Homeward Bound

Welcome to my 40-page masterpiece of 2019. After 4 1/2 months of travel, writing, photographing, and being immersed in a new language (and the Italian sea) I created this “edited diary” of my adventures. In it you’ll find poetry, drawings, a short story, favorite song lyrics that pulled me through the hard times, and entries from the diary I carried with me.

My Process

IT BEGAN bent over a desk typing words into my computer, trying to pinpoint the feelings of uncertainty spilling out in little tears in my eyes.  Writing.  Finding a way both to process and recharge my energy, and give myself the confidence I needed to make it through each day.  My first days in Pisa, Italy were nothing if not uncertain. Writing was something I could turn to, to take control of my situation, instead of just wallowing in feelings of unknown and inability to communicate.  Throughout my trip I took enough time everyday to both let go of these feelings and learn to be present with them.  Writing became something that defined my trip.  I began spending weekends cross legged on a bench writing stories, thinking in feelings and images and using words to depict those sentiments.  In the end, I counted more than a hundred pages of both typeface on the computer and script in my journal.  Sometimes I stood and sketched in a museum and found my peace there.  Other times it was sitting on the grass in a garden in Tuscany.  After 3 months in Pisa I continued to travel, and thought about writing a story people would be moved by. After thinking of stories to write, I realized my experience was simple.  It was moving, and it was my own.  I could tell it as true as possible, as felt as my own personal feelings, while using my voice.  The messiness was the process that my writing could capture.  The messy feelings, the things that didn’t make sense, the uncomfortable moments were critical to the result that came out.  

When I came home for the holidays and had some time, I began pouring over the recent writing from my trip, and chose this acclimation to a new home, Pisa, to be the story.  I shuffled through sketchbook pages, and realized how many of the illustrations reflected my feelings at the time.  There was a marvelously detailed drawing of a bench, with a splendid morning light being filtered through the trees that I depicted, and interesting enough the bench was the subject of a short story I had written at the time, and I hadn’t realized the connection.  There were other sketches that I connected to and collaged through the pages, and even picked out photographs to sketch. Collecting both the writing and illustrations, I began to visualize the book.  The book wouldn’t be a chapter book or a story book.  Instead, it lent itself well to a diary. I find diaries to feel more personal, but sometimes even more interesting and relatable because of the truth to it.  In the physical making of the book, I knew I wanted it done by hand.  I wanted to collage everything together because I find collaging lends itself well to telling memories: like scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, yearbooks, my story was both coherent but also a picked and chosen collage of memories. Good memories that would resurface during the time, the songs and words that helped me get through, interlaced with things I was experiencing, and from there I built my story.  My mind thinks in imagery but works in words.   Not only that, but collaging is a process I enjoy.  I enjoy using my hands to create the result, and see it unfold in front of me. I used illustrations to help the flow of the story, because I believe without visual, writing has a more difficult time being felt.  I wanted to play with the words and word placement, allowing some words to pop out and be seen more than others.   I formatted the writing for each page on the computer and made a mock-up book out of 20 pages of paper stapled together making 40 total.  I printed out my writing, and photocopied some of the sketches: touching them up where they needed with a pencil.  I scrolled through photos from the trip and picked ones that resonated with me and with the stories.  I wanted to start with an entry I wrote before the trip about “departure”, and how we tend to forget about the good things we have. 

In the past I have tended to only tell the good memories, but this time, I wanted to include some more difficult memories to show that my dream took risks, it took work, and hardship, and I would be playing everyone and myself if I didn’t include some of those moments.  It was honestly hard to let go of some of the memories (both the good and bad) enough to share them with others, but they were crucial to my experience, they exposed more of the truth and complexities of the experience and not to include them would feel phony.  After gluing all the pages together, the writing, the drawings, some of the pages I decided to rip out the drawing choices and switch them with another page.  In the end, I reached a point of satisfaction, I removed the staples and photocopied the front and back of each page of the book.  I scanned all the pages onto my computer as well, and made an online document that would be more accessible.  In the end, I gave copies to my friends and family, my supports.

Suggested donation amounts to @MV-Weth on Venmo or mary.wetherbee@gmail.com on Paypal: $5, $8, $15

Valle dell’Aniene

Found along Via Nomentana

One of the things I love about Rome, or maybe just Italy as a whole, is it’s depth, spatially. I love how you can walk by an archway and as you pass it by, it seems for a second that you caught a glimpse of another world. Behind the archway there is an open courtyard, behind which stands another archway, then a statue, then a garden. Colorful and still, the sun grazes the archway, uninterrupted by an occasional passersby’s shadow.

Found along Via Lorenzo il Magnifico

I love the graffitied walls behind which trees blossom with spring’s orange flowers. The peachy buildings contrasting against an everlasting blue. Even when you look up, behind these branches the sky is all you can see, a depth reaching across millenniums. A playground for the sizzling life below, the perfumes from open kitchen windows, as well as the honking of motorbikes, buzzing around the pedestrians like bees. Seagulls that beckon in the morning as a tribute to the day.

Valle dell’Aniene

And every once in a while you may find an oasis, a forest with it’s own noises and scents. It’s own paths, and hidden treasures, and colors.

A crime to kiss

 It was a crime to kiss, they said
But when we met our feelings only seemed to be 
missed more
Pouring through cracks they had broken
When we were shadows before
Elongated by the growing sun
We never seemed to touch
For one
reason or another

Small excerpt from a larger poem

I am the sun

I am the sun,

And I walk with a sweetness in my soul

That catches in water pools

Or on red cheeks

And I smile

As the day ends 

I turn buildings to gold

My uncommonly beautiful silhouette

across the wall 

They watch me stand with a calmness of breath,

I am lost in brilliance, sometimes

At the bottom of pits and prying through cracks in doors

Conformed by the shapes that surround me,

Yet I’m curious.

The people have been waiting for me.

The way I bounce off of blue waves in rainbows

Playing between eyes of lovers,

Descending slowly to pink clouds, 

And losing color,


I am the sun,

Bringing an easiness in the mornings

Opening leaves to illuminate their inner workings

A little magic brushed upon

And carried by the passersby

Into the new sunlight.

Waiting for things to feel

Week 5 in Quarantine

I can't even cry because the emotions would be too heavy to carry
and the days between white walls have washed emotion away
As I wait for the next meal,
a blankness blankets the day
As I heal from every interaction
it feels like a ripped off band-aid
As I yearn for solitude

And this is the only place I can be completely real
Instead of picking through unharvested thoughts
thinking of pasts, futures, missing the now
and still,
I'm waiting for things to feel.

No longer the last day of quarantine

So much of me is gone that I almost forgot I'm here
Here in Rome, housebound and not home
Clutching my cell phone. alone
Days spent dreaming of others, so
I forget to live my own

I forgot how much I had dreamed of this one.
One day, I said, today would come.
And it's here but not lived.
And I don't know how many hours I've spent in this room
But I'm dying to move on and live the days soon.

Today, April 3rd was (until this past Wednesday) the tentative last day of quarantine. They’ve extended the date a week, and hopefully after that will slowly begin taking off restrictions.