Trip to Rome, Then Tumult and DREAD

Today is Sunday, October 16, 2016. Blue skies, and in Houston, it is still quite warm. My last Rockbridge Times post was written in July about a summer weekend in Cama Beach with my daughter Caroline, her daughter Lulu and a plethora of their friends. And then nothing. Nothing. I wrote nothing for Rockbridge Times.
But, I was writing something. I wrote nine posts about Roma, Napoli, Bologna and Firenze for The posts span the month-long sojourn Earl and I took to Italy after his spring semester classes ended. Writing for Paper City, I relived the trip and put into words the ways in which each of four Italian cities were so different and so compelling.
Our favorite spot in Roma - in proximity to the Pantheon, night or daytime.
MMH poses in front of a Roman fountain.
Earl at our hotel window overlooking the Bay of Naples, and that would be Vesuvius in the distance.
Bologna's Duoma, its facade unfinished, but its scale immense.
Impressions of Florence, overwhelmingly included tour groups.
Earl surveying portraits in the Pitti Palace galleries.
Breakfast buffet at our hotel in Florence. The ever present screen.
Earl along the Tiber River.

Vespas in Bologna.
Over this past summer, the years-old habit of blogging faded. Not because I didn't have things to say, but because there has been far too much to say, and all of it suffused with what I've begun to call the DREAD.  Had I written, the posts would have been coated with a sick gravy of DREAD. DREAD is new for me and I know it's a covering for other stuff.

There are several reasons for this sense of DREAD. First, there is a lot happening in our three generation extended family. I could name a half dozen intense family situations that all intertwine with my days. I live the tumult, unable to truly help or to control any of these situations, though sometimes, I make a bit of headway through the turmoil. Takes waiting and patience, takes tenacity and love. Lots of love.

So, there is the heavy-lifting in/for our extended family. There is also the search for time and space to give substance and form to the book in my head, and to create the collages and images I want to incorporate into the narrative. Yes, I write fragments for the book-to-be. Pages pile up and are badly in need of an editor. Badly in need of order.

Overlaying all facets of a personal life is the presidential campaign and election. I thought the primaries were grueling. Then came the Republican and Democratic conventions. One was scorched earth rhetoric; the other uplifting, making me proud.
First debate of the campaign. She is wonderful.
The campaign since Labor Day? Well, after the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I marveled at her fortitude in standing so close to the toxic aura he exudes. By the end of their 'debate' - if one can even call it a real debate -  I felt weakened by his putdowns and outright lies. It is truly debilitating to hear this man sneer and rave. I take it in as if he were talking to me. I react personally to his words, am unsettled, want to get myself as far away as possible. So, to imagine him as president of the most powerful nation in our world is unthinkable. Smart and good men and women do not behave as he does.
Michelle Obama's magnificent speech in New Hampshire last Thursday brought us back to sanity. She named his behaviors 'not normal'. She asked what we citizens intend to teach our children if we vote for this man, or allow him to win by casting a protest vote or not voting at all? We will teach our children that bullying and bluster and lying and cheating folks out of money owed, and grabbing women's breasts and crotches are all OK. Acceptable behavior. "This has got to stop right now," she said.

One thing about this dreadful campaign brought a smile this week and that was the video of the second debate set to Dirty Dancing's "I've Had the Time of My Life." Let it bring you a smile too.
With all of these personal and public forces moving in and around me, and after years of winging it on my own, I found a therapist. I am ready to lance this omnipresent DREAD and get to the underbelly feelings gushing and pushing, instigating daily weeping. A daily weep, by the way, helps.
I have a few other things that help ease the DREAD too.
Posting pictures on Instagram helps. It's a compulsion and it is about building a visual world from all that surrounds me. I've also been collaging, using my iPhone to capture a pieced-together image, and then rearranging the same bits of photographs, objects and fabrics anew to make another and yet another. Tomorrow I begin some private PhotoShop lessons in layering images with text, which will get me closer to the kind of book I see in my head.
And below are several collages that incorporate the figure of a little girl in white. To me, she has become an iconic image signifying a journey. The original photo was of Mary B walking along a wide open space near South Padre Island when she was, perhaps, six years old. I've taken this image over, indeed it has become a symbol of my life journey. I even put it/her on the home page of my website.
As I used to say way back in the 1980s, 'the wonderful and the terrible' happen simultaneously. They are side by side. We can live a day with small pleasures, blue skies and extravagant clouds; that same day will also have pockets of DREAD. And so, there is therapy to push and prod the DREAD this way and that in search of a new way of seeing that will lessen the arsenal of tears.