This is a picture of Julia’s last science assignment done last weekend — four days before school ended. She was reluctant to begin it but once started, she fully engaged and worked longer on it than was necessary. Science has not been a favorite subject this year mostly due to the abstract ideas presented and Julia’s preference for the concrete. However, since late winter, the focus has been on the tangible earth. Julia drew and painted a lovely paramecia, she understood plant parts and what plants need for a thriving life by growing peas. And now, she demonstrated her understand of a flower, its parts and how it works making this model. Wiki sticks, pipe cleaners, origami paper and lots of glue were her tools. If she was in an environment where learning was this hands on . . . she needs to be in such an environment all the time.
Calm. Italy tomorrow. A few days ago, texting with my oldest, Cheshire, I proclaimed, if one can make such a grand gesture with thumbs, that this was going to be a life changing journey. Why? Because I bought new underwear for both myself and Julia. I bought Julia a lot of new clothes for this trip although the reason has more to do with her not fitting into last years leftovers due to both a growth spurt and a maturing body and less with wanting her to be an American fashion plate in Italy. I bought underwear for a similar reason. Gosh, we both needed it. But there was a sensual, visceral pleasure packing still folded from packages underwear. Like some much, much younger woman of a times before my own, packing her trousseau. New clothes for a new life.
Ok, so very romantic. I don’t expect to that this vacation, this great journey across the sea to a country where David and I spent so many happy days, to change anything. Really. I will come home in a month and take up summer in Madison. I will weed a neglected garden, or wait until the heat and the bugs wane. I will drive Julia to Girls Rock camp and therapies and have our weekly supper with Mary and Robert. All will be as it was last week. And all will be different. I would so like to spend a year somewhere so different that it would change everything — I’ve always dreamed it would be Venice; however, that is the Venice of David’s time and the year was meant to be with David. And so, even the very basics of the dream stand on shaky stones. But the dream of somewhere away and exotic remains to be kindled.
I cannot imagine engineering this dream into reality without some assurance that it had a chance of success. With Julia mostly. I know I could live and travel for that time, but can my anything but typical pubescent daughter? I have no idea. She, who by nature is wedded to routine, who does her best work rooted in the known and who only cares about her surroundings if the surroundings are uncomfortable enough for her to want escape. Can she flourish in my dream?
And so, almost a month away from home with most of that time in five settings in Italy. A bit of forced socializing with my old friend and her family, some quiet amidst the beautiful hills of Tuscany, and the rest in art ladened cities. We have not attempted such a journey before. Because we are traveling in summer I have planned even more than my attentive usual. I usually map out what we will do and where we will go. This time, I have had to commit to specific days at specific cultural icons to avoid hours of line waiting. I have found experiences that I hope will capture her attention — pizza making in Tuscany, fresco painting in Florence and mask painting in Venice — and bring some of what we see into her hands. Evening our lodgings will offer her diversity — my friend’s house, an inn with 377 steps leading up to its town, a country villa where we may hear the snorting of wild boars at night, a monastery that rents out rooms and a small, proprietor run hotel. Will she find these interesting? Will she notice?
If she does well. If she enjoys. If she thrives. Then it will be time to move towards dreams.
A few of my friends, on hearing my rhapsodizing in this vein, comment with raised eyebrows that they expect my return. As if that return was not written in stone. I have never been someone who would, on a whim, even a terrific whim, change life on a dime but as I type this, I wonder if any of those friends imagine that I could. I imagine that those friends know for sure that I will be back on my scheduled day but fancifully I imagine that they too can see the possibility of stepping into the unknown and coming home completely different.
And I have been anxious and pre-occupied in the later days of planning, and have newly admitted to being just plain scared of the two of us somewhere we we knew few people and do not speak the language. I have been obsessed and if you were not willing to share in my obsession, I have probably not been very pleasant company. Umm, that description of my last month’s disposition has much in common with the state of Julia’s social skills.
Yesterday, I had a facilitator training for Quest 4, our Unitarian 2-yr program for spiritual deepening. I have more training today. The chance to engage in mindful practices with this small group of facilitators and leadership, to spend hours focused on this program that helped me to emerge into post-David life and to which I am so grateful and to leave completely the impending physical journey behind in favor of journeys of a different kind is a blessing. Spiritual not religious and I laugh at myself for needing to write that. I came home yesterday with a calm that has completely eluded me in the past few weeks. A calm stripped of anxiety and fear. Even excitement. I wake up this morning with the sure knowledge that the journey with whatever ripples of change it will bring will happen as it should. With the hope and prayer that we may experience it in each present moment and grow into our questions and perhaps a few answers.