Ruth Orkin’s American Girl in Florence, Italy 1951
I am on my way home from the grocery store, having picked up a few things for lunch tomorrow. I walk around the back side of the Duomo and head down towards the Via dell’Oriuolo. I take a deep breath because I know this is the one street I have trouble with in town. I have a very love-hate relationship with the men in this city. The cat-calls start almost immediately as I begin walking down the street.
“Ciao bellissima!” exclaims one man on a scooter.
Another leans forward and sends me air kisses. All the other men on the street turn to stare at me walking down the street. I get several invitations for dinner and coffee, but politely reject them all. I walk faster, finally turning on the Borgo Pinti.
“Ciao ragazzi!” I proclaim, as I head towards my house. “Same time tomorrow!”
Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1625.
I am a river dryad, daughter of the river god Peneus, and devoted to the huntress Diana. I have vowed my virginity to her, and Cupid has made it doubly so. My lord Apollo knows this and yet still he pursues me. He too has been pierced with an arrow of a different sort. I run as fast as I can, begging him to leave me alone.
“Peneus, my father, help me I beseech thee!” I scream as I run.
He grants my request, and suddenly my feet become roots, a thin bark covers my body and my raised hands and flowing hair starts sprouting leaves.
Apollo catches up to me, and still wants me despite my transformation. “If you are not to be mine, let me at least honor you.” And so I became a laurel tree, beloved of Apollo.
I haven’t posted one of these in forever, so wanted to start it up again because I miss writing them. I’m going to start with one of my favorite sculptural pieces ever, which I was lucky enough to see in the Villa Borghese in Rome.
The Rape of Persephone – Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1622-23
I’m sitting in a field of flowers with my mother Demeter. Suddenly I spy a narcissus, which would be the perfect centerpiece for the flower crown I am making, when suddenly the ground opens up. I can see a glowing pair of eyes in the darkness, looking right at me, which causes a shiver to run down my spine. Suddenly my taciturn uncle Hades comes bursting out of the ground in his golden chariot driven by four sable horses. Without a word, he drags me kicking and screaming back into the depths of the underworld with him, his fingers sinking into my nubile flesh. The flowers fall from my hand as I descend and are lost in the nothingness. I am calling out for my mother to help me, but it is too late. The ground closes up above my head and now there is no hope.
Faroe Islands, Niels – Eyes as Big as Plates series – Riita Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth, 2015
Niels had been there on the beach so long he cannot remember a time when he had been anywhere else. He had become as much a part of the landscape as the weather-beaten and lichen-covered rocks that lined the island’s coastline. His family had left him on the beach during Operation Valentine, and they had never remembered to pick him up again. Or maybe they didn’t want to take him home, Niels was never sure. Over the years, he gradually became covered in barnacles, seaweed and other oceanic detritus, which made him seem less human and more merman or selkie. The only time he moved was during the high tide when small tide pools formed near his sheltering rocks. Then he would use his bare hands to pry open the shells of the sea urchins and crabs unfortunate enough to wander close enough to him.
Tuija – Eyes as Big as Plates series – Riita Ikonen and Karoline Hjorth, Finland 2012
“Immerse yourself in the local waters…Become one with nature,” the local tour guides said.
I came here to get away from my hectic life in the city and relax, and next thing I know I am camped out in the Finnish wilderness in the springtime with the a group of strangers. Everyone is sitting around the campfire bundled up in sleeping bags because even though it is May, it’s still a frigid outside. Then one of our hosts grabs a bottle of Lakka, aka Cloudberry Liqueur, and suddenly we’re all dancing around the fire like a couple of Finnish nature shamans. The next thing I know am naked, breast high in the water with lily pads on my head like a headdress of one of the nymphs of Ahti, god of sea and lakes, grinning coyly up at my hosts.
The Look…Edinburgh – Thomas Leuthard, May 2011
I stood outside the bookstore cafe in Edinburgh on an afternoon off from university, people watching and taking pictures when I saw her. She was a young Afghani woman in a patterned hijab, trenchcoat, and only the edge of a lace-covered sleeve poking out. She was staring right back at me with the most brilliant green eyes and oh the stories she could tell with just one glance. What was in those eyes that just drew you in? Was she sad, amused, or perhaps simply contemplative, with her hand resting lightly on her head almost as an afterthought? I imagined she was a tourist freshly come to Scotland, and visiting family in the city. Or she could be a local mother finally getting a quiet moment to herself, after getting her kids off to school. Or maybe she was student like me, enjoying a much-deserved break after cramming for exams.
Full Moon Service – Erik Johannson, 2017
Once a month they drove through the grasslands to deliver the moon. This is what the Man in Moon, the head honcho, called the Full Moon Service. There were so many of kinds that they fell out of the van, bursting forth and tumbling onto the ground. It took awhile to put the moons in an order and determine which one was needed tonight. The Super Moon was their first pick. They pulled the lever in the tree, directly under where it should be, and the Earth would tilt exactly where it needs to be so that the Moon appeared close enough to touch. The craters are magnified and appear in sharp relief to the rest of the moon’s pocked surface. One delivery woman holds the Super Moon aloft, while the other got on a ladder to place it in the night sky.