Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today I spent nearly the entire day alone in Florence. My friends left in the morning after breakfast, and I left the guesthouse where we were staying shortly after. According to my journal entry, I was feeling exhausted by 2:45. My tired feet got mention more than once, as I was walking pretty much the entire time after the fifteen-minute-at-most bus ride into the center.

I also mention how much encounters with rude people can affect one's day. I wasn't able to reach any of my friends via telephone, and I was having trouble getting the public phones to work. I had also learned that getting out to my friends' house in Strove was going to be costlier and more complicated than I expected.

At one point I wrote, "The song title 'O Sactissima' comes to my mind, even though I don't know the music. It changes to 'O Stanchissima,' though! I am so tired in my legs and feet." (Sanctissima means very holy; stanchissima means very tired.)

The redeeming moments of the long day were talking with the artists near the Duomo, buying a backpack I'd found a few days earlier, and eating wonderful peach and berry gelato.

At the end of my entry for this day, I wrote about how tumultuous the past two years had been, knowing my job might end, having it end, working in a less than stable situation, moving to the new house, etc. Even the trip to Italy had come up rather suddenly as a possibility. My last two sentences are, "It is nice to be away. I don't think I've even thought that until just now."

Well, it was lovely to be away, and here are some photos taken after the ones from the previous post.

Carolyn and I spent the morning in the Oltrarno (literally "across the Arno" river) section of the city. Of course we crossed the Arno via the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge.)

No, it's not a taxidermy shop, but a sandwich shop. And they did serve wild boar meat as one possible ingredient.

Santo Spirito, the church of the Holy Spirit.

We met back with Carolyn's husband and granddaughter at the Piazza Signoria.

And suddenly the skies turned dark!

And torrential rain began, and people were getting soaked. We huddled under the Loggia for protection with hundreds of others. Soon we were getting wet there, because of the strong wind, so we crossed the street to stand under the porch of the Uffizi. It didn't really make much difference.

We bought rain ponchos from the vendors who had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, slogged our way down the street to a trattoria for lunch. Wet and bedraggled, we were seated. The rain stopped within ten minutes.

And the skies were blue and beautiful the rest of the day, except for another downpour later in the afternoon as we were leaving a DaVinci exhibit.

And blue and beautiful that evening. (I know it's blurry, but I think the color's worth it.)

The next day we saw the Casa di Dante,

spent a good bit of time in the Boboli Gardens,

and defied gravity walking up from the guesthouse to the church of San Miniato, just in time to hear the last several minutes of the monks singing their evening prayer service.

San Miniato way up on the hill, seen from the other side of the river (taken that morning),

and Florence seen from inside San Miniato (taken that evening.)

This is from the day when my feet were so tired. I had sat down to rest near one of the old city gates. If you look closely, you can see that the tiny white speck about 2/3 of the way down, in the center, is a soccer ball!

When I first went to live in Florence, my friend Jay said, "Always remember to look up. If you don't look up, you'll miss so much beauty." This is a part of the city I'd walked through countless times back in those days, but until a year ago, I'd never looked up at this particular point. Jay was right.

From the steps of San Miniato, from my journal.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Year Ago Yesterday

The beautiful little church of Monteriggioni, just across the piazza from our lunching place, but seen here from the city walls.

Towers of San Gimignano.

A view of Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo, probably taken before supper.

A year ago today I had lunch in Monteriggioni, ice cream in San Gimignano, supper in Florence on the Piazzale Michelangelo, and dessert in the home of friends in Scandicci, sort of a suburb of Florence. The neighborhood was once my neighborhood, called Le Bagnese. (Alas, I didn't take any pictures that evening.)

The famous places were wonderful, but according to my journal, which agrees with my memory, “The highlight of today for me was taking the Bateys [my beloved friends and travel companions] to Le Bagnese and to Paolo and Tosca’s [more beloved friends] house for a lovely visit, lots of laughter, little desserts, spumante (Moscato), and the full moon rising over the hill. It was a perfect evening, except too short.”

Today, sitting in my office, that day and those places and people seem far, far away. Sometimes I have a hard time believing that the various parts of my life do actually all belong to the same life—if that makes any sense.

And yet I know they do, and there are echoes all around even today of those other lives.

Earlier today I shared with a mentor how I loved my life in Italy, what a special time of life that was, and how it led to unexpected events that have shaped my life ever since.

This afternoon I made a date to visit a new friend in my new neighborhood—a 100-year-old woman who is an artist and who also loves Florence and actually has some of her photographs of Florence being shown right now. So I’ll be going to her house Saturday to see her pictures of Florence and to share stories.

Our dogs are named after Tosca and Paolo, a daily connection to those precious friends. Tosca became my friend via an English class I taught way back in that other life, back when I was pretty fresh out of college with an English degree.

And today I came closer to that English degree than I’ve been in twenty years, by signing up for a creative nonfiction writers workshop coming up in the fall. Which is exciting, because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And scary, because I’ve done so little writing in recent years, and I wonder what I’ve got in me and if it’ll hold up in the presence of more experienced writers.

Shortly after signing up for that, I received a message from a friend who was part of a spiritual direction group with me for two years. We had not communicated in months, perhaps in over a year. He mentioned among other things being blessed by Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” which I had shared with the group. And while the music has no direct connection to Italy, in my mind anything written in Latin connects me to the Italian language and thus to Italy.

Reasons abound for my absence on this blog for so long. Without going into unnecessary detail, it’s enough to say that the past year and more has been a time of disconnection, of floundering in some ways, of deepening in others, of wondering and waiting, of being stretched and strained and stressed and strengthened, of trying to find some narrative for life that was cohesive enough to hold it all together.

Today feels like a coming together of several pieces of a jigsaw puzzle life. As if just maybe it could result in some kind of picture that will make sense of all the pieces. Or a story that actually ties together all the loose ends with a coherent plot and theme.

Time alone will tell.

Meanwhile, it’s fun to look at my pictures from last year’s trip!

(And something with the computer or Internet wasn't cooperating last night, thus the discrepancy between title and text. I'm posting a day late.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pattypan Squash

I just think they're wonderful. So roundishly cute, I almost feel like petting them, as if they had jolly little personalities to go with the shape. Who could have thought up something like this?

One of the joys of summer that I keep trying to come up with when it's so easy to think only of the heat!