trust and travel.

I knew I couldn’t leave Italy without a tour through the Italian countryside. So I convinced my sister to take me back to a castle where she did a vinegar tour and tasting when she first arrived in Florence. And to the castle did we go. Hoping to get a more “authentic” experience,  we hopped on a local bus and headed into the Tuscan countryside. After escalating the hustle of the city, the hills started to roll and fill with vines. It felt like a movie.
I was reminded of one of the most important tricks of travel on our way up to the castle: trust. An important trick of life, really. But especially important when traveling. We knew we we’re supposed to ride the bus for about 50 minutes to a stop named Greti. After leaving the city limits, the stops ceased to have names. So to ensure we got off at the right stop, I asked the woman in front of me. “La fermatta Greti?” The driver acknowledged by broken Italian and made a gesture to suggest that the stop wouldn’t be for a while. After another 10 or so minutes, I made eye contact with the driver. He must have seen the concern in my face because again he gestured, “not for a while still”. Five minutes later, he said, “Greti, la prossima”. Add I finally knew all along he was watching out for us, making sure that we got to our destination.
Trust yourself, and trust those who you ask for help- most of the time they will have your back. It is very refreshing when we finally understand that we are all just waking though life, ultimately each of us attempting to arrive at some final destination. Sometimes, we just need a little help getting there.

un cappucino, per favore.

I love the coffee culture of Italy. A cappuccino in the morning alongside a croissant or another pastry. In the afternoon, a simple caffé (espresso). No frills. No complex flavor profiles, no slow pour overs, just espresso. Sure, put sugar in it, if you want. If not, don’t. Drink it fast, drink it slow. Stand at the bar and have a conversation with the barista or move off to the side and read the paper. Pay afterwards. Just enjoy. 

from pisa to rome; the beginning.

(march 16th, 2014)
I sit here on a train at sunset passing through the Italian countryside. I see men smoking in their backyards, women washing clothes and hanging them out the window. For a while I saw the sea. I imagine a place where young Italian men and women jump carefree into the ocean. I hear Nona’s making pasta in the kitchen. I watch Nono’s helping to make sauce for the pasta; Nono’s just like Sergio I met on the plane over here. Sergio is an old Italian man, in his late 79’s I would assume. He is an Italian citizen and a Canadian citizen who has been in Toronto for the last few months with his children. He smelled of afternoon coffee and smoke; he coughed like it too. Although Sergio was a bit chatty, he did teach me a few things on the ride over. They include: 
Life’s not that easy, but it’s not easy for any of us.
When you have problems, leave them where they come from, don’t bring them with you.
One glass of wine with every meal is wonderful (read: necessary), just never get drunk. 
 
It’s Sunday evening and I sit here on this train dreaming that I could speak Italian. I did properly answer the question “En que carrozza siamos?” which I hope translates to “what car are we in?”. “Cinque”. But still, I’m left craving to know more.  I’m dying to know another language that is beaming with emotion, character, and passion. 
 
As I write this we’re passing by mountains. Foothills, a beautiful backdrop for the vineyard, olive trees, and other train cars I see. The little villages nestled in the foothills make me want to spend years here. They make me want to know the people who peer out the shutters, who sing Italian and cook garlic. They make me want to know the stories of the people of Italy. Good thing I’m here for a week to explore a lot of what Italy has to offer; people, language, food, and wine. and everything else i can only dream of.

on stories.

today i came to a simple conclusion. stories are important. 

and we’ll never hear stories if we don’t put aside our busy lives and just listen. i came to this realization today as i was waiting for my sandwich at whole foods. as usual, i asked for a suggestion, took the suggestion, and was looking forward to what today’s sandwich man would come up with. and then i pulled out my phone and started to check my email. 

and then i paused. i felt as though this sandwich man had something important to share. so i put my phone away and asked him a simple question. “how has your day been?.” 

“good, nothing special though,” he said. and then we started chatting. i asked him if he was a father and if he had any special plans for today. he said that he had no big plans, that his kids were far away right now: one in bangkok with her pilot boyfriend and the other somewhere else in the nation. “both of them called and let me know they were thinking about me, and that is what is important.” 

robert, today’s wonderful 60-something sandwich man told me a lot about his life. he grew up in DC and moved out here to denver when him and his wife separated because she had moved out here and he missed his kids too much to stay out east. he worked in restaurants for many years after school and had a graphic design business on the side. after a while, he went full time with his graphic design business and did a lot of work for many of his friends in the restaurant industry. i asked if he was still doing any design work and sadly, he said no. he said that when he started he was on the cutting edge of technology, he was a pioneer in the field and was very successful because of it. he said to go back into that field today would be tough. “i’ve got a lot to learn. but thankfully there is a three year program at metro state that i’ve looked into so, we’ll see.” 

