I thought that I would write after my daddy died in mid August. But with planning his memorial service, celebrating his life and speaking at several back-to-school convocations that very week, the only things I wrote were heartfelt thank you notes.
I thought that I would write during my two remarkable weeks in Italy in early September. My second day in Lucca, I wrote about trying to figure out which hotel bathroom buttons flushed, which washed, and which turned on the lights. And then I wrote some post cards.
After seeing Robert Mapplethorpe’s photos in Florence, along side Michelangelo’s David, I thought I would write. What exactly could I say, however, about the unexpected infusion of good luck into my life where two sacred art forms converged in the same place? I was too wiped out to write down anything except directions back to my hotel.
When I saw Saint Catherine’s finger in a jar in Siena’s Church of San Domenico, I was moved to write, but I didn’t. I simply reveled in the memory of my mother’s account of seeing Jesus’ grandmother’s elbow in Canada. Saint Catherine may not have been as well known as Jesus’ grandmother, but she was surely popular in Siena.
I thought I would write after walking around Rome for three days with only a city map and my newly acquired Italian phrase, “Ci è un'automobile.” Indeed there were many automobiles, and I became a pro at dodging them as I walked to the Vatican and other historic landmarks.
Other writers might have carved out time to write while they traveled. I thought I would, but I spent all of my time feeling, listening, eating, drinking and soaking up everything; writing seemed a long lost art. Because I quickly tired of Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, I left the book in the nun-run hotel where I stayed in Siena. I realized that nobody’s commentary, including my own, enhances my travel experiences.
Cool temperatures welcomed me when I got back to Austin, and I thought I’d begin writing immediately. Instead I took lots of naps, stared at my blooming crepe myrtles, ate Austin-purchased Italian foods and wines, and reread the Italian guide books.
Something has happened, however, that has led me to the keyboard—a miracle of sorts. Maybe my taking the forbidden picture of St. Catherine’s finger has brought me good luck.
I had accidentally left my lawnmower in the backyard while I was on vacation. And then I accidentally left it outside for several weeks after I returned; I had given it up for dead. Just for kicks, several days ago, I primed the neglected hunk of metal and turned the key. After fiddling with it for a few minutes, this Sears Craftsman, self-starting, self-propelled lawnmower kicked into gear, and within 30 minutes, it had pulled me across my backyard where I took down weeds and grasses that had grown higher than an elephant’s eye.
I called the president of Sears with this stunning news, and I’m including a picture of my lawnmower among the ones I took of the Leaning Tower, kegs of wine, and the Pantheon.
Lots of magic and miracles everywhere—how can I not write?