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Christmas Star

Christmas Star

Jupiter and Saturn, our family planets, will be close tonight.

Closer than they have been from an Earthling point of view for the past 800 years. Looking up at the night sky on the 21st December brings Christmas into perspective. The light falling into our eyes will have journeyed millions of miles from our sun. Heading out to Jupiter and onwards towards Saturn. Saturn is almost twice as far from Earth as Jupiter.

Apparently it is taking at least 52 minutes from Jupiter and one and a half hours from Saturn to reach Earth. These light waves are tickling our eyeballs as we gaze at the great CONJUNCTION (Christmas star). The light will have left the Sun, travelled millions of kilometers through space, bounced off the planets, and then touch us. According to the wiki, when light reaches our eyeballs, some is absorbed and some is reflected. So after gazing at the Christmas star, how about looking into the eyes the person close to you and exchange some refracted star light? A romantic Christmas gift for your loved one.

Giving gifts has had me reflecting on the effects it has on those who are literally forced to receive them. Unlike a bit of pure sunlight, a gift is a material thing. Whether you like it or not. Simon told me he doesn’t want any more junk. But imagine waking up on Christmas morning to find too much space under the tree. It’s bad enough that a microscopic coil of rna has prevented us from CONJUNCTIONING with all our families this Christmas. At least a little parcel to unwrap? Albeit it should be wrapped in Earth-safe recyclable paper & organic non-cotton ribbon and natural sticky tape. It must also be 100% local, non-toxic useful piece of art which plays nicely with everything else we own.

We are not made only of stardust, but also of starlight.

Being a person who is into planetary conservation and covid avoidance maneuvering, my Christmas shopping has had a light touch. I went to the local pharmacy by e-bike, and bought a bottle of Made in Italy aftershave called CUORE DI PEPE NERO for Simon. Once I got it home I read the extremely long list of mystery ingredients on the sophisticated “packaging from responsible sources”. It doesn’t actually include cuore di pepe nero – heart of black pepper. Good thing! It would most certainly make him sneeze.

Sneezing is the most unacceptable reflex known to man these days. A public sneeze causes instant consternation. I was riding my e-bike in Castel Gandolfo yesterday when someone in my immediate vicinity sneezed. It sent me pedalling off as fast as I could to the next view point. The weather has been sunny and calm, making our pretty lake Albano look like a glassy lenz. I looked down at the fantastic sphere of reflected heaven.

Perhaps tonight we will go to the highest lookout point to see the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the starry sky. I expect it will be reflected in the water too. Imagine that light travelling from the Sun, bouncing off the planets, reflecting off the water and into our eyes where some of it is absorbed into our brain, and some is reflected on each other, and some will possibly be reflected right back to where it came from…

From dust to dust…ashes to ashes…light to light.

Lake Albano photo by Leanne

If you look extremely carefully at the reflection of the mountain in the water, you might be able to see the red algae bloom. Forming a swirl in the middle of lake, a micro copy of our galaxy!

ESA Christmas angel on Mars.

Latest discovery by the European Space Agency – Mars express. An angel near the south pole.

pointsetta flower gift
Free download, a Christmas gift from me to you.
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100 thousand lights for Christmas

100 thousand lights and a Carpenter workshop

Massimo the carpenter

…owns a three grotto workshop on the street below our apartment. He is Renata’s nephew. At this time of year the whole family clean out the man-made caverns and decorate them for Christmas. His sons are good looking enough to feature as Christ in the Marino Easter Procession. They also hang lights on one of the overgrown Christmas trees on the opposite corner, but sadly this doesn’t appear to have happened in 2020. However, their PRESEPE (nativity) is a joy. All lit up with twinkle lights so passers-by like us can peer into a small arched window and delight in the miniature scene. Joseph, Mary and the whole bible of characters. Only the baby is missing. You don’t put the baby in the crib before full term.

