So I was cleaning today and found the old notebook I brought with me everywhere in Europe. Some notes I found:
- Porto, Portugal: "I think I'm having a physical reaction to how much I love this place. It's like the sunlight and language and waves (beauty?) are running through my nerves. I'll be back here. Probably for a summer or maybe to write a book."
-"Venice feels like two places competing for the same real estate - Venice of history buried under Venice of today, a money-making island luring in 60,000 tourists a day."
- "The setting sun, behind the Italian hills, rivals the rising sun of the English countryside. Both illuminate their respective fields and trees, but one looks like a storybook and one looks like a..."
- Venice: "When noon strikes, a bell tower in the distance begins to ring, long steady strikes. It is quickly lost by the great clanging of another, closer, bell tower. When the song of that one falls away, I notice the ringing of another tower, or two, echoing down the canal, a few second behind the rest of the choir.
The sun bores itself into my arms and ankles as I sit, legs outstretched, on the stone ground with my back against the base of a bridge. People carrying shopping bags or strollers scurry across the arched bridge behind me then down to my left. To my right, the sound of waves lapping in the canal are disturbed only by the occasional boat - locals chug by on power boats, tourists armed with cameras float by on gondolas adorned in red and gold, and Venician men on boats laden with boxes make the delivery rounds. I watch three men deliver a washing machine - off the boat, to the cart, then rolled away, as the boat continues under my bridge to deliver at least six more. The images of the shutters, windowsills, and arches of the brick and plaster, sand and sherbert buildings lining the canal reflect off the blue and silver water; I reach down but cannot touch it.
A white bird expertly sails down the canal, between the buildings. I am reminded that the bright slice of sky above the canal is the same sky above Chicago. A sandwich-eating couple sits near me; after they leave, a pidgeon bobbles around, looking for crumbs.
I decide to wander off for gelato."
What brings you here? She asks.
I tell her about my traveling through London and Italy before settling, for a time, in Spain.
I see two emotions come to her eyes:
Joy for all the experiences she foresees in my future,
her years of wisdom knowing more than I, deeper than mine.
And recognition of a longing.
I know that she knows she wanted to do the same.
"Good for you," she says. "How good for you."
So it goes with every woman older than me
I've encountered, at cafes, on sidewalks, on trains.
Sometimes her eyes reveal a third element:
Memories from her past stirring up,
herself - on a similar voyage.
But most often there is not.
It's just the two.