Category Archives: Art

NPR Article: Letters of Heartbreak Find Some Love in Verona, Italy


A few months ago, I heard a story on NPR about the Juliet Club in Verona, Italy, and it has stuck with me, so I need to share it with our readers.  I started out to paraphrase it, but then I realized I was quoting almost every part of the article, so I decided just to copy the article here for you.  I think you will see why it has stuck with me.  My conclusions, after hearing this story:  1) I want to move to Italy 2) the world is full of wonderful people that we don’t even know about until we hear stories like this 3) there are times that, despite the voices of the announcers (which can drive me insane), I love NPR, and 3) the more we can all realize our common humanity, common suffering, the better chance we have of surviving and helping our planet survive!.  Here’s the story, complete with pictures from the NPR website:

Each year, the town of Verona, Italy — home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet — receives thousands of letters of heartache and unrequited love addressed to the play’s star-crossed heroine.

The tradition of sending letters to Juliet very likely goes back centuries. People started by leaving notes on a local landmark said to be Juliet’s tomb. Later, many started sending mail directly to the city. By the 1990s, Verona was receiving so many letters, it created an office to deal with it. And each letter — the Juliet Club office gets more than 6,000 a year — is answered by hand.

An example, from India:

Dear Juliet,

I am madly in love. I know you get millions of letters with love problems written from around the world. I write today to ask you for strength. I live in India where my parents won’t allow me to marry the guy that I love because he is from a different caste. He’s the only guy I have felt so strongly about. I know I will have to fight my family for him and I am ready. I ask you only for strength. 

The Juliet Club is housed in a small building on the outskirts of the city and is staffed by a small army of volunteers who call themselves the “secretaries.” There are about 15 of them.



Continue reading NPR Article: Letters of Heartbreak Find Some Love in Verona, Italy

Play: It’s Not Just For Kids

Oops50:BarbaraWe usually associate play with children.

But why did we, the adults, stop playing?  What is at the heart of playing, and why is it good?  How can we do it more?
Most of us in the States grew up with the Puritan work ethic, which values hard work and frugality.  As Americans, we have a reputation for living to work.  Many of us are perfectionists and tend to deny ourselves permission to do something unless we can do it perfectly, or it’s “productive”.  We feel guilty if we’re just having fun.
Thanks to Stuart Brown, psychiatrist and founder of “The National Institute of Play,” there’s now ample scientific evidence showing the benefits of play in the animal kingdom.  A neurologist discovered humans develop more emotional maturity and better decision-making skills when they play more.
Brown says, “Play energizes us and enlivens us.  It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.”
Play is pleasurable.  It’s purposeless and fun. When we’re truly playing, we lose all sense of time and enter that flow state. Our spirit will always urge us to play, as our spirit is always seeking the highest feeling of joy and aliveness.  It’s our mind that puts the brakes on: “Play is frivolous” “I don’t have time”…
So how do we get back to play?: There are five key ways:
1.    Get into your heart energy and let-go of play saboteurs that come from the mind.
2.    Remember back to when you were a kid having the most fun – what were you doing? How did you feel when you were playing? What would feel like fun now?
3.    Look at role models to inspire you. Movies like “Harold and Maude” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” are wonderful for inspiring play. The author SARK is another one.
4.    Give yourself permission. Let go of perfection and productivity and enjoy the process. Your only gauge should be how you’re feeling.
5.    Invite your friends to play.
Chew quietly your sweet sugarcane God-Love, and stay playfully childish. – Rumi

Question of the Week: Who Were Some of Your Favorite Childhood Book Characters?


I loved the responses we got on the last ‘question of the week’, so here I go again.  This time, I’d like to know who some of your favorite childhood book characters were.

I’d have to start out with Mister Dog, the dog who lived by himself in a little crooked house and cooked up bones for himself in a pot and slept in pajamas.  That was one of my favorite Golden Books–and I’ve never gotten over the wonder of those illustrations.  I think they were by Garth Williams, the same incredible person who illustrated Charlotte’s Web and the Big and Tall book–I think that’s the name of it.

I would move on from there to Anne of Green Gables.  I read all the Anne books, and I understand why people still make pilgrimages to Prince Edward Island.  Anne had so much spunk, and she could never make herself do things according to how society wanted her to behave if she didn’t really believe in those things.  It didn’t matter that she had no real parents; she could handle anything that came her way.  And she got so much pleasure out of life!


My mother read a book called Miss Minerva and William Green Hill out loud to us–and she got all the accents right.  (It was based in Tennessee and written in dialogue.)  And I loved William.  He could not stop himself from getting into mischief, and he had a wonderful sense of humor. When I just looked for this book on Amazon, I was happy to see that the little red version, which is the one Mama read, has been reissued and is still available.

I guess my favorite character in my teenage years was Elizabeth Bennett, since she was so strong and intelligent, and even though he fell for Mr. Darcy eventually, she first had to know that he was smart enough for her and could meet her on equal footing.

In high school, my favorite was Holden Caulfield.  Maybe because I spent so much time in a German school, where everything was regimented, and you had to snap to attention around your teachers, and it was hard to know what you really thought or felt about anything, I was thrilled to discover Holden and his unconstrained mind and his absolute contempt for “phonies.”  He gave me a model for someone speaking the truth, even if he was supposed to be a little off his rocker.

Then, in college, my favorite character of all time was Joe Gargery in Great Expectations.  What a sweet and loving soul he is.  I could read the Joe speeches over and over, especially when he comes to visit Pip in London and is shunned by the young fool.

I would love to hear from our readers on this question, since we all grew up around the same time!  Please respond to the blog itself, instead of on Facebook!!!



