A journal of a 24 year old Australian woman who returns to Europe in search of her roots. Working in a youth hostel in Assisi, she shares the intimate story of her journey.
October 30th 1996
Looking up at the clouds through the circle at the top of the Pantheon. Marble floors. A need for rest and peace, to see pure nature beyond these ancient amazing buildings.
Italy is such a sensual place, the food, the way everyone dresses so well, it’s like there’s a deep understanding of human nature here. The desire to hold another. The need to see beauty everywhere, it’s a deep satisfaction. I love being in Italy. I feel a deep connection, my roots are here, I love the small bricks, there are so many gorgeous looking people. Finding this handmade book to write in, I love the richness. It’s deep in my bones, an appreciation of handmade beautiful small works of art. I love seeing so many good looking European men around.
The Pantheon is a special building, looking into the heavens. I hope I can write something worthwhile in this book because it is so special.
I have been waiting to come to Italy since I was surrounded by red desert sands. It’s taken me about two years but now that I’m here I want to stay. I feel comfortable here with the easy going culture. I could do anything I wanted to do and no one would mind. I have a deep need to be here to get back to my European roots because a European is never deeply at home in Australia.
A time for wandering with Chris and we get on very well. We like seeing Franciscan monks in their brown robes and sandals. We love seeing olive groves and crumbling arches. It’s time to get out of Rome to breathe some fresh air and see more open spaces.
This dome of the Pantheon is enormous, built so long ago.
My bones are European, somehow I belong to all this, somehow I want to fit back in again and enjoy being a European.
I have no desire or need to return to Australia, Italy is my home for now, I’ll make friends and learn the language and enjoy life.
The climate is perfect. At the top of the hill looking over Roma, Chris and I saw gum trees. We bought oranges which tasted so good, who needs Ourimbah oranges?
I’ve come to Italy to soak up the richness, to soak up the best of my culture and to enjoy the finest details of good quality design…
Sitting under the dome of the Pantheon, life is free, one just needs to enjoy the beauty of one’s own culture.
“Francesca and I have just eaten gelati and it was yummy.” This is a song Chris just sang on a bridge over the Tiber River.
What do I, small little me, have to offer this world? I wander its streets and get up to the tops of hills to look out and feel clear. Maybe that’s enough. How can these lovely monks and nuns deny themselves their true nature? Chris says they’ve never had good sex so they don’t know what they’re missing out on. It’s a great time for Chris and I to see some wonderful places, we keep away from tourists…
This is the most special journal I’ve ever written in. Chris and I wandered through the streets of Rome and I found a shop which sold handmade boxes, photo frames and books in all sizes with all my favourite papers, Florentine on the covers. Oh la Madonna, if you set your standards high you come across what you were looking for. The man had a pad of blank paper which he could make a book out of, a big one for $60 and it would be ready tomorrow at 6pm. But Chris and I are off to Assisi tomorrow and I felt it was a bit much to pay for me to write in but I really treasure beautiful journals so maybe I’ll get one later…A special treat.
Years ago when I told the poet Robert Gray that I was going to Germany, he said I’d prefer Italy and he was right. One ought to listen to wise friends.
Chris and Frances sat on a hill overlooking Bondi beach one Friday and discovered they were both free. With a brochure of Europe before them, Frances was headed for Italy. Chris wanted to go to a new part of the world while the summer burnt on in Australia.
A few days later they had paid for their tickets. On the flight, Chris’s stomach kept rising and falling with the plane and she had a headache which she felt sure would never go away. Just before landing at Melbourne she lay on some seats next to a woman from the north of Ireland. The woman put her hand on Chris’s shoulder as the plane taxied into Melbourne.
An hour from Rome an old fat Italian man in front of them bounced up and screamed in Italian that he had left his bag in Bangkok and he wanted the plane to turn around. The Italians laughed.
Once the plane had landed an Italian man in front of them started singing and said, “Oh Australia bella but Italia molto bella.” They could not stop laughing.
They met three young Australian guys wearing T-Shirts, carrying heavy back packs. Sitting on the train platform exhausted and smelling of sweat and smoke, an Italian woman asked Perri an awful lot in Italian. He stared blankly ahead, unaware that she was talking to him. They had only planned their trip a week before and had sold their cars to get there.
Lucas was a sheet metal worker, Perri worked in a mail room in an insurance company and Peter was training to be a cardiologist and needed heart surgery himself because he was so boring.
First night was pizza. The two young’uns from Melboune were spun out by the Colosseum down the road from the hostel. Perri stood staring at the traffic.
“They haven’t had an accident yet, they don’t wear helmets,” he said. They both desperately wanted their cameras. In the Pizza Rustica, Lucas assumed everyone understood his English.
“Do they have tasty cheddar on top?” he asked. “How much is it? 3,000 lire, oh 3 dollars, great.”
He complained how expensive the Coke was, bought directly outside the Colosseum.
On the second day in Rome, Chris experimented with different names, trying to get the equivalent of a Bill and Toni’s long black. She finally discovered that doppio was the closest thing but it was so strong it gave her a headache and made her mind race for the next hour and a half.
On the first night Chris crashed out, exhausted from the week before in Australia but Frances was like a jumping bean. She came back after walking around and chatted on to Chris about everything and all Chris could do was mumble yes or no in reply.
Lucas came into the girls’ bedroom at 5.30 in the morning stoned off his tree and totally hyper from the Irish pub, raving about the beautiful American girl he’d picked up.
“I dunno if it was just the alcohol talking but she wants me to move to America already. We’re meeting her and her friend at 4 o’clock tomorrow, finding a motel and taking them out on scooters.”
The sound of breaking crusty bread, the look of Rosetta rolls, the sound of Franciscan monks’ sandals on cobblestones, small things are artworks in Roma.
Pure, unselfish love draws to itself its own; it does not need to seek or demand.
There is for each person, perfect self expression. There is a place which he or she is meant to fill and no one else can fill, something which he or she is to do, which no one else can do; it is his or her destiny.
If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to a yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
St Matthew 17:20
Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
St Matthew 7:7
Why are ye fearful, oh ye of little faith?
St Matthew 8:26
Love and good-will destroy the enemies within one’s self, therefore one has no enemies on the external.
One’s ships come in over a calm sea.
Lay not up for yourselves treasure upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor dust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
St Matthew 6:19-21
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
St Matthew 19:23-24
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.
Our communication with primitives and primitive societies demands that we first communicate with something deep in ourselves, something with which we are out of touch. It is our own primitive self, which has become alienated, hostile and strange. P93
We live in order to die to ourselves and give everything to others. P.102
Thomas Merton, Living and Loving.
Chris and I arrived here on the train and walked up the steep hill. She’s not strong on direction so I headed up and we’re in the piazza. A special stone town, it’s a shame we are one of the tourists. It’s crisp and sunny. Thankfully Chris is ringing some Franciscan nuns who Chris’s nun aunt gave her numbers for.
