30 March 2011

an example to follow

I know that my dad is an amazing guy. At 90 he is planning to compete in Sacramento at the World Masters Athletics. Now in a new age bracket there are a few more races he can claim. Today, however, I think I met his equal.

I had already done a few jobs and was on my second or third tea break when the phone rang. It was a Kiwi I had met at Legato in NZ. She was in Cassino, at her hotel, and her driver had disappeared back to Rome instead of taking her out and about as she had expected him to. No problem, I'll be there within the hour I said, and hastily put the washing out and tidied myself up.

Thank goodness I had picked up the car this morning. Poor lady, she must be exhausted and confused I thought, and hurried in to Cassino. There she was, waiting for me, a bundle of energy exuding strength and confidence. So what, you ask?

She is 84 and had flown unaccompanied from New Zealand to Rome. She had arrived only this morning and was in great shape. She had more staying power than I had, and dived into my books and maps of the Battle of Cassino, searching the photographs on the off chance that one of her late husband was there. He had been unable to return to Cassino because of health problems, so she had come to make his prilgimage for him.

We are made of strong stuff, we Kiwi women.

Today I am grateful for my freedom.

29 March 2011

happiness is...

Domestic goddess?


But today happiness is the smell of cleansers and sparkling clean kitchen floor tiles (OK, perhaps "sparkling" is wishful thinking, after all they were part of the revamp in 1911 and by my reckoning that's one hundred years ago). I have both doors wide open to let the gentle breeze through, and two dogs are stretched out enjoying the sunshine. Bliss!

And me? Well, the car is not back from the garage yet so today the students have to come to me on their way to karate, and then I shall make a cup of tea, take a leaf from the doggy book, and relax. Gosh it's tough, this springtime life!

Thinking though, it is 100 years since this ancient house was restored and the upstairs strengthened. Surely that is cause for celebration? Party under the 500+ year-old arches in the cantina, anyone? Or should I wait until my own restoration projects are finished? (With my track record of completing renovations, best not wait!!!)

Today I am grateful for spring blossoms.

28 March 2011

chocolate is a food, right?

Piccolina is not well, but no worse. She hasn't lost her appetite, and can beat Zacchi for a piece of real meat, but too much effort has her curled up looking miserable again. When she spots that I have gloves on she can still out-run me, but luckily thinks that hiding in a corner is going to work! She is trying to scratch the top of her head on the mat. If I were not worried about her I would find it hilarious. I didn't know dogs could put their heads at such an angle.

Zacchi says this cold rain is not fun, and the kennel is now too far from the house, so could they both please come in for the evening. That's fine, but one of them smells!

I have spent the day at the computer without wearing my wonderful new computer glasses. How stupid is that?

The kettle has just boiled. I think that says it all. (And yes, the chocolate was for me, not Pickle).

Today I am also grateful for other ex-pats living in Italy.

day for the king

There is an expression my father-in-law used often, on a bleak wet day. Unable to work outside, he would declare it a "day for the king" and cards, food and many cups of tea so strong that you could stand the teaspoon in them became the routine.

Today I am having a day for the king. It is bleak, and was raining, after a few glorious days of spring sunshine. My visitors have gone, my car is not back yet, and I am not a bundle of energy. Another day on the couch is in order.

When my "children" leave it is always hard, but this time the intrepid travellers are in a funky aged van and I haven't yet heard that they are safely home. That they are not due home for another couple of days has got nothing to do with it. Mothers are allowed to miss their wandering off-spring!

Usually on a down day I treat myself to a new book, purchased at some airport and stashed for the occasion. Today is not really a down day, and the truth is that my recent purchases are not exactly uplifting. I have spent the day researching on the web instead.

I stumbled upon the blog of a Canadian who lives in Genoa, sharing her life with her Italian mother-in-law while her husband is at sea. The title of the blog caught my imagination, and the rest of the afternoon has disappeared as I read backwards through her blog posts. "Help! I live with my Italian mother-in-law!" is a delightful mix of comment on society, amusing tales and so many anecdotes that are straight out of my life. In my wildest dreams I can't imagine I would ever have an Italian mother-in-law, but I can picture well the snippets she relates.

