Saturday, July 30, 2016

Stumbling Through Ruins and Tempests along the Way of St Frances from Rieti to Monterotondo

Saint_Francis_of_Assisi_in_Ecstasy-Caravaggio_(c.1595) by Caravaggio

Trebula_Mutuesca_latin_scription ruins

Top photos by Caroline Shepard, last photo by SHAW791

The hike from Rieti was fun. Number two and I made it three and a half hours walking with our friends from Scotland, hiking through forests and winding trails, up and down hills from Rieti to Poggio San Lorenzo.

“You girls are growing up on these trails, even if there are some pains,” I told number two as we walked.

“Maybe they are walking pains,” she laments.

But we all have our pains, particularly this writer, during the long ascents that are part of this trail.

“You can do it,” number two insisted, supporting her Dad as we made our way up another ascent. We all support each other as we walk, with each of us having our moments of difficulty along the way.

Everyone has their tired moments, supporting whoever needs a shoulder or a hand to help get up the hill.

We all walk through the challenges on the trail, connecting bodies and spirits, health and hope, St Frances’ prayer, which Caroline evokes in Italian.

Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.
Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l'amour.
Là où il y a l'offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l'union.
Là où il y a l'erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l'espérance.
Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.
Ô Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu'à consoler, à être compris qu'à comprendre, à être aimé qu'à aimer, car c'est en donnant qu'on reçoit, c'est en s'oubliant qu'on trouve, c'est en pardonnant qu'on est pardonné, c'est en mourant qu'on ressuscite à l'éternelle vie.

After hiking from 730 to 11 AM, we lost sight of our friends from Scotland and number two and I stopped to wait for Caroline and Number One. We’d covered 13 K. We sat under a tree, drank some water and i wrote notes. I think about Mom losing weight in Princeton, still here. And Dad gone, or still here in another way, in my dreams. Here, he has eyes that see, legs that walk, and a mouth that laughs. Strange plots emerge from dreams, about Dad still alive in New Orleans where I visit him a few more times. We talk about the Tempest again as we did years ago in Dallas during his Jungian phase. I wish he were around now to read through it again as we walk. Dad loved the magic in the play, equating it with a spiritual transformation similar to the individuation Carl Jung describes. For Shakespeare, there is a kind of divine providence in this magic. Dad loved the play and frequently evoked these lines.

This is a most majestic vision, and
Harmoniously charmingly. May I be bold
To think these spirits?
Spirits, which by mine art
I have from their confines called to enact
My present fancies. (4.1.131-136)

Here, life dances with death. In between our lives shift, sometimes enduring the sort of “sea-change” Ariel describes in his song in The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Along the way, Prospero comes to accept all the parts of himself, the light and dark, which have lead his through a journey, in which he accepts spirits, learns from darkness, and becomes open to who is becoming.

'Our revels now are ended. These our actors, as I fortold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air …. We are such stuff as dreams are made on ….'

I look around we sit under, the trees who took care of St Frances when he was tired, the incessant dogs barking in the distance, and I wonder about how much we can learn from this. The tree we sit under might have been one of those trees which held Ariel with the other spirits in the Tempest, seemingly accompanying us on this trail.

I see Dad smiling through time, seemingly accompanying us.

So we walk, looking at the butterflies, leading us along the way.

“I like to walk and see the butterflies,” explains Caroline, looking around as we stroll the last seven k of the day together. We’ve all gotten our walking legs, finally after a week on the road. We’ll need them for the next couple days.
We are all in a fine mood as we meander through our afternoon stroll to Poggio San Lorenzo, where we play with the geese, meet a terrapin, and hang out with our friends from Scotland. The dinner that night is one of our best. Photos from this journey found their way onto yesterday’s blog.

We left Poggio San Lorenzo feeling good. Number two set my camera with an amazing aqua filter. The geese said goodbye as we all wander out together. Everyone is feeling good, Caroline smiling all the way out the alberge. And then we hit the first ascend. A sweat bead started forming on her head. The book we’ve been using notes this trail is a little harder than the way in Spain. These would be our hardest two days on the way, 23 k up and then 32 k up and up and up over the next two days. There would be Roman ruins from the second century ce and a 4th century church and lots of lots and lots of hills. Our book notes that sometimes this trail is akin to the first day of the Camino de Santiago, repeating the brutal hike over the Pyrenees, on the France Spain border, back and forth, to and from for days and days on end.

Walking through the afternoon on the 28th, we stumble upon the Trebula Mutusca, an ancient Roman city, possibly named for a temple once plundered by Hannibal.

We can barely see it. But there it is. The mysteries of these rocks and stones evoke and surprise constantly.
Caroline listens to a podcast about this very period.