Arriving penniless, I spent my last coins on a slice of panforte and I didn’t quite have enough so as soon as I go to the bank I’ll get some more money for the northern lady. Strange to have Italian couples parading around in high fashion, arms around each other, when Assisi is St Francis’s home, brown robes and sandals. I find I dislike wealth, showing off… I like the pottery and would like to see where it’s made. It would be wholesome to meet the nuns…and monks.
A Danish man at the youth hostel picked some walnuts off the tree for me.
“They look all black on the outside but inside they’re perfect,” he said. He could have been talking about himself. He had a nobbly red nose and lots of scars on his face, not very attractive to look at. Mario, a lovely man from Venice who’s lived here for six years loves the nature, the peace and quiet. When he took his sunglasses off he had Jesus eyes, so soft and gentle. The Danish man gave us fig jam to taste, homemade, and offered to give us panini to eat it on.
I love the light in Assisi. It is impossible to be unhappy here, it is so beautiful. Blue sky and sunny, olive trees. Chris and I tasted our first olives walking down a dirt road with our packs on our backs. We spat it out.
Assisi is so lovely and still and tranquil. We were lucky to get a room tonight because it’s bank holiday tomorrow.
My washing is spinning around. I’ve finally made my pilgrimage to Assisi and I’m glad my mother named me Frances.
The trees and grasses are so gentle here, it’s quite English, not dry gum trees. I love the gentleness. I think good people must come to Assisi. It’s a good meeting place and a lovely young Australian man just walked in.
Being in Assisi is very special. Mario, the man with Jesus eyes has been here for six years. He left Venice to live as Jesus and St Francis did. He took Chris and I all around the town last night, showed us the most beautiful church of St Francis I’ve ever seen. The paintings, by Giotto and others are so full of love that I walked around about to cry. I was so silent, it felt like such a special place.
In town, I said would he be a brother of St Francis and he said if it was God’s wish. He said Chris wouldn’t be a sister of St Francis but maybe I will be, he said the terra, the earth is fertile for me. Then, eating minestrone in a restaurant he asked if I was 24. Yes, but he could have seen that on my YHA card. He’s 32, I like his beard and he talked in English/Italian about God and spiritual ways and it is such a blessing that we met this lovely good man. I feel more at peace with St Francis and Jesus than the Buddha. It’s my culture. Mario follows Jesus, not the Pope. I feel so blessed to be here, it feels so light, so special. I am not concerned about anything.
When Chris has asked me about her boyfriend Andy, I’ve said he lacks spirit and couldn’t explain any further. Last night, walking home with Mario, I said to her that’s what I mean about Andy and spirit, as he bounded along whistling. I want to sit in that heavenly church and look at the paintings for hours. I want to soak up the spirit of this place, the olive trees, everything.
What a contrast the fresh air from the countryside around Assisi is to the smog and high fashion of Roma. I like how Mario’s not a brother in a robe. He wears jeans, boots and a jumper. He even covered up his Jesus eyes with sunglasses.
I don’t feel like sleeping here, something about it. I need to soak it all up. I dreamed I was looking after three children and I was going to show their parents a special tomb of Mary. They wanted to see it before they died and I’d show them.
Sitting on the grass in the sun in an olive grove above Assisi, near a stone wall. A bee tasting the yellow flowers. A wild cornflower in front of me. Bells from the Basilica di Saint Francesco ringing down below. A gentle breeze. Barefoot. Burgundy velvet pants. Panini with pesto for lunch followed by Umbrian almond biscotti. Blue sky, a few clouds, so sunny.
Woke at 6.30 in the youth hostel to walk briskly up the hill with Mario. Lovely man, we went to Mass in the Basilica of Saint Francis but what was most precious was the chilly air, the mist and pink and orange sunrise. This is a place of mystique Mario keeps saying and it is somehow perfect and deeply divine. The albero olivos are in fruit, the almond biscotti is superb, it is all somehow perfect. I do not want to leave.
The mass was in Italian which was fine. I somehow prefer not understanding it, there’s no conflict in my mind about Catholicism, the people, the material wealth etc … I’m in my own world which I can afford to be in while I have money.
The buzzing insects.
I am a child of god, the universe, I give in, I am home, at peace … I’d love to camp in an olive grove.
I don’t know about monks and nuns being celibate but a nun sang behind me like an angel this morning and when I turned around to shake her hand in peace I felt o la madonna how can this particularly beautiful woman be a nun. In her late 20s or 30s, what drives people to live without marriage and children? It seems a waste somehow, for her not to have little singing angel bambinos.
Oh la Madonna
I love being here.
I feel at home in the nature, the olive trees, cornflowers, I feel totally at one and the quality of food and stone buildings is perfect.
Funny how I didn’t bring my Australian passport, it’s expired and I can’t get back into the country without it. I don’t want to. I can stay here and be like a child and I sat around the breakfast table saying Moo, baa, woof woof, meow for all the different Italian names and we were hungry after a lovely fresh warm panini, Italians only seem to have one panini and coffee for breakfast.
I love speaking another language, the sounds, non capisco, I love how strongly a woman said Buonjourno this morning. They mean every word.
I don’t even think I want to go to smelly Florence. I like a country place which attracts good people and this is a big one.
I bought the writings of St Francis and I thank mamma for having books about him and embroidered cloth and Assisi plates … I could have a kitchen full of Assisi crockery if I live here …
I love sitting quietly in nature with trees and birds and insects, it’s important to me, especially up high in the sun in this lovely clean air. Life seems so perfect. Olive trees, grass, a wild cornflower, now pine nut biscotti … There go the church bells again. I’m just so glad I came here while I’m young and so free.
I fell asleep in the olive grove and woke around two. The blur of olive trees and clouds and I drifted off and back to the world … there’s no need to have a watch in Assisi because the bells ring every fifteen minutes. Breathing in, breathing out. I read the writings of St Francis and it says you have to love and follow the Pope to be a Franciscan nun and be celibate so I might try to be a Buddhist. It was so romantic sleeping in the olive grove, drifting off. High above it all, I needed that time alone, it’s very healthy, I need to be quiet and alone in nature to centre myself again. Then no one can annoy me, I have inner peace.
Chris and I worked for our board tonight, somehow we’ve drifted into working in the Assisi YHA with dear Mario, he’s gorgeous, I just melt into him. So sweet and the more tired he gets the more sweet and affectionate he is.
Dream – I was in a house with Paul and his family and I didn’t even talk to him, we saw each other but had nothing to say and he went home. I kissed him on the lips goodbye and there was nothing between us anymore. Then I woke up.
Mario told me about being a monk for two years and being chased by a demon. So he wears a cross around his neck to chase away the devil. He seems so pure, he talks openly about the interior life. He speaks the truth.
Would you like some cake? Vorresti un po’ di torta? I would like some cake. Vorrei un po’ di torta.
I was sitting under some albero olivo- olive trees- above the youth hostel and Mario walked past with his bright orange jacket in hand. So he came and sat with me in the grass and said God is in me, in him, in the grass, trees, air and sky. He loves to talk about God and I love to hear him, he’s precious. He was so tired from work. It’s lovely working with him, he pats me on the shoulder and is so sweet. We’re good friends already because he’s so totally open. He’s looking forward to going to the mountains and having silence and a fire… how gorgeous. Chris and I went to mass which was so wonderful but the priest seemed boring, rubbing his eyes from tiredness while the Franciscan monk was so humble and pure. I’d love to go to church with Franciscan monks and nuns and no priests.
