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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Emerging by John von Daler

               When we traveled the first time together, it was to #Florence.
After we unpacked our cheese, wine and bread, we soon attracted young Eurail vacationers to our train compartment. Like us, they were not only on their way south, but also back in time, to see something classic, to find some common cultural starting point. We talked about art and cities, studies and books, futures and pasts, as the train sped through Germany. We ate, drank and discussed our way into an eager frenzy of expectations about the beautiful art that awaited us.
                We had both been married before, so this vacation amounted to a new romantic start for us, not in the sense of retracing cultural steps to Puccini or Verdi and the great, passionate love they often portray, but all the way back to the Medicis; we were looking for a renaissance in our own lives even as we visited this city where classical values had had their rebirth.

                This is not to say that we immediately were overwhelmed by irresistible classicism and a new way of living. Florence honked and screeched and exhausted its way through modern times with little regard for the incredible rebirth to which it owed its present status. We might just as easily have been in Munich or Frankfurt. We checked in at a patrician villa, now turned hotel, where the ceilings were high, the floors tiled, the view of Florence neighborly and intimate; there we were able to find some of the quiet contemplation that could stave off the hectic business going on outside.

                Inside this place we read Garcia Marquez out loud for each other, slept and ate our breakfasts. The days we spent getting through town as quickly as possible to some attractive destination, Uffizi, Giotto's tower, or Brunelleschi's great dome. Always, always we were met at these destinations and others by something made by Michelangelo, a statue or a pietà so well executed that we often lost our breath at the unparalleled beauty of his work.

                We decided to visit the true David at the Gallery Accademia. That, indeed, was a surpassingly beautiful sight. But what surprised and amazed us in the same museum were Michelangelo's unfinished statues of slaves. These unfinished births, each trying to fight its way out of the stone and to emerge as a beautiful and finished sculpture, seemed a more fitting match for the new start our lives were taking.

                I think as we each stood looking at this work permanently in progress we may have been thinking of what a marriage consists of, of how the stone of habit often holds back the inherent beauty trying to fight its way out.

                Not that I will claim Michelangelo as our marriage counselor. I think he had troubles enough of his own. But each evening when we finished our dinner in the now quiet city, we would find a little place where we each could have a little something to round the day off, I a grappa and she an espresso. Then as we had agreed on, I paid the bill and she made certain that I got home all right, grappa and all.

                Then in those quiet streets we took steps, almost without thinking, to emerge from our stones and live a life together.

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