Fountain at Tower Grove Park.

By Geri L. Dreiling

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time” 
― T. S. EliotSelected Essays

Once upon a long time ago, when I was a kid growing up in Kansas, one of my favorite things to do was to go exploring. I'd head outside with my sister. We didn't know exactly where we were going. We had no idea what we might find. There was no formal agenda. We just hoped that we might stumble upon something surprising.

We'd trek through our backyard -- and the yards of all of our neighbors. In those days, there were no fences separating the homes. One backyard blended with all of the others, creating a massive field dotted with trees and ringed on the outer perimeter by houses.

As explorers, we discovered a variety of treasures: A broken bird's egg, the color of Tiffany blue, with a ragged gash down the middle. We witnessed nature's drama when we encountered a baby bird, out of its protective nest and flailing alone on the ground. We never knew if it would figure out how to fly before a predator pounced.

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Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/ihWJL

I enjoyed an enlightening dinner with my daughter last night. I learned that there is a new phrase for fun that teens are using.

"Turn up," she said.

"T-u-r-n-u-p  or  t-u-r-n-i-p?" I asked.

"It isn't something you eat," she said. "Turn up. Really, turnip?"

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trumpet flower

And the unexpected rewards it can bring

I haven’t been out of the country since January. A work opportunity popped up in my path unexpectedly and I decided to give it a try. Refusing to completely let go of the consulting business I have built and the teaching opportunities I enjoy, I continue to handle them as well. It has meant long days of labor that span the weekends.

I haven’t seen E since he visited in April. When we said goodbye at the airport in St. Louis, we knew his work projects and my new work commitments would prevent us from keeping our every-three-month visit schedule intact. The changes have reverberated even into our daily emails, leaving him unhappy and me feeling guilty.

My son leaves for his freshman year of college in two weeks. Some days, I find myself reminiscing about his childhood. On other days – more accurately the nights when he has missed his curfew yet again – I know it is time for him to go. But when I think about the actual logistics of the move, purchasing laundry detergent, shower shoes, pillows and notebooks, tears gather in my eyes.

My daughter just got her driver’s license a few weeks ago. Impervious to danger, overconfident in her abilities and craving freedom, whenever she bounces out of the house I am on edge.

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El Tostado in Avila

Cheesecake at El Tostado

Where history and food collide

By Geri Dreiling

“El Tostado!” Enrique said excitedly as we toured the Cathedral of Ávila in Spain. With that simple exclamation, our cultural and language differences crystallized.

The image that immediately popped into my head was of a tostada, a fried tortilla slathered with refried beans then topped with lettuce, tomato and salsa that is listed on a menu in a Mexican restaurant in the United States.

Of course, that was not what Enrique had in mind. Instead, he was referring to a renowned scholar, writer and bishop of Ávila in the 15th century. He had spotted the tomb for El Tostado behind the high altar of the Gothic church and was excited that we had discovered it. Continue reading...

 

The Walls of Avila

Walls of Avila long view_featured

A beautiful backdrop for a romantic walk

By Geri Dreiling

When you like someone in grade school, taking a walk with your crush around the playground is exciting. When you’re in college, a stroll through the zoo, a park or around a nearby lake can be a dreamy experience. But when you are an adult, the backdrop for a romantic outing is limited only by your imagination – and your finances.

The medieval walls of Ávila provide a perfect setting for an enchanting walking date. Located in the Castile-Leon region of Spain, Ávila is surrounded by walls that were built beginning in approximately 1090 and continuing over the next two hundred years as fortification against the Moors. Continue reading...

 
The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Crafting stories through images

By Geri Dreiling

There are many advantages to dating a kind and patient bilingual engineer and computer programmer with a master’s degree in design. In addition to being a considerate travel companion and all-around good guy, E is an awesome translator. When I encounter pesky computer coding issues, he is my problem solver.

And when it comes to photography, he shares his insights and opinions when I ask. 

I see scenes through the eyes of a writer. Words fill my head. I think about the people who built the landmark. I contemplate the history that the landmark has witnessed. I take mental notes of the scene as it exists in the present; of the people who live, love, work and struggle to survive in the shadows.   Continue reading...

 

The Train to Avila

Spanish mountain with snow

A day trip from Madrid

By Geri Dreiling

“And this snow,” Robert Jordan said. “You think there will be much?”

“Much,” Pablo said contentedly. Then called to Pilar, “You don’t like it, woman, either? Now that you command you do not like this snow?”

“A mí qué?” Pilar said, over her shoulder. “If it snows it snows.”

— For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway

As I listened to E translate the weather forecast that was predicting snow for the areas just beyond Madrid, I thought of Pilar. We were scheduled to take a day trip to Ávila and it was one of the areas where snow was expected to fall. Continue reading...

 
Cerralbo Museum Grand Staircase

A manse meant to impress

By Geri Dreiling

It was a museum Sunday. While visiting Madrid in January, E and I toured the Museo Sorolla and the Museo Cerralbo on the same day – with a break for tapas in between. In addition to collections of art, the small museums offered a glimpse into turn-of-the-20th-century Spain from the artistic and aristocratic viewpoint.

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, the orphaned painter from Valencia, built a home in Madrid influenced by his travels that was meant to nourish creativity.

Living in Madrid at about the same time was Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo. An aristocrat, politician, art collector and archaeologist,  de Aguilera built a mega mansion – or miniature palace --between 1883 and 1893 to display art he had collected during his extensive travels as well as archaeological finds and family heirlooms.

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Madrid street near Royal Palace

By Geri Dreiling

When I visited Segovia during my first trip to Spain, E’s parents suggested stopping at a café. During my second trip to Spain, E’s parents suggested a café stopover when we arrived in Toledo. And in my most recent trip, E’s friends Carla and Germán suggested stopping at a café in El Escorial before heading back to Madrid.

It finally dawned on me to ask E if a café break was a typical Spanish custom. “Yees,” he said with a patient smile.

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Clotilde and Elena on the Rocks, Sorolla

Joaquin Sorolla’s work and his Madrid home

By Geri Dreiling

A century ago, the New York Times dubbed Joaquin Sorolla “the Spanish painter of sunlight and color.” The year was 1909. The occasion was his New York exhibition. In a much later article about Sorolla written in 2012, the New York Times noted that during that turn-of-the-century exhibition over 169,000 art lovers ventured out in cold, icy February weather and endured long lines to see his work.

I didn't discover Sorolla until my recent trips to Madrid. Now he sits atop my list of my favorite painters. It isn’t just his use of sunlight and color that draws me into his work. I'm captivated by the way he is able to depict emotions, connections and bonds between people. Some of the works were so moving that I couldn't help but get misty-eyed. 

There is a delightful gem in Madrid – the Sorolla Museum -- where you can see many of his works. It is also the home where he lived with his beloved wife and muse, Clotilde. And it is the site of the gardens that he designed and then painted.  Continue reading...