Piling up on my browser are many of the blog links that she refers to, waiting until after dinner. It's like a good book, I can't put the blog down.

Today I am grateful for time out.

27 March 2011

sunshine, birdsong and domestic drivel...

The past two weeks have seen a mixture of serious debate, political comment, personal stories and a fair amount of laughter... not to mention copious amounts of tea, coffee and vino rosso. I have upped my coffee intake to the point of needing a fix this afternoon, and the assorted cheeses visitors left in the fridge are probably not what a healthy body requires. However, despite being laid up on the couch for some of it, it has been a good social time.

Guests who wanted to see "real Italy" certainly did. I sent them off with a tight train connection and... of course, it was impossible to make as the first train was running ten minutes late. So I then directed them to a bus that didn't arrive. It was not the best of days for them, missing both the palace and the abbey, but at least the weather was OK and they certainly had a chance to watch "real Italy" passing them by! (Beached as, they were!) That day was probably the biggest casualty of my sore foot, otherwise I would have driven them to the Cassino connection. I also learnt, along the way, that there was a direct train that ran to Caserta about 20 minutes earlier that is not showing up on the Trenitalia website... VERY useful info for others coming later, but frustrating for the Antipodean visitors.

Last night we went to one of my favourite churches and via Latina, and I hope that was some compensation for the disappointments. That particular church is very different from anything they will see on the tourist route. Here are photos from another visitor to the chiesa de S Maria della libera (Aquino). Tradition has it that Thomas Aquinas, born in neighbouring Castello, Roccasecca, which was then part of ancient Aquino, was baptised in this Benedictine church.

Today I managed to forget that daylight saving began overnight, and then I adjusted my watch the wrong way. Will I ever learn? (No blonde comments thanks, I am simply upside down here). That meant we were a little late getting to the market, but still in time for one guest (who shall remain nameless) to buy a handbag for her collection.

My car let us down yesterday, so getting to the station this afternoon meant calling on my super-helpers once again. I had borrowed a small car, driving it down from the piazza through the steep and winding cobblestone street that is little more than a footpath or mule track, only to find that the passengers and suitcases were not going to fit into the tiny vehicle. Thank goodness we had plenty of time up our sleeves.

A worrying aspect along the way has been Piccolina's health. She has developed weepy eyes, scaly dry skin and hair loss on her face and head, and an itch. She can still chase cats and eat so I wasn't too worried, until the vet said that (worst scenario) it might be a fatal virus brought by a certain type of mosquito. Luckily she seems to be responding to treatment for a lesser complaint. Needless to say, even just writing about it, I am scratching and itching too. The power of suggestion is terrible at times! It's time for a damp cloth and disinfectant wash for the whole house so it smells clean and tricks me into believing that I am not itching at all!

Now, with sheets in the washing machine, Pickle looking happier and the sun still streaming in, it is time to recharge the batteries for a week, catch up on a few neglected tasks, and prepare for the next visitors who arrive in a week's time.

"Under The Lazian Sun", anyone?

Today I am grateful for medicine for Pickle.

21 March 2011

up and about

I celebrated this morning by happily doing the dishes, standing gingerly on my damaged foot - well strapped and on a rubber mat.

Everything is relative, really. This morning I loved doing the dishes, and couldn't wait to do more housework. (Stop laughing, my friend down the hill!)

An hour later I was happy to retreat to the couch again, but being up and moving made me feel so much more human! It got me thinking about all those people in Christchurch again, who have been through so much - and another 5.1 quake in the last day or two - lost friends and family members, lost their homes, faced financial ruin. I couldn't help but think how they would appreciate a sink to stand at, a house to clean, unbroken crockery.

