The towers of San Gimignano, visible across a half dozen miles of Tuscan landscape were an intriguing sight. We were in Certaldo for an unhurried daytrip from Florence. I remember experiencing a moment when a voice in my head said “why can’t we go there and have that experience,” and I had to wake myself and bring myself back to where I was, knowing that that would have to be saved for another time (which could be a long way off or never). I was on a three week journey in Italy, with visits to the cities of Florence, Genoa, and Venice among others, and as in all travel, one is limited to where one can spend time on any particular trip. The following day, thinking about that moment I again experienced a slight anxiety, as I imagined other travelers arriving in San Gimignano for the afternoon, having planned the perfect trip, from storybook situation to storybook situation. Dreaming of ideal (or perfect) vacations can prevent us from fully living in the world we inhabit.


Before traveling  I’d read about going to places such as the exclusive restaurant in Florence that one enthusiastic American blogger had written about, where one dined on a rooftop at night overlooking the Arno, stating that it was the place to treat oneself to the best and don’t we all deserve the best while on vacation… More thoughts came into my head from my pre-trip research, where I had read an advertisement about a tour to Venice on which vacationers would arrive at their luxury hotel “for a champagne evening, and be whisked away by private boat the next day to Murano” to buy glass… After reading those blogs and ads, I imagined recreating some of the described events on my own small budget…but what we actually had time for was another thing. What really mattered is that the things we stumbled upon had come to us unexpectedly, and were beyond my imagination. Real life is like that, in contrast to what we create in our heads. In fact my imagination could have gotten in the way of enjoying what was actually happening and consequently made me miss the moment.


That day, as that amorphous anxiety descended upon me briefly, contrasting where I was with what I was missing out on or what others were doing, it suddenly gave me the unsettled feeling of not having it as good as others, or that maybe there was this greener place somewhere else…But then just as suddenly as I had these thoughts, a different thought took hold, and it gave way to a feeling of clarity and acceptance, as I realized that this experience at this moment was just as wonderful as some other imagined “better” moment or situation… that resting here and not running after something else was just as satisfactory as some “perfect” other, as yet to be found, moment.


The habitual questioning of our lives and the need to compete with an imagined better reality is such a common experience… “is this the vacation experience I had dreamed of” …”yes, but is it the best view?” That moment of doubt and envy, of comparing the place or experience (or even person) that we imagine we could possess, that we create within our mind, which is never quite like what really happens to us, robs us of our present happiness. Just walking in a city street and noticing architectural details or in the woods and seeing the simple yet magnificent beauty of the  fragile yellow leaves, or a hilltop panorama of a sky full of linear moving clouds, or even time spent with a loved one is an experience as impressive as any, if we are able to see it. In fact every moment contains that potential.


I remember thinking that this comparison of our expectations to our reality happens to each one of us, even to those perfect travelers, who found the perfect place, on the perfect afternoon, in an Italian hill town. That they were very likely having the same experience as I was, of wondering what some other experience just out of reach could have been like. Luckily my unsettled feelings dissolved, as I realized that there is no perfect place, or situation, and that this is true for everyone, even those on the exclusive tours or in expensive surroundings. Real life is full of bumps and bruises, good and bad times, full of imperfect, normal moments, and it is in those imperfect normal moments that we can really feel alive to our life, knowing that it is part of the tactile fabric of all things.


I think that we can also go to this place of expectations regarding our emotional lives. I find myself wishing that I had a more open heart at times. Yet wishing to be emotionally perfect may be the same thing as wishing for other circumstances. Therefore when we find ourselves either berating ourselves for not doing something well, or not responding the way we would have wished, perhaps we should remind ourselves that we may be looking at some far distant illusion, and that the reality of this present moment is good, good enough for now, good enough to be considered progress, so that we can feel at home where we are and in what we are doing, and not expect ourselves to be somewhere else.

(Originally published in Vermont Views Magazine)





I know that place

Of being lost in the waves

Where time and purpose

Luff away.


