05/30/12

A Taste of Maine

I attended a wonderfully executed event held by Visit Maine earlier this month, which has me dreaming up some idyllic summer plans. The food during the evening at the St. Regis Hotel was delicious, and the wine crisp and clean juxtaposed against the rich flavors of crab, clams and lobster.

I’ll be sharing news here about treks to Ogunquit, where I will visit The Cliff House, as well as other wonderful venues in the seaside town. Then I’ll hightail it to the mountains to a charming spot on the hem of the White Mountain National Forest to a town called Bethel. I can’t wait to peruse the architecture of the quaint village, which will be celebrating its centennial next year.

I’ll be taking a day-trip to Cape Elizabeth to see how the eco-friendly initiatives being supported by Inn by the Sea are going. I will always have a soft spot for the wonderful resort perched on the edge of Crescent Beach Sate Park and Seal Cove. I’m especially keen to see their Bunny Habitat Restoration, which they are undertaking in collaboration with the Maine Department of Conservation and the Parks Department, as they take steps to restore the habitat for the endangered New England Cottontail rabbit.

My head was swimming with thoughts of fun escapades when I left that evening—cultural events at the Stonington Opera House and the Maine Maritime Museum, along with the sounds of the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival caught my eye; a sand-nestled cottage from Seaside Vacation Rentals in York, and news of Amtrak’s Downeaster expanding northward to Brunswick rounded out the exploratory legwork I am hoping will take me far away from the steamy cement of NYC this summer!

10/5/10
Journaling in the Piazza di Castel Monastero

The Heft of Time


Journaling in the Piazza di Castel Monastero

So, today’s #LetsBlogOff topic is “Are blogs as important as bloggers think they are?” Now what kind of question is that, Paul Anater, you instigator you? I can only seriously answer this in one way: “I have absolutely no idea whether anyone would consider my blogs important (Yes, plural; the amount of attention I’ve gotten from my internet platform has created a virtual monster!).” I’ve been thinking about the subject as I’ve traveled through Italy so some surprising things have come to mind as I’ve wondered what I might post.

Until yesterday, I was ensconced in the Tuscan countryside in a remarkable retreat called Castel Monastero that was a former nunnery. Several of the buildings surrounding the soulfully beautiful piazza date back to medieval times so strolling through the setting made me feel as if I’d stepped back in time. I sat in my room with the windows thrown open yesterday morning listening to Hildegard von Bingen, one of music’s most prolific contributors to the spiritual genre, while working on my memoir about the mission field, The Road to Promise. It was an incredible experience and I felt as if I’d transcended my humanity to reach into a realm I’d never touched before.

As I thought about von Bingen and all she represents to musicians and feminists as I zipped through the Tuscan countryside on the train to Milan yesterday afternoon, I realized that whether anyone thought her writings or musical compositions were important was likely a secondary concern if a consideration at all. She was simply involved in her deepest creative spirit, which is exactly what my blogs, particularly The Road to Promise, have given me—a depth of experience that is remarkable and invaluable to me spiritually and creatively.

Before I traveled to Tuscany, I spent three luscious days at CastaDiva Resort on Lago di Como. My duplex suite was in the tower of Villa Roccabruna, which was the original home of Giuditta Pasta, who became an important muse to the composer Vincenzo Bellini. Pasta’s first appearance in London was a flop, and yet legend has it that when Bellini—who was staying in a villa across from the soprano on Lake Como—heard her singing he rowed across the lake to find the woman with such an incredible voice. She was the inspiration for two of his greatest works, “Norma” and “La Sonnambula.” Of course, Pasta cared how others felt about her performances and it must have been crushing to have received such bad reviews, but it never stopped her from studying with better mentors and performing to great acclaim in some of the most important cultural capitals in Europe.

I feel a connection to such a story because I have tried for decades to secure a book contract for The Road to Promise so that I could share my experiences. Not only have I been unable to interest anyone in publishing it, I have received some scathing feedback along the way, one particular editor at the University of Nebraska Press telling me to “get over myself” on a sticky note affixed to the manuscript. The printed book proposal with his confetti of rejecting notes peppering its pages is in my war chest—the box of past challenges I have saved to keep me from giving up when the going gets tough! So blogging has given me the opportunity to do what I set out to do—send my thoughts and my ideas out into the world—and I truly appreciate all of you who have taken the time to read the material and to comment or support me in the varied ways that you have; it’s been a beautiful thing for me to experience.

So, for now, I am happy to continue to post every Wednesday so that I can share the journey I had, hoping that a publisher will recognize at some point that the material has merit. If not, maybe I’ll self-publish, but at the very least I will have been able—through the experience of posting online—to express myself in a way that’s rewarding, and that’s what makes my blogging important to me. Whether it’s of any consequence to anyone else, I’m not at all sure, but I’d like to think it is…

I’m now enjoying a stay at the incredible Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan, which at one time hosted celebrities the likes of Josephine Baker, Charlie Chaplin and Maria Callas. I leave you with a video of Callas’ version of Casta Diva, a song that Bellini wrote for Pasta to perform, as Callas was compared to Pasta early in her career. I have to say that the parallels in life, even in three such diverse locales as I have stayed over the past week, can be quite breathtaking when one is roaming by design!

I’m posting The Road to Promise a day early this week so that those of you who’ve seen last Wednesday’s post will have something new to read if you decide to stop in. Thanks again for sharing my journey, everyone. I have to say you all mean so very much to me and I look forward to many rewarding interactions to come! To see other #LetsBlogOff posts, click here and enjoy the ride!