Wednesday, September 15, 2004


The plane trip back was over 10 hours, and we landed in Chicago with a bit of a thud on the runway. Getting out of Chicago is work, and leaving that lovely city at 5:30 pm on a weekday makes it even harder work. We got home at 10:00 pm. I think it took me two minutes to get the toothpicks out of my eyes so that I could go to sleep. And I was wide awake at 3:00 am this morning.

While still on Roman time, I am wandering this part of the planet without much sleep. My garden is dry -- not much rain, but a little watering by sprinkler and rain later in the week will restore it. The only American news I got was that Clinton had heart surgery and that a killer hurricane was heading towards the Gulf coast. How odd to return back to everything familiar and realize that life went on here without me. My asters are all out abloom, and the sedums are starting to brown.

Lots of thoughts about the parts of Italy I visited, but not sure to put them here. They may not mean more than we did this on this day, or require putting a superlative iest to each adjective.

Sitting on the side of that hill each morning and evening in in the south of Tuscany, watching the sun reflect on the hills across from us, with only a bit of a power line, another stone house on a hill away from us, and the tower of a little town further down to the road to note that other people were in the area, was what my people in Waco used to say as very special, a background scene from a DaVinci painting.

Rome was humid, but the life of the city was overwhelmingly delightful, a place to walk and watch other people, full of warrens and surprises. Seeing on the triumphal arch of Titus in the Forum grounds the carving of Jews being carted out of 72 AD Jerusalem was sobering, as well as learning that Jewish slaves helped build the coliseum that still hovers not far away. That vicious act continues to reverberate.

Eating the antipasto mista della casa (special of the house) at a tiny trattoria called Orso 80 (it's address) where for 11 euros or so one gets 14 dishes was also quite special.

I probably had the wrong reaction to St. Peters, but in reflecting on the popes who built it, and the baroque image reflecting power and might, I thought it was much less a sacred place than an over-the-top piece of work meant to reflect power and might. This was supposed to be a tool of the Counter Reformation. This was opposite of what I saw in Assisi, where St. Francis' work was also co-opted by the powers that be, and yet his message and life made it much more of a real pilgrimage place. Guess you can't take the Baptist out of the boy. Tripp's description, Anglo-Baptist, is a real one for me, too, at some level. My ability to learn and observe waned towards the end of our visit to the Vatican Museum, that truly incredible collection by the same popes I disdained in the basilica (the Medici pope, Leo X, is supposed to have said: God has raised us to the papacy, now let us enjoy it).

There was a great conversation in Florence, not only local to that place about power and wealth, but also between it and the preceding middle ages, and with ancient Greece and Rome. To move from bleeding, bony Jesus to warm, youthful Virgins speaking to rainbow winged Angels was, I think, to read part of that conversation. Certainly, the bold, ambitious, idealized statues and art of antiquity were inserted so powerfully that the appearance of connection between ancient time and the renaissance feels like a short distance, not a thousand years. To see the Pantheon in Rome is to feel that connection between those two periods and the modern era. How lovely it sits in its piazza, with it's wide open door, a place to wander in with the flow of other folk, seeing the open sky in the oculus at the center of its dome, and to feel the openness of this original Roman temple, and to think that this is our connection, too.

Perhaps it was the numerous German voices around us, particularly in Rome, recalling my student efforts at learning their language, intruding on my new efforts to concentrate on Italian, (how many times did I refer to the autostrasse instead of the autostrada?) that also reminded me of the European conversation between the north and the south. My America is much more northern European and protestant in spirit, so perhaps those tensions felt a bit personal, too.

It never rained in Italy, and only in Rome did we even get cloud coverage. It's cloudy now in Indy and maybe it will rain tomorrow. Our parish choir begins rehearsal tonight and I wonder if I will be able to at least look like I am awake and participating.

Meanwhile, the blog is back open for business.


Jane Ellen+ said...

Welcome home! I'm so glad you had such a wonderful trip, and were able to share a bit of that with us in the blogiverse. Thanks!

Hugh said...

Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're back. It sounds like a wonderful trip! I confess to being somewhat envious.

Peace and blessings,

avril said...

So happy to have you back among us. A dear friend of mine spent last September in Italy on her honeymoon and said it was the most beautiful time of the year to be there. I hope it was everything you thought it would be (sounds like it was!)

lemming said...

Don - I've really missed you; so glad you're home safe. MORE ABOUT THE FOOD!!!! er, would you please describe the food and wine in a bit more detail...

What was 9/11 like in Italy?