Sitting on some steps in the town eating gelati, panforte and pane pesto, a guy aged 30 walked past and looked straight into my eyes. He said I looked like someone he knew. Then he came back and spoke to Chris in French but stared at me. He was so arrogant, he said Italian men are cultured and the northerners are superior to the southerners but I liked one thing he said. He was totally open about the fact that he’s looking for a woman to marry and have children with.
When we came back to the hostel and told Mario, Mario said he’s an uciello della bosco, a bird of the forest, free and he is and that’s what makes him so attractive. Luckily Daniella translates for us. He works so hard in the kitchen and would love more time for himself.
I love going to church-mass, it’s like a time for meditation.
The sun’s going down as I sit under this persimmon tree after a blissful day provided by Dio/God/the Universe, Mario, birds, autumn leaves, Umbrian biscotti mandorla, tomato and cheese pasta, mass at 7.30 in St Pietro with nuns from Suore Francescane dell’ Addolorata, tea and bread and homemade jam for breakfast with them, some cleaning at the Ostello della Pace, 7am at St Francis’ Basilica where 10 or 15 monks sang and read from books and there was no audience except for a few old people. No collection, I like mass for free.
Mario says I’m going to be a sister, he says God will say to me I love you and I’ll be a sister in the future. I love this place, I feel at home here, I’d love to care for children and let them grow up in this paradise surrounded by spiritual travellers from all over the world. I have no desire to move from here. A man in the street asked Mario for money and he got out his wallet and gave him some and didn’t say anything. He really makes me laugh. We raked autumn leaves at the hostel this afternoon and joked about cleaning them up again tomorrow. We both like the leaves all over the ground. We’re similar in spirit. When we came back from our walk (Mario: Que bella) there was a table set up al fresco with pasta, cold coffee, spinach and it was just divine sitting having lunch in the sun. Is that what you get when you go to mass. Mario and I have a very romantic time together in nature, he puts his arm in mine sometimes and we walk arm in arm. It is just so wonderful being here. Divine providence. Sshhh, don’t tell everyone about it. When people ask “Where’s Francesca?” to Chris, she says, “she’s gone to mass, she’s at church.”
I’m learning so much Italian from Mario like folia morte-dead leaf. I say buonjourno to the albero olivos and the birds say hello to us … he’s so funny.
I’m in the church of St Francis, I love being in meditation. Dear Mario is in front of me, he’s lovely.
Buonjourno. Mario opened up a lot last night. Under the shadows of trees alongside the road to Assisi he stopped and tried his best in English in earnest to explain his life. He spent many years having a wild time- Germany, Austria, Denmark and Sweden, in black leather on a motorbike with a gang, lots of women and sex, lots of drugs including opium.
He’s got a broken front tooth. Six years ago he had a bad motorbike accident and six years ago he came here to Assisi and gave up his bad habits, he still smokes cigarettes. But he’s a bird of the forest, libero, he’s got such a good spirit and he really wanted me to understand him, he was so open. I like him very much. We walk arm in arm and we both need that affection but he says he wants to be friends and write to each other if I go and he’s very sincere. He said he used to have ‘much money.’ We’re good friends but that’s it… soul friends. I love people who give up everything to live a spiritual life. He often mentions he’ll go to hell and he’s got a lot of penetance. Mario’s more a cartoon character who loves to laugh but he’s got such a good heart and is very devoted. I feel sad seeing such a lovely person unmarried. He’s 32 and says he’s living a solo life libero, he doesn’t want babies or a wife it seems. He picks me over, he says he’ll get me fit and in line. He says I’ve got big bones and I’m strong. He’s given his life to God.
After mass this morning he went to have confession and he saw his friend sitting opposite him and he didn’t want confession but went ahead. I wonder what he said. He had a vision of Christ in mass. He really identifies with the pictures of Christ and is so thankful to God… Much more interesting than the average pious Christian. Mario’s got that element of danger. He’s been around and lived a wild life until 26. From then on it’s a spiritual life for him with his beard, no money and a few clothes. He loves wine, cigarettes and coffee, he’s not a puritan. I love his spirit, it’s strong and true. I love him very much for being so honest and true to himself. We walk arm in arm and spend all day and all night together. I hope I helped him by listening to him.
Your soul touches mine
with your Jesus eyes.
Mario works so hard all day … Last night after washing up I looked for decent music on the radio but turned it off instead. He said to me you’re very spiritual, pointing to his heart. He said I’m removed from the chaotic world of clothes, cars and houses, I don’t look to that world, I look to God. In broken Italian and English we talked for ages, standing close, looking into each other’s eyes. He said when he first saw me, my face looked like a mystic or an ascetic. Even though he only hassled me about my chubby cheeks and how I looked better with my hair down.
It was quite bizarre standing in the kitchen being totally honest with each other, the sort of stuff you’d say in the dark after sex. He asked if I’d been attracted to him sexually and I said I’ve been attracted to him spiritually. Sex is nothing, just physical, it’s a spiritual attraction. He’s been sexually attracted to me, looking at me every day, thinking, fantasising. I couldn’t believe he was telling met this. He is totally open and honest. He prayed to God to ask him if I’m good or not good. He wants love without possession. I don’t want a love relationship with him apart from friendship. I do love him for his special being but we’re not suited. He’s free and solo. Fine. I always find men like that. Mario is a spiritual being, he says he is still flesh, I’m glad we can talk about anything. That’s loving. I don’t want to have sex with him. It’s unnecessary and I don’t want it. I could sit in nature and look into his eyes for hours. We’ve both spent time looking inwards at ourselves and that’s where the attraction comes from, interior, looking at each other’s souls because we’ve looked into our own. He talks of going to the mountains. I don’t want to be in Assisi without him. He’s my friend, my companion, my guide and Italian teacher. For that reason I want us to be together. I’d like to travel with him in Italy, I’d love Mario to show me Florence and Milano, his Italy … the mountains, the special places. However he has no money.
Good on him for asking me directly how I feel. A man has never done that to me and it was hard trying to explain things in Italian/English but refreshing. His eyes … I wanted to spend the whole day with him today but he wants to go off and be free and solo. It’s up to him.
I feel comfortable in this landscape, the trees and grasses and hills are gentle, the birds sing. I feel quite at home here in myself but Mario is a worry. He works too hard, he isn’t paid in money, the road is tough for the spiritual traveller who has joy in the simplicity. For me, the churches and towns are too affected, too old, too much tradition. Too stayed. I prefer the freedom, openness of the countryside and not the rituals of churches where people have done the same old thing for so long like bowing in church that they lose their meaning and spontaneity. For me, nature is most important.
