Saturday, February 4, 2012

On the beach with Frances Mayes

‘The journey itself is home’  Frances said, quoting the 17th Century Japanese poet and haiku master, Matsuo Basho.

Actually, Basho’s full quote was, “Each day is a journey and the journey itself is home” -- the first entry of his masterpiece, “Narrow Road to a Far Provence.”

hawaii2012 013 Long or short version -  it works for me. It’s the perfect response to those who say, ‘You are never home anymore.’ 

‘No, The journey itself is home,’ I will answer from now on.

Frances Mayes, the author who introduced the world to Tuscany and its sun, has been a friend and mentor of mine for nearly 20 years:

We both embarked on adventures of home ownership on foreign soil two decades ago. She and her husband, Ed, in Tuscany and Joel and I in Mexico.We had similar adventures along the way – she just had the good sense to write about them and make money – I didn’t.
She and Ed now spend a great deal of time at their homes in Cortona, Italy. Joel and I sold ours in Bucerias, Mexico several years ago.

I should mention Frances and I have never met; probably never will.  But I’ve read and re-read her books so many times that I feel as though we are long-time friends. She’s definitely a mentor.

Before traveling in Europe, I always grab my, now dog-eared, copy of “A Year in the World to see if Frances spent time in any of our intended destinations and if so, what tips she has for me.  She is the one who introduced me to Spanish poet, Lorca, and inspired my search for his ‘duende’, that elusive earth spirit of Andalucia on our recent travels there.


I’ve been reading her, Every Day in Tuscany, Seasons of Italian Life during my lazy afternoons on the beach.  It’s a touching look at  her experiences and life’s lessons learned since she lost her heart to Tuscany.

hawaii2012 017 When I selected her to join me on our Hawaiian holiday, I didn’t realize that my friend Frances would be mentoring me again.

This trip, while providing us post-card perfect  idyllic tropical days has also found us being jolted –  far too many times – with disquieting news about friends. . . a colleague’s death, . . .a friend’s cancer diagnosis. . .another facing surgery. . .with frightening regularity the negative news has arrived.

Is it a sign of our age or could the moon and stars simply be out of alignment?  

We think about our friends. We think about us. How many years ahead will we be able to consider our days as journeys and the journeys home?  Life, like travel itself, is an experience in which we must anticipate the unexpected – but must it be bad?

So having pondering repeatedly those and related questions at seaside, I returned to Frances and as if on cue, she was also pondering similar questions and observed: 

“Life’s little wake-up calls. (Do they have to be so numerous?) Scroll down the list and start to wail – or shout out Carpe diem.”

hawaii2012 036 Carpe diem, seize the day! Once again Frances has given me a phrase. . .one I’ve been repeating all week. 

We must seize the day –  yes, we will plan for next year’s return. . .in fact, we’ve been invited to dance with the the Honolulu Lions I wrote about earlier this week and who in their right mind would want to miss that. . .right? The reservations at Ko Olina, our Pacific paradise home are confirmed. We plan to be here under the Hawaiian sun. . .just as Frances will be under her Tuscan sun.

Carpe diem. . .seize the day.  . .each day is a journey and the journey itself is home.

How have you seized your day? Is your journey itself a home?


  1. jackie, i loved this post - it really hit home for me. thanks for the friendly carpe diem reminder. :) love from switzerland!

  2. HI, Jackie, I just stumbled across your blog and love it! Basho’s quote, “Each day is a journey and the journey itself is home” is especially meaningful for me, as I divide my time between Seville, Spain and a small town in northern California. It's a wonderful way to live, but the back and forth was very disconcerting at first, and I really had to work on re-defining "home." This quote does it so perfectly! Thanks to you, Frances Mayes and Basho.

  3. How lovely to read this and to find a friend as well. Frances

  4. I've been surprised at the number of folks who said the message hit home: they needed that 'carpe diem' reminder. So Samantha, I am so happy to hear that it resonated with you in Switzerland. And Frances, thank you again for commenting; your words and wisdom continue to inspire.

  5. Well yes... For the young there may be no hurry, but in later decades of life it's "now or never"...

    1. A friend who turned 80 told me that it meant he'd never again buy green bananas. . .a point well taken!


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