Artnotes Italy Daily

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Library

At Montelibretto  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  25 x 17"  63 x 43cm

In the Grove  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  13 x 18  33 x 46cm

A Windy Day at Ladispoli  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  10.5 x 18"  27 x 46 cm

the library

Finally, after weeks of delay, the new bookcase was delivered on Monday.  Our American Library in Stimigliano has over 1,250 donated books, of various genres, available for circulation.   We found a lovely antique wooden bookcase, slightly over twelve feet (3 meters) in length for sale in a second hand lot.   Because brown furniture is so out of fashion, and we are among the few people who have a twenty foot long wall, unpierced by windows, we were able to buy the libreria for very little money. 
Needless to say, this maneuver has put crimp in our painting this week.  I use the library as my studio, as well, and my painting surface was piled with books for three days.

The next day, we went to Rome, and scoped out painting sites for an April engagement.  We visited the boat basin in the Villa Borghese Gardens, and are eager to give it a try.  We were in Rome for a meeting of the American Business Group.   Blair and I have always been involved in the business of painting, as well as the act of painting.   The ABG has the most interesting speakers, and this was no exception.  We heard from a recently retired journalist with a long career at the New York Times, speak about fake news.  It made me seriously consider quitting Facebook, which targets people for what fake news they receive.  Google is king of the news targeting department, although not necessarily fake,  and depending on your profile feeds you different information when you “google”.   Which explains to me why Blair and I always get different results.  I won’t go into detail about the biggest purveyor of fake news, which you can certainly guess.

On Friday, we drove to Montelibretti, to visit Libelulla, an olive oil operation.  They have an “adopt-an-olive-tree” business (, and we are thinking of teaming up with them to offer olive painting tours.  We strolled acres of olive groves, and visited the charming town of Montelibretti.   It’s just a little more than a half-hour from where we live, and the same distance from Rome.  We might bring our Rome-city painter there in April, if she would like a break from the ancient stones.   A full-fledged olive-grove-hills-of-Rome tour is in the planning.

I still have to organize the subjects and alphabetize the library, but the unpacking and shelving is complete.  I am using a cataloging program on the Internet to register each book, so they can be checked out.  We’re headed up to a snowy Rocca Malatina for a few days, to see friends and celebrate Valentine’s Day.   Red and white paint.

Sunday, February 04, 2018


Olive on th​e Embankment   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas   13 x 18 "  33 x 46cm  275.00

​Olive tree mural  Laurie Fox Pessemier  84 x 138"   214cm x 350cm


    ​Olive trees on Paper  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm  90 each or 3 for 200.00

I have finally got into the swing of 2018, and have been working on my goals.  One challenge is to finish my Art of Slow Travel book. I really don’t like doing that, and my 10 pages or 20 minute a day goal isn’t much of a motivation. 
The thing about projects that I don’t want to do, is that I can find incredibly interesting other activities. 
This week I latched onto a serious “olive tree” kick.  We live in the Sabina region, famous for its olives, its wine and its beautiful women.   There are large fields planted with new olive trees on our way to the grocery store.  It’s the time of year that the trees are being pruned, so you can really see their marvelous trunks.   All of the other trees are without leaves, so there is a clear view of the oliviers.
​So, I started painting olive trees.  They are not so easy.  After my first three attempts, I ran across a photo of a dining room painted with trees all around, and thought, “perfect for our bedroom:  olive trees”. 
I jumped right into this crazy idea, rubbing a sort of coral colored paint mix into the white plaster wall.  I wanted it to look like a fresco, a little old, rustic.   Blair convinced me that a conventional paint might do – I could still rub it in, not roller it, and have that plastered background look.  He was right.
If you’ve ever seen olive trees, you know they are extraordinarily gnarly.  The old ones (there are a few in this region over 1,000 years old) have impossible-looking, great, large bases – I skipped that bit, but let loose with the branches that take off in every which way, twisting, turning.  I was encouraged.  I painted until I got a backache. 
Today, I finished putting on the olives.  Black: a mixture of turquoise and red.  The actual olives are an almost blue-ish black, and the flesh runs deep red.   If there were to be any olives remaining on the trees now, they would be black olives.   The image itself starts about three feet off the ground.  I’ll make it dark below.
It’s been raining here for a couple of days.  We had four hours of thunder Friday night, and Harika was still trembling on Saturday afternoon.  The river is rising.  That gives me another idea.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Go With the Flaw

