year end gratitude

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My dear friends,

I am sitting here at my desk, the wood burning stove roaring beside me, icy fog right outside the window.  I struggle to find the right words, the appropriate tone for this year end post - because 2012 has been a convoluted, mysterious concoction, and I don't really know where to begin.

This was the year that calamity and catastrophe made me realize once more how important it is to follow our hearts and do our work.

So many lost so much in the last couple of months.  The devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused on the area of the country closest to my heart was terrifying to watch from the distance.  The slaughter of babies in Newtown was close to unbearable to process, made worse by the rhetoric that has made my beautiful country one of the most dangerous places to have a school aged child in the developed world.  In all of the grief, anguish and paralysis, a voice returned to me over and over.  Do your work.  Do your work. Don't you see?  You're healthy and have all you need.  Now do your work. 

I'm forging ahead, making notes and setting my sails.  I'm listening to what my heart is saying. I have so much to do in 2013.  There's a third book to be finished, a mentoring business to develop and pottery to be made.  A B&B to be opened, once again, and guests to be cared for.  All of those people who are suffering?  I want to help. And this year I am going to figure out how to do it.  It wasn't for nothing that two days ago, the universe brought me this message from James Doty, MD.  Take a half hour and listen to this man. I want some more of those good endorphins that come with giving.  I've donated money and some art to different causes but this year I want to do more.  I started collecting ideas last summer to create an artists' website for special causes but got sidelined by my book's editing and the  B&B.  So 2013 will be the year.  I want to do my work and bless all the gifts I've been giving in abundance.

This was the year I met on line friends in person.

There are so many connections on line, and so many limitations as well.  It's a genre that I don't yet fully understand.  But as I venture further and further into communicating this way (in 2013 it will be 7 years since I started my first blog about life in Piemonte!), I am learning more about myself and accepting, as gracefully as I can, the responsibility of sharing what I know about change, about empathy, compassion and vulnerability.  I often read in your comments what amounts to a reflection of what I feel, and that sense of solidarity between people that have never met in this media that continues to push (and sometimes intimidate) me.

In 2012 I had the rare fortune to meet several long term online friends in person.  These are people from around the globe who had brought decency and kindness and warmth into my life in a virtual sense, and are now part of my real life group of people who I am privileged to know.

Photographer and life philosopher Di Mackey came into my online several years ago.  Her blog, named People Become Stories and Stories Become Understanding was a peaceful, thoughtful place.  Di's love affair with Genova brought her here in November.  I took part in her photography workshop, Camera Journeys, where I met incredible women and realized, well, people become stories and stories DO become understanding.  There will be much more on that in the future, but suffice it to say that it was a weekend of women and stories that I will never forget. Oh, and I learned all about shutter speed and aperture, too!

Coach/writer/entrepreneur Barrie Davenport and writer/director Katie Tallo, talented women who I met in 2010 online through blogging, came to visit us this year at our B&B.  It was a wholly amazing, loving time, full of gut laughing and serious conversation.  It made me realize, once again, that the internet is really perfect for picking up vibes between like-minded people and providing a platform for really getting to know one another, if we choose it.

In November I received a call that a Facebook friend was in Acqui Terme.  Corinna Tonti, who owns and operates San Ponente Agriturismo in Umbria, was right down the road!  We put on some clean clothes and went into town and had an impromptu lunch with Corinna and her husband Ivan.  It was one of the most enjoyable afternoons we've had and left us wanting more.  Ahhh, the wonders of Facebook!

Artist, actress, and creative soul Lucinda Keller came to Italy last week on a solo trip and made the journey to Acqui Terme to visit me.  We've known each other for years online, and our conversations were fiercely deep as we tried to pack as much as we could into a 24 hour visit.

To find out more about these amazing women, their art and writing and lives, please visit their websites.

This was the year I became a published author.

I self published one book and had another published in the USA.  It's been quite a journey to accepting the title of "author" but here I am.  The support of both books has been wonderful and I will be finally touring a bit in February and March to promote True Vines.  Looking back, the learning curve on writing and publishing has been monstrous and I've learned a whole new profession.   As the reviews come in of True Vines on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes&Noble Online, one of the most notable came from an Italian:

"What I liked most is that the Italians portrayed in this novel are real life people. Good and bad people with their problems and insecurities like everybody else in the world. Not the cute-but-dumb peasants or clever thieves often favored by expat circles. I liked it that there (are) no winners or losers "by nationality" in this story. There's people and their stories, no matter what their passports say."

This was the year my heart became full through your words.

Thank you to each and every one of you, for coming here, for sharing the most beautiful, personal, and heart felt comments.

I don't know if I can convey to you what an honor it is to write for such insightful, empathetic people, people who want to understand, grow, change, and accept.  Sometimes I feel that you are way ahead of me, and you pull me along, me spitting out the words that you  have encouraged me to share, by nature of your being in this space with me.

And it's you, my readers, that I wish the warmth of this wood burning stove, the loving company of family and friends, the serenity of good health, the wisdom that it all can change on a dime, the fortitude to forge ahead, the strength to understand your own truth and to live it fully as we march bravely and gingerly into 2013.