Artist Nina Rodin started The Trelex Residency in her home, Maison Binet.

Artist Nina Rodin started The Trelex Residency in her home, Maison Binet. Her father entered this eclectic architectural addition to Trelex’s skyline 80 years ago.

Artist Nina Rodin started The Trelex Residency in her home, Maison Binet. Her father entered this eclectic architectural addition to Trelex's skyline 80 years ago.

Multiple architectural styles are on display, almost like he couldn’t decide what sort of home he wanted. Plus, the house expanded over time. As an artist of some renown, Nina wanted to make space for other creatives to retreat, recharge, and make art. She makes studio and living space available free of charge to artists.

The Trelex Residency in Nina Rodin's home, Maison Binet.

This year, she started the Writing Desk Residency program. A writer can apply for spots in Trelex at Maison Binet, and poets can apply for residencies in Paris. A third Trelex Residency is available in Peru, with more on the way. For more information, go to thetrelexresidency.com.

Nina’s work is in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection, among many others. Learn more about her and her work at  ninarodin.com.

The artwork outside my door at Maison Binet

If you look closely, you’ll see faded words within each piece. Because that’s history, right? Things happened however they did, but we only know what people chose to tell us.

In some cases, they lied to glorify themselves and be remembered as grander than they were. In others, they tried to smear enemies to keep their accomplishments from being remembered at all. So much history is faded words and phrases we barely grasp.

Much like Merry’s journal in To Live Forever, we don’t really know what happened for much of Time. Yet we try to interpret it. We read various accounts, both pro and con, sympathetic and not. But in the end of our searching, history is a few nuggets of truth layered with a century or more of opinions.

In “I Am Number 13,” I’m grappling with a historic event that was never recorded, but I’m certain it happened. On a dark night lost to history, men met. They agreed. And they implemented an audacious plan. Theo was there. Maybe Merry was, too, though unwitting. Their failure doesn’t stop people from making bold and doomed plans.

We don’t study history, because the living want to believe they’re more powerful than the dead. We’re the ones who breathe and dream and eat and orgasm and explore. But we could learn a lot from my characters’ failure. Emmaline is finally flowing, and she’s ready to see what she’s supposed to see. I’m not sure I’m ready, nor do I know what price I’ll pay for delving into something best forgotten. But my butt is in my chair. My fingers are nimble. And my soul trumpets words.

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See what my room and view is like in this post about my writing residency, and tour the town of Trelex in this post.

The view from my room in Milan.

The view from my room in Milan.

I’m visiting friends I met through Rotary Friendship Exchange. One of Rotary’s main goals is to foster cultural understanding. Friendship Exchange allows Rotarians to travel and stay in the homes of Rotarians in other countries. Experiences tend to be local and less tourist-centric. And some exchanges really do yield friendships.

Italian LunchLidia and Alberto are attorneys in Milan. Alberto and MTM share a passion for bicycling. Last fall, MTM introduced Alberto to L’Eroica, a vintage bicycle ride in Tuscany. This year, they’re doing it again. I don’t mind, because we get to eat with Italians. AND NOTHING IS LIKE EATING WITH ITALIANS IN ITALY!!!!

I’m grateful to Rotary for these connections. We fear things we don’t know and deride what we don’t understand. By getting to know people from other cultures, I hope I contribute positive things to the American narrative and banish cliched generalizations. Experiences are more powerful than fear.

milan street market

Shopping in Italy is always an adventure.

My first time, I squeezed into a dressing room and couldn’t close the curtain. The woman opposite was modeling things for her husband, and he decided it would be easier to choose from the seat in her dressing room. I covered the door as best I could and proceeded, thinking men in the dressing room must be how things were done in Italy.

shopping at milan street market

Nothing phases me now, so when Lidia wanted to take me to the Milan Saturday Market, I said, “Bring it! I’m a pro.” How stupid I am!!! I found a linen dress I liked, and Lidia wanted me to try it on. I resisted, because 1. It’s a gabillion degrees here, and I’m always soaked with sweat; and 2. The “dressing room” in a street market is an improvised canvas shroud on the sidewalk. I couldn’t imagine disrobing in that thing!! But Lidia shoved me inside, shut the curtain, and went off to haggle price, convinced it was already perfect. She was right.

dress from Milan street market

Milan architecture is beautiful.

I lied today. I pretended to be a cardiologist to get into this building. Fiera Milano Congressi is the largest convention center in Europe. So I crept in with a group of doctors, stole away on my own, and snapped photos of architect Mario Bellini’s amoeba-like place. I’ve been married to an architect too long!!

Cimitero Monumentale is one of two mammoth cemeteries in Milan.

Cimitero Monumentale is one of two mammoth cemeteries in Milan.

Today, I visited Milan’s Cimitero Monumentale to listen to the stillness. Because I write afterlife stories, am I obsessed with death? I ambled along shaded avenues, squeezed between exotic mausoleums, and rested in a pyramid’s shade. And in the stifling heat, I heard a quiver or two. No idea who they will be. 

Maybe I’ll find out during my writer’s residency in Trelex. I’ll be paying attention!

(If you want to see more pics of the beautiful architecture follow me on Instagram.)

To paying attention. Here's to the now.

Am I the only person who spends hours and days and weeks of her life absent?

I was in Houston recently, and I managed to squeeze an hour between appearances to visit the Rothko Chapel and De Menil Museum. For those not married to architects, Marc Rothko designed his chapel as a place of peace, a respite from the loud world, a space for silence and reflection.

I put my phone away and sat in front of each painting, trying to use the place as intended. Only I couldn’t concentrate because a woman was camped on the floor, scrolling through her phone. What was she paying attention to? She never looked away from her screen once.

Perplexed, I wandered over to the De Menil Museum and sat in the lobby. White walls were spangled with Ellsworth Kellys, and what was everyone gazing at? Their phones. We’re becoming like those dreamers in the film Inception, preferring the dream world. Absent from reality.

I didn’t bring minute-by-minute social media on residency for myriad reasons. I want to be present.

I’m fortunate to have dear friends in Milan. While they worked today, I walked the city without any real purpose. I sat in Parco Sempione and listened to conversations, watched couples make out, and savored children playing. Stumbled into a Milan Men’s Fashion Week event and an architecture week lecture. Enjoyed a latte at a favorite haunt, and noticed how many Italian men don’t wear socks. Sweated and huffed through almost 18,000 in-the-moment steps. I need to live in the present tense.

Here’s to the now. To paying attention and hearing what everything tells me. To writing snippets and weaving a tale.