October 2010

Cities visited: Amsterdam, Oxford, London, Haifa, Oxford, San Giovanni in Persiceto, and Dublin.

Noteworthy sights (transitory): a swarm of ladybirds (North Americans call them ladybugs), of at least four different varieties, covering the façade of Oxford’s Iffley Church; and, later in the month, a flock of several hundred pelicans flying south for the winter, not far from Tel Aviv’s airport.

Noteworthy sights (permanent): images of the heads of the Four Evangelists adorning the four corners of the Iffley Church’s bell tower, in their roles as representatives of the four fixed signs of the zodiac: Mark appearing as a Lion for Leo, Matthew as a Man for Aquarius, Luke as a Bull for Taurus, and John as an Eagle (the old symbol for what is now Scorpio). Mark and Luke gaze down upon the 1600-year-old yew that graces the churchyard.

Noteworthy scenic, livable small town: Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. While there I enjoyed a fine meal at the Happy Pear (http://www.thehappypear.ie/).

Noteworthy ruin: http: Glendalough, seat of St. Kevin, also in County Wicklow.

Noteworthy exhibition: at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, selected works of the Pre-Raphaelites (John Ruskin et al) made on visits to Italy.

Noteworthy novel: My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk

Noteworthy old films seen on DVD: Jesus of Montreal, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Noteworthy word that deserves to be more employed: whilom (adj. “having once been; former”). As an adverb it meant “formerly,” but since this sense of it is now archaic, could we speak of it as the “whilom whilom”?

Noteworthy performance: “Poothana Moksha,” presented in Italy by Maryse Noiseux, one of the very few serious students of the South Indian dance drama Kathakali who is a Western woman (http://satsangam.org/).

Noteworthy linguistic experience (receptive): being able to understand 98% of the short speech that Maryse (a French Canadian by birth) delivered in Italian in Bologna just before her performance. (Disclaimer: I was able to understand her because, though thoroughly fluent in Italian, Maryse is a non-native speaker, and so enunciated clearly, did not speak too quickly, and used simple vocabulary & syntax).

Noteworthy return to a beautiful location: at the Agriturismo del Cimone (http://www.agriturismodelcimone.it/stage.html) near Fanano, in Italy’s beautiful Apennines; this time, in addition to excellent food, breathtaking vistas, and general bonhomie, I also enjoyed an hour out on horseback.

Back in San Giovanni in Persiceto I dined out with Signor Francesco Merenda, who heads PAC, the company that I have been working with there since 1995. After presenting me with a fascinating mini-discourse on the differences between Kendo & Iaido (he practices both, but currently focuses on Iaido), which culminated with a lamentation on how few Westerner students of Eastern martial arts can appreciate that it is essential to leave all manifestations of the outer world behind when they cross the dojo’s threshold, Francesco requested me to encapsulate my experiences with PAC in “two words”. I did it in five: ho scoperto un nuovo mondo (“I discovered a new world”), a world filled with exotic foods, beautiful sights, historical cities, convivial friends, and the beautiful Italian language. It was those fifteen years of hearing Italian spoken around me all day long for a week at a time, and listening to my words translated into Italian during my lectures for hours on end, that made me able to understand Maryse, without ever having taken a single class in the language. Grazie mile, PAC!

Last Modified on July 12, 2015
this article October 2010