Feeling, Living, Traveling

Where Do I Even Begin?

April 13, 2015


But really, where do I begin?

We returned from a 10 day trip to Italy (2 days travel, 8 days exploring) Thursday afternoon. The past few days were quiet, lots of reading, watching TV, drinking water, and making every attempt to stay up past 9pm. We didn’t. The early bed time afforded us 8-11 hours of sleep per night, and the ability to wake up at 6am fully rested. H makes pancakes for breakfast while I walk the dog. We spend the day amazed at how early it is. We’ve decided we’re stuck somewhere on east coast time.

So far, jet lag hasn’t been a bad thing.

We unpacked, met friends for brunch, took the dog to the park, cleaned up, bought groceries, called friends, uploaded and backed-up photos, sorted mail, and took the garbage out. All of the things you do when returning from a trip. All of the things you do to feel back home.

During the trip, the only writing I did was notes in my travel journal. I took 900 photos of which I still need to edit down. There was no planned exercise, no morning pages, and not a ton of down-time. I had pasta and wine every night for dinner. Most of the habits that balance me were thrown out the window, but they also weren’t needed. I was on vacation, present to whatever was happening in the moment. It’s only now I’m gathering them back together again, to help me through re-entry.

I couldn’t concentrate enough to read anything but Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. I’d read it last year, after reading his novel All The Light We Cannot See (one of my favorite novels of 2014). At the time, I liked his memoir, but I didn’t really understand what he was trying to capture about Rome because I’d never been. The descriptions were beautiful but they didn’t resonate.

I feel out of practice, tired, overwhelmed by details. It’s taken me much to long to write this post. Doerr’s words understand this, and try to comprehend the displacement of being somewhere new.

“As it always is with leaving home, it is the details that displace us. The windows have no screens. Sirens, passing in the street, are a note lower. So is the dial tone on our red plastic telephone. When we pee, our pee lands not in water but on porcelain. The bathroom faucets read C and F and the C is for calda, not cold but hot. The refrigerator is the size of a beer cooler. An unlabeled steel lever protrudes from the wall above the cooktop. For gas? Hot water?”

If Alaska has my spirit, Italy has my heart. And in true sensitive-person fashion, I find myself emotional. It feels like I left something important behind, that this was an experience I won’t get to have again. But I also know the flood of emotions is a combination of gratitude and exhaustion. For someone who takes in so much, I need time to sort things out. The tears, the 10 hrs of sleep, are my way of processing.

“Every few days there are moments of excruciating beauty. We are simultaneously more happy and more worn out than we have ever been in our lives. We communicate by grinning and pointing and waving food in the air. We don’t sleep as well as we used to. Our expectations (today I might take a shower; the #75 bus might actually show up) are routinely dashed. Just when we think we have a system (two naps a day; Shauna finds a rosticceria with chickens on spits that is open on Sundays), the system collapses. Just when we think we know our way around, we get lost. Just when we think we know what’s coming next, everything changes.”

I was reminiscing before I even left. It’ll take me a bit to explain it all to you, but I promise to try.


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