When in Florence during spring and fall I must walk at least ten miles a day. In December I do a little less. The temperature is colder and daylight hours diminished, but that’s not an acceptable excuse since the temperature is decidedly above freezing and the streets are well lit. Rather, I believe that the dark and cold of winter call us to hunker down and take stock of our faith, by which I mean the meaning and purpose of our life. If nothing else, we walk slower to breathe in this awesome, mysterious, and humbling world, wondering where we fit in.
Here’s what I posted as an update on “About me and my blog.”
I started acottagebythesea in 2009, the year I first rented a cottage in Maine for the winter. I followed that bliss for five years before it was time to stop. This blog, however, has continued because it was never about a particular cottage, but about those who are looking for solitude, silence and simplicity and who sometimes like to be alone. That still holds true for me, and I trust, for those of you following along.
Not much has changed for me except I am older, about to celebrate my 78th birthday. I still have a healthy husband who doesn’t like to travel, but loves that I do. Our grown children and their spouses are caring people. Two grandchildren are in college, two in high school. I love my three siblings, one who just turned 70, one in her early 70s, and one just experiencing what it’s like to be an
My teaching career remains a beautiful memory. I taught in a golden age when teachers helped children learn to read and love it. Teachers are still buying my book Joyful Learning in Kindergarten. It warms my heart to think that they are longing for joy, not standardized tests, to guide the teaching and learning in their classrooms.
The divinity degree I earned in 2003 remains an important foundation for what I do. For five or six years I was the spiritual care counselor for a local hospice. In 2009, two years before my mother died at age 101, I stopped the official hospice work, and to a large extent devoted my mind, body, and spirit to her. In 2015 I published Very Grateful: The Story of My Hundred Year Old Mother and Me.
I have slowed my life down. I take on fewer long-term obligations, thus leaving more time for my own choices. I am a deacon at my UCC church; I visit people on a regular basis; I help at a local food pantry; I read and do jigsaw puzzles; I keep up with family and friends; I write; and I pray. A very grateful life, for sure.
I just completed the second half of my church walk. This time I headed north from the Duomo to San Marco (Dominican), and then on to Santissima Annunciata (Servite). As I turn toward Santa Croce (Franciscan) I noticed San Ambrosia way down the street, so I took a detour there. Next, back toward city center to La Badia and Orsanmichele. I was all over the map! Before ending this church walk at Santa Trinita, I crossed the Arno to Santa Felicita, then crossed back to view Santi Apostoli, one of the oldest and pretties churches in Florence. It’s fair to say that my final destination was to Chiaro Scuro, where they serve the largest cappuccino and provide a comfy place to write.
This morning I was off on my early morning church walk by 7:30. My plan was to stop and photograph the façade of every church and then be on my way. Usually I don’t have a planned itinerary when I take this walk; my body seems to turn in one direction, I put one foot in front of the other, and I’m on my way. Since all the churches of Florence fan out from Santa Marie del Fiori (and conveniently my apartment is right on the square), it was appropriate that my first photo was of the Duomo. My route then led to the Medici church of San Lorenzo, Santa Maria Novella (Dominican), church 0f Ognissanti (Umilati), Santa Maria del Carmine (Carmilite), and Santo Spirito (Augustinian).
Usually I complete my church walk in a single morning, but today I stopped to write and enjoy a cappuccino at Piazza Santo Spirito. As I entered the café I noticed antiques and craft vendors setting up booths to sell their wares. By the time I left, the early dawn atmosphere for a church walk had passed, and the busy Florentine day had begun. I wander about the stalls, deciding to finish my church walk at dawn tomorrow.
Further observations on yesterday’s festivities for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In spite of the rain, folks were out and about on the streets with umbrellas. The weather was no determent. Long lines formed to attend Mass at the Duomo. Crowds gathered to witness the lighting of the Christmas tree.
All wonderful. I noticed, however, that I had no desire to participate actively as part of this joyful community. Maybe it’s because I’m not Roman Catholic; maybe because I have chosen to travel alone; maybe because I could watch the tree lighting from my apartment window—probably all three.
December 8 on the Roman Catholic Church calendar is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is celebrated in a big way here in Florence, and I’m sure, in all of Italy. As I passed the Duomo this morning at 10 AM. I was witness to a procession of priest and two, yes two, cardinals because I saw two red hats. They came out of the church and turned a few paces to bless the nativity scene already assembled with all the cast of characters beginning to assemble. When dark comes this evening, the big Christmas tree nearby will be lit and Advent will have burst forth.
If you look really hard you can see the red hat. The top windows on the building are mine.
When I read the headlines this morning my heart sank with the possibility that we could be at war in the near future. To get out of my funk, I decided to take a walk for peace. I crossed the Arno, entered the Bardini and Boboli Gardens, and took pictures along the way; some showed the vibrant December afternoon sun, others were rather dark and foreboding, and one depicted human beings at their worst.
All along my walk Brunelleschi’s dome kept appearing, a harbinger of stability, commitment and truth.
No one knew that I was walking for peace, but maybe they sensed something hopeful. I wonder if I passed anyone with the same intention? I hope so, and I’m foolishly hopeful enough to believe it could true.
Here I am; my first full day in Firenze, my third visit here this year. I’m doing what I can to create a special, different mood this time, although I don’t even have the words for what I’m longing for. ‘Special’ and ‘different’ touch on it but I have no idea what they mean.
Last night I ate at Fa Fa, my go-to first night restaurant and had my customary crostini misti and chicken with truffle sauce and roasted potatoes. I’ve walked my usual routes, taken my usual photos, and enjoyed my usual breakfast of cappuccino and brioche at one of my go-to cafes. Nothing special or different there.
My mind, body, spirit is open to the special and different, although I don’t believe it will appear in any radical way. Rather, I sense it will embrace being present to the moment, which is not a new idea for me, but one that is difficult to hold on to for more than a moment. Hmm, that ought to be easy: one moment after another.
Two days and I’ll be in the air to Florence, making a quick stop at Charles de Gaulle airport, before landing at Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola early Monday afternoon. Every time I return to Florence I wonder if I will step into my comfortable, predictable routine, drinking coffee, writing, visiting museums and churches and walking around with God, and that will be that—a marvelous trip. Or, will some new, significant insight take over, some epiphany about life. I’m open to it and sense a shift.
This visit feels different. My friend Karen has moved to Morocco. Other than lunch with my niece’s daughter study in Florence, I’ll be experiencing two weeks of anonymity. Stay tuned.
Here’s my status report as of today.
• I’ve read 95 books so far this year. I set my 2017 Goodreads Challenge at 52. I figured one a week, but it looks like I’m on my way to doubling it. I think I’ll go for 100 next year.
• My bad: I got into watching too much news. Channel flipping indicates too much.
• My good. I’ve spend every morning looking out the window and praying, “No guns, no guns.”
• I spend a good deal of time each week visiting people who are more or less homebound. I love it, but am feeling the to get off by myself to write. Solution: Florence, December 3-16.
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4/30/15 Finishing up VG.