Sunday, April 26, 2015

Visiting Gallipoli...

I have been reflecting this week about the northern peninsula of Turkey called Gallipoli, located on the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles Strait, a shore where over 250,000 young men died in an ill fated campaign during World War I one hundred years ago. Two years ago my husband and I went on a trip to Turkey where we visited Gallipoli, a place where young men from Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, France, and India (about 15,000 Punjab Indians who were professional soldiers in the Allied effort that history scarcely remembers) fought. Nations and lives were altered forever on this quiet beach that knew so much bloody, brutal warfare. 

  • One of the very moving parts of our trip to Gallipoli was to be with some of the people on our tour from all over the world. There were people from India,  the U.S., Canada, Vietnam, the UK., Turkey, and Australia--some of the very countries that were in battle together at Gallipoli. This is Helen, who had three great uncles die during that eight month campaign. There were red poppies everywhere, and we were instructed by the Aussies that the red poppies are used even now to remember the lives of those who were lost at Gallipoli. The reason Helen is smiling is that she is so very joyous that as a group we found the names of her ancestors. On the tour there was not a great amount of time to wander and meander around to find the names. But with the 25 of us searching, we found the names she came to Gallipoli to see. This young man named Vagg was newly married. She said her great aunt never remarried. I will always remember all of us from many nationalities in our group combing through the names on that day, with red poppies in our hands. I was glad we were there in April to view all the red poppies along the roads and hillsides, reminiscent of Gallipoli.
This is a picture on the Anzac shoreline with our Aussie friends. John, who is a retired PE teacher and spends about 30+ hours a week bicycling/racing on the shores near Melbourne, sings old ballads as he rides. In typical Aussie fashion, he was witty to the core, and all of us on the tour loved him. But the day we got to Gallipoli, he was very solemn; you could tell he had been imagining this visit for many years. He promised/warned us on the bus microphone that he would sing for us on the Gallipoli beach. To our delight, he kept his word.. I will never forget his moving, haunting rendition of " And the Band played Waltzing Matilda' on the Gallipoli beach. The song is about a soldier who loses his leg at Gallipoli. It is a different song than the bush ballad called "Waltzing Matilda"

Gallipoli was a stalemate, a campaign that was doomed for ultimate failure by leaders who miscalculated military strategy, weather, and provisions--a heavy loss for all those involved. However, the heroism, selflessness, and courage of those who fought there is moving, as they battled side by side. Those young men and their officers experienced extreme heat, cold, hunger, and disease, amidst the cascading bullets. The landing and battles on the Dardanelles Peninsula helped create more of a unified, national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand, and was the first time these two countries were commanded by their own leaders who were not British.

Although the Allis initially underestimated the Turkish soldiers, they quickly learned to respect their military skills as they fought in combat against them. The eight months of fighting in Gallipoli would later give the 34 year old Lt. Commander Mustafa Kemal Ataturk the courage, confidence, and foundation to later form the Republic of Turkey. For both sides, it was a defining moment for them-- individually and as they unified their nations.

Our Turkish tour guide who taught us about the Turkish side of the campaign too.

Since my husband's father landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy on D-Day and was blinded in the push to Paris and his grandfather fought in Belgium in WWI, his thoughts on Gallipoli in his journal were particularly poignant: "Driving the landscape here in Gallipoli is strangely reminiscent of Normandy. The beaches, hills, forests, and field are now silent. So many young men died in d difficult and hand to hand conflict."

This picture moves me so very deeply--especially when I have several sons who are the same ages as these same boys.

 "We started at Anzac Cove, the place of the ill fated landing of the Australian and New Zealand troops in 1915 where they went to the wrong area; there were cliffs and rugged terrain to contend with, instead of a broad and strategic beach. The beach marker drifted in the night about 4 km, leading to an ill fated and doomed offensive position by the Allies. Looking at the map, one recognizes the cost of this trivial mistake, which entirely changed the course of this battle. The landscape was harsh, and seeing the immediacy and complexity of that bloody fight was apparent. But all is quiet now at Anzac Beach and Lone Pine."

"I found myself thinking a lot about my dad this morning, and how difficult his life was returning from the war without his sight (his father married his college sweetheart after the war WW II, and then had seven daughters and one son, my husband. He never saw any of his children, but only remembered the 22 year old face of his future wife. He always joked that she was 22 to him, even when she was in her early 70's). I bought three beautiful wool Gallipoli scarves for my four sons, and will have to express again my gratitude that they have not been required to fight in a war. It is impossible for me to comprehend the loss of a son or daughter in their youth, not being able to fulfill their dreams--to have their parents' dreams dashed for them.

