Back in Valdobbiadene and Veneto


Just about a month ago we were still in Italy and were returning to Valdobbiadene to visit family and friends. Oh how I miss Veneto!


Valdobbiadene is the town to the far left.

The drive was scenic (as usual) and I was thrilled to have a brand-new FIAT Abarth to drive. Whoa! Those things go fast and I certainly made sure that ours worked properly. We arrived on market day and I was happy to see plant venders and flowers. By this point I was beginning to miss my garden, plants, and cats a lot. IMG_1086
Happily, there was another van vending the most incredible handmade pasta. The hole there in the middle with an egg is where the trofie pasta was before my husband bought it all. You can see the stray ones scattered around. Despite what you might believe, not all of Italy is full of well-dressed beautiful women. Here at the market I found my typical work clothing, and again, I felt a bit more at home. Moving along we saw more flowers, and of course, they were colorful. There were seeds, herb plants, a man in a Nike sweatshirt (which made me miss home), and of course there were many other vendors, but I didn’t want to go on and on. Around the corner from the market I found this lovely garden. Like many smaller Italian gardens, it was in a charming state of disarray.

The ever-present Asparagus fern and succulent combo.

On our way to eat lunch with John’s cousin, I stopped so that I could take a photo of this house and windowsill. Right after that I saw this great back garden with its great outdoor oven. It too was colorful, and I loved the palm and mismatched tulips fluttering here and there. Lunch was wonderful and did I mention that Italy is colorful? I think John’s cousin thought I was a bit odd taking a photo of her tabletop but I think you might see why I did it, right? Look at those adorable chickens—and that red! Oh how I love red!
The red Dianthus, with the orange curtains, and the orange drain pipe. Ahhhhh, once again, color.  There are olive trees and palms everywhere. It’s kind of a Mediterranean thing. But that lion up on its pedestal, isn’t he adorable?We stayed in the same apartment we stayed in 2 years ago. Owned by a family friend, I love the view looking out at the vines. IMG_1127We also ate at the same restaurant as we did during our last trip. Pizzeria Caravaggio is fantastic and I really enjoyed eating there again. This time I ordered a pizza though, and was thrilled that they served it the way I like to eat pizza at home. I love nothing more than a cheese pizza covered in arugula. IMG_1131.jpgThe next morning we awoke to a sunny day and again I relished the view from the veranda as I drank my morning cup of coffee. This is the day we drove to Verona, and here I am putting on my game face. Not to go on and on with another back story, but I’ve been hearing about driving fast on the autostrada since I was a kid and whenever I’m in Italy I like to drive fast. This car helped me to fulfill the need for speed and as far as we know I still haven’t received a speeding ticket in the mail like I did last time.

With this kind of success, I think that next time I will wear driving gloves. I’ve earned them.

And next time we’ll talk about the amazing garden, or maybe it will be the post after that…


Not sure what this adorable little window box plant is but I admired it at our host’s house.

Anticipating Springtime

Galanthus elwesii.

This past weekend I worked outside for a few hours. There is much debris yet to pick up before the daffodils fully emerge from the ground and I’ve more pruning to do.

The temperatures were chilly, but it was sunny, and the back garden looks a bit better now thanks to the effort.

Container ships waiting near the mouth of the Columbia River to be driven over the Columbia Bar by one of the bar pilots. It’s dangerous work and from this restaurant window we can watch as the pilots are escorted out to the vessels.
The weekend before that we were able to escape for an extended mini-vacation—but I had to take my work along with me.
I worked a lot, but we somehow found the time to visit my maternal grandmother in Aberdeen (WA) one day, and we went to Astoria (OR) the day beforehand.

It’s rarely this clear and sunny during January so I took John up to the Astoria Column. (It is quite a landmark and I was surprised when he told me he’d never been there.) The views were breathtaking that day.

Looking southward (sort of) you see Youngs Bay. This is one of my all-time favorite views. Somehow, it always appears to me to look a bit like a painting.

Anticipating springtime.

Back at the house in Portland, life continues to change and we’re all adapting to the new vitality being breathed into our home. John is a lot of fun and has his own ways about him. He’s a special man to have moved into a place that is so mine, but we’re working to make it his too.

The most interesting adaptation we’re currently going through is that the youngest cat (the partially feral one) is moving in upstairs. As she has aged, she has changed. It has been interesting to observe her as she’s gone through a lot these past few years. Often, I find her hiding in plants like this just staring at me as I work. I stare back at her and she looks away. I suppose she is working too. I don’t really know for certain. She observes the garden for hours on end.