11th November 96
Grazie Questa Oggi
Had a wonderful day with Mario, up at 7 for mass at Saint Pietro, holding hands, then back for work. Felt totally calm, at peace and full of happiness at lunch because I cleaned for three hours and I felt satisfied. Daniella told Mario off in Italian for using pesto. Mario and I walked down the road to San Masseo and stopped and I painted. A strong wind blowing all the leaves away. We managed to say everything we wanted to say somehow, with a lot of sign language. Sitting together in nature, I was surprised at his energy. He’s spent the past six years in meditation and prayer and that’s his life. I find he doesn’t have a lot of male sexual energy, his concentration is on the clouds and trees and I got used to it and we laughed and stroked and cuddled. I cuddled him like a mumma hugging a bambino and he loved that. It’s a very open loving infinite energy between us, I love his eyes and face and beard and his being.
Writing seems a strange way of putting this experience on paper. Painting is better. Just being is the best way to be and Mario knows, he’s been hungry and begged sisters for food. He’s worked in the hostel and had American women with big boobs and tight pants ask him for sex but he didn’t want to be chewed up and spat out like chewing gum. He’s a good person. Now I understand why the other night he asked me if I’m attracted to him for sex. No. He likes it when I wear my hair out and says I should all the time. It gets in the way. I feel tired after so much fresh air. It’s been an amazing day and I’m so glad Mario and I talk so openly. He says God has a design for all of us. He’s a bird of the forest. We talk about marriage by pointing to our ring finger. He’s a special free spirit … his energy is so spiritual.
Had a wonderful walk up the hill with Mario but we couldn’t be as close as I was to Paul, our minds are too separate.
San Masseo, afternoon.
A person will reap exactly what he sows. Galatians 6:7
Love is patient, love is kind. Corinthians 1:13
The light of the body: Luke 11:34-36
The eyes are like a lamp for the body. If your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eyes are no good, your body will be in darkness. Matthew 6:22
This is why I tell you not to be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body. After all, isn’t life worth more than food? And isn’t the body worth more than clothes? Look at the birds flying around: they do not sow seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth much more than birds? Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it? Matthew 6:25
Dream – I was with Madonna and we were in a boat then jogging together by the sea. I asked her why she was such an attention seeker and she said it’s because she wasn’t loved enough as a child. I asked her if she’s as sick of her latest song ‘You Must Love Me,’ as I am.
Mario seems devoted to me. We love being together, walking, lying under trees, whatever. He says our love will grow. He says God brought us together to love each other but I’m not so sure we’re suited. For now it’s perfect, he’s such a lovely affectionate friend and we cuddle and he says I’ll drive him crazy, he’ll think of me at night. He wants me to go to Florence and Venice with him. I asked Daniella how long she wants me to work here for and she said as long as you like – Mario says it’s God’s will. He is certain of this and I believe him because he leads a spiritual life and owns nothing. We’ll always be close friends because our love is based on a spiritual bond.
I’m so glad I can stay in Europe and I’m not spending money except on the occasional sweets or drinks. Each morning I wake up and know I have to clean for three hours. Cleaning toilets is a humbling job and I think everyone should pray for those who clean toilets all day every day.
Chris rang last night and wants me to travel down to Sicily with her but I don’t, I need to be with Mario. I miss him when we’re not together, his love.
I love sleeping alone in my room and I don’t want to get up in the mornings for breakfast and more cleaning. I think Mario wants to just about marry me – he wants me to stay with his family near Venice. When he teases me about becoming a sorella I say he’ll be a padre and he says yes, maybe a father in a family. It’s all too quick and I want to run away – Chris wants me to meet her and go south so maybe I will. With Mario I’m under close inspection. He told me at breakfast that my cheeks are getting bigger. Thanks. The Australians at my table were complaining about the price of everything including dinner. Daniella is a nervous wreck out to make as much profit as possible. They say I can stay and work here as long as I like – how boring, cleaning and washing up. It’s frightening how many Australians stay here and last night a whole table of them talked about football for two hours. How tedious. I find my own culture so stifling.
Mario’s asked me if I’d been to church to pray but I feel I don’t need to go to church any more. Nature is where I pray.
It’s been raining all day, softly, gently … I’ve had my candle burning. When Mario and I lie gently in each other’s arms there is so much peace. He asks me if I love him and I say I’ve only known you two weeks. We don’t talk about the past because it’s too hard in our simple Italian/English.
Mario dreamed that I was dead but then he shook me and I was alive. He went to mass this morning and said it means my old life is dead and I’ve begun a new life.
Mario came and lay with me in my bed after lunch. He said I was nervous, not pace. “Tu pense troppo,” he said. He wants to fai amore with me. It’s quite handy not speaking the same language because I don’t say everything to him and it’s not too complicated.
Sitting at the dinner table last night, about to eat, an extremely handsome young Spanish man arrived. With shoulder length hair tied back, in black jeans and a fitting black top, he joined us for dinner, sitting opposite me. Raphael. Mmm. I filled his wine glass, we ate spaghetti then roast potatoes and meat … Poor Mario was sitting at the same table but left early to wash up. Raphael is a Spanish fireman.
After work, Mario and I were going for a walk in the fresh air in the light of the moon past olive groves and we were holding hands. Then a dark figure was slowly approaching us. Raphael. He and Mario talked in Italian for a while then he was going to leave us because he thought we wanted a tranquil walk. No No. So we walked all the way past St Francis’ basilica up to Piazza de Commune and stopped in a bar. Raphael had a cappuccino, Mario had a doppio and I had a sucre d’orancha. It was cold and windy so Raphael took off his winter jacket and gave it to me. How chivalrous Mario said in Italian. All these subtleties. Raphael and Mario got on very well, talking politics and Italian ways all the way. Raphael asked me only one question, how many people live in Australia. There was no need to ask questions. This morning, at breakfast Raphael sat at my table. He said he wants to learn English. I said he could stay here and I’ll teach him English and he’ll teach me Italian. He likes bike riding and I said he could come back next year and I’d ride around Umbria and Tuscany with him. There is a strong pull between us. He hardly slept last night – coffee?
When he was walking out I said ciao and he said doppo which means later and when I cleaned his room I saw that he’s staying another night instead of going to Perugia. Chris comes back tonight. The church bells are ringing.
Dear Mario is in a mood. He told me to have a good think. When I went outside into the cold he came back inside, he’s not talking, remote, the revolting radio is turned up loud, blocking out the rest of the world. Dear Beppe just gave Chris and I a beautiful piece of paper- so kind. It’s comforting to have Chris here, we have similar dreams.
“I’ve got a soul,” Mario said. “I’ve lived solo for six years.” He’s so dear to me, I’d love to hold him like a child and fill him with love. I don’t want to hurt him, that’s very important to me.
Mario: Oh Signore Bernadetto, perche? Patienza.
He kept asking me why I wanted to leave Assisi. In his arms I didn’t want to. I wish I could make several copies of myself, one to stay here with Mario, one to travel with Chris and another to live in Tuscany. I don’t like Mario whistling away in the kitchen with the radio so loud. He says live one day at a time, piano piano, I love his soul. Six year he’s been solo. He keeps saying we’re libero but he’ll be sad when I leave and so will I. It will be good to go away and I can always come back. I feel very sad because he’s such a good person, he’s got such a good heart, simply: I love his spirit.
