Graphics: ©The Magazine of Yoga™
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST JOANNA HELLER
Returning home, flying thirty thousand feet up, I bask in the Alitalia ambience and pretend I haven’t left Italy’s warm sun and bright light. My Italian dictionary remains in my pocket, and my day pack still holds street maps of Siena and Volterra and Lucca and Firenze. Also Roma, Venezia and Elba, and Castellina in Chianti.
In my backpack in the hold of the plane are some pieces of Italy I bring home. A silk scarf, an olive wood cutting board, a mezzaluna and an olive wood bowl for chopping eggplant and who knows what else, a bottle of balsamic vinegar, and a cookbook that will keep some new foods and words in mind.
I hold them all. Most of all I hold a new sense of possibility.
At home I am determined not to lose the sense of expanded time and space and light we had wandering in another culture, especially that culture. So, we do not turn on radio or television. I keep a twenty euro note in my pocket. Days later, no NPR, no cable news. I am a bit disoriented.
Photo: Etruscan Gate Italy ©Joanna Heller
We saw homes, farms and large public food markets that had been in use for hundreds of years. The eight hundred year old city hall in Volterra, Etruscan walls, ancient Roman churches … some built upon the remains of still older churches.
Walking in Rome one evening futilely trying to find the right bus we maneuver through busy traffic and suddenly come upon an open archaeological “sacred site”. We look down into the depth of the large square pit and see huge stone blocks, remains of walls, and parts of enormous ancient pillars while a few cats wander among them. Cars, buses and taxis speed past in all directions. We never did find the right bus …
I revisit all these sites and sights in my mind when I see fifty year old homes declared done with their useful lives waiting for total demolition, not to mention the aisles and aisles of food processed and manufactured to death and then wrapped and rewrapped in plastic. Our houses are planned for a short life and our food planned for a long life. Something is wrong here.
Italian dreams and volcanic gates
Awake or asleep, my dreams are still in Italy. The first few mornings at home I wake and I am shocked to find I am in my bed in Connecticut. A little disconcerting.
I dream I am walking around the enormous Piazza del Campo in Siena which only about six weeks before had been filled with people watching the annual Palio, the great historical horse race. The Piazza today is busy with espresso drinkers at tables, gelato eaters walking along gazing around or at their companions or sitting on the stones. A wonderful contrast between the narrow steep streets and the spaciousness of the piazza.
Photo: Market: Campo dei Fiori, Rome Italy ©Joanna Heller
And I dream I am again sitting on the stone front steps of the church in Castellina in Chianti with Nikki and Shawn and Donna. We are eating bread and cheese, green and black olives, and three different kinds of tomatoes that we have just chosen from the market across the street. We are drinking water from the public fountain.
In Volterra we are reminded to not miss the Etruscan Gate, part of the old town walls, there for two thousand years. Standing in the shadow of the truly massive ancient stone arch built of huge volcanic stones, my place in the universe takes on a different perspective.
Ghiberti in Connecticut
Dreams don’t lie. I am in my bed in Connecticut and I am also in all those places. In Ebbio walking barefoot gingerly down the cold stone steps in the dark or out the front door picking ripe figs from the tree at first light. In Venice leaning on the railing of the bridge and gazing into the canal. In Lucca walking the city walls under the chestnut trees or riding the rented bright green bike, and I am in Firenze staring at one face, then another and then another in Ghiberti’s massive bronze doors of the Baptistery.
Photo: Courtyard in Ebbio, Italy ©Joanna Heller
And especially I am at the courtyard table at Ebbio where our yoga class of ten women plus Rudy have become a group of friends soaking in the Mediterranean light and the vastness of the surrounding hills. We talk politics or yoga or just notice our pleasure at the food we are eating. There seems no limit to the plates of leaves, roots, and fruits on our table. Raw, roasted, sautéed, hot and cold. Pasta, bread, red wine …
The Italians who keep Ebbio alive, who keep the food growing, and the kitchen cooking exude a joyful energy and spirit no less delicious than the food and wine. It’s catching.
I thought I was coming to Italy for Renaissance art. There’s much much more …
A pause in my travels, while continuing my journey
Maybe yoga class later this morning will help me integrate.
Hold all of this at the same time.
The sense of community we felt in International Women’s House in Rome with a group of young Serbian women who were there for a conference.
Community activists working to end violence against women were gathered from towns all over Europe.
Also the image of the old man on his knees totally focused on slowly and methodically hand polishing the marble floor in the church in Siena.
Photo: Church, Siena, Italy ©Joanna Heller
So I flew across six time zones, took trains, buses and boats, got lost and then found everywhere, and spent a fair bit of money. And in that 800 year old villa in the town of Monteriggioni in Tuscany, I really heard the message. “Welcome whatever this day brings.”
The words are not new. But they’re different now.
When things look worrisome. When we have our inevitable cold gray days. When I feel harried. Come back to my breath. Come back to myself. Welcome whatever this day brings.
We may publish any content, comments or ideas sent to us.
Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.