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Mountain and the Sea

Ingrid Michaelson version

You call me a mountain
And I call you the sea
I’ll stand tall and certain
And watch you swallow me

You can move me if you want to
You can move a mountain, you can move a mountain
You can move me if you want to
You can move everything, you can move everything

Question 05

What stands between a mountain and the sea?

I have now seen places where the mountain and the sea touch; they are friends and maintain a special relationship.  They are no longer in a conflict between their landscapes.  My previous experiences have kept me thinking that they are two separate places, the mountains to the east, the sea to the west.  Snow in the mountains, sand at the beach; it has always been pretty defined.  608 steps, one very long, narrow, continuous road, hundreds of houses, and thousands of people later, I am confused and my legs hurt.  Positano nestles its way between and around the mountains and the sea.  Along with Terracina and Capri, these places fall right on the mountains, which land on the sea.  It all seems to work; even though there is barely any separation, only houses, landmarks, and families fall in between.  There is a history and story that come along with these towns; it is much more than the landscapes that keep them connected.  It is all about the relationships, between the landscapes, the houses, and people.  Everyone seems perfectly happy to have both so close, even is it means climbing up and down a ridiculous amount of stairs and hills.

Question 04

What’s the difference between a big building and a small city?

The social environment, situation, time, and inhabitants all create and change small cities or big buildings.  First, it’s probably appropriate to try and define each simply.  A big building is a compilation of many units, apartments, shops, and/or spaces.  People gather together for a shared purpose, either witnessing or participating in some event together.  People can either share similar common spaces or not; they could act as a community or as separate entities.  Within a similar situation and context, big buildings seem to fit, and their size doesn’t overwhelm.  A small city can have more intimate interaction, people know each other, and have usually been through similar situations or problems, and work to overcome them together.  A small city can essentially be a big building spread out on land.  For some reason, I think people (including myself) get stuck in assuming that big buildings and small cities are dissimilar, but when you start to compare the differences, it becomes obvious that there aren’t many.  Big buildings are not always skyscrapers; small cities are not always horizontal.  These lines obviously blur when shopping malls seem to have characteristics of both.  Visiting and shopping at Porta di Roma this weekend combined the experience of a small city and big building into one entity.

Question 03

What did one wall say to another wall?

Down a side alley, near the Jewish Ghetto, are two walls, one very old and brick, the other an addition of stucco.  Without looking up or around, a passerby would rarely notice this relationship, but the conversation quickly becomes a very entertaining and unique dialogue.

1. (In an old, angry voice) “Ok, stop looking at me like that.  I’ve had about enough.  I’m sick and tired of you hanging off of me.  You’re blocking my view.  See, I used to be able to see that nice church over there, but no, not anymore.  What is your purpose anyways?  I’m old, you’re new, I’m Rome, you’re not.”

2. (In a very cool and casual tongue) “I’m a bridge, a hallway, a connection.  You obviously were not doing your job correctly or I wouldn’t be here.  You’re right; you are old, and outdated.  Pigeons sleep in your holes; your surface is so ragged who knows what else lives in there.  Who even uses brick anymore?  Plus, I’ve got all these walls and buildings behind to back me up.  What do you have?”

1. (In an even angrier and grumpy tone) “Didn’t your mother ever tell you to respect your elders?  After all of these years, I’ve held up haven’t I?  I don’t need anyone else to lean on.  We’ll see how long you can last.  People don’t build like they used to, and you youngins can’t appreciate all that I was and still am.  No respect.  Now, I don’t like this anymore than you do, but it seems like we’ll be stuck like this for who knows how long, so you better straighten up.”

2. (With a slight laugh) “I can’t, I’m curved.”

il popolo d’Abruzzo

i gatti della regione Abruzzo


Question 02

How does a building meet the ground?

It seems simple enough at first glance.  A hidden treasure sandwiched between two buildings; I even walked by it at first.  I stood at the base of three stairs staring at Bramante’s Tempietto through an archway.  The site seems obvious enough.  It was situated in the courtyard of San Pietro in Montorio.  A small, commemorative martyrium surrounded by stairs on each side.  As I walked up the set of stairs and inside I quickly became aware of the complexity of this building when the grate at my feet revealed a lower room.  Realizing there was much more to this small temple, I wanted to see what else was hiding and waiting to be discovered.  I found a set of staircases on the backside going down.  A small window on the first floor seamlessly connected to the lower room.  I walked down the stairs; the room was almost identical to the one above it, except the altar was on the opposite end.  This building encourages discovery and adventuring; it not only meets the ground but also speaks with it.  The simple staircases are constantly interacting with the site above and below.  Without it, I wouldn’t have found the buried secrets that were the Tempietto.  Now I can only wonder, what else is down there?

Question 01

How do you know you are in Rome?

When in Rome:  You inhale smoke once you step out of the airport.  Gelato shops replace Starbucks.  People bathe and drink from fountains on the streets.  Children are out eating dinner at 11 pm.  Dogs play in piazzas instead of parks.  You’ll find a ruin of a column in the middle of a sidewalk.  You walk on cobblestones.  There is a church around almost every corner.  Gladiators try to sell you souvenirs.  Businessmen and women drive Vespas in suits.  You weigh and price your own fruit before you check out at a grocery store.  You can buy pasta for less than a Euro.  Wine is less expensive than water or soda.  You can buy Nutella in bulk.  You eat breakfast and lunch standing up.  There are bidets in almost every restroom.  People hang their laundry out their windows.  You need an adapter to plug in any electronic.  There are four different trashcans to take out.  You can’t tell the difference between the Polizia and the Carabinieri.  You walk by Borromini and Bernini buildings daily.  You’ve tossed a coin in the Trevi Fountain.  You’ve walked up and/or down the Spanish Steps.  You’ve discovered the enormity of the Colosseum and Pantheon.  Your feet are covered in blisters.  And everyone speaks a different language.

Piazza Navona at night