verb ǀar-ẓi-go-go-là-reǀ  1. to let your mind wander, to muse, to daydream

May/June 2011

It’s wonderful to be surrounded by flowers at this time of year. And what a welcome surprise to receive an sms from my daughter one afternoon, with news that the Rose Garden had reopened after all.
    Walking up the stone steps to the terrace with my favorite olive tree, I experience the same sense of coming home as when climbing the steps up to our apartment. The protective branches
of the olive create that kind of place that ‘shelters daydreaming’, which French philosopher Gaston Baehelard believed to be the main virtue of the house. It’s like a second home, and I would happily take up residence under the tree’s canopy if it were possible.

    Besides being conducive to day-dreaming, the garden is a relaxing place to read. Since I had ended up reading Gift from the Sea during my solitary retreat last month, my ‘Rose Garden’ book was Geography of Home. The well‧designed volume is comprised

Above: The acanthus is an ancient inspiration for architectural details, such as the capitals of Corinthian columns and stone lintels.

of essays that are both informed and personal in the way they explore the origins and evolution of the rooms that fill our houses.
    After the warm spring, most of the roses had already bloomed
by the time the garden opened. I don’t come here for the roses, though, but rather for the views and the immersion into

Making gnocchi ...

These little potato dumplings offer yet another way to enjoy some of the many different sauces that can be put together with whatever you happen to have on hand. We finally decided to learn how to make the gnocchi from scratch. They are fairly straight-forward, but you may have to experiment with the amount of flour until you achieve just the right ratio.


1 kilo/2.2 lbs potatoes, whole and unpeeled (choose floury ones, like Russet or Antea, and ‘old’ as opposed to ‘new’ to prevent too much water absorption)

250 grams/9 oz flour

1. Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold water, bring to a boil and cook until just tender, removing them as they are ready (~ 30 mins total).

2. Peel the the potatoes while they are still as warm as you can stand.

3. Pass the potatoes through a potato mill or use a cheese grater (the side with the second smallest holes); discard any chunks that don’t get grated.

4. Sprinkle on a little salt and begin adding the flour; work in until you achieve a cohesive dough. The key is to work lightly.

5. Roll the dough into 3/4” ropes and then slice each rope into 1/2” pieces. Lightly dust with flour to keep them from sticking until cooking (the sooner the better).

6. Boil a wide, shallow pot of water and slide the gnocchi all at once into the pot. They should begin floating to the surface after a couple of minutes; fish them out with a slotted spoon or small strainer and gently fold in the sauce of your choice.

So many varieties of plants compose the carpet that lays beneath the olive tree ‘rooms’ at the Rose Garden; it’s fun to examine them up close and press a few in my journal (to jog the memory when I happen upon them again one day). My daughter was inspired to fashion a bracelet with a clover & daisy-wrapped twig, and stud her shoes with a line of tiny daisies. The flowers appeal to my imagination too: yellow-centered single petal roses (below right) look like eggs sunny side up as they nestle among the foliage, and the tender, swollen rosehips of another variety (bottom left), just beginning to blush into the Vitamin C-rich fruits they will soon become, call to mind miniature pomegran-ates with long ‘crowns’. Rosehips are like little gifts left behind after the petals have fallen.
    I came across the fascinating work of Jacqueline Belcher recently (bottom right). From a single large sheet of white paper, she partially cuts out endlessly repeating patterns of organically inspired shapes. When pushed out in various directions, myriad shades of white are created by the resulting light and shadow.

Flower inspiration

see the melange of greenery tumbling down the hill, then melting into a sea of terracotta‧topped buildings. Here, with an abundance of sky overhead, my senses are filled. The ground covering is fragrant with clover and wild mint, and it doesn’t seem possible to get enough sun and wind. Everything is in motion: geckos skitter along the stone walls, bees buzz methodically from one blossom to another, thousands of olive leaves glitter silver in a breeze that scatters rose petals and carries with it the music of the bells from the many churches.
    Wandering around the garden, I think to myself that the artichokes, zucchini, tomatoes and lettuce could be assembled into quite a nice summer meal. Oh,
to have a garden in this season!

Upon closer examination, the flower gained more ruffles and frills than good taste usually permitted. A spire in full glory held dozens of blossoms, all equally over-dressed for the occasion. One thing was clear: whoever created delphiniums obviously had a darn good time in the process.
    That’s what delphiniums were all about. They were the flowers that proclaimed that the limits of creativity could be stretched. Although they were the phantoms of the garden, always slightly beyond reach and existing only
somewhere else, they opened a door. Like a circus act or a
carnival scene, they lit your imagination and let it roam. If
such a flower could come into being, anything was possible.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.


                         --- William Stafford

William Stafford
(1914 - 1993)
American writer & poet

For sauce you may like to try a simple tomato sauce:
Sautée a red onion (diced or sliced) and a clove or two of garlic in a puddle of olive oil; when soft, add a can of tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and any fresh herbs you may have on hand; then simmer for at least 20 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with a flat-ended wooden spatula. You may like to add a handful of cooked pancetta or crumbled sausage while simmering. 

Another option is to melt 150 grams of Gorgonzola with a splash of cream (garnish with a handful of toasted walnuts for some texture).

Simplest of all perhaps is to crisp up some sage leaves in a few spoonfuls of melted butter, then toss gently through gnocchi after drizzling with olive oil.

In any case, you need very little sauce, and it should be lightly incorporated before dishing out each portion. Grind on a little fresh sea salt and black pepper and sprinkle with freshly grated or shaved parmesan.

A Time to Blossom ...
Every so often, I pull out A Time to Blossom, a book that my mother gave my daughter and me several years ago. This spring
I decided that it should really be perennially at hand; the book
is such a pleasure to read and linger over. Author Tovah Martin knows just how to capture the personality of each flower as she relates stories from a childhood made rich by the presence of
flowers—a presence at once matter of fact and magical.
    After perusing the pages devoted to lilacs, I thought I
might send a fragrant bouquet to my mother on Mother’s Day (unfortunately, I never did manage to find an online seller). Taking note of this lilac fancy of mine, my daughter took it
upon herself to procure some for me, but she too met with difficul-ties: when she returned on the day the florist had promised them, they said the season was over! Instead, I was surprised with a handmade card featuring an old‧fashioned image of lilacs, which
was accompanied by a cluster of vibrant delphiniums. Inspired to revisit Tovah’s musings on these audacious flowers, I found this:

Tovah Martin’s blog:


This month’s images are mostly from the Rose Garden; scattered among them are the usual shots of the Arno’s always changing hues and reflections, as well as some captured during outings in the city.

From Gastelon Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space ~
“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”

Unfortunately, the Rose Garden is only scheduled to be open until the end of June this year, but there’s always the hope that the opening period will be extended (as it occasionally has been).