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Open your eyes

There it is, all that you glimpsed in shadow last night, now, do you see it lit with Tuscan sunshine?

The underside of the mansard roof. A rough wooden support diagonal from the chimney corner, carrying the rafters up to the central peak. Do you see the bottoms of red tiles, the neat rows of half-barrels. How can it seem at once so exotic and so homey?

I got you here, I made the arrangements that led to your waking in a rented villa with a husband beside you and his best friend across the hall.

I ordered this moment
from a catalog.

But it is you who is coming alive for the first time today. And what you will do in the next few minutes may establish an entirely new history and future of you.

So, now, what will it be?

Jim is already up, just going downstairs to figure out coffee. You go down to the living room and, cold as that room is, begin doing yoga stretches. You have not done this in months, but it seems right at this moment, and soon you are warm and shedding the kinks of airplane seats and baggage-handling.

Scott comes yawning down the stairs, tussled and cute as a toddler.

"Do you always do stretches?" he asks.

"Try to."

Honest enough for the new you.

The coffee is ready: bitter black espresso in the steamer pot. Jim is taking his straight but Scott opts for con latte, quickly warming the milk.

How do you take your coffee, in this new life?

You choose latte too.

Yet it is not likely that you will sit in your new room exploring yourself. Tourism is the game at hand. And so, your threesome sets off San Gimignano, a destination from your guidebooks.

For the next few days,
repeat this pattern . . .

All of you bound together, driving to some point of interest, "making tourism" (which is a way of saying you marched about old towns reading guidebooks and stopping for little meals), and coming home to the villa.

...coming home to a Tuscan villa...

You give names to your new selves—Scott becomes Guido, a play on words, for this name also means "guide" and "I drive." Jim borrows the name Hercule from a shopkeeper, and makes a personality for himself as the artisan chef. Guido and Hercule honor you with the title Principessa, and you benevolently ruled your municipality of two. If Scott has contributed the helpful manservant, and Jim the kitchen staff, you have contributed their kindly autocrat employer.

You budget the days in your portfolio.

Tuesday is yours; the destination the Camaldoli, an enchanted forest tended by monks you have read about in a guidebook.

Wednesday belongs to Scott, and he leads you on a mission to make contact with a subculture. Following up an Internet connection, you spend a day in Florence studying- not art, but the evolution of popular music.

Each day your making of tourism ends closer to home.

The calm hill country of Chianti, Land of the Black Rooster, is having its magical effect on you. It is as if the old farmhouse has a taproot deep into that earth, and each morning the travelers wake more nourished, closer to health.

On the last morning in Tuscany the weather is clear. The three of you stroll away from the doorstep, discovering a network of trails that lead away across the vineyards. Botanizing, philosophizing, rambling in conversation and in navigation, you angle toward a cafe over the hills to the south.

You three follow the vines down one valley and up the next. Between you the peace is unbroken, unspoken, securely held by its three corners. It is not just you who has come alive in this week, invented yourself fresh without sin or history. Three of you have enjoyed this miracle.

In a morning light like thin honey you celebrate, stooping to touch the Mother. A snail shell rewards your hand, and goes into your pocket.

Your work here is finished.

read on to: San Gimignano - Florence - Camaldoli

My life stories

Sarah White's Italy (Tuscany 1997)
I got you here, made the arrangements that led to your waking in a rented villa with a husband beside you and his best friend across the hall…
Tuscany, San Gimignano, Florence, Camaldoli

Billy Sunday’s Ghost Resort (Winona Lake 1965)
I spent my child's summers in northeastern Indiana, visiting my relatives in a strange religious resort…

“Luigi and the Signora” (Venice 2001)
We had walked and walked for days and days, and once or twice we’d gone into a bookstore because I was on a mission. I wanted to see if there were do-it-yourself business books here, like the ones I write. Instead I discovered a love story…

Success is a Not a Destination, It’s A Trip
(text of speech to Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs, 1998)
I started thinking about definitions of success and its dark shadow, failure, when I sold my business. I was at a Rotary Club luncheon, sitting next to a sometime/client of mine, and when I told him I was selling my business after 12 years, he asked me, "were you successful?" The room disappeared, heaven and earth paused in their motions, while I swung in a great cold gray void…

 

© 2003 Sarah White. Contact me with comments or questions. Home.