Zacchi is enjoying the prospect of walks with our visitors from Scotland. He has given up on me.

Today I am grateful for a skype call from Melbourne.

18 March 2011

thanks to the artist

Thanks to the artist who commented on FB about a post on this blog, In The Real Art World. What a great exhibition of work by Margaret Bowland. It reminded me of another I saw shortly before leaving New Zealand: a haunting exhibition that has left images, but not the name of the artist, indelibly etched in my mind.

Sometimes we are distracted, perhaps become isolated, and lose inspiration. But when I see work like the work of Bowland, and remember the images I viewed in Auckland, I am suddenly passionate again and can't wait to relocate to my studio and work on the series that has been lying dormant, a series for Legato which was not painted because Legato itself became too demanding of my time.

May I stand on one foot at my doorway and shout across the valley "I'M GOING TO PAINT IMAGES THAT WILL HAUNT YOU FOREVER!" Will that make it happen? Or will I quietly work away and hope that when they are done they halt people in their tracks, demand them to look closely, and leave their mark on the viewers, bringing quiet, contemplative change?

My foot is aching at the thought. I will work quietly, and consider this post to be my loud shouting. Art with a message, but one that finds you, troubles you, forces you to re-evaluate your realities. Oooh that I were that artist, already.

Be the best you that you can be. Be the best artist that you can be. Never, ever, settle for less than your very best. When you think you are there, push yourself a little harder.

Foot, tomorrow it is to the studio. We have work to do.

Today I am grateful for inspirational people.

enjoying the break

Or should I say, enjoying the non-break, in the literal sense of the term? As the foot repairs itself I am enjoying being on rest, foot elevated and now with hardly any pain, and with good excuse to just relax and quietly tick off a few admin tasks on the computer. I can comfortably get to the cd player, the kettle, and even to the fridge should I so desire. The sun is trying its best to shine, the doors are open, the birds are singing, the instrumental CD is just lovely...

Today I had promised to help rake up stones around a memorial that is being re-aligned. I know I would have come home with blisters despite wearing gloves. I might be missing out on good company and productive fun, but I think I am on a winner for now!

Thought for the day: On grief: "Grief is the price we pay for love"

"My grandmother once said that grief is the price we pay for love. Here, today, we love and we grieve." (Prince William quoting Queen Elizabeth II in his speech to the people of Christchurch).

And a thought for every day:

He aha te mea nui o tenei ao? Maku e kii atu, He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!

You ask what is the most important thing in this world? I will tell you: It is people, it is people, it is people!
Maori proverb.

Today I am grateful for the new hope that comes with spring.

16 March 2011

it must be time

Wednesday evening: Compulsory time out, through my own inattention. I slipped on the cobblestone steps under the archway, and know what ouch feels like now! No fractures, but up to ten days with my foot up, which is going to be rather a nuisance. I am hoping that the morning brings renewed energy and lots of healing. Three days, maybe?


Thursday morning: I am learning to do as I am told. (You can teach an old dog new tricks!) The radiographer and then the doctor said keep off the foot, keep it elevated. My personal trainer in Melbourne said REST is most important. It is day two, and I have been very obedient. There's not a lot you can do, when the body says "Ouch!" And because I want to be back on my feet sooner rather than later, I am keeping off them now.


I have put my apology in for an event this afternoon. The Winterline Museum at Venafro is opening a new exhibition room. Tomorrow I am going to miss the opening of an exhibition at the Abbey on Montecassino. That hurts. But so does the joint between my foot and my leg, and for now it is calling the shots.


There's always an up side. I have books to read. I am exploring Youtube (sorry, Facebook friends!) I am up to date with the news of the world. Best of all, the roadside fresias I picked and put in a glass several days ago are sending out the most incredible perfume, and I have time to appreciate it.


Zacchi and Piccolina have finally got their roles sorted! Zacchi is on guard outside as I have the doors wide open, and when he wants to check on Mum he has prime position, head on my lap, pawing at me for pats. But when he is outside, Piccolina says the home comforts near Mum are all hers.