It is blue/green there

Surrounded by walls of my own making

Fringed with wisps

Of salted ocean lace

Keeping the world at bay.


Whole days I can escape there

As if it were a place

Where I could hide

Where only the warm sun could find me,

Could cradle me, from the world


Where nothing changed

But the beat of my heart.


juliaferrari 2017


(Photo of back streets of Certaldo, Italy)


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Aldus Manutius and printing in Venice


Julia Ferrari near Building which housed Aldus Manutius's print shop

Julia Ferrari near Building which housed Aldus Manutius’s print shop

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Casting machines

Elias Sideras visits Golgonooza

Elias Sideras visits Golgonooza

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Visiting Emily Dickinson’s house

Lawrence Klepp and Julia Ferrari

Lawrence Klepp and Julia Ferrari at the Dickinson homestead

The film “A Quiet Passion” directed by Terence Davies and starring Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson, showed in Amherst, MA and since we were going, I thought why not go see the homestead too, since it was just down the road. The movie was full of her poetry, her struggles, and showed so accurately the presence and departure of something we all will face, death. It touched me deeply, reminding me of my own forays beside that terrain. Luckily it also portrayed life and how important it is to live it deeply with the ones you love.

Lawrence Klepp & Julia Ferrari

Lawrence Klepp & Julia Ferrari

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Inside Looking Out

Julia Ferrari's Golgonooza

Golgonooza Letter Foundry inside looking out. student Intern photography work

Photographic collage by intern, Meghan Graham, of interior or Golgonooza.



windows4 window6

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Visioning and looking in two directions, past & future

Julia Ferrari

Julia Ferrari, 18 yrs old, Boston


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Grey Sky, Winter landscape, thru Hearts

Grey sky, winter landscape through hearts

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Facing Fear


FEAR                                       (*Article previously published in Vermont Views)

Recently I’ve been reminded of the power of fear—our collective and our individual fears: of moving forward, of the unknown, of change. Trauma in life hits us with such unexpected force, catching us unaware or unprepared and sometimes leaving us seemingly incapable of dealing with the after effects: the path ahead, the new normal. Are there ways we can steer ourselves ahead within a state of uncertainty, and still manage to steady ourselves (and others) without putting the brakes on and abandoning our reality? Can we take small steps forward and even watch our potent reactions and aversions to our circumstances?

Life keeps changing, nothing we relied on in the past can absolutely be relied on in the future, because everything in the universe moves, spins, unfurls, closes, disappears, reappears—without our control. Beloved trees are cut down, sources dry up, hopeful candidates lose, and people die, but just as importantly, new seedlings survive and grow, new sources of inspiration or substance appear, and new people or opportunities enrich our lives.

Life hits us, life hurts. … it can’t be avoided. Sometimes our physical selves just want to stop us from moving on. Armies within us who want to protect us cry out, we panic, we cry, we can’t breathe, we face what seems like the end of the world … we step on the brakes…

Even so, after repeated harsh blows in life we can choose to automatically put up walls to protect ourselves from pain, thus avoiding any chance of undergoing such discomfort again or stretch to step into the unknown without letting the fear stop us. It is our nature to protect ourselves from pain, yet by putting up walls in protection, do we not distance ourselves from who we truly are…sentient beings capable of feeling? When we allow something to get through, allow our deeper selves to be touched by circumstances (as we see in the innocence of children) we allow ourselves to experience the freshness and aliveness of our choice—to react or not, to become overwhelmed or not, to have compassion or not.


Facing the worry
Facing the wall
I pace back and forth
Back and forth
Worrying about the dust, the goddamned dust
Covering the unused places
That once grew life

It’s all in me
The reticence
The bewilderment
The procrastinating
The deeper fears
And I can’t quite see the reason for it

This body, my physical body
Has dug in its heels
Has said “enough”
“This is what I cannot do.”