"The memorials and cemeteries in Gallipoli were compelling and powerful, from all of the countries. One stated the following, "He died a man, and closed his life's brief day, ere it had scarce began." Those are difficult words for any father to read. I remembered again my own father's displeasure when I returned home from shopping for my five year old birthday present--a chrome plated metal 1911 replica colt pistol, a cap gun. It brought back too many painful memories for him. I didn't understand his emotional response then, but I finally understood when I went to Normandy as I walked the acres of graves in a foreign land."

It was very touching to read what many families had written about their beloved sons, brothers, and husbands. Since I had a 17 year old boy at the time, this Australian boy's snuffed out life seemed very close to me.

Not far from the Gallipoli battle fields, these lush, vibrant canola fields seemed to stretch out forever. The bright sea of flowers, capped in yellow light, reminds me that those brave young men, whatever country they are from, will be remembered forever too.
My Favorite Poem about Gallipoli, written by a Turkish poet:

-Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Autism Mountain

April is Autism Awareness month, and I have been reflecting on ten years ago when our family tentatively, reluctantly entered a new world--a place where we live with autism every day with our beloved son. Elias is 13 now, a full fledged teenager. Our family has traversed some rushing, muddy waters and many bridges in that decade. We have learned to construct bridges to cross, but some have been built for us--at times almost magically appearing to rescue us when the waters got really deep.   However, thankfully every year autism awareness increases around the globe, and more people are more perceptive to children and their families who struggle with this puzzling socialization and language disorder.

Since I have older children, I noticed a few indications in his delayed speech development when he was about two and a half, but did not fret or worry about the differences. He was working with a speech therapist at home, and I just assumed everything would smooth over. I painfully noticed that he stayed on the sidelines when he was around other children; he didn't seem to know how to navigate the playground with them.  Play dates were always a disaster. As he turned three and the difficulties did not dissipate, I began to have a feeling in my gut that perhaps he had more severe things to surmount than a speech delay. Hearing tests and other therapies were administered, and eventually a pediatric neurologist diagnosed him with being on the autism spectrum.

My husband, also a physician, was not able to be with me on that definitive day. I remember vividly walking out of the office dazed and heartbroken. I cried in my car as I sat in the parking lot, feeling very much alone.  The doctor was clinically precise, but there was no prescription, treatment, or medication to repair this disorder. I had always known how to proceed before in my life, but autism had me stumped. I felt like I was in a trench, a very large chasm, and did not know how to climb out.

For several months I woke up in the morning,  and I hoped his diagnosis was all a terrible dream. His behavior, learning style, and struggles mystified and confounded me. Since he did not know how to communicate and was so achingly frustrated, there were many parallel breakdowns-- both his and mine. I would run to the mudroom if I felt a sting of tears coming. I desperately wanted to help him, but did not know how. My naturally cheery disposition had taken a major dunking.

Therapists were kind and attentive to our needs, and we tried to jump into every interventional therapy that was available. We studied, read, and reached out to others who were struggling with our battle. I tried to be emotionally stable for my family (my blind father-in-law was living with us in those years too), but I was crestfallen--realizing my own inadequacies of how to teach him. I think, most of all, I struggled with a grief and guilt that would not dissolve--no matter how much I tried to heal. Simply, it was hard for me to accept that he would live with this disorder for the rest of his life, and I did not know how to proceed.

Climbing in the mountains with his brother and dad.

It was at this time that a dear friend asked me to help mentor at a Girl's Ranch for two weeks. My family urged me to exit all my responsibilities at home so that I could help at this ranch for girls--teaching guitar, hiking, kayaking, and helping the girls with woodworking and pottery. It is a valley that has filled my reservoir for a long time so I accepted the offer to assist the girls, not ever calculating that I would be the real recipient in the offer.

The Tetons, where the ascending to the peaks began....
One morning our leader had planned an early morning hike, before dawn, up to the top of a nearby mountain. We were instructed to walk in the dim light up the path, thinking about a nature analogy that resonated with us as we hiked. Starting out in the dark valley below, the teenage girls and I began to summit the mountain. It was early morning, and the girls were tired so we walked in silence. A few hours later, after getting to the top, we gathered together to share the analogy that we had been reflecting about on our ascent.