Today I am grateful for laptop, internet, music, books, but most of all for my friends who help me when this independent Kiwi can't quite do everything on her own!

14 March 2011

reviewing priorities

I believe that we all have an important role to play in life, whether it be public or private. I have openly struggled to identify my role, but am firm in my belief that I am in some way doing some of the work I am on this earth to do.

This has caused me to give up the "home comforts" of New Zealand, to learn a new language, to find new ways of wringing out the oily rag. I am on my way to doing what I think I should be doing, having stood at many cross-roads and gazed anxiously or excitedly at the choices ahead of me.

Along the way I have made friends, lost friends, stepped outside my comfort zone, hastened back into my shell, and sometimes struggled to find my balance.

I have found it easy to relinquish consumerism, but not so easy to give up old and favourite pieces of furniture or books. I am still a hoarder by nature, albeit a semi-reformed one. I am a greenie at heart, and find some perverse pleasure in not having running hot water in my kitchen. I heat only what I need, when I need it. It makes me far more aware of wastage and conservation. I try to keep my life simple, as mentioned in comments in another post. My wants and needs are few, although my dreams are big.

Events in Japan however, have brought home one thing very strongly. It doesn't matter what we think we want in life, the only thing that is important at the end of the day is relationships. I think that possibly the best thing that has been given to me this year was the email I woke up to yesterday, from a very shaken young woman in Japan, that said at the end "I love you Mum". It seems so long ago that I became "Mum" to my Japanese daughter, but when you give away a part of your heart the love crosses all time, all distance, and all eventualities.

With all the tragedies around the world recently I hear more talk of the world ending in 2012. I have never believed these predictions, and don't usually discuss them. But perhaps the greedy world as we know it now will end then. Perhaps we will have reached out to help one another. Perhaps we will focus more on kindness, on gratitude, on humanitarianism. Perhaps the world will be a better place, where the most important thing is how we interact with one another.

Today I am grateful for messages from Japan.

11 March 2011

drought's broken

...and already I am one day behind with the dishes!

How hard it is to start again when you have had a long break from painting. But paint I must, it is my bread, if not my butter and jam (olive oil serves me better than those, I am sure!)

I miss painting, but fear of failure and too many conflicting emotions from other events, like accidents, earthquakes, curating an exhibition and travelling from one side of the world to the other make it hard to focus.

Yesterday I tidied the studio to my standard, ie, organised and clean, but not pristine. I moved the kettle from the kitchen to the studio, a huge plus!

Today I took out my paper. Dusty. Already ruled for another series. A little damaged. It is clear that my handiman and I have different ideas on how to treat precious paper. He sees it as something to stack out of the way, despite my careful placing of it the right way up with core-board protection.

One piece, not measured out for the Caprile series, was of thicker grade, maybe around 600gsm. Beautiful, deep, wonderfully absorbent, and hungry for paint: dollars and dollars worth of paint, to go with the expensive paper.

But for one big snag.

On the paper is an oily, water resistent stain.

Who knows how that got there?

Inspiration! This is my warm-up, and potentially a great mixed media piece! With a broken sponge I took some oil and dabbed it over the page, thinking of my subject matter as I did so. I let the subjects guide my daubing.

I am back in the studio. It feels GREAT!

Today I am grateful for "happy accidents".

10 March 2011

this afternoon

The first wild asparagus for the season, thanks to Franca's eagle eyes, are safely on my bench waiting to go into a frittata. They looked like sticks to me, but a keen spotter can tell the difference! Then on the way back up the terraces there were grasses to be found, but again my lack of knowledge holds me back. The difference between a good grass and an upset stomach could be a tiny variation in leaf. The only one I can pick with confidence is puha, although it's Italian name escapes me.

