passes into us. It all becomes part of the inner temple of the soul . . . “

Morning Dove or pigeon flying in front of a smoke-hazed morning sun

And perhaps that is a bit of what those first few moments are. A settling in to the inner temple of the soul. No judging, no evaluating, no processing, no considering, no planning, no looking forward or back. Just sitting with myself.

I love meditating and all that takes place when I do it. But I can’t say that it is calm or quiet, or easy. It is all kinds of different things, but it is nothing like those first few moments of absolute bliss. I can’t hold onto those moments. They don’t last long. But they are the best.

Trulli Houses of Alberobello, Italy

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Just Being

We in the West are doers. We are predisposed culturally to always be doing. We are raised to not have idle hands – the work of the devil. It is an unbelievable curse, for there is so much to be gained in simply being.

I am probably more content than most to just be. Seven summers spent canoeing the Maine wilderness gave me so many opportunities to be. Sitting, watching the sunset or moon rise at the end of a day, getting in a rhythm of paddling across a broad lake, where I was doing but also just being, hours in front of a mesmerizing campfire led me to appreciate and relish doing nothing, to feeling the contentment that comes from just being. No doubt, my mind was whirling most of the time. But I do believe there were plenty of moments where it was quiet.

Sunset at Darrow Wilderness Camp in Maine

It is harder to do today, but I am moving back to being more comfortable with it. When I have nothing to do I now try to tell myself to accept it and not look for something to fill the time. It takes effort. It takes conscious effort, for our default is action. Christophe André puts it like this in Looking at Mindfulness:

“Taking action, directing, influencing – we are itching to do all these things and soothed by doing them. This is both the great strength of human beings and our great weakness.”

I think my meditating is helping me just be more often. At times while meditating I glimpse infinity and eternity. And when I make a conscious effort while not meditating to just be I again get those moments of experiencing the infinite. It is quite beautiful and something I am increasingly grateful for.

Just Being at Homer Cottage, Southwest Harbor, ME

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Generational Horizons

A few years ago OnBeing interviewed two of its regular contributors – Parker Palmer and Courtney Martin. At the time Palmer was in his 70’s, Courtney 35 – 40 years younger. Palmer said something interesting. He said the younger generation could see farther over the horizon because of their vantage point. And that it was important for the generations to talk with each other because what they can see, and we can’t, is coming our way. They help us.

I think this is one reason I do love interacting with younger generations. Not only do they have a really good take on the world and its possibilities, they see and accept what is coming more than we.

Molas Pass, San Juan County, Colorado

I’ve just finished 6 private lessons with my yoga teacher who is 40 years my junior and a full 10 years younger than my eldest child. Here is this woman of immense wisdom helping me as I delve into meditation and the broader aspects of yoga. She is stewarding her time infinitely better than my generation ever did. Now she is talking to me about doing her teaching, counseling, and guiding online, with downloadable lessons and online classes. Yes, this is being done a lot these days. But this would be a first for me. She is looking over the horizon I can not see, bringing it to me.

I have to say, however, that I can see over the horizon in the other direction, which she cannot see. And, there is a bit of wisdom to be gained looking over that horizon. Some of the young people I have the joy of interacting with are interested in my side of the horizon. We aren’t going back there, but there are some things to take away that will be of value for those looking over the horizons I can’t see!

Drum Tower, Weishan, China

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How Hard it is to Meditate

Learning to meditate is truly tough – in large part because of our expectations about what it is and the consequent lack of success in doing it. These expectations are born due primarily to what little we know about meditation, all the hype it receives, and the glowing long list of its benefits. The truth is it is much simpler and, at the same time, much more difficult than most of what you read. So I am always pleased to read things that truly explain what it is to meditate. The following is from my current favorite read Looking at Mindfulness by Cristophe André.

“In reality, what we call thinking or reflecting is not producing thoughts (that work is beyond our will or intervention), but sorting and organizing them, putting them into a hierarchy, trying to focus on some and develop them, while trying to banish others. This is why it is pointless to hope meditation will lead us quickly, and to order, to a kind of mental silence or absence of thoughts. This does sometimes happen, but only for a moment now and then. Then the chatter starts up again. . . . .”


Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales

“. . . . Mindfulness work on thoughts simply means being aware of the irrepressible chatter of the mind and its power to draw us in. A moment comes when we are no longer observing our thoughts, but in them, carried away. We must then return calmly to our breathing, and then to observing our thoughts. Gradually the difference between ‘thinking something’ and ‘noticing that we are thinking something’ becomes clear.”


Live oaks and Spanish Moss on Hilton Head Island

André is delightfully honest and poetic in his descriptions. The “irrepressible chatter” is such an apt way to put it. No questions what he is talking about and it certainly lowers your expectations.

I am just a newbie at this so maybe it gets easier to avoid drifting into thought. But if you go in expecting a blank mind, you will quickly be disappointed and frustrated. And if my experience is “normal”, getting to a calm mind will be a long time coming.

If you can stay with it there is something quite compelling about it. I am having physical sensations I’ve not had before, there are periods of intense focus, my attention does get absorbed at times. (And then there’s all the chatter!) It is hard to describe the benefits and the whys for me other than to say I enjoy it, find it worthwhile, particularly at this stage of life where life is an exploration with no boundaries. Too, I just feel a call to do it. I am also the beneficiary of my extraordinary teacher who has been guiding me as I go along. Having her support has been invaluable.

It is, for me, both being and becoming. In meditating I am attempting to be. And it is a new form of becoming – post career. Kind of fun.


Planning the day of adventure in Melbourne, Australia



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