Fingertips trail ancient walls, the occasional tree gets hugged; the mood of a city filters in through my senses. Years later, a sound or scent or taste will take me right back. Even better, I have only to call the experience up in memory to know how a place felt. I've learned that snapping pics along the way tends to inhibit, rather than inspire this process.
During the first leg of my first European journey, I took reams of pictures. The Moms recorded video and snapped photos of every train station and street corner across five countries. And for a while, their camera-enthusiasm was infectious and I clicked along with them. My prepared travel mode; plugged into my CD player, the book in my hand a handy camouflage; was great for savoring a city and it's denizens. In addition to providing a soundtrack for my memories, the music calmed me during the hectic rush between taxis, trains and buses. Reading a book is a great way to observe unobserved. And because Rory Gilmore and I were separated at birth (omigosh...just realized, that the phrase "could be my daughter" is more applicable...ouch) far too many books weighed down my luggage when the trip began. I developed the habit of leaving them behind when they were. To this day, I wonder about the travels of those who read them after me...and whether they were as freaked out as I was by the ending of Carol O'Connell's "Judas Child".
Giving up my camera however, was, like most good things that happen while traveling, an accident. Five weeks into the trip, the Moms had gone. My travel partner and I were spending two weeks at a resort just outside of Assisi. A resort, which, due to an extended fight with my friend and the determined pursuit of the Neapolitan handy man, was feeling just a tad cramped. So a beautiful snowy day found me in Siena, a couple of trains and a bus away...without my camera
Only, not so much.
I remember scattering pigeons as I crossed the piazza, cursing my forgetfulness. I can feel the suspicious gazes directed at me from the white haired ladies on the bench ahead. I walked all over old Siena that day, not missing my camera nearly as much as I thought I would. And then I found it.
Down some side street, I will never find again was a gallery of modern art. They were just opened, some of the rooms had not yet been finished. The art...it was mostly okay. Some pedestrian, some self-consciously cool, with a couple of truly awful and brilliant pieces thrown in. I went up and up and up, and was on the roof. To this day, I'm not sure whether it was the installation or the view which first took my breath. Maybe it was one of those moments where art and life collide to create an impression far more evocative than either could on its own. It's true, I know; a good photo of the scene would be more descriptive than words. Instead the experience is private, jealously guarded in my own heart.
An immortal moment...something in Siena which exists only for me.