Monday, April 22, 2013

Fontanelle, Rome’s Little Fountains

I love travel. I love being in a new place and discovering what makes it unique, its specific charm. One of my favorite quotes is, “Travel is the one thing you buy in life that makes you richer.” Today I am feeling very rich indeed.

I’ve just spent a lovely week in Rome. It was not my first visit there and as I was meeting some friends to write; I was not focused on the tourist high points, amazing as they are, but rather on feeling like a Roman going about my daily work.

It was about a two-mile walk from my hotel in the Veneto area to my writing group at University of Washington University Rome Center near Campo dei Fiori,  just a few minutes from the Tiber River.

As I knew I would be indulging in delicious Italian cuisine all week, I vowed to walk to and from Campo dei Fiori to burn some extra calories. Walking and writing... bliss! The weather was glorious, sunny and in the seventies. I had a date with some friends at Mercato Hostaria on the campo the night before the group was to meet. This was an opportunity to familiarize myself with some walk routes and time it so I could arrive promptly the next day.

I purchased a bottle of water to store in my backpack for the walk. When I got to the restaurant, within view from our al fresco seats I could see a small fountain, nothing pretty or elaborate, with water running continuously from a down spout. As I watched, people refilled their water bottles. The vendors from the square were also filling buckets to use in their booths. Upon inquiry, our waitperson declared the water not only safe to drink but delicious. I had to try this. Not only was the water good, it was icy cold! It was not necessary to buy bottled water. 

I began to look for other fontanelle, “little fountain,” and realized they were everywhere, most are iron containers with a plain metal down spigot but some are more decorative. There are about 2,500 in Rome. The photo at the top is my personal favorite located a few steps off Campo dei Fiori on one of the charming side streets. I think the animal head is a boar.

The other name for the fountain is nasoni, “big nose”, a reference to the shape of the metal spigot. You can cover the bottom, nostril if you will, with your thumb or palm and the water will spurt through a hole in the top making a drinking fountain for those without bottles to fill.

Given the drought in many parts of the USA, I was amazed by the constantly flowing water. I was glad to learn the water is recycled. The elaborate fountains in Rome, such as Fontana di Trevi and Fontana del Pantheon get their water from aquifers as well. The height or force of the fountain spray is related to the gravity available, depending on the source for the water. Trevi was deliberately sunken to allow for more gravity and a higher spray. The fountain near the Pantheon has a gentler flow. Fascinating!

Trevi Fountain

Fountain at the Pantheon

If you are fortunate enough to visit the Eternal City, don’t hesitate to refresh yourself with a drink of icy cold, delicious water from a nasoni, a unique Roman pleasure. And then have another drink for me!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Less Traveled Road

My writing spot by the Miami River

Good Friday was a day of self-care and reflection for me. I scheduled an early massage appointment at Harmony Farm because I wanted to have time to walk the labyrinth on the grounds before having lunch in Tipp City.

The massage was blissful, opening my mind to new thoughts and connections. The weather was perfect, the first day in weeks with temperatures warm enough to want to do the hike down to the labyrinth and be comfortable walking slowly. My mantra, Solvitur Ambulando, It Is Solved By Walking, guides my steps. As I navigated around the twists and curves of the labyrinth, I stayed open. I found myself asking, who am I? The immediate answers were wife, mother, friend, writer, creative, and teacher. That wife came first was eye opening. I am no longer a wife. But its place in the list tells me how important that role was to me. And though I am no longer a wife, it does not mean I wasn't a very good one because I was. It's been a long journey to recognize and accept that. 

After the labyrinth, I decided to walk down to the Miami River. Harmony Farm has picnic tables and benches there, a fine place to write, reflect, and enjoy nature. As I walked I kept noticing forked sticks. After the fourth or fifth one, I decided to pick one up. I had a flash back to Lent ten years ago. I was reeling from the discovery of my husband's affair and was in my home town in Pennsylvania. I fled there while my husband remained in Ohio to decide if he wanted me or the twenty three year old woman with whom he was having an affair. As I write that I am astounded that I tolerated that. I expect that most folks who know me are surprised as well. Severe trauma can do that; it can bring us to our knees. Literally in this case. I remember going to confession and sobbing out my story to an elderly, very startled priest. He had no idea how to help me. I did not know how to help myself but I knew I needed help. Which brings me to these forked sticks in my path. I had to make a choice back then. I chose to survive and I chose to do whatever it takes to feel whole again. 

People react to trauma in different ways. With regard to affairs and divorce, it is quite common to see some divorce quickly and then immediately find another relationship. Some folks stay together without doing any healing work and live with toxic hurt and mistrust bubbling below the surface. Some couples work together, maybe for the first time in their relationship truly being honest and vulnerable with one another, and create a better, stronger marriage. In my case there was no quick divorce nor was there any healing. So it was up to me to do the work on my own. PTSD is not something one heals from quickly. But I chose to walk that way; I took that fork in the road. Perhaps all these sticks in my path were there to remind me to do it again. To look at the possibilities and decide where to go next. The journey was difficult but rewarding. I'm glad I took the time to sort through all the hurt and pain and examine who I was, who I am, and who I choose to become. My first, most important role is to be myself. Only then can I successfully meet others' needs. To get here required time. To get here required making difficult choices. I needed to be on my own. I did not need to fill the hole created by divorce with another person; I needed to fill it with myself. Now I wake each day with gratitude and say, "I choose to be happy." I've put on my traveling shoes and look forward to the journey.

Embracing life!

The last stanza of Robert Frost's poem,  The Road Not Taken: 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.