Discovering My Roots in Italy

Hello my dear readers and sorry for the long absence!  My husband and I were celebrating our 5 year anniversary in Italy–an amazing trip which has been on my bucket list for a long time.  It’s quite gratifying to accomplish one of my dreams!  This trip was far more than just a vacation or celebration.  I consider it a pilgrimage of sorts, as I’m part Italian.  One quarter to be exact.  I’d been wanting to delve into my roots and explore part of my cultural background.  Just as my first trip to Japan helped me to understand my Japanese husband better, this trip to Italy helped me understand myself better.

I thought it might be fun to document some of the things I affirmed about myself and share them with you.

  • I understand part of why I was raised Catholic, as this religion played a huge part in developing Italian culture and politics.  The pope and the Vatican are here, which is like a world unto itself.  I can also see why I have an interest in mythology, given Rome’s history which included Greek and Latin influences.  Visiting the Pantheon was quite a unique experience, since it’s been the site of religious worship since about 27 BC!  Even the current building dates back to about 126 AD!
  • I can see why I love learning, knowledge, and books.  So many great minds had the freedom to explore and experiment here including Marco Polo (we visited his actual stomping ground) as well as Amerigo Vespucci and Galileo.  Travel, maps, and stars–all our favorite things!
  • Italians are passionate and emotional by nature but at times disorganized, as am I 🙂  But gratefully, they really seem to know how to enjoy life!  Which brings me to my next point.
  •  The Italian workday typically starts at 9 or 10am with a long lunch from about 12 or 1 to 3pm.  Shops often close in the evening around 7pm with an 8 or 9pm dinner hour.  This suits my night owl tendencies and sleeping habits.  Perhaps I’ve been running on Italian time all along 😉
  • And the last thing I would like to highlight is..well…the art, of course!  From The Roman Empire, to the Medieval period, culminating in the Italian Renaissance, there was no shortage of creativity here.  So many advancements were made in terms of both subject matter and drawing/sculpting techniques.  Seeing the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s David statue, The Birth of Venus and Primavera (2 paintings by Botticelli) was awe-inspiring to say the least.  I felt without a doubt that art is in my genes.  It’s who I am, and I don’t ever want to forget that.

I encourage all of you to explore what makes you unique.  If you don’t have the ability to travel, then head to your nearest library or bookstore and do some research.  Check out your genealogy and family tree online.  I think the more we can understand where we came from, the better we can know ourselves, and the more we can connect to others.

Ciao for now!

Viewing the Michigan Petroglyphs

I recently had the opportunity to visit the historic site of the Sanilac Petroglyphs in MI.  As some of you may know, my husband and I have been hunting for petroglyphs in the Southwest, but this is our first time to see some so close to home!  Another item to cross off our bucket list 😉  And it’s a good thing we did.  According to park rangers, they may be gone in the next 20-30 years 😦

In case you don’t get a chance to see them–although I recommend that you do–let me take you on a little tour!  The stories our guide shared were so interesting and made the trip out there even more worth it.  After all, you can’t really tell what some of them are, as they’re getting worn away by the elements.

To start, the one at the top of this page is called Bow Man and is believed to represent a hunter.  As the story goes, he’s receiving the wisdom of the ages and shoots the knowledge into the future.  Cool!


As you can see, the one above is almost completely indistinguishable.  Luckily, our guide provided the replica below.  It’s a carving of a very cool creature–a sort of Underwater Panther guarding the underworld and controlling the sea, sometimes even causing storms.

In contrast, we have the underwater panther’s counterpart or rival–The Thunderbird–or master of the powers of the air.  They’re opposing forces that also serve to counterbalance each other.

My personal favorite is this carving of a sea turtle.  There’s a famous Native American creation myth suggesting that part of the Earth grew from a bit of earth on the back of a great turtle until it became an island.  Eventually the turtle held the new world on its back.  Some say it created the entire continent of North America.  The Ojibwe tribe call the turtle spirit Kitchi-Manitou.  There’s also a similar legend native to Mackinac Island about a turtle called Makinauk.

The final petroglyph that I would like to highlight is the Night Walker.  The upside down Y makes up his legs and body.  If you look very carefully, you can even see a small child to his left being lured away by the Night Walker.  Watch out!

It’s fun to see a piece of history carved in stone.  For an artist like myself, it’s especially gratifying to be able to view some of the world’s first drawings.  I hope preservation efforts will prevail and these gems will last forever.  But just in case, you might want to make your way over to Cass City and view them while you can!