Saturday, June 03, 2006

Assisi ~ from the Heart

A spot of heaven on earth. From the center of one of the least known but well loved regions to Americans. Art, hills, green hills, deep spiritual roots, the Umbrian treasures. Great red wines, wonderful white wines. But this isn’t about wine. Yes we’re on a wine trail, but this trail cuts deeper, to the heart and soul of what is important to a person like me. You won't find clues here, but questions and wonder bordering on the inner region of bewilderment.
My son took his first steps in Assisi. We spent two weeks there once on a hillside in October. And during that time the little guy decided this was the time to take that step. Or more like a “move” out of a John Travolta movie from the times. It was only the beginning of many steps he took on that soil, in the footsteps of the mystics of the area, Francis and Clara and many unknown. The green heart of Italy is what the Italians call Umbria, the region where we are in this moment.
My wife, we laid her remains to rest a little higher up that hill. First steps and last resting spot. The cycles of life and death interwoven in my life story. How could I have imagined this?
Why couldn't this have just been a dream?
A close Italian friend of mine, who helped arrange for her interment in a most sacred spot in Assisi, told me about what he did not too long after. He was in his town in the Marche region and was at a plant nursery. At the shop he saw some grape plants with a name that was familiar to him.
It was my name. Our friend bought two of those plants and took them to plant, one at his home and one at the site in Assisi where my wife rests. On top of a rocky crag, midway between the summit of the hill and the forest grove, he planted the vine. The vine grew out of the rocks and is flourishing. Life from lifelessness, beginning from the end of a cycle?
This friend found out last year, about this time, that he had cancer. Two months later he passed away. I was in Sicily the day he died. He was in a hospital in America. The sign, from the Sicilian countryside, was in the form of a bird landing in the gully of a field. It was early morning, the sun was rising and a slight wind was blowing throughout the vineyards from the south. A grey bird with white under wings flew up to my window sill from the gully, landed, looked at me and flew west. That was all the notice I got. Twenty minutes later my cell phone rang.
How sad I thought, it must be for an Italian to die, to have to leave all of this beauty.

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