Remember how I said I knew I was meant to be on the low road, let me tell you why. There are quintessential photos of Tuscany - ones you see in every calendar: the white chapel, a stand of cypress, a rolling landscape with hay bales. Various photographers have captured them and to me, they are as sacred as any fresco or duomo. After leaving the country chapel I continued my walk along the dusty dirt road, still looking for the cemetery. I passed a wooded area and suddenly came upon an open field, my own field of dreams. I still do not know why I reacted as I did, but I spread my arms open wide, looked up to the heavens and my eyes filled with tears. It was truly a sacred experience, the kind that Phil Cousineau writes about in his fine, fine book, The Art of Pilgrim-
age. This was where I was supposed to be, this is what I was meant to see.
When people ask me what the most memorable part of my trip was, this is what comes to mind, but I cannot yet explain it. It had something to do with order, with natural beauty. Something to do with being able to step from reality into a storybook, a scene only dreamed about heretofore.
It was an artist's field ~ pattern, color, repetition, texture ~ solitude and serenity, what the 17th century Japanese poet Basho calls "a glimpse of the underglimmer," something deeply real. Cousineau says that "every traveler can transform any journey into pilgrimage with a commitment to finding something personally sacred along the road." (I am just now reading his book, yet I unknowingly traveled as if I already had taken every word to heart.) He says that one of our deepest longings is the need for sacred beauty. I had found my sacred beauty.
Yesterday I rode the METRO down to Dupont Circle in DC to meet a friend for lunch. I grew up in this city, traveled its streets many times. But yesterday as I came up out of the subway tunnel, I saw the city as if new. I noticed details I had glazed over before. I was there with new eyes. Joseph Brodsky says, "beauty is a by-product of ordinary things." You can be a traveler anywhere, on your own street, in your own town. Sacred beauty is waiting for you, sometimes along a low road less traveled.