Archive for March, 2011

There is something special about being in Orvieto, pursuing an art love you have. I think part of it is taking the leap, making the commitment to do such a trip. It is a reaffirmation of who you are and that a robust, fulfilling, exciting life is possible.

I have been reading Mark Nepo and find much of what he has to say resonates deeply. It is reading him that generates these thoughts today. He says,

“There is a deep and humbling lesson in the way of birds. . . . It seems, for birds, it is the act of flying that is the goal. True, they migrate and seek out food, but when flying, there is the sense that being aloft is their true destination.

Small group travel in Italy“Unlike birds, we confuse our time on Earth, again and again, with obsessions of where we are going – often to the point that we frustrate and stall our human ability to fly. All the conditions and hesitations and yes-buts and what ifs turn the human journey upside down, never letting the heart, wing that it is, truly unfold.

“Yet, without consideration or reservation, it is simply the presence of light that stirs birds to sing and lift. They do not understand concepts such as holding back or only investing if the return seems certain. In this, we are the only creatures that seek out guarantees, and in so doing, we snuff the spark that is discovery.

” . . . We, like the birds, are meant to fly and sing – that’s all.”

What I love about our trips is that every one on them has said to themselves “We are meant to fly and sing.” They are pursuing their passions. No what-ifs or yes-buts.

One of our travelers this fall said, “You have given me a life changing experience. I am now someone who makes her dreams come true. I am experiencing life rather than plowing through it just to get by.”

In truth, we provided the opportunity. It was she who took wing.

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One of the beautiful consequences of traveling with us to Orvieto is slowing down. I know, from the e-mails we are exchanging with many of the people signed up for our spring trips in May, that the crazed pace of life continues for most. What is wonderful to observe during the course of the week we are together in Orvieto is:  the slow lowering of tense shoulders, the slow melting into the more relaxed pace of Italy, the increasingly spry step. It is marvelous.

A quiet, slow moment

I read a piece recently that tells of the transformational experience such a trip can be. In this piece, the author, Catherine Foster, returned home from a trip with deep impact wondering if she would be truly changed. At first it seemed no, as she returned to the normal,  frenzied pace. But a seed had been planted, and now, she leads a dramatically different and less hectic paced life then she did before the trip.

Orvieto had a similar effect on Kristi and me. We returned from one trip recognizing we could no longer live in the soulless place we call suburbia. Ultimately, it led us to search for a community with character and soul, and to move to Morganton, NC. We’ve been here a year and can’t imagine why it took us so long to take this step.

I think, for those who travel with us, it is a combination of being out of their element in an environment similar yet dissimilar, and the deep exposure we give them to a beautiful way of life that plants the seed. People have returned and made changes – some quite modest, some more profound. But I think in every case, a place deep down has been touched. Whether it manifests itself in something visible or not, I believe it creates a shift in outlook and approach. It is the magic of the slow in Italy.

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In the fall we have a creative writing instructor, Kathy Dunn, joining us in Orvieto. She has started a blog about the upcoming trip. She’s a writer, so, not surprisingly, the writing is wonderful. Not only that, she has a sense of humor and is fun. So I got her permission to copy her first entry here. I’ve extracted from her first entry entitled Rowing to Italy, her 16 reasons to go to Orvieto with her.  She says about putting together such a list:

“If you’re interested in trying this, here’s the key to making it fly: write whatever comes to mind – truth and fiction.  Really.  If you get stuck, go to wishes, impossible realities, and flat-out lies. Your list will likely make a few turns you hadn’t anticipated – and your imagination will thank you.”

1.   There are hosts who will provide all the details – like flights.  And trains.  They know Giovanni Dubini, the vineyard owner, and Lorenzo Pelogri, the Head Chef who will teach us how to make something in Italian.

2.   Bill and Kristi love Orvieto so much, they’ve found a way to make it a permanent part of their lives. It must be good.

3.   I always wanted to stay in a convent for a night or two.

4.   There are caves carved into the stone by the Etruscans.

5.   The Etruscans had one of the earliest written languages – and also wine.

6.   The older I get, the more I appreciate someone else taking care of logistics.  It’s like making a salad: if I do it, it’s pretty good; if someone else does it, it’s astoundingly delicious.

7.   Italian food!  Made fresh!!  In Italy!!!!!

8.   New skies, new landscapes, new perspectives

9.   People

10.  Slow travel – life as it was meant to be lived

11. Spaghetti-O’s aside, I had my first taste of Italian food in 7th grade when I walked uptown after school with two new friends to have a slice of pizza and a Coke. In that first bite I understood the world was bigger than I had ever imagined.

12. Maureen Moore loves Orvieto.  And she knows – she’s been there.

13. I get to write in a protected time and place.

14. I get to write in a convent, and in an olive grove, and on top of a hill in a town that is over 3,000 years old.

15. Layers of history – centuries of songs and stories and art and prayers, and food cooked over a fire, and recipes measured and passed down, palm to palm to palm.

16. Nap time – did I say this already?  All the shops close for two hours, after lunch.  For nap time.

But you really ought to visit her blog and keep up with her thoughts!

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