Crepiscule on the Tiber  Laurie Fox Pessemier  13 x 18"  33 x 46cm  Acrylic/canvas

​Monk Puppet   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm 

Puppets    Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm

​Blair Pessemier  Squares  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 20"   40 x 50cm

We went to the café for a Campari/soda as soon as we got back to Stimigliano on Friday.   We’d been up in Rocca Malatina wresting with paperwork for a few days.   The Café Garibaldi is a homely sort of place, with shelves full of toys for children – “soccer” cards and little girl lipstick; balls with monster faces, and jars of slime.   There is an odd “homeliness” about a lot of Italy, but is comfortable and right here.   There is no pretension, and for that it is a relief.  

I recall, from the 1990s, living in Hartford Connecticut, an Italian woman telling me, “it may be nothing, but we can all sit and have a dish of spaghetti together”.  That perfectly describes the homeliness:  a simple meal, not five courses, and you can dig in and eat more of, if it’s there.  One dish, one glass, one fork.

I try to look up a translation for “homely” and it comes through as “”familiar” – not exactly.  Once Google translate has an idea in its teeth, don’t try to trick it. I find other colloquial translation programs, and they are better:  bruttino (a little ugly), or semplice (simple).  I am sure there are ways to convey the idea.

There is a sense in Italy that things have always been this way (thousands of years, before the Romans were the Etruscans), and why change?   There are surges of beauty, like Roman architecture and statuary; mosaics; the Renaissance – a lightning bolt in all fields; Mannerism; Baroque – the Italian Futurists in the 1920s were great, bringing outstanding graphics to the world.  Italian car design leaves the rest of the world in the dust; fashion and furniture, too.    But when you get down to the basics; food, communication, the family:  civilization is what goes on here.  And beauty is a treat, admired, never scorned.

When Blair buys my Saturday paper at the café this morning, Franco slips in the wrong rotogravure.  The Repubblica has the “D” (he says donne (women), I say design) section, which has the latest fashion and  interiors, editorial and recipes.  Regardless of how homely things might be, people always like to look at people who look good.   When I return it, “brava” he tells, me – good that you caught it.  I leaf through for dressing inspiration.   Plaids and florals combine, athletic shoes accompany chiffon dresses…  Nobody “coordinate” anymore – like the end of buying matched wood furniture suites.

At the Comune, our city hall in front of our house, kids are making masks for Mardi Gras.  The noise is deafening, but somehow even Harika recognizes the fun of it, and isn’t bothered.   There will be a “snow machine” here for the celebration, and after a party for the kids, there will be a DJ for the teens and adults.

On the back of the Repubblica’s main newspaper is an ad for a clothing brand:  Only a Device should be Precise.  Go with the Flaw.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I Can't Explain...

 Borghese Garden  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  22 x 28"  56 x 71cm


 Big Boar  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm
 Running Boar  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm
Baby Boar  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm

Every morning this week we have heard gunshots while on our walk.  It’s a bit disconcerting, but part of living in the country.  Men are out hunting boar.  There are numerous boar (and boors) all over Italy, and they are not endangered.  Still, the idea of killing them is always a bit difficult.

When we get back home, I sort through the generous contribution of several hundred books for the American Library from a scholar who lives in Florence.   There is a book by the famous physicist Feynman called “Six Not-So-Easy Pieces”.  As I finished the chapter on Vectors, I thought this could be interesting.  It made me think about Cubism and Abstract Art. 

One of my 2018 resolutions is to “grow” my art.  There are a few ways to do that, and changing the way I think and see things could be one solution.  I have also been watching Feynman’s lectures at Cornell University from the 1960s.  I am working on the law of Gravitation, the first physical law.   It will take a while before I amalgamate Physics and Art, but I am hoping it all mixes together with the help of my Muse.

I am probably going to move most of my library from Rocca Malatina to Stimigliano.  Our studio has an ideal wall for a bookcase, and I can receive borrowers there.   There should be more borrowers in that region near Rome.  The library will serve as our art studio as well, encouraging borrowers to buy paintings. 