i can only hope he gets back to doing what he is passionate about. there are too many people in this world not doing what makes them happy. [[“don’t ask what the world needs. ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – howard thurman.]] 

so, the moral of the story. put your phone away. ask questions. hear people’s stories. you’ll never know what simple or profound thing they will teach you about life.

most days, it’s the small things || steam espresso bar, denver

“enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will look back, and realize they were the big things.”

i’ve been sitting at steam all morning: thinking, drawing, researching, and planning. getting excited about this creative journey i’m embarking on.

steam, a new coffee shop that opened in denver just a couple months ago has found a special place in my heart. and not only in my heart, but the hearts of many other locals, it seems.

hani, the owner of thisphoto studio turned espresso bar himself is a character transformed; an international starbucks barista turned coffee aficionado. he really has made this place a gem. the brick walls, wood floors, beautiful wood community table, elegant but not over-zealous chandeliers, handled kerr jar mugs, and outdoor patio make this place irresistible to platt park’s local hispters, businessmen, entrepreneurs, and socialites.

next to me this morning, two men chat about their companies database and account management system, across the shop, a mom and daughter catch up over an iced tea. in the back corner, three veteran businessmen plan their next venture. outside on the patio two twenty-somethings giggle and gossip about their weeks and weekend plans. a man in suspenders and a crisp button up fills a silver tray with macaroons that were just delivered from a local bakery. and it all happens so seamlessly, so naturally. it is no wonder people love this place.

it is all of the little details of this place that make it what it is.

and that is the perfect reminder that in life, it is the little things that matter. it is the little details, the small gestures, and the simple words that have the potential to make a difference.

i say this for two reasons, for two experiences i have had here today.

ONE: the men seated next to me this morning [the one’s who were working on the database], asked if i would like the piece of cake that they had been eyeing all morning. i asked hesitantly why they weren’t going to eat it. “we’ve already had breakfast and we’re on our way out. hani gave this to us because he messed up our coffee order.” after accepting the slice of almond cake and taking a bite, i realized quickly another reason why people come here, stay here, and c

ome back here day after day. hani takes care of his customers. the almond cake was spongy with a sweet but not-too-sweet layer of sugared almonds on top. definitely worth a try.

an hour later, hani approached my table with a beautiful latte adorned with latte art. ‘i’m just practicing’, he said, ‘would you like a latte?’. i may be shaking from caffeine overload, but i’m totally okay with it. hani’s personal customer service and that of his suspender wearing-staff do not go unnoticed here at steam.

vsco_0

 

SO – wandering down pearl street? in the wash park-ish area? make a special trip here. you’ll be very happy you did. and while you’re here, take a moment to notice all of the little details, all of the little things that make this place an incredible addition to the neighborhood.

cheers,

onesmallgrain

craving.

as the year comes to a close, i have a lot of writing to do. academic writing, that is. writing that doesn’t let me express frustrations or excitement. writing that doesn’t let me express any emotions, for that matter. and i haven’t written here in a while, but i’ve been craving to. and so, as a classic method of procrastination, here goes nothing.

frustrations, as of late: i’m feeling lost in an overly competitive world. i’m feeling as though so many people around me are always competing. competing to be faster, better, stronger, and smarter. and i feel like i just can’t win. and it’s not that all i want to do it win, i just want to feel confident. i want to feel strong and i want to feel smart. but the external pressure drags me down. i am a true believer in encouragement and feel as though i spend so much of my time supporting and encouraging others and more often than not, it is not reciprocated. i’m learning to be strong and to continually encourage and support myself. i’m learning how to not get bogged down by the overwhelming amounts of competition around me.

excitement, as of late: i’m curious. i’m looking for passion. i’m looking to do something different. to be creative, to start something, to finish something. and i can’t put words on what this thing is that i’m craving. but it’s something very different than what i’m doing now. i’m excited to do more thinking about what this things is. i’m excited to have support in starting this and finishing it. and i’m excited to see where it will take me.

all i can ask for is a little support. a little encouragement, and lots of love. i know this is just a season of frustration and it will pass. also sometimes, it takes a little frustration for passion to emerge.

so here is to the end of a season of just that; an end to the frustration and the emergence of passion!

the hummingbird.

“legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. the hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”

this quote was shared with me by a wonderful yoga teacher a few months ago. it has stuck with me ever since.

what a powerful creature, the hummingbird . let us be like hummingbirds; hovering and savoring each moment as it passes. let us remember that life IS rich and beauty truly is EVERYWHERE.