When I was a young teen living in rural eastern South Dakota, my mom had to drive me sixty miles one way for my monthly orthodontist visits, which spanned nearly three years. Mr. Wordtabulous, also a young teen at the time, lived in western Minnesota and was driven fifty miles by his mom to the same orthodontist. It is easily within the realm of possibility that we awkwardly checked each other out in the waiting room thirty-plus years ago, long before we met in college. In 2004, we went to Italy and while we were in the small town of Vernazza, drinking wine on a cliff overlooking the Ligurian Sea, we struck up a conversation with a young American couple. Over pleasantries, we found out they were newlyweds and the bride was the daughter of our former orthodontist, roughly 4,800 miles from home.
My eighth grade English teacher read an essay I’d written about my feisty Aunt Phylis and realized that her first schoolgirl crush, twenty years before and 350 miles away,was my first cousin, Bruce.
Returning from our 2006 Germany/Austria trip, we had a short layover in Amsterdam. Standing in line to board the plane to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, I began chatting with the people immediately behind me and discovered they live ten miles from our house.
It sometimes seems we live in a novel, with a finite list of characters engendering unlikely connections. We don’t know what threads exist between us and that stranger in the elevator, in the other lane, or in the news story taped on the other side of the globe. I take it as a cautionary tale against smugly assuming we know how things work, and a gentle nudge from the universe to remember that we are all neighbors. What coincidence have you experienced, and what is your take?
Dolce far niente (literally “sweet do nothing”) means that sweet pause in the busyness of life, when you stop everything, close your eyes, and (ideally) savor the taste of exquisitely high quality chocolate. Naturally, we can–and should–take a zen moment now and then, even if there isn’t chocolate at hand, but last night, at the Minneapolis Women’s Club, there was plenty of chocolate accompanied by some fantastic Italian wines. Jealous? You should be. My friend, Suzy, invited me to attend the event, hosted by Alyssa Schulke of Schulke Travel. We got a brief rundown on the Euro situation from Jim Audus of Ivy Funds, and Alyssa tempted us with Italian travel bargains for a few minutes before turning the show over to Anna Bonavita, owner of Bona Vita chocolates. There was a dark-milk chocolate, a salted chocolate, an American chocolate made by physicists who were converted to the sweet side, there was a chocolate from cacao beans so rare and prized only 20,000 bars are made from it ( I may have been a little inebriated from the wines I mentioned earlier but I believe that is what I heard–no, I wasn’t driving, shh!) a 90% dark chocolate that was a little beyond my ability to appreciate, and two marvelous truffles, or as the Italians call them, pralines, one dark chocolat and one cappuccino. Rolled my eyes back in my head and curled my toes. So good.
What did I learn? That the Minneapolis Women’s Club is beautiful. That the dollar is pretty good right now as far as the Italians are concerned, and they would love us to come spend some there. That Sting and his wife Trudie host a lunch once a year at their home in Tuscany, and Alyssa can get you on THE tour that can make it happen if you would like to be one of their 24 guests. That I can learn Italian, watch Italian movies and learn Italian cooking at The Italian Cultural Center (www.theitalianculturalcenter.org). That a woman with a check and a couple of glasses of wine under her belt can get totally carried away when presented with gorgeous and delicious chocolate shopping choices. That a small bit of very good dark chocolate, allowed to melt on the tongue in a moment of quiet meditation, beats an entire bar of Cadbury’s gobbled in front of the TV. (Don’t worry Cadbury’s, I still love you, just maybe not as often now.)