There are many places for sale in the village at the moment. I am not sure if that is because belts are tightening and money must be found somewhere, or because the influx of foreigners like myself has made people think differently about holding on to their spare houses and crumbling edifaces. It will be good seeing the village come back to life again after being more than half empty for so long. I am not sure that I am looking forward to all the extra cars and noise though... on some level I think I am a bit of a hermit, when I am not out in a group working for a common goal.

Today I walked without the dogs, better for me once I got over the guilt. It will soon be time to paint again, it is long overdue.

Today I am grateful for my now tidy studio.

keeping things in perspective

Occasionally my emails are a mixed bag. It seems that no matter how hard you push yourself, sometimes your efforts are not enough for others. On these occasions I try to put myself in the other person's shoes. Yes, I am fallible. But I do always try to do my best.

On this occasion the list of my ommissions was long. I resisted listing the obstacles I face, the difficulties of doing things in another culture, or how exhausting it is to do everything in another language, or from another country. I did point out that even Peggy Guggenheim, after struggling with the same issues, abandoned her plans for international exhibitions in Italy, and I regret having done that. It is far better to look at the list of things I didn't do well enough, and learn from it, to make sure that my systems cross both countries and don't allow the same time lapses to happen again.

Often though it comes down to a lack of communication, or misunderstandings. That's when I am reminded that something like 80% of our meaning is communicated through body language. Are my emails misunderstood? Am I misreading the ones coming in to me? Maybe it comes down trying to fit too many things into one day, something I am addressing for my own survival.

Legato is coming to a close in NZ for this year. Yes, there are things I could have done differently, more efficiently. There is always room for improvement no matter what we do. The day we think we have mastered everything is the day that we lose humility, gratefulness and empathy for others. No one person is perfect. The reality is that Legato is, and always was, a peace initiative, not a commercial venture for contributing artists. Was I too idealistic believing that we were all working with the same motivations?

Perhaps I shouldn't put these thoughts out there, for all to read, as Legato has been a huge success. Awareness of post-war social issues has been raised, deeply moving family conversations have taken place, artists from different cultures have become friends and artwork for Legato was the key. It is unrealistic, however, to pretend that it was effortless or problem-free in its early days. Now, established and successful, it has a team working internationally to further its ideals. That didn't happen by accident.

After responding to the email about my ommissions this morning I was feeling rather down, and tried to put it out of my mind. That's not so easy. But shortly after another email arrived in my inbox. That email made me smile. It was requesting me to assemble by next Thursday a pick, shovels, weedmat, manpower and a jeep. It was a timely reminder that I am in the right place, doing what needs to be done. A new memorial needs some attention, and the organiser arrives next week to complete the work. Somehow, by then, I will have accessed all that he requires.

It's an interesting life that I lead. At times it is lonely, but only because my family are far-flung and my work in the English language slows down my progress with Italian. With language barriers most of my conversations with friends here don't have the depth of content that I crave. Today I could be at Italian class, but that has to wait. For now this one man band has work to do, a living to earn and a jeep to find.

Today I am grateful for learning.

9 March 2011

TED deserves caps

Turning the world inside out: A man with vision, JR, winner of a TED award. Well worth the viewing time (24 minutes) so pop back if you don't have time to watch it now.

Website for project: click here.

Today I am grateful for
the vision of JR.

8 March 2011

a question of need?

Today is International Women's Day. It's an interesting concept, and in light of blog comments a few days ago one that can't pass unmentioned in this blog. One such comment was:
Domestic violence, restricted educational and financial opportunities, lack of voting rights, female circumcision, honour killings, female infanticide, trafficking and sexual exploitation, all these things and more still exist in so many countries around the world, including developed nations.
Sadly, this is very true. This is a tragic case in point: the earthquake in Christchurch has increased domestic violence at a time when refuge homes or safe houses have been destroyed.

Here in Italy it is the Festa della Donna. A quick google turned up some sites I'd rather not have seen, or should I write sights I'd rather not have seen? It's not that I am a prude at all, but it is sad when the original purpose of a celebration is lost and commercial hype and sexual innuendo take the place of serious recognition and debate about the issues facing women even today. You could argue that these strip shows are about equality for women, but human rights and the safety of women are far more important to me.

