Story wrangler and editor Cheri Lucas Rowlands says show the world beneath your feet.

Hiking across Sicily is a literally-off-the-beaten-path trek through both a mesmerizing landscape and a turbulent history.

The Villa del Tellaro near Noto was a country residence during the late Roman Empire, in the middle of the 4th century AD.  The ruins of the villa were hidden beneath an 18th century farmhouse.  Thanks to illegal excavations in 1971 and a l-o-n-g restoration stalled by Sicilian bureaucracy, the villa opened to the public in 2008.

I saw sections of the original floor mosaics ~ floral and geometric patterns, panels illustrating the ransoming of Hector, and lavish hunting scenes.

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Recent excavations near the main farmhouse/villa have unearthed water cisterns and medieval tombs.

Who knows what else lies beneath Sicilian feet?

Toni 8/11/15


WP Blogger extraordinaire Krista asks ~ What is your inspiration? What moves you? What is it that never fails to motivate you, to get you going, or make you happy? See her avant-garde photo here.

My inspiration? Nature. Inspiring. Inspiriting.

Ancient sites. Dizzying heights.

Just plain grand. 

Toni 8/3/15


All of Sicily is a dimension of the imagination.

-Leonardo Sciascia

Hiking across Sicily in the off-season


Toni 6/15/15


Shut up, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said.  “It’s no real pleasure in life.


300x300The Misfit in A Good Man is Hard to Find is one of Flannery O’Connor’s most cruel and depraved villains. 

In this short story, a grandmother leads her exasperated family on a wild goose chase in rural Georgia. While looking for the site of her girlhood homestead, she inadvertently brings her whole family to their deaths at the hands of a tortured killer, The Misfit.


O’Connor was unapologetically religious and not particularly known for a sunny disposition yet her brief but productive career exemplifies the best of Southern Gothic literature.

O’Connor created works of moral fiction that, according to Joyce Carol Oates, “were not refined New Yorker stories of the era in which nothing happens except inside the characters’ minds, but stories in which something happens of irreversible magnitude, often death by violent means.”


The South impresses its image on the Southern writer from the moment he is able to distinguish one sound from another…the Southern writer’s greatest tie with the South is through his ear.

-Flannery O’Conor

In her distinctive Georgian drawl, O’Connor tells the story of a fateful family trip in this rare recording.



You can read the short story here.



I visited her home in Savannah, walked the leafy East Charlton Street, and sat in the church where she attended mass nearly every day, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, in Lafayette Square.


I’ve always been curious about what Flannery O’Connor was like as a kid. Turns out she was a “pigeon-toed only child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex”. 


An avid reader from an early age, the young O’Connor wrote comments on the leaves of her childhood books. For Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, she skewered Lewis Carroll with a succinct review: Awful. I wouldn’t read this book. The note on Shirley Watkins’s Georgina Finds Herself was even harsher: This is the worst book I ever read next to “Pinnochio”. Little Men survived Flannery’s scrutiny with its dignity intact: First rate, splendid.


As a child, Flannery O’Connor illustrated chickens, “the same chicken over and over,” and she wrote occasional verse. Her artwork was probably inspired by the ducks and chickens she kept as pets in the backyard of the Savannah row house.


O’Connor was an avid cartoonist as well as a writer. For her high school and college publications in the 1940’s, she created drawings cut from linoleum.  While the content is related to her experience as a student, the slightly skewed perspective is vintage O’Connor.

In addition to a cutting wit, O’Connor had a fondness for fowl and coffee mixed with Coca-Cola.  She led a fairly sheltered life that she once said would not be remembered because “lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy.”

She could not have been more wrong.

Flannery O’Connor saw, heard, and experienced the same things as everyone else but, out of those ordinary daily events, she imagined extraordinary possibilities. She sharpened and intensified what she saw with unusual twists and unexpected turns, influenced by living in that defining Southern town of Savannah.



O’Connor eked out the last years of her life in relative solitude with her mother, turning her childhood home into a makeshift bird sanctuary before dying of lupus at 39.


There’s one new surprise to be discovered, though, tucked under the stairs on East Charleton Street.  It’s a Little Free Library.  I think Flannery would have liked that.


As for that good man I found in Savannah, his name is Stratton Leopold. But that’s for another post.

Toni 6/9/15








WordPress Genius Cheri Lucas Rowlands says, for this challenge, capture something broken. I love this divine boody garden.


The island is sirenically seductive. Majestic caldera walls, multicolored cliffs soaring over indigo Aegean water, infinite azure skies, high-priced crumbling caves. Yes, caves.


I saw these unique historical houses on the island of Santorini. Called “cave houses”, many have been preserved and renovated in the town of Oia.


The early residents of Santorini worked in sea trading and exports. In order to be close to their work (and spot unfriendly ship invasions), they chose to live on the caldera edge. Wealthy ship captains built mansions on the island proper but ship hands and sailors built hyposkafa, or “cave houses”, carved into the soft pumice stone of the cliffside.


Hyposkafa were easy to build and provided protection from the harsh winter winds and weather. The natural insulation of the earthen walls regulated the interior temperature year-round. It was simpler to excavate the mountain than to carry (by mule) or buy the building materials.CIMG0111

The cave size was fitted to the needs of the family but limited by natural obstacles, like big rocks. When young adults were ready to start their own families, they would either build an additional room or, if there was enough space, build a new cave house next to the old one.


Today the caldera area is protected by very strict building regulations in order to keep the traditional look and architecture.


Original cave entries, openings framed in volcanic stone, dot the cliffside, tucked into the renovated luxury digs that float through time between the last volcanic eruption and the next.


Today ~ fixed and better than before

Toni 5/26/15