On one of our walks, we encountered a man in hunting garb.  “Are you a cacciatore?” Blair asked him.   Yes, was the reply and he went on to talk about a boar he shot that day that weighed more than 100 kilos.  Harika was growling slightly.  The man spoke a very little English, and together we learned about one another.  His son lives in Chicago where he works as a physicist for NASA.  We went by the fellows house and yard where he dressed the boar, and now Harika barks when she sees him.

We went to the flea market today looking for a sofa for the new house.  Instead, we bought a collection of ten antique hand puppets.   I am not quite sure how to explain that, either.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Maybe I'll Bake a Cake

 Artichoke 1  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm
 Artichoke 2 (vertical possible)  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm
  Artichoke 3  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm
 Two Pigeons  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm

  Alleys by our House  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm
 Black Cat Hanging Around my Door  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm
 Black Bird  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm
 Tiber in Winter  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 24"  40 x 50cm

​Horse in Borghese Gardens  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  16 x 20"  40 x 50cm

We drove into the city of Rome today, for the second time this week.  We went on Wednesday, just for fun – we need our city fix from time to time and there is no better place.  Seriously, Blair and I both have always said Rome was our favorite city in the world.  He has seen more cities than I have, but it would take a lot to knock Rome out of that number one slot for me.

There is just so much there, and it is so deep.  From the Etruscans, to the Romans, to the Italians, there are layers upon layers of history.  I love driving into Rome itself, from our bucolic corner with olive trees and hill towns, by the fields of sheep, the murmuration of  starlings, the car dealerships, the billboard for Enzo, private investigator; the prostitutes and hourly hotels; the curtains shading the balconies, the laundry; the umbrella pines giving way to the villas at the outskirts of town.

Blair and I ate at a dive he and his college buddies used to go to in the 1970s:  il Delfino.  The lasagna was 5 euros and there was an assortment of pizza slices.  We got on the bus and rode around like we were in a chauffeur driven limousine.  One can’t drive in downtown Rome, like many Italian cities.  We observed cats among Roman ruins, and watched the Tiber (Tevere) flow past.

Today, our destination wasn’t into the center city but to a rather funky contemporary neighborhood, where we were buying a gas stove.  It was paved with less lovely buildings, but rich, nonetheless with life.  Evidence of the garbage strike, and people waiting for buses, 99 cent fruit stands and tabacchi(s) welcomed us. 

Our new apartment in Stimigliano came with a stove “never used”.  This was because when you plugged it into the wall, the power failed. I feel lucky this was among the few tricks played on us; it’s Italy, after all.   Blair had been eyeing a gas cooktop/gas oven model.   We went to a local vendor on 8 January, when it would have been marked down:  SOLD, in fact.  So, when this model came up, we wasted no time jumping on it.

The seller and his wife were real characters.  He looked like the chubby rat that drove the coach for Cinderella.  Beady, lashless eyes, a pointy nose, and sharp backward-tilting teeth – he was smiling and happy.  His friend Melania, similarly circular, had shaved eyebrows filled in with purple pencil.  She was a bleach blonde with black roots.  I could see her sewing Cinderella’s dress.   She made me coffee and chatted.  I felt good about them, the stove was clean and he helped us pack it into the car.

On the way home, I thought about how it is possible to enjoy every minute of life.  Without expectations, all is new and beautiful, like a child seeing snow for the first time.  Using our grocery caddy as a dolly, we moved our old stove into the studio, and got this new model inside the kitchen.  I feel like a new beginning.  Maybe I’ll bake a cake.

Sunday, January 07, 2018


 Harika  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm  

Harika with a bird's nest on her back  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm  

Gardens, Villa Farnese  Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas panel  8 x 12"  20 x 30cm 

 Cherub sculpture, Villa Farnese  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm  

 Venice: a Revelation   Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm 
Sea Monster  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper   17 x 25"  43 x 63cm

A fresco of Sea Travel at the Villa Farnese, Caprarola

Epiphany:  a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.

