Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wonder is an Inside Job

A few weeks ago, I went to see Frances Mayes speak at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I loved her books about Italy—Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany among others. Thrilled at the chance to see a favorite author in person, I sat alone, fourth row center, six months pregnant. She read an essay about art, Orvieto and churches. Afterwards, while being interviewed, she was funny, and smart, saying, “When people say ‘I don’t like Venice,’ I want to say, yeah, well I don’t like you.”

Most striking about her, to me, was her passion for Italy—an infatuation that has deepened into respect and devotion. She spoke of loving a place on a molecular level, how one can fall in love not just with people but with places. I have experienced that. Lisbon stole my heart at first sight. And my ardor for Mexico I can never shake, though Mexico does its best. So yes, I understand the marvel inspired by travel, by discovering unfamiliar places, by creating a life someplace new.

Yet, to my surprise, I left the lecture, not dying to move to Italy, but rather, filled with gratitude that I love my home and my life so much today. I spent many years either moving somewhere else or plotting when I could one day move somewhere else. Although I enjoyed Mayes’ adoration of Italy, I thought, I feel that way all the time, no matter where I am. In fact, immediately after her talk, I stumbled into a small hallway in the museum that I had never seen before. I stood before a giant deformed female statue with pointy nipples and medusa-like hair, and then was pulled across the room to a twelve-foot Tiffany column, covered in shiny blue mosaic tile. And I felt that child’s wonder of discovery, of adventure, of life being full of beautiful surprises.

Frances Mayes speaks of Italy as “endless,” and I’m sure it is. But so is Ocean City, where I find untold beauty in the sandpipers scuttling, the giant horseshoe crabs washed up on the sand, the coin-shaped iridescent gold shells. Narberth in Spring can steal my breath with entire lawns covered in purple crocuses, bulbs bravely sprouting through the still-cold ground. Just observing my puppy as she sleeps with her head resting on a pillow and her pink tongue poking through her teeth makes my heart swell. There is endless wonder in my life, no matter where I am, if I take the time to look for it. I’m so grateful that I often do.