The initial shock of venturing out is starting to fade but not the sense of wonder and excitement. Every walk feels like a compact version of a journey – how fitting that the word comes from the old French for day – journée, the distance travelers in the past covered within that timeframe, when it took so much longer to reach a destination.
As I get ready to leave the house, I recognize that very specific pleasure anyone who has ever been on a trip knows so well. It’s another one of those quick, peripheral things that barely register and are wonderful for that very reason. Perhaps it’s the very essence of anticipation: when we feel our inner world adjust and make space for the new impressions and experiences we know for certain the outer world will bring us. I often picture it in a very simple way, a box that gets filled as we progress through the day. Some of its contents we can consider and process in the moment while others sink to the bottom without us even knowing and pop up years later, woven into a fabric of connections and meanings that have become part of us, that make us who we are. It’s the interaction between the outer and inner world that make travel transformative, and that can happen also during a lockdown walk.
I am quickly adjusting to the new landscape of social distancing, caution and, especially, masks. I am getting over the initial dismay of not being able to share smiles or convey two-second social commentary by means of a chuckle with people I meet on the street, acquaintances and strangers alike. The need to communicate with facial expressions at all times with almost everybody is one of the Italian traits that delights me the most and it comforts me to realize we don’t have to give it up. I am noticing we are shifting to a shorthand version and it’s all in the eyes now. I have already exchanged a rather satisfying range of sentiments from sympathy to annoyance with people in line for takeout cappuccino (alas, the tragedy continues!), at streetlights and strolling in the park, just through subtle eyebrow movements and glances. The Italian need to communicate and connect simply cannot be contained!
True, it may all still be relief or the need for something redeeming and hopeful that give greater resonance to things that would be negligible in normal circumstances, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a gift and that it cannot serve us beyond this moment. Taking the time to look and reflect more deeply on what surrounds us today will provide us with a finer skill set we can use when real travel becomes safe and possible again, and it will be amazing. As the lockdown becomes less restrictive, I am going to walk around Rome to prepare for that day and would like to invite you to come with me.
One last thing! I wonder if any of you who have been on a tour with me remember the past and present pictures I use to help imagine what the sites may have looked like in their heyday. Here is an updated version to illustrate The Take Out Tragedy….
Next time, a walk through Villa Borghese and finally making it to Trevi Fountain.