It is still dark when I awaken. For a moment, I do not know where I am. Then I turn my head and see the sky beginning to lighten outside the window. Oh, yes. I am home.
There is no warning bell waking the nuns next door in time for their first office of the day, because there is no convent next door. The first bus does not break the silence of via Rucellai outside my window, because via Rucellai is not outside my window. That's Route 27 out there. Raccoons woke me in the night with what sounded like a fight to the death with some other animal. There are no raccoons in Florence.
The wooden floors are more forgiving under my bare feet than the stone ones at home as I walk down the stairs. My other home, I mean. Everything is stone in Italy. Hard surfaces. We imagine La dolce vita when we think about Italy, but it is a hard place in many ways.
There are more cats here. What's-Her-Name, Kitten and Gypsy look well. They seem largely uninterested in my brief return. When we bring Ben and Santi back from their year abroad, there will be five. Oy.
The garden is not speaking to me. It knows that the one in Florence is ordered and elegant, and that it has a fountain and a statue of Catherine of Siena. Silent as the New Jersey cousin is, it is not uncommunicative for someone who knows it as well as I do: I know that the buddleia resents not having been cut back early enough and that the daffodils have wondered when somebody would come and remove their embarrassing dead blossoms. Last year's Black-eyed Susans still stand, stiff and black against the green of this year's foliage, and the spent brown stalks of Sedum autumn joy form forbidding rings around the fleshy leaves of the new plants. I filled a few leaf bags yesterday. I will have time to fill a few more. And I will be back soon.
Do you love it in Florence? people ask me. Of course I do. How could I not? The people of St. James are delightful: quirky, generous of heart, interested and interesting.
How is the opera going, I wonder. It's La Boheme. But of course, it's over now; it is six hours later in Florence than it is here. Wonder how it went, then. And tomorrow's class in how the Church works in Europe. And the Tuscan lunch to benefit our Malawi mission. Hope it all goes well.
Do I love it? Do I love them? Oh, yes. But do I love it here, too, this house and this garden and this church and these dear ones? Oh, yes. To have many loves is a great gift. Love multiplies itself, like fire does: love causes love. There is more than enough love in this small world to go around, if we will only deploy it.
Deploy some love today, if you possibly can, by sponsoring me in AIDSWALK NEW YORK. Visit http://www.aidswalk.net/newyork/ and click on "Sponsor a Walker" over on the left side of the screen. Type in Barbara Crafton in the spaces provided for my first and last name, and you will get a donation page. May God bless you for your gift to this cause so close to my heart.