Internations brunch in Treviso

The past few months have been both busy and not particularly so. Elections are coming in the US, and along with it my anxiety tends to go through the roof. I feel less anxious here in Italy, though, separated by an ocean and a lot of land mass. On my desk are printed out ballots for both the primary and a special election for schools infrastructure and funding in my county of legal residence back in the states. They’ll be marked and sent back soon.


ceramic plate from Japan

In February Tanja, a Slovenian woman from Koper I met through Internations, came to Trieste and we visited the Asian Art Museum together on a rainy weekend afternoon. I believe it was first Sunday of the month, and all Italian state museums are free to enter on that day. I’ve walked by the museum many times. It’s on a pedestrian lane and there is construction happening around it right now so the path is partly blocked. The collection is small but a nice one, and fairly eclectic.


Taoist sage, China


Japanese print

A group of us from north and east of Venice have been meeting monthly for coffee and lunch, which has been fun. Next weekend we’re venturing into Koper for the afternoon. The Venice group has a Sunday brunch occasionally, and I go to that if they aren’t too far away; a train trip early in the morning for brunch can be a bit grueling when you’re a night owl. The food and the company are quite nice, though. This month’s is in Treviso, in walking distance from the train station.


The poet, Alessandro, Gillian, Tanja, Jim, and Sere at the Arco Riccardo in Trieste.            Photo by Dave Seddon

March saw me visiting Ireland for the Ulidia 5 conference on the Ulster Cycle tales. The conference itself was held in Maynooth at the university there. I got to stay in a lovely but obviously old and poorly plumbed building. The shared shower was the sort where you push a button on the wall and get 10 seconds of freezing water. (Of course, it is a Catholic college. Suffering not optional.) The architecture was gorgeous. I bought several books at the university bookshop, and went to the famous Dublin bookshop Hodges Figgis afterwards, before finding a hostel for the night on my way home.


Maynooth campus map in Irish


swans at the Maynooth train station

At the conference, I got to hear papers from many scholars whose work has influenced me over the years, and was introduced to many others. I had dinner with a table full of people including Elizabeth Gray, who gave a splendid talk on ravens and wolves, satirists, and the féinnid in the tale of Deirdre. There was a reception and festschrift release for Tomás Ó Cathasaigh. Plenary sessions were given by Máire Herbert, Tomás Ó Cathasaigh, and Ralph O’Connor. The French scholar Gaël Hilly spoke on Lug and Cú Chulainn and the use of magical postures in battle, which was quite interesting. I have to say that it was entirely geektastic for someone with my interests.


campus housing, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth


Máire Herbert and the poet, at the reception for Tomás Ó Cathasaigh              Photo from Ulidia 5 twitter stream

Two of the people to whom I was introduced were Kim McCone and his wife Katherine Simms, whose names some of you will certainly recognize. For my fellow Celtic Pagans and Polytheists, I will report my favorite quote from the conference, uttered by Professor McCone: “I’ve gone nativist. I really hate the McCone orthodoxy.” Apparently they have a flat in Vienna and would like to visit Trieste sometime, so I gave them my contact information and told them I would be happy to show them around the city.

I was also introduced to Damian McManus, whose book on ogam I found particularly influential when I was writing my own book on the topic. He had done a reprint of the book recently, but hasn’t been able to sell them because someone pirated it and posted a PDF online for free. He was extremely generous and sent me five copies of the reprint in return for a copy of my poetry volume, which I sent out to him last week.


women of the Easter Rising, Dublin 2016


street art, Dublin

I left the conference before the final speaker on Sunday so that I would have the opportunity to get to Hodges Figgis before I had to fly home on Monday. My plane left at a painfully early hour, so there was no way for me to stop in on Monday at all. They have an incredible selection of books on Ireland, and on early and medieval Irish history and literature, which is nearly unmatched, from what I can see. Kenny’s in Galway has a much larger collection of books on the topics actually in Irish, or did when I visited there some years back, but I was nowhere near Galway this trip.


Blooms Hotel, Temple Bar, Dublin

The city was commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Art and information was everywhere in Dublin, and the hostels and hotels were packed. I did manage to find a room in a hostel, Kinlay House, which had a bus direct to the airport right outside their door. I was quite pleased, and the cost was low. The staff was informed and polite, which is always good.

I spent a lot of time sitting in the airport at Gatwick on the way home. After having spent time in Maynooth among scholars and Irish speakers, it was quite a pleasant surprise to hear a small group of Irish speakers at the airport. I’ve studied some modern Irish and was able to understand a few words and phrases here and there. They were older folks, mostly, which wasn’t too surprising. I’m not sure where they were from, but it was a real pleasure.