Dream: It was old times. Beppe and Mario and I were with a group of people. I was taking photos. We talked about karma and past lives and that’s why we’re together.
Napoli Nov 96
Came south with Chris. She’s a Bondi girl – loves the sea, coffee, grungy seedy places like Napoli – Yuk. For me it’s everything Mario said it would be, mad, cars, ugly, seedy, annoying men everywhere … I’m an Umbrian/Tuscan girl. I like to be surrounded by art and wealth, not seedy streets. Had the best melanzane pizza for 5,000 lire and two gelati then came back to the hostel. I miss Mario, I keep thinking of him and how we like similar things and I agree with everything he said about the south so I trust his judgment now. It’s good we’re having time apart to miss each other. I love being with him and I said I wouldn’t be back for two weeks- until his birthday on Dec 8. I like being away, quiet women’s time, although it’s hardly been quiet. I trust and love Mario and we’re so similar in our natures, we like a quiet life whereas Chris loves the city life and what I find superficial and seedy, where pornographic postcards appear and men are creepy in the street. One man said bella to me tonight and he was nice.
Dream – I was with Paul and we were meant to be together in marriage and all I had to do in life was pick oranges when they were ripe.
I was gliding down the hills of Assisi in wooden soled shoes, fast and round corners as though I was on ice skates and it was wonderful and I thought I could try anything there and find out if anything is true. No dreams of Mario. I held Paul’s hand- very gentle and kind, I like his hands.
Wonderful night – pizza and antipasto at a lovely restaurant in Napoli with Michel Angelo from Mexico and an Englishman and Chris. I’ve been setting Chris up with Michel and tonight was very good- wine, followed by gelati, a wonderful night for 20,000 lire. I’ve been missing Mario, everyone needs love.
On the bus from Amalfi to Positano – expanse of sea and rocky cliffs – as I always imagined the Mediterranean to be. Beautiful bright blue, red and yellow boats … A woman with a baby- olive skin, deep brown eyes and healthy soft cheeks was on the bus. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Oh that baby in the bus- such gorgeous olive cheeks and brown eyes.
After baked fish because I’ve had enough white pasta and bread. I need to eat protein- meat I think. I think Mario’s a good influence on me. I miss his beard. Here at Positano it’s OK but so exclusive and we’ve had lemon gelati and lemoncella liquor and it’s a waste of money. In the middle of the night I slept in the same bed as Chris and was going to cuddle her, thinking she was Mario.
Amalfi – Positano- Sorrento on bus in rain then Sorrento – Napoli. It is wonderful to be sitting on an intercity train from Napoli to Firenze direct … BLISS. I need to get out of the south, I have no connection here and my culture is in the north – I’ve grown up with the art of Florence and now that I’m tired and alone, leaving Michel and Chris in Napoli, I feel very glad to be heading north. I’m sitting next to a Napolitan lady whose daughter Lily is in Roma with a two month old baby. She’s a cancer and her daughter’s a pisces and has to live near the sea.
In Sorrento I wanted the bus to stop in an easy place and it did.
I find the south of Italy too rocky, the hills too steep.
Quanti ani hai? – how old are you? Una camera con vista – A Room With a View.
Florence is a treat I’ve saved up for years and now I’m going to taste it on my own.
Sitting in front of Botticelli’s (1446-1510) Sandro Botticelli’s Nascita Divenere- Birth of Venus and my favourite Allegoria Della Primavera which reminds me of home, I’ve been surrounded by her all my life.
Right here is the centre of the world for me. The women look pregnant.
I’m missing Mario so much. I rang him tonight and Daniella said I should go to Siena and San Geminiano but all I want in the whole world is to be with Mario. It feels totally pathetic. I’ve walked non stop all over Firenze all day.
LUCCA Sat 4pm
Io sono stanca. I want to sit down, lie down and drink cups of tea and minestrone for days. I managed to ring Richard Boardman and Patrice Lombardi in Cardoso which is great because they work in Firenze during the week. Molto buono. I need lots of rest, cups of hot tea and minestrone. I’m so glad I came to Lucca instead of going back to Assisi – my life is a series of realising my dreams and I’ve dreamed of coming to Lucca for years. On the bus this morning I didn’t think much of Tuscany – I’d seen romantic pictures of it and Australia is more beautiful I think … so maybe Assisi is the right place for me to live. I also think I need to see Tuscany and visit Richard and Patrice. Patrice had a very English accent. I’m so glad Richard invited me up into the mountains to stay the night- a thin thread of connection … the same blood somewhere along the line. I’m spending lots of $$ but it’s what I’ve dreamed of for years so money just keeps me alive and moving. A shame the bar smells so heavily of smoke.
Dear David, I’ve been lying, doing yoga, walking and breathing in the sun again. Words cannot describe this mountain air, the golden sunlight on winter trees, the smoke from fires drifting through the valley, a river deep down and terraces of delicately tended gardens – olive trees, grape vines, parsley, spinach and cabbage. An old man in a woolly cap and brown jumper carrying a bucket through rows of grape vines.
I love you David at times like this and I don’t want to be near you. I can smell the smell of fires getting ready for the night. I love the delicate colours and twigs, the shiny light on rows of sticks. I can’t take my eyes off the golden light of the gardens.
I’m standing at an open window. I woke in this dark room this morning after arriving off the train in the dark. The garden is golden and the fire smoke is filling the valley full of late evening sun. I opened the shutters this morning to a bright magnificent mountain view. Ash just fell on my paper.
A clear blue sky in Cardoso, 30th November 1996. Patrice Lombardi is a painter who married mum’s cousin Richard Boardman and they live here in this lovely humble house which is like a haven for me, full of books in English, paintings “the light and the delicate features captured very still.” Richard is an angel. Washing up after curry for lunch Patrice told me he’s a pisces like you and there is a similarity. He directs an art department at a university in Firenze but is trying to retire so he can draw and enjoy life.
The light has gone now. It’s your fine hair David, and I wish you’d allow your delicacy to take over every day because it’s why I love something so delicate within.
Patrice is divine. I loved the photo of her and her painting. I like true artists. She took photos this afternoon on our walk through chestnut trees, a grassy path with crunchy leaves. The day has gone so fast, one big stream of sunlight. Their house faces south. Coming from Australia where everyone wants a house facing north to catch the sun, I was amazed they were so happy to have a house facing south. They live in the northern hemisphere, 45 minutes on the train north of Lucca. Near Florence-Firenze.
They asked me what I want to do when I grow up. Just live however I want to live. My life is a long series of living out my dreams and coming to Florence-Firenze and Lucca and Cardoso has been in the womb since Alice Springs days.
I’m working in a youth hostel in Assisi, cleaning toilets, folding blankets and washing up. He buys coffees in a bar in Assisi. He tells me he wants to make love to me in Italian and said he’ll wait a year. He hasn’t touched a girl for six years.
So that’s that. One story in a long seires of stories about a girl who sits in the sun. I thought of writing a book called I Kissed Jesus but it’s easier to live than to sit and write books. I’d prefer to write as I go.
