30 September 2010


It is by chance that we met, by choice that we became friends
- Unknown

It's choice - not chance - that determines your destiny
- Jean Nidetch

Life is a sum of all your choices 
- Albert Camus

--Josslyn "Giosalina"
Firenze, Italia

28 September 2010

The Crucifix of Santo Spirito

Michelangelo Buonarroti self-taught the study of anatomy.  In the wee hours of the night, Michelangelo would sneak in and out of the morgue of the hospital at the church of Santo Spirito in Florence, Italy.  He would carve and dissect corpses and commit to his memory each layer of the body's systems.  The prior of Santo Spirito, Niccolo Bichiellini, was aware of someone entering the morgue, but it took quite a while before he put two and two together and came to the realization that it was indeed Michelangelo sneaking around.  Because the church prior liked Michelangelo and though the two never actually discussed Michelangelo's un-permitted entrance into the morgue and dissection of the corpses, there was an unspoken agreement that he was free to continue his anatomical studies; hence, no more sneaking.

Out of gratitude for the prior's generosity bestowed upon Michelangelo, when Michelangelo was a mere 18 years of age (1493), he sculpted the wooden crucifix of Jesus as a gift to the prior and the church. The sculpture remained in the high altar of the church until the early 1600s when some structural modifications to the church were made.  The cross was relocated and apparently lost for some time.

More recently, 1964, the sculpture was displayed in Rome and eventually moved to the Casa Buonarroti.  In the past week the sculpture was returned to its original home in the church of Santo Spirito.  I was fortunate to see the crucifix this weekend.

How do we really know it is a work of Il Divino, Michelangelo? He didn't ordinarily sculpt on wood.  I believe this may actually have been his only wood sculpture, but I cannot confirm this. It is a piece from his early years; hence, a bit simplistic in contrast to what he was known to create.  He wasn't known to sign his works.  Yet after much testing by the experts, it has been determined and confirmed that in fact it is a work of Michelangelo.  There are those who challenge this.  Always a controversy...  Who am I to say?  I enjoy learning about his life and the jealous relationship he had with Leonardo Da Vinci, and I accept that it is a work of art created by the master.

From my observation, the sclupture is smaller than life-size. The cross itself stands approximately six feet tall, and Jesus is probably slightly more than three feet tall.  The face is humble and peaceful; his feet nailed to the cross.  It is a gorgeous piece. Originally, Jesus was sculpted naked, with the understanding that a slip of clothing would be added, but in the various relocations of the sculpture, the clothing has been lost.

I had hoped to capture a photograph of my own, but the priest -- or was it a prior? -- was on duty in the room, making sure no one took pictures nor spoke or gasped too loudly.
-- Josslyn "Giosalina"
Firenze, Italia

24 September 2010

Fruttivendolo (Greengrocer)

In California, we are spoiled because we have an enormous variety of fruits and vegetables available year round. In Tuscany, we have fewer choices, but we are better off eating mostly what is in season and locally grown, and we also have choices not found in California. In California, we have farmers markets; in Tuscany, we have the fruttivendolo (greengrocer). I frequent the fruttivendolo, but my preference is to go directly to Mercato Centrale because I am guaranteed to have a fun experience.

Bitter melon is what this fruit is officially named and makes for some interesting and raunchy conversation. Originating in Southeast Asia, China, Africa, and India, this particular selection of bitter melon was cultivated in the province of Arezzo (about 80 km/50 miles from Florence). Italians generally don't eat it, but the immigrants buy it and fry it. It is a cugina (cousin) to the cucumber, melons, and squash families. And for those of you who don't know, it is technically a fruit because it has seeds. A fruit can also be a vegetable, but a vegetable can never be a fruit. While we're on the subject, I'll tell you that tomatoes; cucumbers; squash and zucchini; avocado; green, red, and yellow peppers; peapods; and pumpkins are all fruit, not vegetables.

The outside has an interesting texture -- long, delicate, rubber-like to the touch, with warts and ridges, and a bitter flavor -- whereas, inside the fruit has a pulpy cavity with ripe, red seeds that are slightly sweeter to the taste. (No, I didn't taste it! I trust my friends who described and tasted it in my presence, thank you.)  It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Bitter melon is known to have medicinal uses. Among the many uses, it stimulates sluggish digestion. I could imagine it would stimulate something. Clinical tests revealed links to aiding in the treatment of HIV and cancer as well as type-II diabetes.

Throughout Italy, bitter melon is more commonly known as pisello di coccodrillo, which I don't think I am permitted to translate on a public website.

How creative are you? How would you prepare this fruit? Do you eat it raw or cooked? Share your recipe ideas...
-- Josslyn "Giosalina"
Firenze, Italia

19 September 2010


Ouch! Some days are like this. They just hurt.

And today was one of those days -- it just kicked my @**. Felt a bit overwhelmed with a variety of things that hit me all at once.

Having a little awareness of the three Gunas has allowed me to have a bit more self-compassion on an exceptionally tamasic or rajasic day. But today it all caught up to me and took hours for it to pass, working diligently while my soul weeped. They say, "The longest mile is the one from the head to the heart." Intellectually, I know better, but sometimes the heart just needs to feel what it feels.

"What can I do?" I asked myself.

I spent most of the day working and decided to change my environment. I went for a walk and discovered gorgeous light.

While out and about, a friend called to meet and catch up. Since she moved across the river to the center of town and started school, we haven't seen each other recently. It was a healing couple hours, and I absorbed a little more of the amazing light.

And I enjoyed a sunset behind one of my favorite churches...

Once back home, some heart opener asanas were just the thing that completely restored my soul.
-- Josslyn "Giosalina"
Firenze, Italia

11 September 2010

A Day to Remember...

09 September 2010

Montevarchi (Arezzo)

A Friend in Florence organized a degustazione (wine tasting) event this past Sunday at a nearby Chianti winery, I Selvatici, in the town of Montevarchi.

We had the chance to learn about the winery's history, family, and award-winning wines. Based on my vast knowledge and experience of the raccolta (harvest) of olives last year (one day's work), I volunteered my services to help harvest the grapes next month and olives in November.

In town was a medieval festival, La Festa del Perdono (Festival of Forgiveness).

A parade. Renaissance clothing, games, and angelic faces.

A renaissance game is played, Giocco del Pozzo (put the ball in the well). Food is served. Pici dell'anatra (a thick, long, hollow pasta with duck sauce) is what I chose and paid for with Varchi.

At the end of the day, one Varchi equals 2 Euros, and 2 Euros equals $2.54. A fun day and a couple new friends.

-- Josslyn "Giosalina"
Montevarchi, Italia