I wonder, are the women of Rome who protested recently about the predilictions of their prime minister engaged in strip shows and the like this evening? Or might they prefer the Wikipedia version of the day (which has information not included in the English Wikipedia).

The mimosa is only just coming into bloom; it has been too cold I think. There are still heavy dumpings of snow quite low on the hills around me. From the other side of the valley it is picturesque; here on my cold floors a more appropriate word is freezing! Despite the cold I will always think of Australia on 8 March as the advertising for the Festa della Donna always includes the mimosa, or wattle flowers.

Today I am grateful for
serious conversations.

7 March 2011

thoughtfully agree

"The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least." —Unknown Author

As I pegged out the washing (on the fence, as you do) this beautiful spring morning I looked across the valley and felt that my needs really are so few... more time with my family is the only thing I could ask for, and that is something I am working on!

There is something really grounding about not having the so called "best" of everything; it helps to keep the real treasures of life in perspective.

A first tooth for a darling baby, a fence to protect a precious growing toddler so he can play freely... these are the real highlights of my days.

Today I am grateful for a gentle breeze and sunshine.

6 March 2011

searching blogs

On a crisp Sunday morning when outdoors is not too inviting...

This morning I was searching my own blog for photos and a reference to pass on to documentary film folk heading this way. In the process I found this reference, "Sharpening up for War", and am inspired by it all over again.

I tried to follow the artist's blog to see where it was heading now. It doesn't appear to have been updated since Remembrance Day, 2007.

In the course of the search I somehow ended up reading this article on feminism. I have never seen myself as a feminist, but increasingly I believe that women are the greatest untapped resource in the world, and that a real education for a culture of peace must start in the home with whichever parent it is who sets the tone for the family environment.

But for now, and for the future, I am grateful that the world has people like Richard Johnston in it. In this digital age where we are bombarded with photographic and video images it takes a pencil image to slow us down, to make us think.

Today I am grateful for people who "follow through".

5 March 2011

slept in

I wanted to watch the Ironman competition on live video, but my hero crossed the finish line as I slept. I think he would approve of the lapse.

As I type this the tail-enders are crossing the line, 16 hours after they started the race with the swim early in the morning. Despite the terrible conditions they are exhaustedly happy. They don't worry about the ticking clock, and stop to hug their supporters before they get to the finish line. They come from all body types, age groups, nations and occupations. They are all in this together, equal competitors with a shared goal. Punctures, rain, other obstacles do not choose one over another because they are more or less wealthy or more or less "worthy".

At 16 hours and 6 minutes after the race began a young Asian runner has knelt on the ground just before the finish line, taken a ring from his kit and, looking into the crowd said, for all the world to hear, "I hope our love is as strong as an ironman. Will you marry me?" Luckily the young lady said "Yes". I get tearful watching the finish at the best of times, but this scene, as the rain poured down, was very special. I wish them a life of happiness. (I also hope that I am never put in such a position, my answer would almost certainly be NO!!!)

What is it that drives some to compete against themselves, pushing their bodies to the limits, while others choose more antisocial activities? If only we could channel more people to positive action, to social and personal good. Surely if all we ask of life is good health and happy relationships the rest would fall into place? Seven minutes after the proposal a young woman crosses the line. Noone is there to meet her, she accepts her medal and the towel placed around her by officials, and disappears from view. Somehow you sense that inside her is a deep personal satisfaction, she has made it, she is an "Ironman".

You can read the progress of the event, and see some pretty cool photos, here.

The last competitors are now 4 kilometres from the finish. The announcer who keeps up the encouragement although it is almost midnight asks us to keep throwing our positive thoughts out there to them. A band of supporters ignore the rain and call out to the exhausted runners. I didn't see my son cross the finish line, but I will cheer in the last competitors from my couch on the other side of the world. They deserve recognition too.

