a wandering woman writes

Friday, April 27, 2007

Scenes from a journey to Assisi

I don't often wish I could do the many things I can't (yet?), but as my travel treasures become more and more about scenes - faces, images, and moments - and less about entertaining narratives, I do wish I could doodle up a drawing for each of these Salamanca to Assisi moments.

I've asked Nomadita if she might like to help, master doodler that she is. We'll see if the next trip ends with an "Illustrated Wandering Woman."

Meanwhile, a few scenes from a journey to Assisi and back:

On the metro in Madrid, an older man mouths the words to his novel. I can't quite make out the title, but decide it's racy and intriguing. A flamenco dancer leaps across the cover. The man is impeccably dressed: crisply ironed slacks and shirt, grey sweater vest and freshly polished shoes. He clings to the page he is reading, moving his mouth with the action. Then he quickly snaps his way to the next, when the time comes, before holding tightly to that page, too, ever prepared for the next move.

When he leaves, a young girl reading a Victoria Holt romance takes his place. She is equally entranced. I begin to wish I'd sat there...

An older nun stands at attention in Assisi's Parking Lot A as her young charges climb down from their bus. After barking out a few words in Italian, she begins a rapid, decisive march toward the town center, without so much as glance behind her. Her troops have understood the order. The children follow her up the sidewalk like waddling ducklings, perfectly spaced, single file. A small boy in a baseball hat brings up the rear, struggling to meet the nun's pace.

As I wait to be seated for dinner, I hear Spanish behind me. Two middle aged couples sit at the restaurant's tiny bar, enjoying a glass of wine before dinner. I glance at my watch (830) and take them for Spaniards not yet ready to cenar. "¿Son españoles?", I ask. "No", they answer. "Cubans. From Miami." We laugh realizing we share a country neither of us has mentioned in our brief introduction. Cubans from Miami. An American from Salamanca.

I start out with hand signals and single words - uno, café, cuánto. But the bar is so warm and the owner and breakfasting businessman so friendly, I soon find myself pouring out paragraphs as I answer their Italian questions in Spanish. When I discover my raisin and honey pastry is filled to the brim with chunks of dark chocolate, the businessman laughs and assures me that chocolate is an excellent breakfast.

As we say our goodbyes, the owner asks where I live in Spain. "El español se capice", he tells me, smiling. "El español sí se capice".

I approach the only human I see, the first in 5 or 10 minutes along this tiny road high above San Francesco. He is round and smiling, dressed in a bright orange button down and well-pressed khakis. I ask directions in Italiañol. He grins and reaches into his pocket. "I have a map", he laughs, "but I only speak English."

We meet twice more in this pueblo turned pilgrim stop - in the afternoon, when I report his map did indeed lead me to my B&B, and that evening, in a restaurant. I name him Map Man.

Walking back toward Porta Cappuccini, I run my hand against the rough pink travertine of the roadside wall. A girl comes alongside me, looks in my eyes and smiles. After a minute or two she asks, in Spanish, if I am Catholic. I stumble over my answer, explaining that I was raised Catholic but, er..no....and why does she ask? She points at my hand, still dragging across on the cool, pink stone. "Everywhere you walk here is sacred ground. Everything you touch. You may not be Catholic, but something's pulled you here. I just wanted to tell you that they'll be singing vespers at Santa Chiara at a quarter to seven. If you hurry...just imagine! Vespers! In Latin! In Assisi!" She scurries ahead of me, and I watch her stop to ask a taxi driver the fastest way to walk to the Piazza de Santa Chiara.



  • I ended reading this section with that feeling of tears in my throat ... this post was inspired and beautiful and so clear and enticing and more than I can list here.

    Whatever you're doing, keep doing it ... I just read the series of posts I found here and I loved all of them.

    By Blogger woman wandering, at 10:55 PM  

  • Hi Erin,

    Must have just missed you on that metro! In the past everyone was talking but now everyone these days seems to be reading. Books, free papers and I love those people that try to sneak a look at the title of your book..

    Regards, Daniel

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:10 AM  

  • Thank you, Di. No idea what I am doing :) but I'll do my best to keep at it. Such a moving journey, no idea why...

    Was that you, Daniel, reading....oh, I didn't catch the title, lol! Everybody was completely engrossed in a book; I just liked watching all of them and enjoying the quiet!

    And yes, I'm one of those who wonders what book has someone so caught up--makes me want to read it... :)

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 12:22 PM  

  • The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk...fantastic


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:31 PM  

  • Ooh, Daniel. I've yet to read any Pamuk, dying to.
    Just read a book that blew me away, one of the best I've ever read - right alongside Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels -- Las Utilidades de las Casas, Isabel Cobo (in Spanish, can't imagine it's translated)

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 1:11 AM  

  • Fugitive Pieces! Now there's a book that gets some really diverse opinions on amazon. Never seen so many since...well, since Dan Brown..


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:55 PM  

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