Today (6 January) is the feast of the Epiphany, celebrated to the ultimate here in Italy.  Of course, we’re not celebrating the word epiphany, but rather the arrival of the Magi at Bethlehem.  To bring it down yet another peg, the Befana, a good witch, will disperse gifts to children today in towns all over Italy.  I have never gotten into the “witchiness” or ugliness of things – I even had a hard time with that movie “Nanny McPhee”. Santa Claus used to scare me to tears.

Somehow, I’ve always liked the pageantry of the “kings”.  I have a wardrobe of sparkly dress-up clothes that I hardly ever wear, sometimes on holidays.  For my curry dinner I wore my “Dolly Parton goes Bollywood” sparkle jacket.  I didn’t have any revelations like the Magi, but hey, today is the day:  anything can happen.

I have had epiphanies in past.  They have come in the form of “wake up calls” to do with health, or when the spirit has spoken to me at the beach, or in an especially quiet moment, or a stressful moment.   I have learned through these to celebrate life as much as I can: birthdays, holidays, or just this day is call for a “festa”.  I’ve changed paths.   And I have learned to have faith.

I have been plagued this last week by sea monsters:  When I visit with American friends, there is always big talk of having enough [money] for retirement.  People (who are well intentioned, worry about us) ask if we’re “OK”, etc.  It lets worry enter my picture, and it’s heck to get it out.

I feel we are probably as well off as anyone else.  In fact, I have always been able to find a way to make a living.   But sea monsters, like worries, are never easily reasoned with.  One has to trick one’s way out and swim clear.

We went to the Villa Farnese at Caprarola this week.  It was a country home built by the Farnese family in the mid 1500s.  It started out at the beginning of that century as a fort, but in the 1550 or so, was turned into a home.   It had incredible mannerist style murals throughout, and a map room which included all the continents, amazingly accurate.   There was a tribute to Amerigo Vespucci.

The gardens themselves were a fabulous treat.  There were sea monsters and grottos, and giants.   The layout of the land was ideal for seeing vistas, and I plan a painting foray there “en plein air”.  Some of today’s pictures were memories aided by photos. 

It’s hard to have an epiphany in the house.  I need to cross a desert to find my next bright idea. The Befana will be in Stimigliano’s square this afternoon, I might venture a look.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Artnotes: Love in 2018!

 Blair and I at Harry's Bar   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas 10 x 12"  25 x 30cm  
 (painted from memory)

​Monte Cimone at Sunrise  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  8 x 19.5"  20 x 50 cm  

 Tree Shadow in Snow  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  11 x 18"  27 x 46cm 

 ​Winter Landscape before Snow  Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  33 x 76"  83 x 193cm  (delivered unstretched)
It’s been cool in our Rocca Malatina house, and Harika curls up next to me on the bed.  I wake up thinking how nice it is to have someone to love.  Because it’s not the loved one who benefits, it’s the one who loves.  It’s especially nice if the feeling is reciprocated.

Italy is a country about love.  My friends here give me a hearty kiss and hug – not just a perfunctory air kiss, but an actual touching of cheeks.  And Italians love their children like no other country.  The Madonna and Child is an actual phenomenon.

We went to see the living Nativity in Monteorsello on the 24 December.  Our dinner guests went home, and our houseguest went to bed; at 11:15 we packed ourselves into the car. We arrived at the same time as Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus.  Baby Jesus’ big sister was there, too.  What? You didn’t know he had one?  He does in Monteorsello.

There were a group of carolers belting out “Adeste Fideles” with the help of the black cassocked priest.  A small band of instruments played “Silent Night”.  The town was lit by candles, and it was a scene out of a movie.  Really, movies do come from life – storytellers can pick up on these elements that can make me cry.

We carried on this holiday week, going to Venice for my birthday on the 28.  I have always disliked my birthday because my mother used to tell me, “I remember when you were born, it spoiled all my fun”.  It took me years to get over that (she would remind me clear until I was in my 30s), but now I celebrate.
Venice was especially foggy and mysterious and beautiful.  We plied the canals on the vaporetto, and took the 2 euro gondola across the Grand Canal.  We ate lunch at the Rialto, and walked through previously unseen squares on to St. Marks. We ducked into Harry’s bar when it really started to rain.
We celebrated an early New Year’s with our Italian teacher and the refugees, who we learned the language with.  They are full of hope for 2018, thankful to have made it to safety before the door completely closed.   The table included people from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, all sharing our love of Italy.
Our houseguest has since left, and Blair, Harika and I are on our own once again.  I am planning a New Year’s Day feast of Indian food for our English-speaking friends (Italians are not big on curry).  Blair and I are lucky to have a large wonderful family of friends, whom we love and are loved by in return.