I don't remember what anybody said that day on the crest of the mountain except for Dick, our leader. It was simple and heartfelt, but his words resounded in my heart very loudly, counterpointing the early quiet morning on the ridge. He simply said, "Sometimes it is dark and dim in the valley when you start your journey, but as you climb step by step, the light will come until you see the amazing panoramic view." As we all sat on top of the mountain gazing at the newly lit valley, his analogy jolted my heart as I likened it to what we had just experienced. With the light streaming into every crevice and corner below me, I vowed that I would begin to scale my own autism mountain. It was time to climb and see some higher elevation.

 In the last ten years, Elias's steps forward have provided immense joy, and sometimes the backward steps can baffle me. I admit at times I have longed for more normal, free flowing conversations that I experienced with my other children. I missed talking about books and ideas, with concepts ricocheting like lightening streaks all over the room of exciting things to think and experience. But now I realize the lightening streaks were there all along with Elias and our family. Autism has given us a precious gift, a journey, that I would not trade for all the money in the world. I continue to marvel at Elias's strides and advancements--his ability to read, do math, paint pictures, sing in a choir, play on teams.  At his new school in Qatar, he can shoot more baskets than anybody else, and kids respect him for it. Observing his improvements has truly brought much joy that I previously could not have ever imagined.

Graduating from elementary school where he gave a talk, like everyone else. We practiced for a few weeks, and many people said he spoke just like any typical kid. I was a little surprised how confident he was up on the stage for his one minute talk. Since that time, he takes any opportunities to be on stage, whether he is talking, singing, or performing.

As I watch people interact with him outside our family, I can see he brings a light-hearted, compassionate approach to those around him. Coaches have told me they instruct the kids differently when Elias is on the team. When there are practices, drills, and games, there is more camaraderie and support to each other--even when he shoots a basket in the other team's hoop. The simple values and principles that we all want to live by he already inherently knows; he is always kind, encouraging, and honest. He brings a smile to everyone's face when they meet him or talk with him. Perhaps it is because as he always says, "I want to always be around people, Mom. I just love people."

Enjoying his uncle....

I will admit that Elias's autism has "protected me from myself"--meaning my more selfish, willful self. Time, money, and resources go to him freely. Our patience levels have increased--to be able to wait for all the strokes of the paintbrush to make a beautiful painting. My husband and I don't expect the canvas to have every color, shape, form, and texture in a short amount of time. Many things that used to seem looming, important, and significant are not anymore.

Hiking in Central Park on a trip. We walked 17 miles that day. No lie.
When he doesn't get invited to a party or other gathering. I am not offended. I am more willing to help others understand about autism if we are in a theatre, restaurant, or other public place. Initially, it was difficult for me to explain, but I have found people are very understanding almost all of the time. Believe me, I have had to explain autism to people from all over the world now that I live in Qatar.... And I am not too dense to realize that our other children are also "saved from themselves" also. At a time in adolescence when it is natural to think more inwardly, their vision had to be more outward in order to survive in our family. As I have watched from afar and viewed their nurturing natures develop, I am continually grateful for all the tutoring Elias gives us. 

Enjoying some Christmas spirit with our English crowns on.

In the last decade, step by step I have reached some high, beautiful ascents on my autism mountains. I have seen glorious views--where  Elias and I have skied and hiked together. Last week in a sailing camp in Qatar (where we now live), he even steered us both on a little sail boat to an island (the wind was light that day, but hey, we were gliding to an island together).  Two weeks ago we went to a the Modern Arab Museum here in Qatar where he has four of his paintings being shown in a student exhibition. Elias has taught us all how to climb a little higher in our family--to summits and views we never would have otherwise been so blessed to see.

For about the first two or maybe even three years, I could not say the word autism without a lump in my throat or a stray tear. Of course, I would change his diagnosis for him if I could, but not for me--nor for our family. I have accepted there will always be an autism peak to climb. But I have also seen breathtaking views, light filled valleys, countless bridges, and maybe even some northern lights on this autism journey. Undoubtedly, there will be some exhausting crests ahead, but the rugged cliffs are worth surmounting and scaling. Every time the view transforms me, and makes me want to keep climbing.
Elias has amazing endurance, and can climb for hours. He is a great hiking companion, ready to tackle or surmount any ravine or path. Often times he leads the way, and we follow him up the mountain. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Italy is Eatily

I loved the enthusiasm of these chefs in the Mercado as they worked. They were singing together as they mixed the pizza dough when I took this picture. It sounded like an Italian opera to me, and I think they loved that I was amused at their gleeful enthusiasm as they entertained their hopeful customers. I mean who doesn't want to be serenaded in Italian? What a great way to lure the customers.....
On a recent trip to Florence, Italy, I was reminded of the tremendous influence of Italian architecture, art, music, fashion, cars, science, and yes, how Italian food has enhanced our lives. Even if we never enter the kitchen to stir a pot of spagetti sauce, Italy resides in all of us. Can anyone imagine life without pizza or pasta?

