Working on a Book

Sketching ideas for research in Florence, Italy.
Attending a Savannah Gilbo (editor and book coach) workshop.
My outdoor desk – writing draft 1, draft 2, draft 3 of the novel.

I’ve always enjoyed the look of working desks. After years of preparing a book idea, I am in Florence, Italy to research the details.

It started as a question during a Master’s course at Fairmont State University: How might poets and architects meet in Florence, 1865? My Italian inspiration on Instagram is @kelliecolegram.

Poetry Travel

Philadelphia, PA Gardens


David Culp spends an early Thursday afternoon touring friends around his home 2 acres, the layered garden he has hand-planted in the forest. He says, the house is the best ornament of the garden. It’s a 1790 home on a hillside. In October’s change of season the locus drops its yellow color, filling the wind with flat worn darts. Broken antique tulips from the 1800’s are buried below the surface, in the spring the gravel drive fills with red poppies. Outdoor rooms surround and open the house below the 100-year-old Virginia Spruce. He has a black and white garden, bonsai trees growing in hollowed logs, a winter garden, and a full summer one waiting to go to sleep. He borders the wilderness, and as the land falls away from him, he offers it to the natural garden, mother earth.


At Winterthur there are a pallet of materials that you will find in the garden. Jeff is in charge of the garden objects. We too are among the big forest trees, small in their tall cathedral. Gardens may be for education, for health, none of us tire at being outside among the blooms for four days. We walk near the 8 acres of azalea woods, then into the stone circles surrounding meadow trees. Color moved through the outdoors, and in the children’s garden the stone bench sunk into the mortar, the roof thatched by the in-house Thatcher.

At Chanticleer every gardener had the winter project of making. Cherry wood soft to the touch led us through the pathways and sunk into the ground to welcome the boundaries making places. Out door rooms just 25′ by 24′ have arbors, stairs to the guest room, and floating flowers in the still water urn. On Fridays, guests are welcome for picnics.  Water fountains drain to trickle troughs and the reflective surface of the ruin dining room table is one large coffin. A roof has collapsed, this is Emma’s garden where acorns have embed themselves in granite books, floating faces gasp at the surface of the black basin.

Water is managed everywhere, at the Morris Arboretum it is held in cisterns below recycled metal green roofs, circuited beneath the porous walkways and directed from the large asphalt lots. The old estate now has showers, horticulturists, classrooms, designers, equipment sheds, mulchers, one place to locate everything you may need.

Mt. Cuba shared the native piedmont plants and the sound of us walking around on the gravel to end our trip. This garden was most similar to what the West Virginia Botanic garden is, the managed meadow with a few grasses, and small seedlings at the edge. The Walden pond, dyed black to improve the reflectivity of tourists, fall balls of the bursting heart, and coupled benches. It is an all of a sudden reflectivity, complete at the edge with pitcher plants.  ‘What did nature put here? What did people put here?’ – Hough


Architecture Travel

Visiting Ancient Roma



The arch of Constantine, it’s 1700 years old. There is a lump in my throat as my small feet move, my legs stretch to step along the 1′ square stones, marking the ancient Roman road. The stones are glossy after all of the rain. We are in the forum, a place we can walk around.

Most of Rome’s ruins are below the street, to the enjoyment of my companion. She is from Mexico City, and this ancient city reminds her of Aztec ruins, temples and pyramids hidden below the modern city she knows.

The Pantheon doors don’t tell you about what’s about to happen. My soul is taken, uplifted below the moon disk looming, hovering, suspended and heavy am I, just left standing and staring until someone comes along to accidently brush my shoulder. The Pantheon is even older, built 1900 years ago, remaining as a backdrop to the many movements of people, for a new history.




Architecture Travel

Architectural Trips ~ A Italia


Gloss-lipped sun, over the road that carries morning back to Italy. I love going to a place that’s in my blood. The rays lay down, everyone else moving with me is pale and excited.

Once in the air, we fly along with the barrier islands of the states before heading eastward.

Once in Rome we enter the city through one of the fourteen gates, and bow down before the sunken oval entrance. A mosaic of Jesus greets us, and then we are allowed to sleep.

It isn’t long before we need to draw the Colosseum. The historic mass that takes up the end of a city block. The figure that is recalled so easily in the mind, stands before me in a way that pushes back.



Ostia Antica, Italy


Ostia Antica is the site of an ancient Roma civilization. Our family spent the first night we arrived on the back porch of Ostia Antica Park Hotel, the site of our worst Italian experience. The first communion celebration extravaganza should have tipped us off. This place was an in-between place, convenient for travelers to the nearby airport with nothing more of the community to be shared. I would have to pay to swim, pay to sit on the front patio, pay to stay too long at breakfast. So, we eventually figured out other places to spend time while staying at the hotel. Walking around downtown wasn’t so bad, considering the well maintained private drives.

