On our walking tour in Vienne, France, several doors (and door knockers) caught my attention.
“Piano, piano,” our tour guide Giacomo advised our group of ten as we navigated the cobblestone streets of medieval towns in Tuscany and Umbria. “Piano, piano,” he repeated as we climbed stone steps that have been worn down by centuries of use and had no handrails to steady us.
Piano, piano means slowly, slowly in Italian.
Good advice, I thought. Not just for traversing medieval towns in Italy, but for me, good advice for daily life, because I tend to move too fast, rushing as though I was always running late.
Travel makes me slow down, because I am aware of how dangerous rushing across cobblestones can be.
Traveling with a group makes me slow down because I sometimes need to wait for those who can’t move as quickly as I do.
It is good for me to slow down, and every time I had to stop and wait for someone to catch up, I felt invited to look up and take in the sights around me (walking on cobblestones requires lots of looking down). Those moments of waiting were invitations to notice what was in front of me, like little carvings in walls or unique shapes of doorknockers.
Slowly, slowly invites me to appreciate the here and now.
Travel also shakes things up. It is like a snow globe where I am tossed around a bit and when the snow settles, everything looks different. The people, places and food are unfamiliar, and my equilibrium is off. I join Dorothy in saying, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
A man at church recently toured the Holy Land. Before he left, he told me he had been nervous about traveling to such a potentially dangerous place until he learned they were staying in a Westin Hotel and then he thought, “If I didn’t know any different, I could still be at home.”
“Then what is the point of going?” I asked.
When I travel, I want to be shaken up and to experience what is different. I want to know how it is for people who live in that place and to have my assumptions and stereotypes challenged. I want to be changed by my experiences, to learn something about another people and place—and about myself.
One of the features of touring with Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) is that we visit people in their homes. On this tour, our group was split up among three homes in Carrera (after a tour of the nearby marble quarry). My small group had lunch with a couple and one of their sons.
Later in the tour, we visited Spello and were entertained by an Umbrian folk music group in the home of one of the musicians.
During my two weeks in Italy, slowly, slowly became my go-to gear, and I pledged to myself that when I got home, I would try harder to stay in slow gear, to remind myself every day (and even multiple times a day), piano, piano.
Last week, I dog-sat for a sweet Brittany Spaniel named Dolly who lives at the lake. Two of my favorites–a dog and water.
Yanking some of the Golden Alexander in my garden (which is technically not invasive, but does spread and needs some aggressive yanking to control it), I happened upon this little critter enjoying one of the leaves. I was happy for the help in keeping the plant under control.
At 3:00 p.m. yesterday, with school back in session, the Lake St. Clair Metro Park had few people but lots of wildlife, including these Canada geese, a crane and heron. I always feel fortunate to see a crane or heron, but to see both in one day was a joy.
One of the requirements of the Internship in Ignatian Spirituality is a silent retreat (at least five days). I have gone on silent retreats for more than thirty years, but several of the people in the program had not. Last year, one of them, Amy, happened to sign up for retreat the same time as I was going to be there, so I offered to meet her before we entered the silence and give her an orientation to the retreat house, the grounds and the neighborhood (for walks). Amy returned to Manresa Retreat House for retreat this year and sent me this poem she composed while on retreat, which she dedicated to me. I am so touched and honored.
Summer Solstice Psalm
For Madeline who introduced me to Quarton Lake
All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing.
(William Henry Draper with inspiration from St Francis)
May you open your self to the light like the lily that blooms in muddy water.
(a gem from my yogi friend, Sharon)
Wood ducks lift
with wide wings
oh so low.
Cottonwood fibers sail past on the breeze.
Metallic blue fireflies mate in midair.
A painted turtle soaks up the sun.
Walkers chat on a gravel path and side step the geese.
In the surrounding neighborhood,
and earth movers dig.
Huge houses emerge.
Down at the water’s edge, a pilgrim rests.
She spies a tiny black insect on a white petal.
Consider this lily
that bobs on the water
with the deep joy
that nudges our hips to sway
when we hum spirituals.
Amy Fryar Kennedy
June 21, 2022
I often notice doors when I travel, the color or size or ornamentation. Here are some I noticed while traveling around France on my Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) tour.
In Lyon, sometimes the door caught my eye, but more often it was the decorative work above the door that entranced me.
Red doors on churches often catch my eye. The one on the left is in Paris and the one on the right is in Bayeux.
Purple is my favorite color, so the doors to this church in Sarlat won my heart.
One of the first things I noticed in Fontainebleau were the light fixtures and the decorataive ironwork on many of them. I wondered if people differentiated their homes from their neighbors by the artwork on their outside lights.
As we walked the streets of Fontainebleau, and really throughout my time in France, I noticed the light fixtures and thought about light.
We are so accustomed to flipping a switch and, voila, light. But before electricity, when many of the buildings I was passing were built, there was no electricity. I pondered light and darkness.
On that first day in Fontainebleau, as light fixtures caught my eye, two friends came to mind, two women who are facing health challenges, and I wondered how I might bring some light to their lives.
One great thing about touring in France is that there are churches everywhere, so I began in Fontainebleau, and continued throughout my trip, visiting local churches and praying for people who need light (I included myself in that group). I lit candles and joined my prayers to those of all the people who had prayed in these churches over the centuries; I felt I was a part of the communion of saints.
How is it I can
travel the world and still love
the beauty of home.
Make room for
more light in your life and
more joy in your heart.
Set an intention for
peace and love to flourish
and chaos and fear to diminish.
Let generosity grow and scarcity shrink.
Count how many times a day
you say thank you or
offer a compliment.
Notice the abundance in your life and
act for those who have less.
Pray for those in your family or neighborhood
who face challenges and are struggling, and
those around the world who face tyrants.
Remember those who are grieving.
Reach out to those who are lonely or lost.
Every act of kindness ripples out into the world and
then comes back to us,
bridging the space between us and
reminding us that we are one.