Unlike my trip to New Zealand and Australia, I seldom knew where I was in Italy. Looking back on my photos, I cannot tell whether a church was in Montepulciano or Pienza, a window was captured in Castellina or San Gimignano. I knew which town I was in while I was in it, but what churches (so many), steep stone streets or breathtaking vistas I recorded with my camera ~ I cannot tell. But this...this I remember.
It was the day after we arrived, our first full day in Italy. Let the sight-seeing begin! We were meandering through San Gimignano, (husband Buddy, sister Katie & her husband, Joe). I was in awe at every turn and was a follower, often a lallygagger, pausing to take photo after photo, drink in the view, pinch myself. So there I was, following them up the steps to this walled garden, leaves on the olive trees glistening before my eyes. As I crossed the threshold, there was music, harp music, filling the air. Just like in the movies...naive small-town girl goes to foreign country and is astounded by it's beauty and majesty, cue in music as she steps into the secret garden, etc. etc. etc. Well, it brought tears to my eyes. Yes it did. It all finally sunk in ~ I was in Italy, and it was a very zen moment, be here now. I was really here.
The garden was actually an ancient fort, complete with the small openings in the wall where soldiers of yore stood watch for approaching enemy. An artist was painting at his easel. The harpist was nestled behind him, under a tree. I must confess that the spell was broken when I saw her. Her eyebrows were drawn on too high, giving her a caricature-like appearance. Reality had cast a cliched nerdy, yet passionate high-school music teacher, not the young angelic beauty a Hollywood director would choose. It got me to thinking ~ what is beauty? How do we define beauty? How much does modern society/advertising/culture influence our perceptions. I felt small and shallow that I had let her eyebrows ruin the moment for me, especially when I know better than that. She had gifted me with a powerful moment that lifted and opened my heart and I was being critical of her appearance. It was at that moment that I let go. I left the rest of the world behind and became a tabula rasa, a blank slate, ready for my own renaissance, my rebirth.
I have always identified with the concept of renais-
woman, "a man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences." I have juggled my interests and passions over these 50-some years. Medical school was a goal at one point, and art of course. I can program computers, write a thesis and turn fabric and thread into a work of art. That afternoon in the garden, under the Tuscan sun, in the land of the Renaissance, my eyes and heart were opened once again. I thought they were wide with wonder before. A heart can never fill. It just keeps expanding, making room for more.