Happy New Year, and much Love in 2018!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Artnotes: Wishes

The Streets of Rome  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvasboard  8 x 12"  20 x 30cm  

Sunlight in the Piazza   Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  ​20 x 27.5"  50 x 70cm  

Christmas "playing" card by Blair and Laurie

I just can’t go another week without Artnotes.  Last weekend, I made a spur-of-the-moment trip to the US to see my Dad.  I was talking to him on the telephone (we chat every day), and thought “it’s time for a personal visit”.  So, a 72 hours later I jetted on over.  I loved the Boeing 787; hated the staff (like prison guards) on Norwegian Air.  I think airlines should let you have a free glass of water; I actually paid $45.00 extra to check a bag and have food, but water was not included.  We were delayed an hour both ways.  Baggage came in on a carousel shared by 8 other cheapskate airlines arriving at the same time.  Was all this worth the $500.00 savings?  Maybe.   I could do it again.
A couple of days before I left we went into the city of Rome, to buy parts for a crazy Christmas card idea we had.  Very few cards were actually made, so here’s the concept in the likely case yours didn’t arrive.  I made another card, which nobody received, I will share next time.

Rome is so fantastic I can hardly stand it.  Blair and I drive (although we could take the train), and park under the Borghese gardens.  Popping out there, right near the Spanish steps, is wonderful.  The park is so Roman, with umbrella pines and Renaissance sculpture, I feel joyous at once.  This time we walked DOWN the Spanish steps, over to the Pantheon, which is so emotion-evoking, I want to burst into tears at this 126 AD wonder. 
And I know this is a “tourist attraction”, but darn, it is so great, how can I pass it up?  It’s how it got to be a tourist attraction, because it is so exceptional.  The key is to see it off season.  Winter sun bounced off the inside of the dome.
We went to lunch at a little restaurant where I ate the best artichoke of my life.  I was somewhat concerned when the waitress took two artichokes from the display up front – my experience with artichokes is LOTS of cooking is necessary.  In fact, it returned rather quickly:  it had been fried.  The outer leaves (minus the pricker), were like potato chips, and the interior was fabulously soft and delicious.  I followed with a simple spaghetti carbonara and wine.  It was a family restaurant, as so many in Italy are, and the woman taking care of us was the spitting image of the old man manager.  They were matchstick thin, with high cheekbones and enormous eyes.   Hearty discussions were taking place not far from us – it felt like eating at someone’s house, someone Italian.

I am just back yesterday, so paintings are a little scarce.  Connecticut was cold and snowy and I didn’t paint at all.  Blair worked on our house while I was away – he bought a beautiful olive wood table we’d seen the week before.  Harika waited every day in the car for Blair to pick me up.  Her wish, and mine, eventually came true.  

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Artnotes: What We Might Find?

Horse and Woman (commission)  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  24 x 12"  60 x 30cm  

The House with Red Shutters (commission)  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  16 x 24  40x 60cm

The House from Afar  (commission)  Blair Pessemier Acrylic/canvas  12 x 24"  30 x 60cm

Ballerina, Guru, Explorer, Madonna (friends on my closet door)  Laurie Fox Pessemier

Acrylic on applied newspaper  8' x 6'  96 x 72"

After a hundred false starts for this week’s artnotes, I have decided to tell you about our Saturday adventures.  Originally, we’d planned to go into Rome with our neighbor, but he feared rain.  As former Seattlites, rain doesn’t bother us*, so we decided to drive up to Italy’s oldest flea market, in Arezzo. *Actually, rain makes me pretty crabby, but it’s honestly better if I get out.

Arezzo is little more than an hour and a half from here.  It’s an easy go, North on the highway toward Florence.   Arezzo is famous for its murals, painted by Piero della Francesca, in the cathedrale of St. Francis.  It is a medieval/renaissance towns, with cobblestoned hills, and fabulous architecture.  But we went for the flea market.

