It's been awhile.
I had the extraordinary pleasure of traveling the last couple of weeks and left my computer behind. I struggled with the idea of that - being unplugged - for the weeks leading up to my trip. But in the end, I realized I needed a pause. A break. I needed to shut down my cyber self for awhile. I didn't even bring a cell phone or my big camera. Oh, I checked email occasionally and looked at Facebook to make sure nothing earth shattering was going on. Other than that, I didn't connect. Virtually, that is.
I did, however, connect in real life. I saw family I had never met before and some that I had not seen in years. I visited with my mother, who was celebrating her 85th birthday. There were a few days of doing little else other than sitting and reading in one chair as my mother did the same in another, and there were frenetic days of preparing food of all sorts for a wonderful party that my sister, my niece and I organized for her. There were precious, precious moments with friends. I can't explain it, but being unplugged made me hyperaware of every sensation, especially the quiet ones.
Something else hit me. Hardly anyone out there is really unplugged. Not having a cell phone or an Ipad was kind of like being at the bar and being the only one who does not drink. Not carrying around technology made me the odd man out. It didn't matter if it was riding in a taxi, on the subway, or on the plane. It used to be the first thing people did after disembarking from a flight was to light a cigarette. Now everyone flips on their cell. And honestly? I don't know which is worse.
Away from my hill, there is so much noise, and on my hill there is so little. I mean, I make distraction by having a blog and participating in life on line. But in reality, there is very little to pull me from chores, food, the B&B, pottery and the recesses of my own endless stream of thought. Here on my hill, it's a choice if you want to be distracted. Over in America, it takes a will of iron not to be.
Getting someone's unfettered attention and talking one on one is becoming a dying art form. But in the place where I live, people stop and give you their undivided focus all the time. I realized how used to that I am. And how I would miss it if I were not here anymore. I realized how much life in Italy is based upon the simple and the real. I am fortunate to have friends in America that remind me of this all the time: that what I live is an anomaly in today's world. I should be grateful for what I get from life. I live in a world where, as difficult and bureaucratic and ridiculous it can be just to run a small business and do chores, the priorities are still very much based upon humanity and the needs of people. I suppose I have, in a sense, sought out a place where the values reflect my own. I really need to feel a strong sense of humanity and kindness and compassion around me. And Italy gives me that in bucketfuls.
But that connection can be anywhere. As this trip proved to me, connection is where people want it to be. And there was a whole lot of wanting it on this trip for me. So many beautiful, emotion filled moments, on so many levels.
You know, I have never had a bucket list. I have never had things I felt I wanted to do before I leave this planet. But after returning home to Italy from this visit to the home of my birth, I know I am going in the direction I need to be going in, the one that is right for me. I can say I have not chosen an easy path, but it's led me to some conclusions that seem like extraordinary gifts.
And this trip, in particular, enabled me to see, with great clarity, the importance of grounded, real life connection that we all so desperately need from each other.
There is simply nothing more beautiful than love at any age.
The joy in my mother's face when she was surrounded by friends and family in the first real true big birthday party she has ever had in her life, was worth more to me than I can express here in words. She is a beautiful, lovely woman, and that was proven over and over in the warmth of the gathering of family and friends at her home.
Vulnerability and kindness rule.
I received so many moments of love on this trip. From meals with friends and family to joyful unions with family I had not seen (and a whole new generation of cousins I had never even met), from deep, meaningful conversations with people that love me deeply to the clinging of glasses of fantastic wine, it was all so reaffirming of what is important. I had moments on this trip that brought many tears and realizations, the heartache that comes with distance and the infrequency of visits, of holding the sweet hands of loved ones who have been ill and are fighting on, and the simple observation of how fleeting time is and how we have to savor every single drop with the people we love.
I am so blessed. I really am.
And through it all, I know that simple kindness, simple vulnerability and simple love are such key components of A Certain Simplicity. I know it for sure.
Photos courtesy of the one and only amazing Alison Conklin. Please go hire her for your next event. She will astound you. www.alisonconklin.com