My old Latin classes and translations of Virgil bubbling through my mind.
"Delenda est Carthago."
“Carthage must fall.”

The pieces of my past come together as I walk and look around and think and walk and wonder about my parents, my kids, Caroline’s podcasts, our stories, what I studied, and maybe could have learned. Hopefully there is still time to make sense of it now.

We keep walking, finally making our way past a Romanesque church dubbed the Chiesa Santa Vittoria, dedicated to a 4th century martyr. The waters inside are thought to have life giving properties.
We walk past two ladies drinking from a fountain. They tell me I can drink the water. I look at the fountain. There’s a plaque commemorating losses during April 1944, to Nazis during the war.

This is war ravaged territory. The ghosts, memorials, and memories are everywhere. If only the trees could talk, telling us what they’ve seen.

Abandoned houses are everywhere, slowly being covered by vines, ceilings crumbling, being taken back into nature. No one really knows who was there, or who owned or left these majestic stone homes behind. Its quiet everywhere.

We walk all afternoon to get to Giuseppe, who invites us into his home, cooking for us, giving us food and drink. We sit looking at the olive groves and trees in the distance.
He won’t let us help him clean or cook.

Caroline adores him.

“Sophia Loren, I don’t like,” he explains as we all gossip about Italian movies and history. He knows nothing of the ruins we have seen earlier today. But he adores our friend Sophia and the girls. He’s been divorced twice, he confesses. We missed the pasta and salad he made for our friends when they arrived hours before us. But we enjoy the dinner. Number two plays in the trees outside as the sun goes down. We reflect on the lessons of the road, finding patience, trust in our feet, letting the wide stretches help us find our stride, taking breaks, learning to take our time, and open ourselves to what is to come, even if it feels uncertain. We are still all a part of history together. We all grow here, from number one’s splinter in the toe in Joshua tree in the Spring of 2007 after hiking all day in Joshua Tree, to Number Two making friends with everyone and walking through her woes last summer on the Camino to 15 years of marriage with beloved Caroline, and our anniversary that we were celebrating on the road once again, just like last year.

We always grown on the road.

The next day Gioseppe shares his home made jams and berries he picked outside with all of us. He explains we can always stay for free.
Caroline’s sees him as a sort of grandfather.
We all adore him.

And then we start climbing. This will be easy hike with ‘undulating hills” our book explains. Just 30 k but not too many climes up or down, the book explains. It could not have been further from the truth.
So we wander out, losing sight of our friend in the first fifteen minutes.

“Arrivederci Amici!” I scream. They wave from up another hill in the distance. It 8 AM. We would not see them for another ten and a half hours when we met again in the evening after our sojourn through the sun and history, and a long long date with the hot timeless Roman sun.

Its as hot as can be. So we walk through step after step, consoling each other, as we complete what seems to amount to something like 1000 floors up in the last week, of meanderring to and from, over mountains, like Pyrenees, traversing history, sore feet, aching backs.

“Tutti Ragazi, Brava!” an elder woman screams as we talk. She asks us where we have walked from.
Another man rolls down his window and asks if I’d like a beer.
Another shows us his favorite well, telling us the water is great there.

13 k into the walk, we stop for lots and lots of coffee and paninis, water and supplies.
“This is my favorite part of the trip,” smiles number two looking out with a smile.

We love the camino lunches, especially if we are done walking.
They are not as much fun if we have another twenty to go as we do today.
We keep walking, each of us supporting the other, the tempests in our hearts, taking breaks to rest our aches as the afternoon hours continue.

Number one and I chat about Belle and Sebastion and the things we’ve loved along the way.
We talk about “Dylan and the movies. Don’t look back.”

Number two and I walk holding hands.
Caroline and I talk about history.

We sit and take a break with a 13th Century relic in the distance.
And we keep on walking, up beyond a highway, following yellow lines under the highway, past a field of cows, toward a shortcut, beyond a cyclist who tells us, ”Sono felice” to see so many pilgrims. He loves seeing we’re on the way. He points to where we are going, past Via Antonio Gramsci, about a kilometer way.

So we meander to the center of town, where I stumble upon our albergo and the Trattoria del Leoni, ordering beer after beer, eating pasta, looking out at this majestic street on the Piazzo Del Popolo.

Danny and Sophia join us. They are spent, heat exhausted. So are we. So are the girls. My legs have scars from the heat and the wear of tear of the trail.

But it was worth it. We made it. 32 k in all, up and down and across the Pyrenees of our minds.

The next day we meander and look at this majestic town, joining Danny and Sophia for lunch before our last hike of the trip into Rome.

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