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This place was beautiful but I wouldn’t recommend our hotel for many more reasons by the end of our stay. The first being the common ‘misunderstanding’ of many restaurants serving American tourists. They loved to give us 5-times the portion of appetizers. I tried out all of my verbs, condividere – to share, or the simple word for divide, dividere. But, none of them worked. The waiters all wanted to see our faces when what was meant as an order to share was way too large for any group to split.

We had to say goodbye to my brother who would be flying back to the States earlier than the rest of us. We’d also have to say goodbye to my Mom’s camera and all of her beautiful pictures that was lost or taken somewhere in the lobby of this hotel or as we boarded the bus out from the front door. The hotel staff, with access to the security camera, refused to watch the tapes for us as we called and called back for help. That is, they refused or saw something they didn’t want to share with us. It was difficult to understand either way. Even a year later it is hard to digest the faces and scenes my Mom had captured with her creative eye, then lost.

We’d spend the day my brother left playing in the ruins around an erie feeling of a spirit returning.

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Architecture Travel

The Annunciation of Mary – Florence


Italy is the place I always go back to. While my husband explains, and I realize, that there is an entire other world out there, there is something about the Mediterranean climate and the exuberant expressions in the way Italians do everything from eat to talk that I want to keep coming back to. Of course, my family is from there too. While I committed to learning the language with my mother a few years ago, since moving to Morgantown I have not had the same opportunity to continue on with Italian language classes. I am hopeful that my opportunity at Fairmont State University will expand to include travel abroad, and perhaps sitting in a classroom with an Italian professor again. But, for now, a few more photos from our trip April of 2014.

The Santissima Annunziata Chiesa di Firenze, the most decadent and bronzed church I’ve ever been to.

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Architecture Travel

Studying Historic Italian Architecture

Sometimes it takes hearing things three times before they click. I traveled to Italy for the first time as a student at Virginia Tech. That was in 2002. Now, thirteen years later, I am taking a class by a professor who is an astute historian. It’s enjoyable to learn from someone who can sight off exact building dates from architecture built in the 1400’s to now, and probably earlier depending on the structure. The history theory class I’ve taken this semester has offered that third opportunity to learn about the same thing. I’m hopeful that this time I’m retaining the information.

Michelangelo’s square, the venetian library of Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana  on San Marco and Bramante’s forced perspective at the altar of Santa Maria presso San Satiro church are among many works that I’ve learned more about this semester.

palazzo conservatori miche en museicapitolini org


stanta maria delle grazie wga dot hu milan(The photographs above were found online.)

Learning about these again prompted me to pull out photographs from my 2002 study abroad, and define the places that I’ve spent the years since wondering again about what it was that I visited.

8 Study Abroad Exploration

outside Parma

Poetry Travel

Montezuma’s Castle

Arizona Hiking


Montezuma’s Castle


Montezuma’s Castle

sits too tall to climb without ladders

pale white adobes, pressed

together with women palms

centuries ago

since then, ancient sycamores

grow in the streambeds.


The next day, we closed in on the South Rim

the north face of Humphreys began to fade

to a mere backdrop

left to stand with common tourists in the

amazement of nature

over the erosion of another natural wonder.


Photo of Montezuma’s Castle from A Year on the Road

Poetry Travel

Hiking in Sedona, AZ 2012

Sedona AZ

Open Sedona

Sun iron details

around gated entrances

open Sedona.


A tall ponderosa Pin forest

along the drive of oak creek canyon falls

music beats through the intimate canyon river


From where we lodged we walked

around bell rock and the courthouse

with long shadows stepping on

hollow rock sounds

around the vortex.


The agave blooms life size

lily pad blossoms

held skyward and toward

the simple and very significant structure

The Chapel of the Holy Cross

we see from a climb up

Cathedral Rock.


Psychedelic colors of the desert blend

between sky blue, white purple, green

red-pink and lean down to the

Verde Valley, lush tees around Oak Creek

where small black birds open up a bright white

wing span.


Sedona AZ

Poetry Travel

Las Vegas to Laughlin 2015


Dressing up and dressing off


In Vegas we stayed at a castle

a screaming floor full of ‘winners’

they’d made it here

landed in a bleak desert

from the sky or over dry land.


We’ve projected beyond

the desert people camps

the lonely fifty mile road

through a reservation

to a glass U walk suspended

over a natural wonder.


But most people stay

in Vegas, if they visit Nevada

the ‘on’ switch turns at 8pm.

Quiet malls become clubs with

long lines and the noise of the street

belongs inside by night.


Peace may only rest in the cliff cracks

of Zion two hundred miles east

or along the Colorado still running in Laughlin.

The Colorado