Today I am grateful for positive examples to follow.

4 March 2011

no photos allowed

except outside, of course!Part of the Cassino group at the abbey in traditional costumes from Ciociaria, Italy.
The young bearers with the peace torch after the ceremony.
I would have loved to photograph the fabulous interior of the abbey, but obediently kept my camera in my bag.


Westminster Abbey was quite splendid, although smaller than I expected. The fabulous gothic spires seem fairy-tale like and taller because the church is quite narrow, and I could have gazed at the architecture for hours. But there were other things to see and hear as well... the choir boys so earnest, just as I imagined they would be, the pageantry of the Italian procession, the power of the organ music... the whole experience was great.

Thankyou to the Italians who invited me to go to London for the Lighting of the Benedictine Peace Torch, and to the Monte Cassino Foundation for Remembrance and Reconciliation for giving me a role at the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Fact for the day: Westminster Abbey was built by the Benedictines. I'd never have guessed that!

Oddity: Arriving early for rehearsal meant that we had the abbey to ourselves, not a tourist in sight. It also meant time for a coffee... in a partially covered cloister, where a modern coffee bar looked so temporary and incongruous against the ancient stones. Reading that "Near this place lies the body of..." as I sipped my excellent latte was disconcerting to say the least.

Photos are banned in the Abbey, but someone sent me this, with apologies for the quality of the image.

(poppies surround the tomb of the unknown soldier from WWI, his body being buried there, in the main entrance to the Abbey, in 1920).

Today I am grateful for a very interesting life.

catching up

Wednesday 2 March

Occasionally I am challenged by well-meaning people and feel obliged to defend my belief that peace is an achievable objective. At times I doubt myself, but not my goals, and contemplate a simple life painting, teaching, and enjoying “living the dream” that so many assume I am already doing. Then unexpectedly, something happens that reminds me that I am doing the right thing, that I am not really a lone voice, and that ideals are important.

Today, jet-lagged and stuck somewhere between New Zealand and Italy time, I am awake about three hours too soon in an English household. Luckily for me my host has an excellent library. From my bed the title “Sociolinguistics” kept beckoning me. Eventually I rose and pulled it from the shelf. It was an old book, yellowed, with tiny print. Two pages in it was hard work. Defeated, I returned it to the shelf. Near it, (how had I missed it before?) stood a newer volume, tall and slim. The title: “Between the Lines: Voices of Women engendering Peace and Democracy”. This volume, “A project initiated and coordinated by Arbeitskreis deutscher bildingsstaetten” is one that will change my life.

Today I am going to Westminster Abbey and will be meeting German, Italian, British and Polish friends there. We will remember WWII, lay wreaths for the fallen, talk about peace initiatives for youth, and wonder how we can make a difference.

Following that ceremony will be the Lighting of the Peace Torch by the Abbot of Montecassino. A large entourage from Italy will be involved.

This morning, dressed and wondering what time I should head downstairs where all is dark and quiet, I am reading about women who have overcome incredible obstacles to take part in a peace initiative. This initiative is born out of the words I hear so often at Cassino, “Never again”.

Hannelore Chiout, the initiator of the project, writes “I belong to the so-called second generation, the generation following the Perpetrators. All of my conscious political life involved the German past and German guilt. Our fathers had murdered, our mothers remained silent. Our inner commitment was “Never again!” Responsibility meant intervention. Intervention meant having our eyes open to what was wrong, in order to not close our eyes again in the face of the wrong once again” (Chiout, H. “Beyond certainty: expedition into unknown worlds” in Between the Lines, AdB 2008, p. 11).

The book documents the first ten years of a project where German, Israeli, Palestinian and Israeli-Palestinian women meet, often against all odds, and develop a space where, over time, friendship and acceptance replace political and cultural hostilities.

When I read about their work I wonder not “Is my work futile?” but “Am I working hard enough?”

Today I am grateful for women with vision.