Since I believe making a sumptuous meal can be a tremendously creative endeavor, I sought out some Italian cooks/food artists in markets, restaurants, and street venders. I wanted any expert secrets about how to make food more flavorful and nutritious from these Tuscan artisans. It was a delightful search for a few days to hear their experiences and feel the pulse of their excitement for their native Tuscany food. Without a doubt, a few kindred spirits were found on the streets of Florence.

In my opinion, the real indicator of a great cook is how they they use herbs and spices to make the ordinary become extraordinary.The people I met were tremendously eager to share their honed recipes and tips. With no exception, they were all people who joy in creating good, healthy food.  I had wonderful conversations about what makes a good olive oil, and the seemingly divine soul in Tuscany that grows tantalizing food. If any of my new friends thought you were even slightly interested in their food affectionado, their expressions literally lit up; they grinned and started talking with their hands to explain their passions about their own culinary experiences. An infectious, joyous spirit permeated their stories and anecdotes. I was elated to be their audience, and insert a few questions while they peppered their opinions and advice.

I have always been of the opinion that since you have to nourish your body every day, you might as well be a little bit interested in learning how to make those meals more tasty and nutritious. When I moved to the Middle East, one of the first things I did was to plant my herb garden so I am always interested in learning how to make a simple vegetable more delectable. Here are just a few tips I received from my new Italian friends:

--to add flavor to grilled steak or fish, use a gremolata, instead of a creamy or oily sauce. A gremolata is an Italian garnish of raw, finely chopped garlic, fresh parsley and lemon zest. 
--oregano, an herb that is both sweet and spicy, is perfect for Italian sauces.
--instead of using a slice of lemon, lime, or even orange to flavor your water, try a sweet basil leaf .
--Roast beets with thyme, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
--Roast acorn or butternut squash with cinnamon, coriander, rosemary, olive oil, and garlic. The same blend can be made for carrots and parsnips. Roasted vegetables with herbs and spices are tasty over polenta.
--layer your pizza next time with basil leafs, depending on how much flavor you desire.
--drizzle some "good" olive oil on your soup, with some croutons. Use olive oil as much as you can, instead of butter.
--add whole peppered corns to sauces over meat. No need to grind them.
--Add fresh, minced rosemary leaves to mashed potatoes or cut up red potatoes that are baked with about a tsp. or two of olive oil.
--Learn more about your heritage on how to cook old recipes, especially those from holidays. It will bond you with your family and ancestors in an interesting way. You will understand them more when you know what they ate. Designate a few days of the year when you can prepare what they ate, usually at holidays or special family occasions.
--Fruit for dessert, both dried or fresh is delectable.
--Grow an herb garden to flavor your food. Make your pestos, marinades, salad dressings from scratch.
--anise is an interesting, unique flavor for pastries and bread.

This man was waving with a happy grin at the passerbyers in the market. The colorful fruit and vegetables, and his ebullient spirit, even for a glimpse, made me even happier to be in Italy.

This man could not speak much English. But  since we both love herbs, we were able to communicate. He gave me some fresh new ideas to bring more piquant flavors to vegetables.  Brief exchanges can have lasting influence...for good.
A baker who was getting ready for Easter with his pies, breads, and pastries. He made a great effort to tell me about the pastries he was making for Easter in his minimal English. I could tell he was proud of his work, to bring his Italian heritage to people through food.1427393708
Some jolly, playful pizza makers. Making food for them was not a chore.
Getting the pizza dough ready to throw. Lots of smiles and laughter to show us how they created their pizza.
Every pizza seemed to be made with so much care in the Mercado, just like it was for a family member.

The Pete receiving his pizza that was so lovingly, personally prepared for him.

Soups's on! Meet Katrin who was a kindred spirit because we both love to make a hearty, rustic soup. It is always my quest to find a sumptuous  soup; I can say soup in about twelve languages to prove my point. Beethoven apparently said, "Only the pure and heart can make a good soup."  I will try to live up to his declaration.  But it is always delightful for me to find people throughout the world who have my passion to stir and simmer a delectable soup. 