Then lifting my head to the west I see the clouds over the river
Beginning to move over the land toward the light
Their colors like jewels in a hair clasp
All silver and topaz and gold,
Lifting, curling,
Telling me that it’s all on its way
Moving as it should
A part of the process
And my heart lifts with the light
Saying “enough,”
“This is what I cannot do
But maybe, just maybe,
this is what I can.”

poem copyright  J. Ferrari, 2016

*for more articles by Julia Ferrari, see:

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From the Archives

Ashuelot’s Julia Ferrari and Dan Carr turn passion into art. 

Julia Ferrari & Dan Carr

Julia Ferrari & Dan Carr


Posted: Saturday, June 5, 2004 12:00 am in the Keene Sentinel

By Will Coghlan

Like something out of a limerick, they are two artists from Ashuelot whose names fit together for a piece of clever, if tired, word play. She’s Julia Ferrari. He’s Dan Carr.

“It took me a few years to see that one,” Carr says, of their automotive last names. “Most of our friends were way ahead of me on that one.”

As business partners, creative collaborators, and husband and wife, Carr and Ferrari share a number of passions that first brought them together years ago. Ferrari is a painter, printmaker and book artist, specializing in abstract painting. A series of her work, “Further Mound Series,” is on display at Bagel Works Cafe on Main Street in Keene.

Carr is a poet, writer and printer who recently embarked on a new endeavor — politics. He’s running for a seat in the N.H. House of Representatives.

Ferrari and Carr have lived in a long, two-story brick building on Route 119 in Ashuelot for 22 years. The first floor of the building is a big, open space, filled with the tools of the book-making trade: printing presses from various periods, racks of type, stacks of handmade paper, and pages of elegant lettering and illustrations, ready to go into a book.

In the darker corners of the print shop, medieval-looking machinery lurks in the shadows, waiting to be called into service for some largely forgotten part of the process.

They call their business the Golgonooza Letter Foundry, a reference to the “city of transformation through art,” found in William Blake’s 19th-century poetry, Ferrari said.

The birth of a business, the re-birth of a village

Twenty six years ago, Carr was living in Boston, working with a few partners in a printing business called the Four Zoas Press (also a Blake reference). Along with mastering the trade of printing books by hand, he was a fledgling poet, struggling to find a forum for his work.

“There were something like 180 million people in this country then, and only 20 or so new collections of poetry published each year,” Carr said, lamenting all the good writing that was going unpublished.

He knew other writers were experiencing the same thing, so he put a notice in the back of an alternative newspaper called The Real Paper, advertising a class to teach writers and poets how to print their own books.

Ferrari signed up, and was one of the few students who stuck it out until the end of the course.

“Julia was one of the dedicated folks,” Carr says.

The printing and bookmaking was a fitting complement to Ferrari’s primary artistic passions. A painter since the early 1970s, she studied Art History and Studio Art at Mount Holyoke College, where she received her degree.

Through friends in the Monadnock Region, the two found the empty building in Ashuelot, and with surprisingly little deliberation, they made the move to the tiny village beside the river.

“We made the leap,” Ferrari says with a laugh. “We were in our 20s, and we didn’t really think about having a business out here, with no contacts. Had we been in our 40s, we might have been more careful.”

When they moved to New Hampshire, Ashuelot was a nearly abandoned stop on the road between Hinsdale and Winchester. A textile mill had thrived there during the 19th century, at one point manufacturing woolen blankets for the Union Army using power provided by the river.

In 1916, the village buildings and property were sold off in parcels. But the industry foundered and the mill closed in the 1940s, so when Carr and Ferrari moved in, the village appeared much as it had 75 years earlier.

There were three or four “old timers,” Carr said, two of whom had been born in the building where the letter foundry now operates. Through the local historical society, they found one of the brochures published when the village was booming — a real estate ad touting the chance to come purchase a plot near the mill.

“That was one of the richest parts of moving to New Hampshire,” Carr said. “Nothing had really changed in our building until we moved in, and we had people coming over to tell us stories about what it used to be like.”

Today, Carr and Ferrari feel deeply rooted in the little village. It helps that there are a few more neighbors now.

“More and more people are taking an interest in improving the town,” Carr said.