All the light and the delicate features captured very still. The water is pure mountain aqua.
‘It’s a town they make films about
The bleak’s quite beautiful
All the light and the delicate features
are captured very still.
So much for all the history
all the martyrs and the kings
and the fight that was the good fight
was the fight that they didn’t win.’
I love being here in Patrice’s kitchen – and Richard. Patrice said I can stay another night but I don’t want to get in Richard’s way. They seem to know the inside story of my relatives. I really like Patrice, she’s so lively and has lots of energy. I like her delicacy – frailty. I like being in Europe, closer to family but I like a distance. We’ve each had a minor disaster. Last night Patrice tipped kerosene on the floor when she was filling up the heater. Tonight as Richard was talking against God he smashed a glass with his hand. Then I got lazy and didn’t use a spoon to take some mango chutney and poured way too much out of the jar onto my dahl. Yuk. I’m still drinking mountain water. My head is full of mountain air. It inspired me to write this afternoon, I find Patrice inspiring. She liked me telling her about The Songlines. What Toly and Jenny are doing now. I love how Patrice and Richard are quite mainstream, her paintings sell well. Richard loves Beatrix Potter. They’re like children, they don’t need children. They’d be great parents. At dinner they carry on and eat pancakes, about ten each. I feel at peace here although their life has its precise rhythm. I like the plate rack. Judy Proctor will meet them in Firenze on the 12th of December.
I like how Patrice and Richard talk to me so much, I feel honoured. They give me their previous time. I love talking with them but I also love quiet time for writing and just talking in the kitchen, to soak up being here in case I catch a train tomorrow. I believe everything will sort itself out find so I’m not bothered about anything, I have complete faith that everything will work out.
If you let go a little you will have a little peace,
If you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace,
If you let go completely you will have complete peace and freedom.
Eurythmics is soothing the air upstairs. Mountain air is wonderful, so inspiring. I love being in the country, I’m not a city person at all. From Laurence’s photo Patrice said she’d like to meet him.
Richard has our same love of stationery. I’m so glad I’ve been brought up without being suffocated by family and wealth or poverty. All those people are dead now, I see no point in remembering it all because we don’t know what their lives were really like.
Richard told me to wait for the right person. He and Patrice really love each other. I’m glad they told me Florence -Firenze is filthy with smog and cold and damp. I’m better off in the country.
I’m on the train to Arezzo where mum told me to see the Pierre della Francesco murals. Food in Arezzo then back to Assisi.
I feel so well after red lentil dahl, rosehip tea and mountain air and water. They can find out a lot about a person by seeing how they are, how they arrive and leave at their place. I was smooth. They encouraged my passion for writing.
This morning in the kitchen I asked Richard and Patrice where I could find shoes for my broad feet. They said don’t bother, Italian shoes are short and thin.
“Those bloody Calvers had big bones,” I said. Yes, Richard buys shoes in England or America.
“You are definitely a Calver,” he said. “I could tell the first time I saw you.”
“I’m Frances Jones,” I said.
It’s grey and cold this morning. I made sure Mario had a happy birthday yesterday and he told me he likes me very much. He came into my room this morning and offered me a Baci chocolate. I think it would be too difficult for me to stay here in Italy with him.
Dear Daniella, I wish there was no need to write to you but there is a need to communicate. We are quite different people. I like to be quiet and peace of mind is important to me. I get annoyed when you talk so loudly and it seems like you think Mario and I are stupid sometimes.
Today at the market I went to buy two apples and when I went to give the woman some money, she said no, you have them for free. I was very touched by this because I think generosity, giving, is an expression of love. Money is not as important to me, or most people, as love. I know it is so difficult working with people because we are all so different.
I was sad today because I enjoy living in Assisi and working with peaceful people.
I think it’s important for us to say what we think if we are going to work together.
Today has been very interesting for me. Yesterday Mario gave his money to a person in the street who asked for it. He had no money. He gave his new black jacket bought from Bastille market for 70,000 lire to Charlie, who’s patzo per Dio (Crazy for God). So he had no jacket and it was cold today. This morning Guiseppe was asking him to do lots of work again and it was too much. Mario and I have wanted to leave for a few weeks. This morning he packed his small back pack and left. Ciao, buon natale, he said and then whistled all the way down the road, filled with joy. He went to San Masseo. He went to a convent near the Church of St Francis and said he needed to talk to one of the Cappuccini superiors urgently. Ciao, the Cappuccini said, not the polite buonjourno. Mario told him he had no money, no house, no place to sleep and nothing to eat. He was given 200,000 lire and a room at San Masseo looking over olive trees, grape vines and persimmon trees.
I did both of our work this morning then went to meet him at the bar we always go to. I had sat in the Church of St Francis for an hour breathing. I felt peaceful.
I met Mario in the bar at 1 o’clock and he had a camomile tea, I had sucre d’orancha. We waltzed down to San Masseo and sat in front of a fire. This morning the man who’s sharing a house with him gave him a lovely shiny grey jacket which is lovely and big for him and he’s very happy. Libero. I had cold feet but he’s always warm, he’s used to the cold. Then we went to San Masseo and waited in the kitchen for an hour while young women with babies cooked for 15 Franciscan fathers coming tonight. Mario was telling me what to say but I was pure peace. An American Franciscan brother Marc came out in his brown robe and I asked if I could stay there. Yes, he didn’t see any problem with that. I can eat in Assisi, I bought a Baci and Umbrian tozzetti, he bought a chocolate riso biscuit and we felt pretty happy. He did look good in his new grey jacket. Then I bought a new pair of boots, reduced from 59,000 to 49,000. It was our day. What an amazing day. Mario told me he wanted to show me the spirit of Jesus and he has. He asked and received and has prayed constantly in the six weeks we’ve been together. I just watched everything in peace and everything has worked out smoothly.
15th December 1996
Dreams about old school friends – why? To me dreams don’t make any sense, especially when I’m in Assisi dreaming about old school friends.
Lovely mass – laying on of hands. I invited Pure Love into me.
Today Luca gave me a deeply calming cleansing massage. He is a purifier, I like his ways. I tried to totally relax and let him stroke my body. Nobody has touched me that much since Paul. I talked to Luca a lot this morning about his ideas. I like him, his simplicity. Mario was so calm and happy today. I love it when he’s tranquil. We haven’t talked for a few days and his agitation really annoyed me. But tonight he lay in bed below Luca and Rosario and tucked under the blankets his eyes were so lovely, chestnut brown, so gentle and deeply beautiful. Ti amo quando tu sei tranquillo, I said. He got annoyed with me and said he loves me all the time, when I’m tranquil or not. Tu non capito, he says, poor thing, he was so cold and sad sleeping all alone in that room before. Dear one. I tell him our energy is too different, he’s too agitated and fast for me, I’m piano. He’s so lovely though and this morning Luca said we have a lot of lessons in life and if it’s painful it means we’re learning. If we don’t learn the lesson and make it go away as I did with Mario, the same lesson comes back with a different face. So I was very glad to love Mario again and it’s important and healing for him. Tutti donne patza, he says, all women are crazy.
