Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I got lost in Siena last year, which isn't notable in itself because I got lost everywhere in Italy, constantly, every time I raised my eyes from my map. In Siena I got tired of walking along what I thought was the bus route and carelessly entered the first bus that stopped, figuring that the town wasn't big enough to get too badly lost. Because a thing I never quite manage is learning from my mistakes.

The bus trundled through part of the town and past what turned out to be the bus stop, but I thought that there would be a later stop and stayed seated while everyone else left. And then the bus, empty except for me, picked up speed again and careened through a network of empty dirt roads and past tumbled-down houses. A painted wooden sign advertised fresh milk at the end of the lane, but across the whole landscape the only things moving were my bus and the cloud shadows. No cows or sheep, or people, or birds. The breeze paused and I knew that just past the windows the world had gone completely silent. Had I been able to cobble together enough Italian to say "please stop the bus and let me out" I might have stayed there forever. Those hills have room for even a girl with hurricanes for hands.

But instead I stayed on the bus, which punctured a tire and limped slowly back into town. I knew where to exit this time, and did, ready to climb to the very top of the museum and lean far out into the wind. Later that night, walking across damp cobblestones with my pink umbrella, a serenade from a bunch of old tweedy men following me down the streets, the part of me that had stuck longing for the land outside thumped back in where it belonged. But it brought back with it a little of that quiet, a little of that startling beauty.

It was in Siena that I finally believed that what was broken could some day be fixed, if I could only manage to get lost in the right places.

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