Soup just seems to have soul. Katrin was indeed a soup wizard,. Here is a a picture of her cauliflower and broccoli soup (no cream). She drizzles the famous Tuscany olive oil on the soup, with some homemade croutons. Her other soup (carrot curry) was immersioned with rice. There was a line serpentining around the stall to buy her delicious  soups. For lunch that day, I had two bowls. Better than dessert for me....
There were many gelato stores, seemingly on each street. The picture below is of their family who started this store in the 1920's on the street. Impressive.
Elias enjoying his daily gelato.
The first night in Florence found us in a small cafe. The cooks behind the counter were thrilled to share about their collections of cheese, cut meats, and bread.
The first night in the cafe I had what else....some soup. The people of Italy often have white beans to accompany a meal, but the soup was perfect that night. Here is the recipe, give or take:
Two Italian proverbs about food that I wholeheartedly agree:

At the table with good friends and family, you do not become old.

A small kitchen makes the house big (and I would definitely order an herb garden, and if I were lucky, an olive tree).
                                                      One more story:  
One of the extraordinary happenings of our Italian trip ( five days) was meeting the same taxi driver in Florence twice. We only took three taxis in Florence, and the first night was after dancing in one of the plazas, Paulo took us back to our hotel. We had a delightful conversation that night in his Italian, some English, and my mediocre Spanish. Two days later, we were out flagging another taxi, and here Paulo comes again. I said, "What are the chances to meet you again?" He replied, " There are 700 taxis and 1,000 taxi drivers in Florence." I have always taught my children that you never know when you will see someone again so be kind. It was particularly interesting because the first time we met him, we all instantly became friends. To meet him again, well, it was marvelous, just like seeing a long time friend--especially when you are far from home. 

To all my new friends I met in Italy:
addio , il mio amico. e io vi vedrĂ² di nuovo

Translation: good bye, my friend, and I will meet you again.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sandstorms, instead of snowstorms....

In a few days it is going to be 102 degrees here in Doha, Qatar. Yikes, wait! It is only the beginning of April, and the sun is heating up, causing the ground water to form puffy clouds. With no water to hold the dirt and sand in place, the Arabian winds have been kicking up the sand for hundreds of miles. Everywhere there is a dusting of a coarse, beige film. One friend comically said a few days ago, "I thought I already knew brown, taupe, but the world just got a lot more beige around here." There was no shield or protection from the grainy, gritty billows moving into the Middle East this week. The sand funneled into every crevice, window, and eyelash.

Although there was much cleaning up to do after the snowstorm, my sons both agreed it was worth it to have a day off from school--almost like snow closings in St. Louis.

In the seven months I have lived here, I have seen spiraling sand many times, but never like the storm we had last week--even enough to get school cancelled. Yep, as we enviously watched the news this winter with the snow closings from our old schools in St. Louis, Missouri, we were missing our celebratory snow days (such great memories of having your entire day shifted from a rushing routine to a sledding/movie day). But instead we got to experience "a sand closing"--with a dark, bleak fog surrounding you in every direction.

Everyone had masks and scarves to try to cover up a little from the sandstorm.

The only bother I have with sandstorms vs snowstorms is that sand drifts in your house; snowflakes do not pile in your kitchen and living room. I have heard from expats who have lived here over a decade that this is the first time school has ever closed because of a sand storm. I guess there is one consolation for any sand in our ears and eyes: we got to experience a little Qatar history this week.

Time to go sledding on the sand dunes again....

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter from Italy! (part 2)

When I was 20 years old, I carried a beloved and tattered copy of The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone to Rome so that I could prepare to enter the Sistine Chapel as I traveled around Europe with my Eur-rail pass. I could never have predicted how much Michelangelo's ceiling and sculptures would change me that day. I was washed away with awe and rapture; my neck had a serious kink in it by looking above for hours. I wondered how he managed to paint the larger than life prophets and people on the ceiling--even on ladders in his 70's. I continued to read everything I could about him, even his poetry.

Since that day, I have looked to art many times to fill my soul, to cascade it with light and beauty. I have been blessed to enter many beautiful galleries, cathedrals, and homes to view art that have taught me more goodness and understanding than I would have known otherwise. I have strolled, walked, guided my children around art museums since they were weeks old, and frankly, now we guide each other. One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband is because he also can spend hours and days in art museums; we have stood in front of a few paintings and sculptures with some tears. Although I am not an artist, I am grateful to those who bring sparks of light and luminosity to us, across the span of millennia. 

