Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spotlight & Guestpost: Coins in the Fountain by Judith Works

Judith Works is touring for her new book Coins in the Fountain, please join me in welcoming her to Just One More Chapter with a special guestpost.


As our last days in Rome sped by I took time to toss some coins into the gushing waters of the Trevi Fountain to ensure a return, even though it would be as a tourist. We had parties with friends. A colleague gave me a small gold pendant depicting Medusa, an ancient Roman symbol for protection. Members of my staff chipped in and presented me with a painting of the Fountain. The movers, with their heavy rolls of paper, finished packing our goods. The last items that went into the crate were two souveniers: a reliquary and old model sailboat with battered sails, chipped paint on the hull and little flags flying on its mast. The boat was my husband Glenn’s, a reminder of his sailing adventures. The antique reliquary, also showing its age with the gilding flaking off, was mine. It was a bust of an obscure saint, Anastasia, who is honored in an old church at the base of the Palatine Hill. The reliquary has a little window in her chest with a compartment behind for a bone or hank of hair. I have often wondered what it might have contained before it ended up in an antique shop waiting for me.
Easygoing Glenn was looking forward to settling in the house we had purchased six months earlier, gardening, taking some cooking lessons, and not having to deal with the difficulties of Roman life. I moped over losing my job, my Italy and my friends – my dolce vita. What would I do for the rest of my life? “Rest” wasn’t a good option.  Relieving Glenn of household chores would take up time – but then what? Should I take up the cooking again when Glenn didn’t want to relinquish his domain?  Try to find a job? Annoy our daughter with unwanted advice? I felt as though my brain was already atrophying.
We flew “home,” arriving in early February, the dark and depressed season in Seattle. But my personal journey was much longer than the flight as culture shock soon set in. I persisted in looking at the clock first thing every morning. If it said six, I knew it was three in the afternoon in Rome. By this time long lunches were concluding. I spent days gazing blankly at Puget Sound, still caught between past and future. And I traveled to Vancouver to see my mother whose health suddenly declined. Two weeks after her 95th birthday, and only five months after we returned, she died. It was as if she had been waiting for us to come back before she gave up. Efforts to reconcile with my new life became even more difficult.
But through the veil of grief and disorientation I finally began to see a path leading me to a new definition of home. First, I recognized that the Pacific Northwest, where I had been born and raised, was indeed my home for the rest of my life, and that I must learn to enjoy its many attractions. Next, I found activities to occupy my brain. I began to volunteer for several local groups associated with the arts. And I decided to write. What better way to reflect on all my adventures, to gain meaning from them, and to attempt to convey that meaning to others?

So, finally, I don’t have “Home, Sweet Rome” as a motto any more. I can truthfully say I love the Northwest with its mountains, waters, and lush gardens. And I love living close to my family, and having time to read, to write, and to share a coffee with all the new friends I now have. But I do have to admit that Rome will always have a place in my mind and my heart, the two locations where the real meaning of “home” reside.


Life was routine until the author decided to get a law degree. Then a chance meeting led her to run away to the Circus (Maximus) – actually to the United Nations office next door – where she worked as an attorney in the HR department and entered the world of expat life in Rome. Her publishing credits include a memoir about ten years in Italy titled Coins in the Fountain, a novel about expats in Rome, City of Illusions, and flash fiction in literary magazines. She continues to travel in her spare time, having fitted in over 100 countries. And when she is in Rome, she always tosses a coin in the Trevi Fountain to ensure another visit.

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Innocents Abroad collide with La Dolce Vita when the author and her husband arrive in the ancient city of Rome fresh from the depths of Oregon. While the author endeavored to learn the folkways of the United Nations, her husband tangled with unfamiliar vegetables in a valiant effort to learn to cook Italian-style. In between, they attended weddings, enjoyed a close-up with the pope, tried their hands at grape harvesting, and savored country weekends where the ancient Etruscans still seemed to be lurking. Along the way they made many unforgettable friends including the countess with a butt-reducing machine and a count who served as a model for naked statues of horsemen in his youth. But not everything was wine and wonders. Dogs in the doctor’s exam room, neighbors in the apartment in the middle of the night, an auto accident with the military police, a dangerous fall in the subway, too many interactions with an excitable landlord, snakes and unexploded bombs on a golf course, and a sinking sailboat, all added more seasoning to the spaghetti sauce of their life. Their story begins with a month trying to sleep on a cold marble floor wondering why they came to Rome. It ends with a hopeful toss of coins in the Trevi Fountain to ensure their return to the Eternal City for visits. Ten years of pasta, vino, and the sweet life weren’t enough. Part memoir, part travelogue, Coins in the Fountain will amuse and intrigue you with the stories of food, friends, and the adventures of a couple who ran away to join the circus (the Circus Maximus, that is).

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