Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sharing Assisi

Yesterday Leif and I took a day trip to Assisi. I was very excited about it. Assisi is the place where I learned that the feelings I had about Italy were real.

For those who don’t know the story, I traveled to Italy in May of 2009 to take two courses offered at my university. We studied drawing as a spiritual practice, the lives of Claire and Francis of Assisi, and developed personal spiritual practices for three weeks. We spent time in Siena, the Umbrian countryside, Assisi and Rome. It was in the mountains of Umbria that I met Leif (he was our guide there), and in Assisi that I began to understand more about myself and to use that knowledge to make some big life decisions.

I remember wishing that Leif were sharing our experiences in Assisi like he had in the mountains. I know the whole group felt that way. It was like we had left one of us behind on the mountain, and we experienced grief and loneliness even as we explored a beautiful city and culture. To this day, none of us can speak about our experiences in Italy without sharing our affection for Leif; they are intertwined in our memories and hearts to tightly that there is no separating them.

I fell in love with him there on those mountains. It took me until Assisi to fall in love with Italy. A week after we returned to the States I started making my plans to return to Italy to live. It took a little longer for Leif and I to give in to our fascination for each other. The rest, as they say, is history.

 Augsburg is once again offering this amazing trip to its’ students and this time the company Leif works for is planning the whole trip. He is going to be spending more time with the group and our trip to Assisi was part of his research. And so I finally got to share Assisi with him. For me it was as if no time had passed. I was able to walk him to each site on the itinerary without hesitating. We looked at churches and hotels and restaurants, I showed him my favorite drawing places and we explored new things as well.

One of the best parts was getting to walk through the castle, something we hadn’t done during our visit two years ago. Up and down tiny stone staircases that spiraled through the middle of towers, walking a tunnel through the outer wall to the turret at the edge of the mountainside up so high that we were afraid to step close to the edge for fear of falling. But, oh, the views! Mountains behind us even higher than we were and in front of us the city of Assisi clinging to the mountainside while below in the valley the dome of the church S. Maria delgi Angeli rises above the city. Yup, takes your breath away.

We walked down the mountain as the sun went down and caught the train home. That day we shared more than memories of the practical things like how to get from point A to point B and where the good restaurants are. I could say, in this spot I spent two hours on the drawing that is in our living room. In this spot I meditated and understood things about myself that I couldn’t have done in my life in Minnesota, it could only happen here. Being there helped him to understand me a little more.

And in May he will take a different group of students through the mountains and then join them in Assisi. My hope is that this group can have a small portion of the amazing experience that we had when we were here two years ago. Because if they do, their lives will be changed forever.

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