Piran, Slovenia, church


Piran’s waterfront

After I got back to Trieste, Tanja invited me to come to Slovenia for Easter Sunday. We went out to the little coastal own of Piran for lunch, and then to Koper. It was a glorious day. The restaurant we went to for lunch was packed, and we were lucky to get a place at all. Many people were told there would be an hour or more to wait, particularly if they were groups and had no reservation. Larger tables are always more difficult to get. Being just the two of us, a table had just emptied when we got there and we were able to just walk over and sit down at the outside table. The fish was delicious. After lunch we drove to Koper and had coffee before heading back to Trieste.


Piran harbor


harbor with port and starboard lights for the entry to the docks


Rewind: August, 2012

I’d only been to Europe once before, in 2007. I’d been given a trip to Ireland by a friend who ended up having to move the same week as the tour she’d booked. She couldn’t get a refund and called me up out of the blue, saying, “If you can get yourself to New York and back, you can have this trip to Ireland. I want someone to have it who would really appreciate it.”

I said yes, of course. I had the time, and managed to pull together enough money for a round trip ticket to New York in very short order. I wouldn’t be lying if I told you it took magic.

Last year, I went back to Ireland, this time to lead a pilgrimage to sacred sites. Since I would already be in Europe, and since the pilgrimage organizers were paying for my flight to Dublin and back to Seattle, I asked if it mattered where I flew home from. “No,” they said. “We don’t mind, we’ll book your round trip ticket.”

“How does Venice sound? Then I can visit my brother.”

They were agreeable, so I spent a couple of months planning my couch-surf across Europe as we planned our pilgrimage and our writing exercises.

My second trip to Europe was as much a gift as my first. In July and August of 2012, I traveled around Ireland with the pilgrimage for ten days, then took a ferry to the Isle of Man, where I spent the better part of a week in a backpacking tent, with gales blowing every night. I sailed to Liverpool and took a train north to visit some friends in England — Pendle Hill and the Lake District and Penrith. I flew from Manchester to Brittany and stayed with friends there, in a village whose population consisted of ten people and eight dogs. A few days later, I was on a plane again, visiting friends who teach English in Prague.

My brother lives in Italy. He’s been stationed at the Air Force base at Aviano off and on for the better part of twenty years. He drove up to Prague to pick me up and we road tripped south through Austria, spent the night in Salzburg during the Mozart festival, and the next day ended up at his place in Montereale Valcellina, a small town at the foot of the Dolomites, not far outside the base.

I spent four days in Italy. We went to Venice, and out to Aquileia, had a snack in the walled city of Palmanova, and visited the small mountain town of Poffabro, where I took the photo that heads the blog here. I walked the shores of Lake Barcis. I saw an entire river emerging from the side of a mountain, and walked along a stream rising from the deep underwater cave of Gorgazzo.

I had wonderful food and met some delightful and very friendly people. The mountains were gorgeous, the scenery was beautiful, and I was enchanted by Italy, though after Prague I will admit I was a bit cathedraled out. We visited Murano instead of St Mark’s, and I don’t regret it. I think I would not have appreciated St Mark’s half as much after St Vitus’s cathedral at Prague Castle. I needed a rest before I dealt with that much artistic intensity again.

I wanted to spend more time in Venice, and thought that perhaps in a year or so I might be able to spend a couple of months there to see all the things I didn’t have time for in our one day lightning visit. I talked with my brother about the idea after I got home to Everett and he said, “If you really mean it, I’ll help you find a way to do it. Just let me know.”

I never imagined that I would actually be moving to Italy a little over a year later.

I get on a plane in six weeks. I’ve been selling nearly everything. I’ve packed my library for shipping — you can’t expect a poet to live without her books, after all. They are the bulk of what I’ll be taking with me.

When I arrive, I’ll be living with my brother until I get my own apartment. He’s in a small town and I need to be in a city, where I can walk to things, and where I can get public transit for the things I can’t walk to. But I love cities, and the thought excites me and sets my heart alight.

I’ll need to come back for my dog once I’ve settled in my own place, as I can’t bring him with me initially. I’m already dealing with paperwork and looking at my options for transporting him. Even after having been in the military many years ago, the process of getting my residence visa and dealing with everything that needs doing before I get on that plane has been a huge project; it’s one I’ll talk about in other posts. The work of it won’t be over when I arrive in Italy. There’s so much still to do.

I hope you’ll join me for the journey.