It’s a perfect spring day and I’m drinking morning tea looking down Via del Corno from my Florentine palazzo. It’s Earth Day, April 22nd, 2018 and I am reflecting on my time here on earth. I’m writing from where I am at this moment, appreciating every twist and turn.
I live half the year in a 16th-century palazzo built by wealthy Florentine families during the Renaissance. It must have seemed like a palace in those days, one block from Piazza Signoria, the center of town and of historical significance to the Medici’s. (It’s where the heretic monk Savonarola encouraged families to denounce their wealth and bring everything into the piazza to be burned in defiance of Medici power and decadence. Later, Savonarola himself was burned at the stake for heresy.I can’t even finish my sentence because everything I would like to say has such significance. I just wanted to give some background on where I am sitting.)
Well, today my apartment still holds its charm, more like a cottage in the sky. It has a typical brick and wood-beamed ceiling, wood floors and large windows with green shutters. When I close the shutters at night, it feels more like a cozy countryside dwelling. When I open the shutters in the morning, I feast instead on ochre colored Renaissance architecture, and the vision of the Torre di Arnolfo, the famous bell tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, ringing on the hour.
I’ve rented this top floor apartment for over 10 years. I feel like it’s where I really live, a sanctuary of sorts. My desk looks down Via del Corno from Via del Parlascio perpendicular to the backside of the Palazzo Vecchio. Only 6 streets in Florence are directly related to this ancient Roman city and none have such a rousingly shady history as this one I live on. Its ancient name, Via delle Servi Smarrite,was named for a back street refuge where country girls came to find work in the city as governesses of wealthy families or barmaids in the local Osterie. Therefore, it was also a place of “smarrimento” of a spiritual type, for girls who had “lost their way” to make “extra” money on the side. Later, the name was changed to Via del Parlascio; simply an evolution of the Greek word for circular space Perielasis, (Perilasium) because it was close to the Roman amphitheater.
Why they needed to redeem the street with a dry and boring name like Circular Round, I’m not sure, as if they couldn’t bear the past… Like what was happening in the amphitheater’s wasn’t terrible. In 2012 they renamed the street Via del Parlagio, to be correct, as someone had incorrectly spelled the word from Florentine dialect.
This place has seen me through thick and thin over these years.
I’ve had various feelings of “smarrimento” myself, where I have at times felt lost. I, needless to say, did not fall into prostitution but sometimes the power of an open question is a lot to bear.
What is the open question? How can I best be of benefit and What is the best use of what I have to offer? How do we not fall along the competitive slippery slope of feeling like we aren’t enough? Or what we have to say is insignificant?
I can only be grateful for the incredible blessings that have arisen out of ashes of loss that can bring doubt and defeat. And yet, it only takes a shift in focus to see what richness I’ve experienced and can hardly complain as I sit here in Florence looking out my window to the heart of the Renaissance. I am aware of the great thinkers and artists that lived in this very zone. They endured incredible hardships, including the plague. Who knows who could have slept in my house over the centuries and what they were thinking and feeling? I can only hope that there has been an evolution of understanding. And yet I know we carry collective karma of doubt. Believe it or not, it’s not personal. We are all affected by each other, our collective condition, history and present-day worries. That’s one reason to lift up the veil. Why? Because there is a muse that hangs in the air. I feel her and I chase her and sometimes I fear her and don’t listen to her.
Today, I am listening to her and I’m writing. I’m writing to you from the only place I can write from. My heart.
Happy Earth Day. Let’s take better care of her and ourselves. Pay attention to what you eat, where it comes from, how it was produced and support all the people you know who care about it. Our food, the health of it, the nourishment of it and the sharing of it is what will sustain us. Take care of your mind and your way you think. What you eat affects you, what you think affects you. Be tender to yourselves and others. The most important thing? To love and be loved.
Stay tuned for my 1001 adventures and other stories.