Every home, Church, restaurant and shop window features a PRESEPE. Crafters in town (mostly male pensionists) make the figurines and sell them to you straight from the workbench in their garage. Shapely bits of bark and moss are added to make mini hillside backdrops, miniature stone houses surround the sacred wooden stable at the center of the scene. Simon and I marvelled at an exquisite “We three Kings of Orient” elephant statuette the other day.

In the Church a huge Presepe sits on a temporary stage. It needs a coin to light it up. The entire village of Bethlehem comes to life with moving arms and nodding heads. Blacksmiths hammer, waterwheels churn, bread makers kneed, donkeys nod… and so forth. One gapes for as long as the money lasts.

Rome Christmas vibe

We walked around the middle of Rome on Saturday, which is a crazy thing to do considering the virus aerosolling around. It was fabulous nevertheless! The Via Condotti down from the Spanish steps is a swish twinkle of lights and music. But the BIG attraction is in Piazza Venezia where the municipality have paid 140 thousand euros for the most splendid world famous SPELACCHIO 2020. A 23 meter high tree, ablaze with one hundred thousand lights…a record number the Mayor says, to cheer us up. And she is so right, you cannot deny the uplifting effect it has. She’s a left winger from the five star party by the way. The tree is undeniably a pinnacle of brightness and a lighthouse of hope in the dark.

We made it to Piazza Navona in time to see a different type of light show there. A blast of blues and golds 4D projected onto the magnificent Bernini fountains makes everyone stand still and be whisked away to wonderland (via their smartphone screen). Buskers billow the streets with classical music, and it seems everyone, including ourselves are recklessly living in this paradoxical moment. Happy.

Spelacchio 2020, the Christmas tree in Rome inaugurated on 8 December
„" Also this year our "Spelacchio" returns, the Christmas tree in Rome now famous all over the world. In this difficult moment for all citizens, we want these lights to keep the hope of a peaceful Christmas lit but above all to give the strength to all of us to resist and overcome together the challenge of the health emergency ", declares the first citizen, Virginia Raggi."

You may be interested in: https://www.romatoday.it/politica/spelacchio-2020-albero-natale-roma.html

Simon and Leanne in front of the Spelacchio Christmas tree in Piazza Venezia, Rome, Italy 2020.
Thanks to Robert Shone for the photo.

To end I should mention we are in quite a strict situation here, no restaurants or bars are open after 6pm and there’s a curfew from 10pm. Over the Christmas holidays we are not allowed to travel at all. There is some discussion about allowing families to move between municipalities. In Italy sixty five thousand people have died from covid-19 this year. Total population is just over 60 million —

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interiority

Interiority

Rome is mellowing out.

Quite soggy after days and days of rain. The last of the orange leaves have collapsed onto the streets. We will go into the old city tomorrow for a culture pop-up experience although all museums are shut. But that’s not off-putting because Rome has a street-charm like no other place in the world.

It’s the way the paint peels.

Which brings me to presenting a couple of designs. Every hour or two another one manifests. I’ve taken a moment to write this while the enthusiasm is still bubbling.

That’s another point, living in a bubble can be good for interior design. I was thinking about interiority, the rooms we live in and how we arrange them. A cushion here and vase of flowers there, a mat at the door…it’s a selfscape! Clearly demonstrating your values – (what’s in your bookshelf by the way?) your colours (emotions) – mixed up, matchy-patchy, or plain khaki flannel?

Imagine walking into Caesars Palace and find it coarsely rendered in a sludgy beige crimplene.

Pompeii red garland by Leanne Talbot Nowell

Consider the thoughtful parts of your home – how do you place things for maximum meaning? Is there only one way to display a stained glass window or many ways to arrange a cushion. Home is a 3D catalogue of your life. You can be rich or poor, it doesn’t matter at all. Have you seen what can be done with peeling paint?

Think about your interiorscape, including that special room in your heart. Is there a Voltaire’s garden in there? Or is it a train station?

Before I get carried away in a bubble of glee, here is a glimpse of my work today… you can see more designs on my HOME page.