Tonight the group of young people are having an all night prayer vigil. Sorry but it’s not my thing. For me the day’s for praying and the night’s for sleeping and dreaming. I need to look after myself and love and let go and that way I’ll be better able to help others. This country is cold and tiring enough for me with learning a new language and wishing I had a bath – without getting up in the middle of the night to pray. No thank you. My massage today was good to move impurities and toxins in my body. If I purify my mind and body as much as possible and give pure love, that’s what I need to do now. I’m very quiet and am doing my own things like making peace with and loving Mario. That’s enough for me now. That’s my family up the hill, more settled, more focused. Here, all these young people make a lot of noise and I’m not part of this group. Father Marc is very sincere but quite strict and into a bit of suffering etc … That’s not my way. Dear Mario. I’m so glad we were soft and gentle together tonight. He needs love and he’s a very good wholesome friend to me. He likes good food – he doesn’t like the peasant food we eat here at San Masseo. He likes the best.
Dream – I was asking Maryanne how to repay someone who has given you so much like Luca gave me in wisdom – how can you pay them in money. She said you give them what you think they’re worth.
At dinner tonight I sat next to Fritz and he told me how Marc was working in films for Hollywood for 20 years before coming here to be a Franciscan father for the past 14 years. Yarroh was very negative and said you can’t change the world, he was so negative. When I was washing up later he asked if he could help and I said yes you can help by being positive. As I was washing up I was laughing to myself, thinking I’m surrounded by 2 frustrated actors who are now Franciscan priests. Surrounded by young excited musicians and comedians. What a strange world. Actors in theatrical brown robes, who were attracted to the romantic idea of being a monk and reading boldly in mass and performing all sorts of wonderful acts. The whole bloody world’s a stage. Oh God, we’re all so human. It took all the mystery away when Fr Fritz told me about Marc being an x-movie star from Hollywood. Oh God.
If I have a baby what will it reflect back at me? I imagined having my baby in my arms the other night and I imagined giving it Pure Love, even naming it pure love.
Dream – Fiona the perfect one had just had her second baby and it was so simple for her, so easy. I was talking to her and she said our old headmaster Mr Payne was amazed what I was doing, he was disappointed because I could have done so much. I said I could go back to uni and study again. But academic study is not important to me, I’m more interested in spiritual – meditation.
So I’m feeling confused, I don’t have a good job or babies … I’m hanging out with a Franciscan who could have been a brother but he didn’t want the 3 years of theological studies after being a novice. We’re both uciello della boscas- we like our freedom.
What am I doing with my life?
I’m sleeping in Mario’s little house with its bella vista of grape vines, olive groves, old trees and old stone houses. We look out through an arch and it’s my favourite little area of Assisi, a protected grove or gully. Beautiful. Mario talks a bit in his sleep – the other night he said Io vado a Washington. When he woke up he couldn’t remember what he dreamed about but he knew it was a voyage. We got on very well, he’s my companion.
Last night we went to mass at San Masseo at 11 pm but it was so smoky in the chapel I went upstairs to the prayer room and sat in the dark while everyone else was downstairs rehearsing songs. Then Marc and Fritz burst into the kitchen and began a very heated argument in Italian, Fritz with his Austrian accent, I couldn’t understand a word of it, in Italian but I was amazed at how angry they were and they kept saying Mi dispiace … I got the feeling that Marc was very annoyed with something Fritz had done. I was amazed to hear Marc like this because normally he’s silent and we never talk to each other. So I was sitting in the capella thinking mumma mia, praying I wouldn’t sneeze and they’d know I was there. There was no way out so I sat there for half an hour and slowly they calmed down. Then the young people came up to the kitchen and I drifted out but I went to get Mario and he was tired of being in the smoky chapel, at ¼ to 12 it hasn’t started so we walked up to Assisi. On the way we called in on Luca who’s very spiritual in his own life, he’s lovely. I respect him far more than the other priests, but he has no reason to wear a robe. Mario and I skipped up to San Francesco for mass but it was bursting with people in fur coats … Italians go over the top with fur coats. So we walked through the quiet empty streets of Assisi under a full moon at 12 midnight while everyone else was in mass. Only one or two cafes were open. We went to mass at Santa Chiara where Mario’s friend the priest put the wafer in my mouth. I was high on the fresh air but tired so we walked home under the light of the full moon, bellissimo. Then Mario and I slept in our cosy beds with firm mattresses.
He’s eating smarties for breakfast which I gave him for Natal. Yesterday we needed more food so I went to Foligno and a supermarket in Basilica with Luca and bought food. Mario simply went to Spello and said buon natal to everyone and came home with pasta, meat, cheese, biscuits, tins of tomatoes, everything, salt, elegant Umbrian sweets. He knows the right people, the Principal of the Franciscans and he ate lunch with his friends at the convent so he’s pretty smart and knows how to live. We’ve been together non stop and like doing similar things. We’re going to lunch with Luca and I’m glad because he’s Welsh and a very good person and I love speaking English with him.
I rang mum today and she was so excited to hear the bells of Santa Chiara in the background. Dad talked only about Hugo, he’s a funny little one, he makes lots of amusing gestures dad said. What a funny man.
Dear Mario is sleeping after our Christmas lunch upstairs with Luca and Rosario and others. I love being with Mario, we love to be together and it’s funny. He dreamed we made love last night. Mario said if he was handsome lots of girls would want him. I don’t think of him as handsome or not. We both have a strong sense of freedom and it’s healthy and lovely. We’re together every minute of the day and it’s fine, lots of tenderness. As we sat down to lunch he stroked my leg.
You have to ask what Jesus means to you when you come to Assisi, there’s no way of avoiding it. Even though everyone drives around in Mercedes, BMW and Fiats, there are crosses and churches, murals and statues of Maria and Jesu everywhere.
The Holy Bible – I’d prefer to read a novel or magazine article written recently, relating to the modern world. Who actually cares who begat who?
I’m drinking Earl Grey tea. Mumma Mia. How can anyone possibly live like this, roaming around with no decent job, no house or car, no nothing but a bird of the forest for company. There is no respect in the world for this life, I may never even own a Mercedes. What am I doing with my life? I mean really, watching the snow fall and shacking up with an x-Franciscan monk … what is the world coming to?
I need money for food, candles, transport, washing and the odd essential. I’d rather live like this and have time to watch the snow fall than be in an office in front of a computer earning lots of money. Oh God, I have no life insurance.
In my room the air is perfectly still, everything is calm. The candle is always burning and the photo of Jesus beside it is of him just looking, with compassion. He has no ego, he has long hair, a beard, he is completely natural. Wild. Feral. In touch with the primitive, the very essence of our beings. When we’re naked we have lumps and bumps, our breasts are not formed perfectly like the models in magazines and the blonde girls on TV. So what. At least we’re healthy and don’t have annorexia so that we have no period and no way of reproducing. Breasts are to feed babies. Women eat each month to have enough iron to shed the blood from their wombs each month. It’s actually very simple and make up and high heels get in the way of nature. It’s not my problem, I wear boots to walk in the mud around here and I refuse to work in an office again because the computers nearly blew my eyesight. Watching snow fall is good exercise for my eyes.