Monica Devine: Be Dare and Bare

The Mosaic

In our backyard shop/artroom, I am working on a mosaic for our Copper River cabin; a stylized salmon spawning scene that is played out year after year when the reds run aplenty, and we are blessed with the bounty of the catch.  A few more months of cutting, shaping and molding until the piece is complete & ready for installation.
Because so many ideas and projects get backed up in my shop, I feel compelled to assign a completion date so I can move on to the next piece.  What I’ve discovered lately is the fun of working on multiple projects at once; if the creative juices begin to lag on one, I can crossover onto another for a while and go back and forth between painting and cutting glass.

I listen to music often, noting lines from favorite tunes and writing them on the walls (no worries; the walls are unfinished and meant to be scribbled on) as I’m dancing about from light table to glass grinder to work bench.

So I had the idea of extracting lines from some of my favorite songs, and doing a sketch or painting or collage to match the mood and content.
One day I was viewing art in a local gift shop when I saw my idea being played out…well, almost.  The artist rendered lines from various songs in a cornucopia of fonts, each one attractive and unique.  Fonts have their own reach and beauty ( and designers from all over the world are happy to share their creations with crafters and artists.  It’s captivating how a font in and of itself can carry so much emotional weight.
Back to my idea of taking a song line and crafting a piece of art.  Spontaneity is key…listen, feel…turn up the volume, listen some more and then paint, draw, collage.

The Bittersweet









“The bittersweet between my teeth, trying to find the in-between…” is from the song, Young Blood by The Naked and Famous.  I am indebted to my adult children for continually keeping me in step with their generation of music.  I absolutely love these guys.  Ah, youth.

Angry Eyes













“What a shot you could be if you could shoot at me with those angry eyes…” from the song Angry Eyes by Loggins and Messina.  An oldie’s favorite.  Grrr.

















“And it’s good and it’s true, let it wash over you…” from the song, River’s Edge by Great Lake Swimmers.  Their music is down-to-earth and ethereal at the same time.

Across the Universe












“Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup…” from the song, Across the Universe sung by Fiona Apple.  I admit, I like Fiona’s version better than Lennon’s (blasphemy!)…it’s mellow and hauntingly dreamy.

Live vibrantly, not perfectly.  Dare to bare it, as Jan Phillips says.  Her inspirational words of wisdom never fail to provide guidance:
“We are healed by creation and the creation of others. We are healed when we transform the events of our lives into other shapes that can be of use – into stories and poems, music and films.”

David DiSalvo offers a more straight forward thought on the human heart’s longing to create:
“Anyone who says, I don’t have a creative bone in my body, is seriously underestimating their skeleton.  More to the point, they are drastically undervaluing their brain.  Creativity is an integral part of being human, and to deny its expression is like denying the expression of other crucial human elements that we intuitively realize we’d be miserable without.”

Or, on a lighter note, consider Albert Einstein:
“Creativity is simply intelligence having fun.”

And there is always more room for fun in this world.

Monica Devine

What keeps me afloat:

Exploring art, playing music, living in the mountains, wandering (following the trail ahead), wondering (looking up at the stars)…and writing it all down to share here, with you. I write poetry, children’s books, fiction, memoir, and non-fiction. We are so much more than muscle and bone…we are made of our stories.

I consistently wander off the beaten path, and go nowhere without my camera.
© All rights retained by this author/artist.

Sadhvi Shares: Getting Away

Sadhvi & Bello

Santa Fe always makes me feel like I am on another planet when I go there. At 7000 feet about sea level, I feel like that shot of the first man on the moon in 1969…taking steps and walking very slowly.
I also notice the number of people that have white hair like me; there are a lot of baby boomers, and they all look rich and cool.  And everyone seems to be whispering, and sharing deeply.  There are no loud people, either. Maybe it’s that altitude.
I was there to visit a dear friend who recently lost her husband; she’d just come out of the shock and mourning, mostly.  And since I would be out that way, it was good timing.

Losing someone close is not easy and only time can make it bearable.  I’ve lost people close to me, and I know that there is no rush to “getting over it”. It can be awkward being around someone who has had this type of loss because there is no way to cheer them up, or to tell them that they have to do anything to make the crying go away, or that they need to adjust their attitude – nope, nothing like that.
There are many moments of just plain silence.  Maybe because I’ve gone through it, it doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable.  Death is one thing that I am familiar with.

I enjoyed cooking delicious meals (with dessert!) for her and her neighbor: we ate like royalty, didn’t we girls?  I didn’t take any pictures of our happiness – there are some things that cannot be shared via FaceBook and Pinterest and Twitter or even Google+ (tee hee!).
Most of the time we just hung out.  I just wanted to be around her.

Georgia O’Keefe lived around there too (except in the spring, when the winds blew her away).  I can understand why she loved it there though.  There are not many people – mostly just the sky and the open space that is so special to those that crave it:  like her, like me.


The museum has lots of Georgia’s paintings and it’s in downtown Santa Fe.  There’s nothing like seeing her original paintings (or any artist for that matter) – there seems to be an energy coming out of them as if they have a life all their own.  If you pass through that area, please go see her paintings because it’s a real treat.

I like to paint when I go on vacation, and while my friend and I tried to arrange her newish space and fix up her “art room” so that we could paint together, alas! that didn’t happen.
But since she knew I was itching to paint, she set me up at her little kitchen table, and wonder of wonders, I picked up the brush and created a few pictures.
The light is so intense and pure.  Incredible, really.  I think painting in that light is the only way for me to experience it the right way.
I cannot express how happy I was with the process except to show you what came out.  Double click on the pictures and you will get a better feel for them.  It’s good to connect with friend’s and family, to get away, and then, come back.