Five weeks ago, I set out on a journey unlike any I have ever taken. It was more like a pilgrimage, really. I left for Italy to spend time doing lovely, but HARD things. I made an intention to come back a different person than I was when I left. I intended to face my mourning head on, greet it, embrace it, and then softly and sweetly let it go. I intended to learn to laugh again. I intended to face things I was afraid of by confronting them and knocking them out of the way.
I made my way from Rome to Orvieto to Asissi to Florence and finally Bellagio on Lake Como. I took planes, ferries and trains, walked for miles and miles, visited museums and churches, watched sunsets and dined alone most of the time. I learned enough Italian to be slightly and awkwardly conversational. I learned to navigate the insanity of what they call train stations in Italy. I learned that it is better to travel light than to lug around a giant suitcase of things that were unimportant. I learned how very expensive it is to ship home those unnecessary items and instead to leave them behind for someone else. I learned to be brave enough to make conversation with people around me and to trust in humanity enough to realize that everyone isn’t out to hurt me. I learned many, many things on this trip.
I cried at the sight of the Pieta in the Vatican. I sat for hours in the Uffizi getting lost in the art. I ate pistachio gelato. I discovered Aperol Spritzs’. I slept with my windows wide open overlooking the valley in Asissi and woke each morning to the melody of church bells. I sat in many a piazza and sketched the scenery. I had cocktails on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Duomo in Florence. I ate lemon ravioli and enough olive oil to feed a small village. I discovered I love wild boar, especially with a side of homemade umbrichelli and zucchini blossoms! I used a chitarra and a bidet, but not at the same time!
I retreated, created, and prayed with amazing women who enriched my life, made me belly laugh, and loved on me like I haven’t been loved on in a very long time.
I could go on and my experiences could fill a book, but these are some of the high notes. My most important takeaway from this trip was that I left with no expectations and only hope. I approached this journey with open arms and heart only to find that God filled both to overflowing.
Of the over 4,000 pictures I took in the past month, the one that sums up my trip the best is posted here. It is the hands of the Repentent Mary Magdalene statue at the Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo (replica by unknown artist). Some say they saw sorrow and despair. But the statue moved me in a different way—her hands made me feel acquiescence – the sweet surrender of our lives to the Master, who in His mercy provides everything we need.
My Deepest Gratitude to Laura Hogue McCollough of Art & Faith Creative Retreats, Sheila Atchley and Michelle Logue of Adventures In Italy who were mentors, hosts, instructors and nurturers on this journey. I love you all!