There is no mistaking being in Italy. You can feel it in the air, it’s almost buzzing. Like everything here, Italy is in your face. Not in an affronting way, it’s just the life force of Italy. You speak with your hands, the language is a no holds barred expression of feelings and the food speaks to the heart. There is a look in the faces of people and the stone that declares “we are Italy!” and we know who we are. Not every culture steps up and proclaims itself so easily.
I spent a few days in Milan and it’s impressive duomo. The financial capital of Italy and fashion doesn’t disappoint if you are interested in shopping. I managed to find many churches tucked away on my walks and often very beautiful. Milan isn’t somewhere I feel the need to return too. A nice city in its own right and once explored leaves only the daily living experience to appeal to the senses.
I move on to Venice and the difference is immediate. Upon stepping foot in Venice beauty surrounds you. The canals and houses are in various states of beautiful disrepair. The random trees that are somehow out of place and yet treasures to look upon. The grand works of stone construction on these little islands, often leaning suspiciously to one side. It’s all too much to comprehend how this got built here in the middle of the ocean; so you just enjoy it.
It strikes me at some point that there are no cars or bikes here. Everyone walks or takes a boat ride. What an odd thing in such a famous city. Other forms of transport is one of the charms that goes unnoticed for a while. The noise and pollution are so far removed you feel as if you are squeezed into a rural village. There was never any development of roads for horses or cars, only human traffic through the ages. Everywhere you turn there are wonderful little bridges, crumbling facades, and colorful laundry hanging from windows. There is a fair share of tourism as well, but go off exploring and it fades in the narrow alleyways.
I’ve just poked my head into another stunning church. They wanted a fee so I left. With those few glances I saw what I would comprehend. Master works of painting, skillful stone work, and years worth of prayer and ceremony. A short stroll further and I found myself at the open ocean. I looked down and found my hands in prayer and found it odd I felt more at peace with the sounds of the ocean softly rolling onto a stone shore than in another church. I have been stopping in many on my travels and praying or perhaps rather meditating and positive thinking, which amounts to the same thing. I have the time and I like to see how the church feels for me. Often the high domed ceilings offer more wonder with eyes open than closed. Perhaps that was their purpose, for God is only found inside, but these masterpieces must somehow try to glimpse that inner wonder and convey it to the material world. I think the ceremony and singing are an Indispensable part of feeling a churches presence, but most only hold tourist hours these days. I have been finding more questions and answers watching the natural world than I could imagine. Just now it is the ceaseless caress of water on stone, but just the other day it was watching a duck clean and feed itself. You could see there in that one duck the answers for all of life. Just watch how any animal or plant lives it’s life with ease and you can see that all is provided for it. Food is available, shelter if needed, it has the tools available to live in its environment. There is no desire to be other than what it is and be in harmony with everything else. Only man has somehow separated itself from that harmony and desires to be other than what it is. With my long hours of silence I have come to desire only this, to be in harmony with all, to know that all is provided, and cease to struggle for more than that. It seems so simple, perhaps even boring, but a great peace arises and I find myself slipping ever more into a state of happiness that cannot be achieved, only experienced when one is closer to harmony with the natural order.
Venice has treated me well. The weather has changed from rain to sun for me and has stayed warm all day. Even today the fog is wearing off and blue skies are about to greet me where only gray used to be. The nights in the streets are ripe for pleasure strolling and mysterious alleyways call from every direction. I decided to spend some time performing poi on the streets for the first time. Once the initial interest in old buildings and crossing canals on bridges wears off one has to enjoy their life just being in the city. Thus I got over my initial hesitation and ended up performing for around 2 hours each night. At first I forgot my speaker at home, so the music was only in my ears, which leads to a striking light show only to the backdrop of conversations. Many people stopped to watch or talk to me. I even made a Japanese friend who is a fellow performer and magician. He shared some new juggling techniques with me and showed me his amazing skills. I wore myself so tired that my arms were dead and the skin missing from my fingers, but I felt great. It certainly taught me that I am ready to learn a few more tricks and put out my hat and see what happens.
*Best hostel experience yet! Rooftop kitchen/patio
The synchronicity keeps happening. My roommates change from a Japanese trio to a PhD philosophy student from Pune India. He is impressed with my commitment to yoga and meditation as his studies have taken him in a more academic approach to religions and philosophies. He is here to give a lecture and shares the headlines with me in our talks. It is exciting to keep watching these perfect experiences continue to show up.
I’ve been accepted to my first workaway experience, where you volunteer your time for food, shelter and experience. I was in need of some nature time and a more steady pace of life other than traveling every few days. I think I have absorbed enough new lessons about life and need to sit and absorb them. After these 10 days on a rural estate I have 10 more in meditation then 3 months in India. Certainly my fast paced travels will be slowing, but I felt the call by my body and it all worked out so perfectly. I was accepted 10 minutes after sending the email and the older couple are retired from running a spiritual retreat in Kent England. They also hold a weekly meditation at their home and need help in the garden. It is conveniently located just north of Lourdes France where I wanted to visit so what couldn’t be more perfect? I am trading exploring Marseilles and Provence for this experience, but I think it’s worth it. I will be back and that leaves something to explore. Time to recharge and integrate all this new information before doing another serious round of meditation.