The entire center of the town is shut off to traffic and filled with stands selling everything from silver, to lights, to historic fabrics and furniture.   We were in the market for things for the new house, and walked away with two small easy chairs and a light fixture, for a grand total of 110 euros.  We looked at almost everything, and left behind a great desk (110, but might have got it for 90) and a set of six elegant dining chairs, contemporary, for about the same price.   There was a great dining set with chairs suitable as easy chairs, but it was pricier and Blair wasn’t keen on the table (he never goes for light wood).  This was perhaps the best flea market I have ever been to, which says a lot after Paris.  It’s the first Sunday of the month and the previous Saturday, if you are planning your trip.

Blair is an addict of the flea market, as everyone who knows us will testify.  We left Arezzo after only about two hours, and drove home because there was a “vintage”market taking place in Borgo Nuovo, right next door to Stimigliano.   That market started at two, and at 2:30 we were driving around desperately to find it, like someone seeking a heroin fix.   

We were thwarted by a large herd of sheep and three shepherding dogs that attacked our car.  Harika was in the back seat, barking and spitting foam against the back window where one persistent dog was trying to get in.  “Don’t hit them, don’t hit them!” I was hollering as Blair maneuvered the car by the dogs – the sheep were long gone.   I am thinking of making a sheep Christmas card, inspiration coming from the craziest places.

We finally found the vintage market, which turned to be an individual’s property that I had formerly mistaken as a dump site.  In fact, it was totally organized and well laid out.  For one of the first times here, we heard English spoken.  Is there something about Anglo-Saxons and flea markets?  Two men from Vancouver, BC who lived nearby were seeking bargains, as were an American couple from a neighboring town.  So we came away with four new friends, five espresso/tea cups, four black and white bullseye dishes, 3 black saucers and a large anchovy tin (sounds like the 12 days of Christmas? hmmm. maybe a better card idea).

Today there is a market in Farfa.  Who knows what we might find?

Laurie and Blair PESSEMIER

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Artnotes: I never thought of it that way...

 Morning Fog  Lauire Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  12 x 24″ 30 x 60cm
 The Flock  Blair Pessemier  Acrylic/canvas  13 x 18″    33 x 40cm 
 The Lamb  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  16 x 16″  40 x 40 cm 
​In the Fold  Laurie Fox Pessemier  Acrylic/newspaper  14 x 16″  35 x 40 cm

The dog looks like a large golden retriever, but in fact, he is a maremmano.  And he is fiercely guarding his sheep at the side of the road.  One of the most remarkable things about living here, north of Rome, is the presence of sheep and their shepherds.  Sheep are moved from field to field, from Rome to here, just as they were millennia ago.   We see a herder who actually has a bagpipe. 

Blair and I try to stop to paint them, but it is nearly impossible.  We take photos and Blair works from those.  We were out riding around with M, who has become our shepherd.  I never really think of myself as a sheep, but Blair says he might be.  Were I a sheep, I would be the one they slaughtered first, for insubordination.

M, a teacher who lives in our borgo, takes us out to show us Roman roads, and particular sites around the area.  We’ve learned about the routes which lead to Rome from around our area:  the Salaria (the salt road), and the Flaminia.  We’ve been to a number of nearby medieval and Roman cities.  We’ve learned Italian words for architectural terms.

Blair and I take ourselves out on near-impossible tasks like finding the dump where we get our official garbage cans.  It is a half day event, visiting four different places before we happen upon the right one, just in the nick of time before the three hour lunch closure.

I am astonished by how different this area is from Rocca Malatina.  It seems much more clearly divided between Catholic and Communist.    People are very clear about which camp they follow.  Maybe we have just not had as much direct experience in this conversation, formerly.  As our Italian improves, it occurs to me it might be better to keep my mouth shut.

We sit with M over dinner.  I miss having a flock of guests, but they will likely come with time.  Meanwhile, I make baccala (dried salted cod) with olive oil, tomatoes and garlic and we talk.

“Is it no wonder the Catholic church was such a success?  With artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Brunelleschi,  people could just go to church to experience the spirituality of the art!”  M expounds, banging on the dining table. 

I guess I never thought of it that way.