The world is full of wondrous places and I’ve been fortunate to see many of them, but there have only been a handful which literally took my breath away. A recent article regarding Michael Klein’s art (American Artist Jan 2011) included his statement, “There are things in life that seem beyond descriptive ranges of verbal language.” I think this is a main purpose for many painters. We are inspired by something our eyes have seen and we want others to feel the same emotions. There are three places I’d like to reminisce about here that left me wide-eyed and temporarily halted my breath.
The Island of Capri, Italy
After a long train ride down the coast of Italy, we took a late night hydrofoil from Sorento to reach the Island of Capri. As we approached the island, it appeared as a sparkling jewel floating on the water and we were already mesmerized. After disembarking in the small harbor, we took the funicular up the side of the mountain and came out in the center square of the town. We suddenly felt like we were in another world as we walked through the glittering narrow avenue of chic boutiques. We left this area behind and followed the lit path as it wound through tall hedgerows and then steeply plunged to our little white hotel below.
The morning brought bright sunshine and and we giggled as we looked out at the blue expanse below our balcony. But with all of this beauty, we were still not prepared for the scene that awaited us. Energized, we walked back up to the center of town, now crowded with shopping tourists. The hill is steep before you reach the main square so we took our last steps slowly with heads lowered until we approached the small archway leading to the square. As we lifted our heads, we saw a view framed within the arch that was truly right out of a master painting. A valley swept away from us and then a mountain climbed steeply up to the town of Ana Capri. Blue sky with wisps of white cloud surrounded us. Although we stood there for several minutes, we couldn’t take in enough of the beauty and wondered if our eyes could ever get used to this delicious scene.
On another trip to Italy, we stepped off the train in Pisa on a cold December night and walked through the town. There was a Christmas market and we slowed to pick up some handmade wooden decorations and hot cider. We hadn’t made any hotel reservations so we continued on towards what the map had indicated as the historical area. We seemed to be getting close when we made a quick stop for gelato. As we licked the creamy ice cream in the street, we asked the owner of the shop where the tower was and he said, “There.” We both looked puzzled and squinted into the night. “Where?” we both intoned. The man led us a few feet further into the street and pointed, “There!” At once we saw it and gasped. The leaning tower of Pisa was lit up brilliantly in the night and was indeed leaning precariously. No post card image or television documentary can prepare you for how the tower appears to your own eyes. Walking to the top on steps worn smooth by generations of tourists and then walking around the small top as it seems to want to pitch you off is another treat for the senses.
Santorini Island, Greece
Most people visit the Greek islands in the Summer when bikini clad tourists and night clubbing youngsters abound but we arrived in late November. The island was quiet and we only saw locals moving about as we took the bus from the larger town of Thira to the cliff-side village of Oia. Athens had been quite cold but we found that the warm Mediterranean water made it so we could walk around without jackets. We never thought we would find our “hotel” with all of the narrow walkways and constantly ascending and descending stairs. Finally, we turned down a walled lane and stepped into the tiny courtyard/balcony of our cave apartment. Below was what looked like an alien landscape of whitewashed adobe pathways and pastel pink and blue little homes built into the cliff. Blue water and black lava islands stretched out to the setting sun on the horizon. What was this place? We asked ourselves. Who are these people who actually live here every day? Does living amongst such intense beauty do something to you psychologically? We laughed as we marveled and marveled again. Later, we would also witness the spectacle of watching an approaching storm march toward our little island, with lightening strikes and gusts. We took shelter in our snug cave dwelling, pulling stray dogs in after us. What a sight to see.
I have many landscape scenes in mind to paint some day. So far, I’ve painted the view from our cave in Oia. However, there are so many more wonders I would love to share like the “table cloth” mist over Table Mountain in Capetown, South Africa. The wide cobalt sky over adobe and wood houses in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Walking into the misty San Marco square in Venice at midnight. Sitting at the edge of the escarpment looking down into the cradle of humanity in Kenya. Seeing Mont St. Michel rise like a birthday cake out of the flat French farmlands. Or, driving through the expansive green and purple moors of Yorkshire in England.
Where are my brushes! Would it be possible to have someone gasp in front of one of my paintings?