With the Easter weekend before us, I have been reflecting on the many experiences that we can have with art and music to prepare for this season--to ready our souls to be open to the redemptive words at this special time. I am grateful for new wells or enthusiasms that give me replenishment, that stir and awake chords of memory and discovery. 

With our recent trip to Switzerland and Italy, I was again awestruck at the grandeur of these artisans who created with great force and finesse--seemingly unfatigued and relentless. Caravaggio, the great Italian artist of the 17th century has been a favorite artist for many years, but I discovered at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence another artist this trip that made my tears drop. The Dutch painter, Gerrit von Honthorst, painted some superbly intimate moments in Christ's life. 

One of my favorite books, Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner describes two couples on their sabbaticals, lapping up art and culture in Italy when their children are grown. One of them reflectively says, "I know many people have read Milton's Paradise Lost, but have they read Paradise Regained?" I have to say heaven was found again in these places. I know I don't have to travel to find paradise; there are wells all around us to renew, refresh us when our souls become tired. Sometimes heaven or paradise is lost, and we have to regain it again. We have to go find it. 

Lessons Learned this Easter: 

1) Remember the whispers that resonated with you a long time ago, and try to discover them again. There are always old and new wells of replenishment to uncover and locate. 
2) Songs, words, artwork can breathe new meaning--even if you have heard or seen them countless times.
3) The soul needs to be constantly filled. Finding out what nourishes you, makes you more alive, is so very important. I am grateful I found out a long time ago on a ceiling in Rome one of the ways to fill my soul--drop by drop. 

On the second floor of the Mercado in Florence where there are many cafes and small restaurants. There were decorated Easter decorations in Italy and Switzerland ( See Blogpost about Easter, part 1) if you want to see all the Easter decorations), but the religious artwork this time of year washed our souls with breathtaking beauty and awe. 

In the Bern, Switzerland Cathedral

This is a carved sculpture on the outside of a cathedral in Basal, Switzerland.
This is a special stained glass window at a remote village, way up in the Swiss Alps, called Innerkerken. My dear friend, Annagreth, grew up in this valley, a short distance walk from this church. 

Botticelli in Uffizi

A painting by Gerrit von Honthorst, Christ Before the High Priest

One of my very favorite artists, Carrevagio, painted this painting of Thomas when he saw the Lord--insisting that he touch His wounds.
The Duomo in Florence

This scene was to represent the empty tomb in The Basilica of the Nativity in Florence. Close to this tomb is the inscription in Latin that states, "Where you are I once was, and where I am now, you will soon be." 

The Duomo Dome, with its layers of people at The Final Judgment. We climbed 473 stairs (two cupolas) to the top so that you could look face to face with the frescoes. 
The dome at the Baptistry, next to The Duomo in Florence
At the Medici Chapel next to San Lorenzo Cathedral, 
Michelangelo's sculpture of "The Day"that he created for a Medici tomb. Interestingly enough, Michelangelo purposefully did not carve his face, showing that when death comes, none of us ever finish everything we intend and desire to do on earth. 
Michelangelo's St.Matthew in the Academy
The Pieta that was supposedly done at the end of Michelangelo's life. Some scholars dispute if it was done by him or not because of the disproportionate body of Jesus.
Michelangelo's Pieta at the Academy
Bronze reliefs of Bible stories at the Duomo in Milan, Italy
At the Milan Duomo, with the Bible scenes cast in bronze
Some Easter music:

Today in Doha Qatar, I heard two brothers who are in the Vienna Boys Choir sing this song. They are here for a week with their family, as a break from their choir and school in Vienna. I had never heard this song before. The hope and love that Easter brings, along with the earth that is changing around us is so beautifully articulated in this song:
Now the Green Blades Riseth, French melody, lyrics my John M. C. Crum
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
In the grave they laid Him, Love Whom we had slain,
Thinking that He’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
Up He sprang at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain;
Up from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
I was also able to hear excerpts from the St. Matthew Passion Oratorio by Bach this week at a musical
soiree at my cello teacher's home.

Perhaps it is because I live in the Middle East and needed to find some new wells this year to fill my cup,
but I feel so grateful for artists and composers, known and unknown. It is always wondrous to  encounter
some new wells, wherever they are in the world.