Saturday, March 20, 2010
Lonely, but not alone
Almost a year ago exactly, I took off for a week in Italy by myself.
And I haven’t really even begun to process it. It was rich and wonderful, lonely and painful all at the same time.
If you’ll indulge me, I think I may do some of that here because I know there are lessons to be uncovered.
I remember the last wave to my daughters and husband as I turned my back and headed for the airport tram. Bittersweet because I was leaving them, but exhilarating as I was accompanying myself on what I hoped would be an adventure of a lifetime.
This is my dream
This is the dream of many others unable to muster
whatever I mustered to be here
I’ll remind myself of that when I feel alone
Those were some of the first words in my journal.
Immediately I met my seatmate Marco and we talked nonstop through the flight, the night, the meals, Charles de Gaulle Airport and, finally from the same gate, where we parted. He, to Genoa and me, to Pisa. Such a gift, only to be ripped away. His English was impeccable, providing me with a grand illusion: that I would be understood.
Two plans, three shuttles, two trains a bus and a long, uphill walk before I entered my Florence home, a quiet convent – formerly a villa – on the outskirts. That sentence hardly conveys the journey. No one I encountered in Florence spoke English [to me], although I purchased a timed bus ticket, eventually climbed aboard (another long story) and, in desperation, held out my map to an Italian woman who anxiously shoved me off somewhere.
Somewhere on a deserted street corner. I entered the scooter shop to a frown when I spoke English after the customary “Buon giorno” greeting, but elicited a smile and pointing finger when I drew out my map. Outside, I discovered street names are embedded in the sides of buildings. Never mentioned in any of the travel tips I had poured over.
Weary, but not broken, I picked up my bag and began to climb the hill not really knowing where I was going, when something caught my attention. A sign written in English in the back window of a parked car: “I am with you.” I was too stunned to even think to take a photo.
I knew I would not be alone on this strip.
A half-mile later, I smiled as I spotted the big iron gates of the convent, entered and was received in Italian. They were waiting for me and the nun even taught me a couple of Italian words: giardino/garden (where I think she said I might want to unwind) and verde/green (the door I would enter after hours).
She led me down a long corridor to the very end and opened my door. It was perfect. Small, intimate, welcoming. Things I had not yet experienced in Italy. I dropped my bag, threw open the heavy shutters and teared up at the beautiful lawn and call of the birds. Even the bathroom overlooked a small city of terracotta tile roofs. Breathtaking: all of it.
I had arrived.
• What is a literal or metaphorical journey to which I have been called?
• How did I respond?
• Who accompanied me, even if I didn’t realize it in the present?
• What gifts/riches did I experience?
• What hardships?