Ah, yes, this photo is my first red rose of Rome, I refused it at least 3 times, yet, still, my friend bought it for me anyway. The vendor stood close to us, hovering over our dinner table at a local family-run restaurant. I had never experienced that before, salesmen coming inside a restaurant with bundles of flowers for sale. Of course, I thanked my friend, but at first I secretly wished he had not given it to me; I started to stress a little. We had only just met, why did he want to buy me a flower? How would I keep it from wilting while we ate? Where would I keep it in my little B&B room? So many stupid worries that never came about. It did not wilt as I had feared and I ultimately found a good place to display it in my room, in a drinking glass on top of a little black counter-top. It stood there, perky, all week, next to a TV I watched for about 15 minutes one day. (I caught an old episode of Colombo dubbed in Italian. It was strangely entertaining, but not enough to keep me in my room when San Lorenzo was waiting outside!)
Looking at this photo again reminds me about so much that happened that first time in Rome, my first time in Europe, so many firsts. I see the guidebook that taught me about this lovely city, and I remember making that loose sketch you can see in my notebook. (It was my attempt to recreate an etching I saw on the saxophone I happened to be seated next to in a Horns/Improvisation class.) My rose in the drinking glass reminds me of friendship because it bloomed long after I left for home–just as my friendships have. (I left the rose on the floor outside the door of the musician who had given it to me. He was staying at the same B&B that year and he told me later the bloom lasted a while longer.)
Another journey across the ocean and another rose from another friend. This blossom adorned my B&B window at “Casa Della Palma”, a huge loft I shared with my older daughter and three of her friends. Our first night in the room we were startled by the loudest thunderstorm I have ever heard in my life! It really scared us while we were sleeping (well, trying to sleep.) After putting the stem into one of the bottles of acqua naturale I had bought at the corner mercato, I placed it in our little back window where it could be backlit by the morning sunlight. I was glad the storm had passed and the rose’s perfume was really lovely in the Roman air which was still fresh from the rain for days afterwards.
One September I planned ahead; I scheduled an additional week with a dear friend and his family before the Barry Harris Workshop. We were to have spent these days writing songs, recording some things, eating crazy-good home-cooked meals and sightseeing the way the “locals” do it. But, it did not go as planned, because life is just that way sometimes. Due to circumstances beyond our control, my friend was not able to spend the week with me. Before he left Rome, he graciously arranged accommodations for me in a residential neighborhood near the Furio Camillo Metro stop. So, I felt safe, but still, I missed my Barry Harris Workshop friends who were in Sicily that week. I felt truly alone, trying to navigate my way through the city and also through a variety of emotions that were difficult to define at the time and unfortunately lingered through the entire trip, even after my circle of musical friends surrounded me.
During this first week of “Roman solitude”, I tried to live in the moment as much as possible. Without a schedule I floated around looking for beauty and tranquility. I found it everywhere. I spent an entire day at the Villa Borghese. Wow, words cannot describe the loveliness of the gardens there. My heart was moved by an amazing, small museum tucked off to the side of the main path, Museo Pietro Canonica. Part of the museum displays his incredibly intricate and delicate sculptures and then the other areas are his personal apartment that has been preserved as it was when he lived and worked there. So spiritual. The creative energy was palpable in the main room where he did his sculpting.
After I left the museum, I slowly walked back towards the Piazza del Popolo past some benches. As I went to sit down, I came to the bench in my photo. It was carved with many names and a small pink rose was tucked in between the upper slats. It was comforting to me to see that rose, and for that moment, sitting there on that bench, I did not feel so alone.
As I was waiting for my musical friends to make the journey from Sicily to Rome I was surprised and thrilled when a talented young singer I know from the workshop wrote to me on FaceBook and invited me out to dinner with her parents. Not only was I excited by the idea of dinner with this wonderful family (OMG we had a fantastic meal in the Trastevere neighborhood) I was also grateful that they offered to take me on a night-tour of Rome in their car.
They took me everywhere! We ate gelato! They showed me how to drink water from the fountain with the “nose”. We visited a bakery after midnight and bought pastry to save for breakfast. Thanks to them I even came close to putting my hand in the mouth of truth (it was gated at night, otherwise I would have done it!) Towards the end of the evening, my friend’s Dad bought 3 roses from a vendor: one for his beautiful wife; one for his amazing daughter; and one for me. So, here I am holding my white rose with the ruins and night skyline of Rome behind me. I truly love this family. They know this; they know they have a special place in my heart. I can honestly say that this was one of the loveliest nights of my life.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” That is another way of saying if something works, don’t mess with it, so, when another friend (let’s call him “very tall musician number 3” *smile*) bought me this lovely red rose (from another very insistent restaurant vendor) I put it right into a bottle of water, just as I had successfully done before.
This particular year my B&B moved me to a new room mid-week. This room had a window overlooking a street lined with motorcycles and scooters. The first morning, I opened the shutters and placed my rose on the sill. Looking down I was greeted by an unexpected message spray-painted on the pavement:“Tu sei lei, e lo sei sempre stata!” I took it as a good sign that I was supposed to be there, that I was on the right path. Because sometimes, sometimes, when things are going especially well, I turn on myself. I allow thoughts of “unworthiness” to seep into my consciousness. I feel I don’t deserve this happiness somehow. It takes all my emotional strength to replace these thoughts with memories of things I have achieved, with service I have been able to provide to others because I took a risk, because I left my comfort zone. I remind myself of goals I still want to attain, and people I want to spend more time with and this usually helps me reclaim my balance, usually.
I saw a fabulous rosebush in the hills of Rome. It was growing in the front garden of a friend’s house, surrounded by fresh herbs and across the path from a petite, gnarled olive tree.
These roses remind me of the hospitality of my friend and his family. They host a house-party after every workshop and the energy of the home is so positive, welcoming, and full of love. After spending the week in structured lessons and late-night, jazz jam sessions, my friends and I gather around the piano in the livingroom to sing and to jam together one last time. It is a time to spend enjoying each other’s company in a fresh, mountainous setting. Memories from these parties sustain me during the months I am away from the people I care so much about.
In March I received my first yellow rose in Rome. It was given to me by a very lovely, very young girl who will one day be an amazing singer and musician. How do I know this? I know this because she is already an amazing singer and musician. I don’t think anyone has ever given me a yellow rose before and so this one was special to me for many reasons. She pulled it from a bouquet she was bringing to someone else and handed it to me. Touched me, really, and for a second my mind strayed again to the thought “I am not worthy“. But I smiled and thanked her, I hope she could tell how special the gift was to me. (We had a little bit of a language barrier.) I understand that the yellow rose represents “friendship” and “optimism” so I hope this means that I can be optimistic about returning to Rome in the future, and of continuing friendship with this talented child. She taught me some very valuable things about a jazz standard I thought I knew. Very wise girl!
So…It is JUNE! I was born in the month of June, so technically the rose is my “birth flower”. I will admit it is not my favorite flower but I do like them very much, they are in my top three (*smile*). I love their fragrance. I love the memory of the miniature pink climbing roses that grew on my neighbor’s white fence when I was a child. And, these roses I have shared with you today, these “Roses in Rome” remind me of important people in my life I gave met and worked with in Italy, special places I have now been able to see and experience, and looking at them stirs up all the emotions of affection and connection with these people and places I love.