2021 design natural by Leanne Talbot Nowell

“Living in Rome certainly offers artists an inspiring kick in the pants. One of my favourite things to do is walk around the ancient ‘vincoli’ in search of old walls to photograph.

Especially antique walls that have been painted with ochre clays. Cracks and scratches, patches of crumbling stone and bits of ancient marble create a deep, rich patina.

Combined with dramatic skies and perfect domes, the sight of old Rome is enchanting enough to rock your foundations.

The narrow streets are protected from extreme weather and so the walls have endured longer than those in exposed areas. Unfortunately the patina is fast disappearing under layers of fresh plaster and plastic acrylic paint. 

This collection of “Rome old walls” photographs is a precious source of images which I lovingly use as backgrounds for my hand painted designs. Something between street art and fresco merged with hand painted emblems, made to share as a digital print. 

Leanne’s MEDITERRANEAN… design series explores the decor styles of local empires over the millennia. 

So, with a touch of nostalgia I present  these honest, non-toxic, sustainable decor products. Printed designs on recycled fabrics and papers. Now you can surround yourself with guilt-free decor!”

Roman pine patina fresco by Leanne Talbot Nowell

Wishing you a fabulous Christmas holiday.

Leanne Talbot Nowell
stone chequered print
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Pandemonium

Le Forna on Ponza island

This island is a safe place to stand -motionless – wearing a straw hat tipped  toward the milky way.

Waving

The rusty old ferry tub called Carloforte leaves Terracina port at precisely 9 on a summer morning. That means an early start from our house in Marino. We are always happy to catch the slow boat to the little island called Ponza, just 33 kms from the motherland.

L’isola di Ponza is an emotionally ‘suggestivo’ place and we are grateful to have it so close to home. The locals proudly told us there have been no covid cases on the island. But this summer the ferry boats are bringing in hundreds of mainlanders, some of them lucky to have a government ‘holiday voucher’ worth 500 euros to spend on hotels. An attempt to boost the failing tourist economy at the risk of starting another wave.

The locals watch us floating into their pretty pristine port with flags flying, horns blasting, masks hanging from our elbows. Beaches are plastered with young Italian beauties in bikinis. Motorboaters flock over from the mainland like noisy gulls disembarking for lunch in the many restaurants. All tables booked in advance. It’s the schiki mikis who come here and we hope they keep good hygiene. 

Large ‘bubbles’ of half-naked young people mingle in the narrow white painted streets between the little chic shops and cafes as if nothing has changed. The occasional senior person hurries by with mask firmly in place. The youngsters will go back to school in September if everything is still under control. Nobody knows, but the future looks as patchy as a watercolour painting.

La Pandemia

Thinking about all the virus tsunami spots in the world and worrying in a weirdly helpless way. Comparing outcomes is difficult as the cultures are so different. The Italian nation was not divided by the necessary lockdown rules. Mostly everyone complied, which was quite a feat considering the individualistic attitude here. Now the ‘nation’ are able to go away for tentative holidays…. but we expect there will be a slight second wave.

The city centers are still grimly vacant. One can walk around the Colosseum all by yourself. My South African artist friend who lives in Rome just spent a few beautiful peaceful days in Venice. No noisy cruise liners vomiting their penny-pinching passengers into the delicate city. 

When we arrived back from the island it was late and we were hungry, but in Marino the restaurants with outdoor tables were all fully booked. Eventually we found a lucky corner with a view over the lights of Rome. The pizza was delicious. Simple things are the best these days.

note:

My cousin in New Jersey USA, is a professor who teaches immunology (married to a virologist who is studying the covid virus in the lab) told us yesterday that if you get sick you will most likely recover but the damage to your body is lasting. The heart, lungs and brain suffer some permanent damage. This is why it is important to keep your distance, and stay in your bubble!

We all need a safe island to stand on. Tip our straw hats to the universe and be still.

To see the Ponza artwork please go to my account on INSTAGRAM- leanne.nowell