I am reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. Somehow I missed this book. Everyone woman I know has read this book already. Where have I been? I have only gotten through the first third, Italy. Italy is where she eats. Eating as a metaphor for regaining herself. Out of her personal wasteland, she travels to Italy. She is barren earth. Italy offers her the only thing her soul can appreciate…beauty. And Italy is beauty. It was difficult for me to express this upon returning from Italy, but Ms. Gilbert’s experience resonates deeply for me. Italy changed me. Inside me, my subterranean emotional continents shifted. At the end of our trip, I felt saturated and absolutely overwhelmed with the beauty, the majesty and the spectacular. I could not see or register anything else. I have wanted to go back with such an intensity, it is a physical longing. I crave that rich connection with Life. In Italy, Life is abundant and stupendous, even in the mundane. Their itty bitty cars were thrilling and adorable. The traffic seemed full of energy, charged with a type of passion. Everything was layered with passion. Love of food, love of history, love of faith, love of the pilgrim, love of God. Love was draped over that city in a way that soaked into you. I do not think I ever felt such beauty before. It is one thing to see something beautiful, but in Italy, beauty is visceral. It makes you ache. Beauty is pleasure. It is not stoically or academically appreciated. It is FELT. Beauty as an emotional realm.
I have been trying to get back there ever since. Realisa is a big part of that. Finding the beauty, the whimsy, the joy, the absurdity, the passion, the feelings. Life is about connections. In Italy, I felt connected in a way that seemed timeless. I felt a part of history. I felt both microscopic and enormous at the same time. Considering the passage of time, Rome diminished me yet made me feel large. I felt significant, which seems absurd. My energy was woven into the tapestry of Rome. And I came home fully aware of her astounding beauty. Beyond the Mass on Easter, and the connection of making communion with Christ and 50,000 other people. To hear everyone make the profession of faith bound me up in a brotherhood unlike any I have felt before. To describe it as being moved would be like calling a Tsunami a high tide. Recalling that experience still takes my breath away. But every encounter in Italy was that way. I had not realized how starved I had been for beauty. We don’t consider beauty as a major food group. But beauty is a primal need. Beauty is the heart of God. Eat this bread and drink this cup in remembrance of me, Christ said. Beauty is the remnant of the divine within each of us. That remnant is abundant in Italy. Going there was like getting plugged into a supercharged outlet. You walk around with a glow and a radiance. I totally understand Elizabeth Gilbert’s book (or at least the first third). I feel affirmed in my desire to find beauty and pleasure in this world. In the beauty is the divine of my Creator. I want to be surrounded by beauty. I will dream of Italy tonight.
I dream of the Caravaggio paintings in the Villa Borghese. I dream of the rotunda inside the Duomo in Florence. The frescoes depicting the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary.Â The golden coffered, lapiz lazul ceiling at Santa Maria Maggiore. I will dream of the boys in the squares playing soccer. I will dream of the food, too. The pears and balsalmic. The ravioli stuffed with walnuts, pears and ricotta in a light sauce I still cannot describe. Figs and cheese. Pizza and paninis from street vendors better than any I have ever had.
How do we capture a sliver of this beauty out here in the doldrums? How do we nurture the echoes of a place so captivating? I am forever in love with Italy.