Beauty is powerful.
It is confrontational. It pushes right up to your face and does a deep dive down to the heart. It gets all up in your stuff.
Beauty is a trigger; it demands response from us whether we want to give it, or not. My experience has been that the more I let beauty push past the mind into my soul and spirit, the more I see beauty. The more it finds me. There is something about beauty that reaches to the deepest part of me and grabs on. In the same way the Bible talks about deep calling to deep, beauty calls to beauty.
Beauty is certainly revealed in a physical, human way. But, beauty is more. It’s a force; transforming. It can be a source of life. It has the potential to touch the deepest part of us and make way for truth. That’s it isn’t it – there is an unspeakable connection between beauty and truth. I’m at the beginning of a journey and all I know is that God is in beauty and it’s more than a lipstick color. However – if you know me well – you know that I do love a popping lipstick :).
Last fall, I was swallowed by beauty. Absorbed into it. Sometimes I look at Zion and say ‘Can you even believe that was real? That we were right there? I, uh, do you remember, I mean….’ And he much more eloquently responds, ‘I know.’
We went to Rome last October. At that point, we had been married eleven and a quarter years, but this trip was our ten year anniversary celebration…..and we chose to go on my 35th birthday. So marriage and a birthday were our official reasons for the eight hour flight, but our hearts were craving unwinding, adventure, discovery, and beauty, together.
We love traveling. Before we became parents, our budget goals were solely focused on journeying to other countries together. In past experiences, we squeezed two cities into each trip. But this time felt different: all we could think about was landing in one city for eight days and melting into it. Rushing held no appeal. Pushing through a travel agenda made us exhausted to think about. We knew we wanted to eat our favorite meals over and over again, to sit and watch, to walk aimlessly, to have long conversations and to even spend some time alone. So, we hawked the flight prices, booked it the second the rate dropped enough and then found one of the only Airbnb’s left in the neighborhood we wanted, thanked God for unreal parents who were willing to take the boys, and we got on that plane.
If you’d like, come walk Rome with me. I’d love the company. Beauty would love your company. Beauty can reach through pictures and get to the deepest part of you. Come to Rome with me, my friend. Dream of your own past experiences, the ones you hope to have someday and drink some beauty.
I’m going to weave through our time in the Eternal City. Some of it will be sharing experiences and pictures, some of it will be observation and stories. Bob and weave with me. I’ll start at the beginning and see where the road winds.
We landed in the morning – and after one hiccup in finding the car – we buzzed off to the heart of the city. In thinking about which area of the city we wanted to be, we never really discussed anything other than the neighborhood around the Pantheon.
About to go up to our apartment for the first time:
This was our first Airbnb. It was delightful to have a little space and it was right where we wanted to be planted in the city. We were on the top floor of a building with no elevator – which is not uncommon in Europe. We climbed up four stories to get to our spot. The worst trip up was obviously when we arrived from the airport and we lugged our suitcases up the mountain of steps. We were so tired after spotty (if any) sleep on the plane and we were totally unconditioned for the up and down climb. I laugh as I type this because I’m remembering the burning of our lungs as we sucked air in, only one story up, and the very non-straight line we got up those stairs in. We were so tired, we zigged and zagged up the stairs with our suitcases. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is charming. By the time we go home this climb will feel like nothin!’ Lies. It never felt like nothin. Burning limbs and lungs every single time! Worth it.
See those high windows in the living room and bedroom? The were probably five feet tall and they opened straight up to the blue Roman sky. It felt a bit like a tree-house and even sitting to shower because the sloped roof wouldn’t allow you to stand straight up, became just fine. Also, note the cheese picture below. I tried to buy cheese three times: it never went well. I couldn’t tell them what I was looking for and they felt very little pressure to learn English. But it looks nice doesn’t it?! The bread and the marinated zucchini made up for it.
I like hearing the details of a space; picturing where someone was and what it was like. So, there was a roof top balcony. Mind you, only one and half people could fit at one time. That was mostly Zion: listening to music, watching the sun stretch over the rooftops and feeding the birds. I tended towards having my feet elevated and sitting on my tuchus.
Our apartment was three blocks from the Pantheon. So if we went into the Pantheon once, we went in fifteen times. First sightings:
Inside the Pantheon:
In the effort to avoid a nap, we set off to lay our eyes on everything we could walk to. After we drank cappuccinos, that is. Tazza d’oro Caffe was just down from the apartment and we, went there two times every day. Unashamed.
At this point, we were grimy but happy. Long staring gazes (‘no nap’ mode), trying to really see what we were seeing. We had been to Rome ten years ago. This time, we knew ourselves so much better. We knew each other so much better. Even though we had walked the streets before, the city immediately enveloped us into a rebirthed romance and experience.
And we were steps away from the biggest, baddest piece of beauty:
Truth be told, we didn’t succeed in the no-nap campaign on the first day. We made a loose plan for the evening that included a pizza spot we had picked up on from Rick Steves, and set our alarms for 45 minutes and were asleep within minutes. We actually woke up when the alarm went off! We freshened up, descended the four stories of stairs (relishing gravity) and set out for a slow walk to see more, watch more and start our eating journey.
I’ll tell the story of that dinner soon.
Rome overwhelms with a beauty that has scale enough to swallow you. It’s not just something pretty. There is beauty in the story of the centuries of endurance. Your feet tread the same dirt as those alive thousands of years ago. Many sites, holding the stories of persecution and death, are now commemorated holy sites. It’s not just something pretty. Rome is the survival of beauty from tension. It’s the collision of dirt and beauty that grabs the heart.
Some of the beauty is brazen and obvious. Some of it is quiet and rooted.
There’s a shot of Zion I’ll always love. I can’t count the number of times he and I walked the Tiber River. It called me back time and time again. We’d go out of our way to walk the long stretch from bridge to bridge. At the beginning of October, the leaves had only just begun to show signs of non-green color. But, what do you see when you look at that long line of trees?
I see a canopied hallway. I see leaves stretching for the water below. I see a spot in the middle of a busy city where the noise dulls and the quiet and water speak. I see the generosity of old friends reaching up to provide shade and cover. I see the beauty of the shape of an arch and an accompanying long straight line. Lines are one of my favorite elements of beauty. But, I wonder what you see? Tell me.
I love looking at pictures….whether they are mine or someone else’s. And I assume that you and I are exactly the same. Of course! So, I am going to break up the stories of beauty in Rome over a few posts to follow this one. One on food. One on time spent alone in the Eternal City. One on experiences. Perhaps one on my favorite shots. Si?
Ciao for now.