That particular knowledge, that particulate sensation born from the intimate knowing of many cities, was metered out to me in the rhythm of my footfalls on the hoary cobblestones of Florence. The late-afternoon winter sun tilted feebly at stalwart old facades, burnishing their mellow ocher into deep gold; they glowed softly, with a radiating warmth, were hushed and serene.
Florence is a city of sinuous alleys and brooding buildings, adorned with somber stone rustications and cornices that stare aloofly down upon us souls who are merely passing through this earthly life. They have stories to tell, but rarely tell them. In the way of the old cities of this world, they withhold their true histories: the cries of infants swaddled within their walls; the feverishness of inflamed insurgents gathered round marred wooden tables; the tenebrous dealings of merchant men trading in wool and silk and the softer vices; the heavy clink of gold florins and the arcane utterances of 16th-century Tuscan. They do not deign to tell--why? Is it because we, too, are passing, will pass, and be no more, and that, as we canter blithely toward our inevitable end, they will eventually absorb us, too, and hold us just as dearly within the unyielding bosom of history--those cold, marble halls wherein the concerns of men are rendered moot?
Detroit, East Lansing, Paris, London, Dublin, Boston, San Francisco, New York, Sonoma, Pittsburgh. Geographies navigated through childhood, youth, my roaring twenties and beyond. Geographies in which I loved, let go, raged, and pondered this existence that seems as thin as vellum at times. Places in which I was tempered, challenged, chastened, enraptured, and even shriven. Places where I walked--oh, how much I've walked!--lived, and became.
And Florence, perhaps most of all. Florence has given me the lion's share: a heavy tapestry woven with the baroque pattern of human experience, a table laden with the things that would nourish me as much as they would have me poisoned--in short, an arc of such cosmic sweep that would see me catapulted into the heavens to regale the stars with tales of human achievement and folly.
This is what I know: that one can have many homes, that one's feet can walk many a street, in strange or familiar or far-off lands. And one's soul can be sheathed in casings of different stripes. But to feel at home in the world--that is true freedom. That is the place in which it soars.
Wishing all you dear Readers a wonderful New Year.