Beauty will save the world." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
(The happy photos above were taken by L. Brooks at the Amsterdam airport on our way to Athens).
I started writing this blog several times during the past couple of weeks. Things changed, as did my emotions. Since things will continue to ebb and flow for who knows how long.....and maybe because it is officially Spring.....and perhaps because I am now back “home,” and have time like we all do now to adjust to a new reality. It seemed a good day to send this.
First, how is everyone doing? I hope you are all feeling well, and reading this from the comfort of your homes. Or if you are one of the brave souls on the front lines of healthcare, food service and otherwise taking care of people, thank you for what you are doing!
I left in early March for Greece with my new beau to visit friends on a remote island, to celebrate a birthday, to celebrate friendships and new things. We had a plan to visit Rome, Milan and then Florence to bring family members (his and mine) together, as well as create, wander, and otherwise allow ourselves to be absorbed by the moments.
While in Greece, it became obvious that I would have to postpone the April Tour to Tuscany and that our travel to Italy was impossible.
We decided to stay another week in Greece. It felt as though we were living in some kind of a beautiful bubble of time, outside of the noise, fear, constant breaking news of statistics, hype, and reversals.
We were engaged every day with activities connected to the land and culture: exploring ruins on the island’s rocky coastline, walking the vineyards of a family run winery that makes the delicious dry Moscato white wine, strolling along a remote road to a tiny chapel, stopping along the way to fill our water bottles from a mountain stream, watching a coral sky as another day descended into darkness, with a full moon illuminating the Aegean.
Breathtaking beauty. “Beauty will save the world,” said author Fyodor Dostoevsky.
My blog has been devoted to the subject of Beauty, and it feels even more relevant today. Our sudden vulnerability replaces the idea that the world is always accessible. Italy had always been accessible to me. But not now and not for at least a while.
We rebooked our flights home when rumors started circulating that Greece would close its airports. Thanks to our brilliant travel agent, also my good friend, Kelly Shea, we traveled home in great comfort. As daunting as the headlines were of the long lines in US airports, we did not experience that. The arrival at the Detroit airport was smooth. Temperatures were taken and we were advised to self-isolate for two weeks. Which we are doing.
I have been home for a couple of days and putting things back into order – unpacking, laundry, groceries. And now, there is space. The squares in my appointment book are uncharacteristically blank for weeks.
Space to decide how I will spend this time. Space to reassess my work, my dreams, the launch of what was supposed to be a new textiles venture this year, the possibility that my Fall tours may or may not, well, be possible.
I have been in touch with my friends both here and in Italy – friends who own restaurants, friends who own travel businesses, friends who work for companies who depend on these businesses. Thriving one day, out of business the next day, or adapting to the #stayathome population by offering takeout or delivery, while either cutting staff or wondering how on earth to pay people?
It’s bewildering and scary. I am trying to remind myself when I begin to feel anxious, what I believe in.
I believe that while the effects of this virus are devastating financially, emotionally and physically – it also feels like an awakening, an opening that is giving us an opportunity to reassess everything. As if a big reset button has been pushed and is underway.
Did you read where dolphins were playing in the canals of Venice? That because of the complete absence of all the human churning activity, sediment is settling and waters are clearing. A huge breath of release, as natural forces are not constantly being assaulted by the daily invasion of tourists, which everybody knew could not be sustained.
Be still. Or we need to start learning how to be.....still and responsive to what is happening vs busy and reactive. This feels good.
Italians are singing from their windows. They are gazing out at the beauty of their country, possibly seeing it with new eyes. I believe when people are able to be out and about again in Italy, (and I include myself in this)..... we are going to have a renaissance of appreciation for the exquisite and innate beauty of this land, culture and the spirit of its resilient people.
Click here to watch the singing, courtesy of The New Yorker Magazine.
Forced isolation at home opens up opportunities without all the distractions and busyness of our lives. I have been asking my friends what they are doing.
My business partner in Florence says she and her husband are cleaning up the garden and painting the shutters of her villa that have been neglected for years. They are both in the travel business and have lost all of it and while they are worried about it, Alessandra said it was so very nice to be able to be at home and do things that felt good to be doing and not have the stress of the every day craziness of their work lives.
Another friend in the travel business who is also struggling with cancellations of business is polishing her late Mother’s silver collection, taking it from tarnished to brilliant – bringing to life both the object and the memories.
I am in the kitchen a lot. I am rolling pasta, roasting things, making soups. Looking at old and new recipes in cookbooks or cards in my grandmother’s handwriting. Not Epicurious or other websites.
I am listening to some of my old CDs – turning off Pandora.
I want reasons to not turn to my phone for things because I invariably get caught up in looking at the latest FB posts. It makes me anxious to look at the constant flow of information.
I am journaling. I am resting. I am watching films.
I am reflecting on what I am going to do about my ventures. What I do know, is that I have brought the peace, beauty and serenity of my time in Greece back home with me. I trust that the space I am creating in my life right now, and being willing not to know the answers immediately, will lead me to the right place – when it’s time.
What I also know, is that whatever the future holds for my excursions to Tuscany, the intrinsic intentions I have always had for my small groups: intimate, personal, off season, quiet living, and nourishing will be even more of a focus.
In the meantime, here on the home front in Indiana, we are going to take walks. We are going to make my outdoor space beautiful for when the warmer weather comes. He is going to paint. I am going to write and create something marvelous with whatever knowledge is granted.
Right now, it’s time to pause. It’s time to allow. It’s time to find our solid center and not give in to fear and worry. The challenges are daunting. The future is unknown.
But embodying each moment is eternal. It’s all we have.
In this moment, I am about to head back to the kitchen. I’m making Lasagna Bolognese. It’s really wonderful and comforting and a part of Italy I can easily access.
If you’d like the recipe –and if you’d like to share what you are doing with this precious time we have at home, I’d be interested in knowing what you’re up to. See below.
Lastly, I’d just like to say this on behalf of not only myself but all those in the tourism and services industries:
- Postpone your trips, don’t outright cancel if you can help it. These companies, especially the agents, and small businesses will not be able to stay in business if there is no plan for travel later.
- Work with a travel agent when it's time to venture out again. I would not have been able to work through the labyrinthine system if not for my friend and agent par excellence, Kelly Shea. She's great. Contact Kelly: [email protected]
- Always buy trip cancellation insurance.
- Support your local restaurants by buying gift cards and ordering food for pickup. Tip generously.
- Support other local businesses such as wine stores and boutiques.
Stay home. Be well. Be still.