27 April 2012
Sometimes I think my tombstone should read, “Hmmm…I wonder what would happen if I ______ ?” (Because that question will probably the action that ultimately required the tombstone!) It is the question I ask myself more than any other. (Well, that, and, “Would the world really end if I threw away all these piles and stacks of stuff I cling onto?”) It might go something like this, “What would happen if I drive home this way? Would I get lost? Would I discover something?” Or, it could be, “What would happen if I fall in love with this man who’s quite a bit older than I and uproot my teenage children and move 6 hours away?” Or, take this one: “What would happen if I go on a trip to Italy…say, the week after next? Could it work? Would it be worth the stress? And, what about that 4-hour in-service you have at work on the new electronic health record and the final exam you have the day after you return from this spontaneous trip????”
Well, I can tell you the answer to all of those questions: I don’t know.
That’s the whole point. That’s the great thing about that question! I don’t know what would happen. (Actually, I think the world really would end if I threw away all those things that are so important! It might end because I threw them all away – something to do with tearing a gigantic hole in the universe – super-complex quantum theory-type stuff. We wouldn’t want that to happen!)
The only way I can find out what would happen (in general) is to try. There’s this whole desire to find the answer to the question. And, it’s a never-ending quest! It’s almost…Neoplatonist! (More about that later.)
So, anyway, back to that question about Italy. What would happen if I go to Italy the week after next? Well, I can now answer that question and tell you what did happen! After a few emails, I received a reply from the sisters at the convent of Suore Elizabetta dell’Olmata confirming a room for me and for 50 euro a night! I took this incredibly inexpensive, last-minute room price as a sign that I must go. So, go I did. And, this lone, female traveller had an unforgettable experience and found rest and respite at her convent in a prime location in Rome.
The chiming of the bells at the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore just a few meters away, brightened my day and brought a smile everytime. And, I could see its Dome from my little balcony!
The terrazza inspired awe with its almost 360-degree views of Rome. I was so close to the Basilica! And, the convent was just a few blocks’ walk from Il Termini, Rome’s main train terminal. Buying a map in the train station, I found my way with a minimal amount of confusion.
My simple room kept distractions at bay and provided sweet, good rest. The shower in my room refreshed me. And, when I chose, I turned the water down to an icy chill and soothed my tired, swollen feet. The straightforward breakfast nourished me (I really love mueslix and we don’t see it much in the U.S. – I should make my own more often) and the good coffee with hot milk revived me. The crucifix above my bed and the picture of a young Madonna praying at the foot of my bed provided comfort, somehow, and a feeling of safety.
The lack of internet and television, and a bedside phone that was only good for emergencies was a nice respite, I must say.
This convent was a simple yet profound gift to me.
From this safe place, I ventured out and, well, roamed. Knowing I had only two days in Roma, I decided to retain a limited itinerary. I had the idea that I would head to the Vatican and St. Peter’s one day and then to the Colosseum and ancient Rome the next. And, that’s basically what happened. Knowing I had only two days, I knew that there would be no use in trying to rush through with a checklist of must-sees. It would serve me much better to just absorb the experience and approach the city in the adagio rhythm, calmly and gradually. I had an outline; my feet filled in the details (well, to be fair, the metro helped a little) and I allowed myself plenty of stops and detours along the way.
(To be continued…)