a dear friend, gratitude, and joy

As leaves unfurl, buds swell, tulips stand tall in full regalia, later up here in the hills than the lowlands, I’m reminded how time continues to march forward, whether we’re ready or not. This perpetual rhythm is something that inspires Pietro in my book, From Ashes The Song, leading him to the realization that if nature can recover from the frozen lifelessness of winter, so Assunta can recover from her grief.

The story is inspired by the true story of two Italian immigrants, Pietro and Assunta, as told to me by their daughter, Irene Smylnycky.

Sadly, Irene passed away last week. Until a few short weeks ago, she lived independently at 90 years old, with all her faculties. The day she suffered a stroke she’d intended to make perogies for the annual Easter feast she cooked for her family, because family was the most important thing in her life.

Gathering everyone around the table meant more to her than anything else, nourishing them was a way to express her love. But then she found a multitude of ways to make the people in her life feel important. I, too, was a beneficiary on our visits, which always ended with tea and whatever cake she’d made that week, and on our trip to Italy in 2009 to trace a world her parents had left behind a hundred years earlier.

Irene voiced her gratitude every day. And she knew how to touch the lives of the people around her just as her parents did. Her father, Pietro, did it through his music, her mother, Assunta, through her joy of being with others.

I will miss her greatly. And I will continue to be inspired by her example. I will be eternally grateful for her friendship, for her stories, and for the song. Rest in peace, my dear friend, Irene.

Pietro's childhood home
Susan, Teresina, Irene
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I watch the hands that tell you—I cannot hold you
you’ll let none stop you until the end.
I’m fond of you and a half,
love it when you’re on my side
though I’d rather never serve you.
Some days I can’t help but waste you beat you kill you,
other days I gain you keep you
give or take you fix or buy you.
In the end you will tell.
There is a you for everything
yet you outsmart the likes of Aristotle, Homer,
I get stuck in you
I would be frozen without you.
You measure my heartbeat
like you measure the earth and stars
turning turning turning.
You pass, you slip more into place
your perpetual linear
marching marching marching.
Your name was spoken before mine
when I was born.
Why is it, then,
I forget you?
Let you slip by, unnoticed
fleeting toward the inevitable
day I run out
of you.










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Seeing a play is a lovely way to break routine, fitting nicely into my quest to slow down. When we were kids, mum would take us to the theatre in London (allow me the indulgence of the British spelling), to see plays by my granny’s favorite writer, Agatha Christie. I’ve loved plays ever since, so I was delighted when my daughter took me for an early birthday treat to see Peribanyez, performed by Quantum Theater (American spelling, I’ll concede) in Mellon Park, Pittsburgh.

I didn’t know what to expect from the story. The playwright, Lope de Vega, was a  Continue reading “Peribanyez”

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Going slow

Everyone seems to be noticing that life is racing faster than ever. It makes me wonder whether I was onto something with the first book I was going to write. In it, a circle of gnome-like men in the heavens, manipulated the human race like an intricate yet global game, causing all the crazy things that happen in this world, people mere pawns. Perhaps it wasn’t fiction, perhaps the truth Continue reading “Going slow”

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