Learning all that her paintings have to teach

Ten years after moving in and starting their business, Carr and Ferrari got the chance to purchase the building next door. The white, two-story structure once operated as the mill’s store, and the open spaces of the glass-front first floor makes just the right studio for Ferrari’s painting.

When Ferrari displays her work, there is always one “seed piece” that will never have a price tag dangling from it. Dozens of paintings can spring from that one work, and it’s often the inspiration for her next series, too.

As an abstract artist, Ferrari says her work includes both dream scenes and elements of reality — series of dozens of works that fit together to form images she sometimes describes as “diary entries.”

“The seed piece says something to me that I can get inspired about for the next series,” Ferrari says. “I haven’t stopped learning from it yet.”

Ferrari’s paintings have been shown throughout New England, including in galleries at the University of Massachusetts, the Vermont Studio Center, Keene State College and Plymouth State College, where she was selected as one of six Granite State artists for the inaugural show at the Karl Drerup Fine Arts Gallery.

The University of Alabama hosted a show of both her paintings and book art.

The books she and Carr have collaborated on are scattered to the far corners of the globe, including in university libraries at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Dartmouth and Brown, Smith College, Wesleyan University, the Hague and St. Brides Library in London.

One of their recent projects was a commission to print a book of poetry by Maya Angelou, complemented by etchings of jazz musicians by artist Dean Mitchell. Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis composed music to go with the project.

When they went to New York City to celebrate the book’s publication, they were treated to a party in Harlem, dinner with Angelou and an impromptu performance by Marsalis, who leaped to the stage to accompany the jazz band.

For a book of Carr’s poetry, “Gifts of the Leaves,” Ferrari created unique “monotype” paintings to grace the first page of each of the 26 original copies of the book, which contains 26 poems — one for each letter of the alphabet.

In a painstaking process measured in thousandths-of-an-inch, Carr designed, carved and cast an original typeface for the book, naming it Regulus, after a star in the constellation Leo. Carr says the capital “R” is his favorite, although the “Q” is the most eye-catching, with a fanciful, over-long tail extending out into space

Carr says he is one of only two people in the U.S. who still practice the art of designing and hand-crafting unique new typefaces.

The books created at Golgonooza deserve a word more eloquent than the simple title “book.” Held in sturdy, cloth-covered boxes, they are elegant and artistic endeavors. The stark, black letters are spaced sparingly on the heavy, handmade paper. Small squares of Ferrari’s art are scattered among the pages, each protected by a delicate sheet of tissue.

“We like to develop our arts in parallel,” Ferrari said, even though she points to opposite sides of the studio when asked if they work in close physical proximity.

While the poems could exist without the art, and the art without the poems, the combination of the two makes for a stunning presentation.

“Julia’s art is no more an illustration of my poetry than the poems illustrate her art,” Carr said.

Finding inspiration, evolving advocacy

Just west of Ashuelot village, there are 14,000 acres of wild forests, trails, rivers, ponds and wildlife that have served as a source of inspiration for the artist and poet over the past 20 years.

Pisgah State Park is a sacred place to Ferrari and Carr, so when changes in park management this spring prompted fears that the park would become less wild, and less protected, they found themselves stepping into the role of public-lands advocates.

Ferrari organized a forum one April night in her studio to discuss the threat of development in the park. More than 100 people showed up, and she now volunteers her time as the head of a new group called Pisgah Defense, working to advocate responsible park stewardship.

“Even though it can be tough to find time in the schedule of a business owner and artist, we feel committed to those things,” Ferrari said.

Carr has begun to campaign as a Democratic candidate for state representative, based largely on a conservation platform. And of course, he’s printing his own campaign signs — campy white lettering on a vintage green background.

“For us the park is a primary source of inspiration,” Ferrari said. “We believe in the public’s right to have quiet, natural places. If we lose those things in our push for progress, what else is there left to do art about?”

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New fall classes list

Announcing our new fall workshops


Triskillion mandala at Golgonooza Letter Foundry & Press

Triskillion mandala at Golgonooza Letter Foundry & Press

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