There have been some major territorial adjustments but the two female cats are respecting one another for the first time. (Maurice goes wherever he wants. It’s best that way—but nowadays he limps and doesn’t move around nearly as much.)

Mona tends to sit on furniture more and more and the ground less.

Indoors, Mona likes to be around the plants because she is used to living under them during the outdoor half of her year. She seeks them out in her daily routine.

She’s anticipating spring and follows me outdoors to spend time with me as I work. I never dreamed she’d shadow me so much. She is very much a loner cat but she’s changing. I’m honored but it’s more about her than me.

John is getting to know her more as well. He rarely saw her before but now they see one another everyday and he’s able to spend time petting her.

When I work indoors—writing and cooking as a ghostblogger for a food blog—she sits near my feet.

This is a big change for me. The other two cats are too old now to remain so alert to my movements all day. Maurice used to always be by my side, but now it’s Mona. This is a change.

Sedum spathulifolium.

Life is still a bit uncertain for me professionally as I try to manage working and serious chronic health issues. I miss my time spent at home, but it was very difficult for me to be living without career fulfillment. I grew tired of struggling to get by, and of working so hard to stay afloat, but it has been a humbling experience. I’m grateful.

The garden is seen differently now, but I’m at least seeing it again. The thought of losing it in the divorce made the sight of it excruciatingly painful. I now deeply admire those others who’ve gone through that kind of dissolution. I’m not ready to move on from here, but my time will come. Until then, I want to see my dreams and plans come to life outside.

I miss my garden though because I work a lot now and in order to be able to work I need to exercise a lot to keep the pain under control. The absolute pleasure and peace gardening gave me is now at odds with the reality of living a real life, but I am learning how to cope. It is an opportunity I never was given. I’m reintegrating gardening and am starting seeds again. I’m determined that this place will be reborn again soon.

Lewisia columbiana ssp. rupicola.

That’s why I’m set to rebuild it. I’ve been pulling the garden alongside me during the journey as I’ve been rebuilding myself during these past two years. As time has passed, and as I’ve struggle with its passage, how could I not think of the garden?

Freelance writing work is not easy to find and I was blessed with my current job. It’s amazing and I know it’s the right thing for me to be doing. Being a part-time caregiver is becoming more difficult though. I’m growing to the point now where I want to be away from illness. I live in both worlds, but I still want to belong to the living for a bit longer. I know exactly what I have to look forward to in the future, but right now, it’s my time.

It took the experience of a difficult client telling me repeatedly that I was there to provide her comfort and to take care of her needs. She repeatedly told me I was doing a poor job. Something inside of me rose up and rebelled. I’m in control of my own comfort and needs right now and I’m going to keep making better and more informed decisions so that I will land in a better place soon. I also realized that I was a damned good caregiver. She simply wasn’t the right client for me.

I’m growing in ways I wasn’t able to grow.

I’m carving out more time to write too. I cannot wait to see what publishing some of my own work will do for me as a person. It’s all I ever wanted out of life and it’s accomplishable now. Part of me will be at peace soon after settling that score.

Writing more—more than anything else—will heal some large wounds for me.

I’ve always been a writer at heart who just so happens to garden and love plants.

Lastly, as I go along plotting all these things out, my mind continues to go in and out of the garden and my plans for it—I mean our plans for it.

I’m currently sorting things around the house and am getting rid of old gardening books and other pieces of junk and this vintage window box combination really struck me the other day. I tossed the book but I kept this image from it.

This is the tangled and complicated kind of beauty I admire most. The round and tender leaves of a nasturtium are the last thing I’d imagine paired with a rattail cactus. One plant grows with ease in one season, while the other is an incredibly mature specimen plant—perfect example of the passage of time in the garden.

Spring is coming soon and I guess I’m not the gardening fraud I feel like I’ve become due to these past two years or so of major life changes and transitions. I’m going to Italy and I will be looking at a lot of plants. There hopefully will be a beautiful one-year wedding anniversary celebration to plan. There are more plans for the future than I can mention. I’m not necessarily the specimen plant I wanted to become. I’ve accepted that maybe sometimes I’m going to be the annual plant with great growth and vigor put on during one season. Or, it’s baroque and complicated and like everyone else I’m everything at once and far less interesting or important than I imagine myself to be and then I just don’t matter and I drift back with my eyelids shut to a sunny day in the summertime where all I can hear is the noise from the city streets, or waves from the Pacific Ocean, and I remember the sound of my grandma’s trowel in the dirt beside me as I doze off in the lounge chair.

Yes, I’m anticipating springtime too and the calm nothingness brought on by spontaneous moments of profundity caught in nature and in the garden. Maybe that’s what the feral cat is anticipating too.