“At last-for the time—I live! It beats everything: it leaves the Rome of your fancy-your education-nowhere. It makes Venice-Florence-Oxford-London-seem like little cities of pasteboard. I went reeling and moaning thro’ the streets, in a fever of enjoyment. In the course of four of five hours I traversed almost the whole of Rome and got a glimpse of everything-the Forum, the Coliseum (stupendissimo!) . . . I’ve seen the Tiber hurring along, as swift and dirty as history! . . . In fine I’ve seen Rome, and I shall go to bed a wiser [woman] than I last rose-yesterday morning.” –Henry James
16 September 2016, Trastevere
It’s easy to say I’ll remember Rome; how could one forget? James lists the things he’s seen and claims to be the wiser for it. Goethe says the things he experienced “may serve both [himself] and others as guidance and encouragement for an entire lifetime.” But I think one needs to comprehend, at least on some level, what has been experienced in order to share it, in order to become wiser by it. I confess Rome to be one of those places least understood to me. She seems to hide secrets under and within all her layers. The facts parade what happened at certain places, during certain years—who murdered whom, what battles were fought and won/lost, and which gods were worshipped where. I sense these are partial truths. Rome plays her cards close, eagar to show nothing save facades, hiding a royal straight from our view.
25 September 2016, White Salmon
I learned about art and literature during my study abroad, which is to say, I learned about people. Space prevents me from sharing even a fraction of it. I’ll just say this: London, as always, was a sort of homecoming, even though I don’t necessarily equate London with England. Cities like London and Rome are macrocosms of converging cultures, so they don’t always give the best picture of a country’s natural state. An example of this is Frascati. This little vineyard town is quite different from Rome; it’s Italian the way Salisbury is English. Having said that, the metropolises of London and Rome provided a condensed history that quaint villages couldn’t have. So I know I was in the “right” place for learning. The understanding, however, has not yet provided its wisdom, and I can only hope it will come in time.