God, I don’t have a mortgage. I’m just never going to fit in. But I’ll fit in with nature and that’s what’s important to me. I think that deep within us, what we are is pure nature, and to watch the rain and snow fall and tune into the pace of nature is what we need to do to be at peace, to be at one with ourselves and others.
To love one another, to tune into their nature is divine. To watch the snow fall. The delicacy and cold of snow. Tuning in and accepting one’s own true nature. It’s nothing to be scared of. It’s fragile, delicate, strong and beautiful.
I was surprised. I didn’t thank you but I thought I should be thanking you. Because I love you and I thank you for being in touch with the Jesus within you. You told your spiritual father that you saw God in me. I have no idea what you see. I am tuned into nature. You love me and we are good company for each other.
Would we stay in Italy or move to Australia? You don’t speak English. You help me to let go, you tell me not to worry, to live in the moment, like Buddha. You believe in Christ.
I like how you can’t understand English, I can leave my personal thoughts lying around on paper and you won’t read them.
Mario and I love each other. We’ve known each other for two months. This morning I’ve been eating the Smarties I gave him for Christmas. My favourite chocolate is Cote d’Or double late. One night at the train station he gave me a bar of Cote d’Or Fondante and expected me to be happy. I was angry. I only like Cote d’Or double late and he hadn’t taken enough notice of what I like. It would be like me buying him Marlboro cigarettes when he only smokes very thin luxury cigarettes. I can’t tell him what I think or feel in Italian so I walk ahead and the anger fades.
One day I was exhausted. I was cold and miserable and came home and lay in his bed. I wanted a bath, good food, music, a comfortable home… All these little things. You don’t understand me, I said in Italian. He says something back to me in Italian and I don’t understand. Io non capito, I say and turn my back, not wanting to understand any more. Io Ti Amo, he says. Ti voglio bene. I heard a priest say this in church the other day, he was talking about Jesus. I thought it was something only lovers say to each other. Oh, to love another. Life is on a different rhythm. I make sure I love him each day, it’s natural. I’m used to being independent, solo. I’m scared of hurting him, not wanting him anymore. He’s used to being free and is a bit scared too. Two free spirits have found each other and feel good together.
He just came home, tired from walking around in the cold, with a bag of gorgeous woollen clothes. He’s hungry and is cooking meat now.
He’s faster than me, I go slowly. I dreamed last night that Daniella told me Mario could make a lot of money. I asked how and she said race horses. He has such optimism, he says I create problems in my head thinking people won’t want to help me.
He just went upstairs and came back with rich chocolate truffles, biscuits and an invitation for lunch with Luca and Rosario. OK, I give in. I just sit here and he provides. OK.
Mario dreamed that an old man was touching me all over and Mario told him Francesca is a creatura de Dio, not to touch me.
It’s very convenient, Mario goes off in the morning to visit someone and leaves me to sit and write. Buon notte he says and practically hits me as an expression of love and I say troppo durro, too hard. Mumma mia he says, a Deutsch – Tedeski Australian and goes off. He’s sweet.
I open the door and flakes of snow are spinning around, drifting and floating around in the air. The trees and plants, olive tree trunks and roof of a house above are white. The white defines the shapes of wintry trees. The wind is sending it all left, one way now, heavier, it is the first snow of winter in Assisi. The grape vines in their rows below are touched with wintry white and flakes are coming in through the door. I stand in a woolly coat and warm socks. It’s such a gentle sight but the air at my legs is pure cold, the sort of cold in your freezer and my breath is foggy. A red scarf outside on a rail is frosty white.
down down down
the air is light
skeletons of trees beyond
the wind changes
and all the snow is horizontal
and faster faster.
Who is controlling all this
the reality of nature
so cold, so real and so full of intricate, delicate beauty.
I have to live with nature and let its rhythms bite into my bones, soak into
my mind to be at one.
The bells are ringing.
This is my home, with my arched doorway of thin bricks.
Oh snow, oh snow. It’s all being blown to the right now, hard. Soft.
Inside, my bedroom is so warm, the air captured in the night, woolly blankets and sleeping bodies. A candle burning in my little home where the snow is falling outside and the only way I can see it is if I open the front door and let all the cold snow air touch my skin. I’ll add more olive oil to my pasta for extra umph. It’s winter now, time to be cosy and give in to the rhythm of nature, so slowly telling us how to live. Cups of hot tea and Italiano coffee. Warm food. Quiet times, reading, knitting, anything inside. Last night I was so cold walking home, Mario sheltered me from the cold cold biting wind and it was actually so energizing walking fast and Mario knew it was the wind of snow. He’s tuned into the rhythms of this place and this morning he went into it after a hot coffee. He was wearing only jeans, boots, a jumper and jacket. His beard will keep his skin warm. He loves the winter. It’s in him. We sleep in the same room in separate beds, good firm mattresses. Last night we cuddled and he made my bed warm then went to his neat side of the room to dream. Beside his bed he has a wooden chair with a red candle, a picture of Jesus’ face and the Bible open as though by leaving it open, the words will transpire off the page into thin air. I have my Macpac sleeping bag and quite a few clothes. Mario and I keep each other company, we’re just right for each other but we need that human warmth, someone to talk to and share the days with. Every day is new and fresh because we are free to do whatever we like. It’s only human to let yourself go to another, to fall into their arms and trust them.
Oh how delicious to have hours and hours to write and do whatever I like. Assisi is covered in snow. Yesterday morning Mario and I got up early and walked up to Assisi, the first people on the fresh pure white soft snow. I was like an excited child all day. The autumn colours, yellow and brown have been smothered in white and black birds are easily seen against the snow – neve. We walked up to the Piazza de Commune where the water from the fountain is frozen. Then to San Francesco, everyone saying Buon Journo because it is the first day covered in snow. Shopkeepers sweep the snow from their doorsteps and two children were riding down the main street in a sledge in bright snow pants and jackets and boots. The shoe shop which normally sells sandals and walking boots only had different types of snow boots out the front …
When nature is covered in white powdery snow, so delicate and soft, there is a certain quiet and peace. It is easy to see exactly where there is a house, a field, trees or cars. The roads are covered in snow so people go around on foot. What a difference. We rugged up and spent the whole day walking until totally exhausted with red cheeks, we ate pizza at Santa Maria del Angeli.
At a carol night I met a 29 year old German girl, Pietra, who is lovely and she stayed the night with Mario and I then left 50,000 lire for him. We talked a lot, sitting in my bed. I think she was craving to talk to someone about her problem and for an hour or so we talked about other things, she’s been a doctor and hates the stress of child psychiatry, children threatening to commit suicide. She doesn’t like the German way of living and she feels pressured by everyone around her to work. She has a doctor friend who wants to have children with her. She had a boyfriend who was a teacher from a small village and he once said if he ever died he’d be in the lake and after she broke up with him he was so heartbroken that he was found dead in that lake a year later. She saw him three weeks before he died and he said he couldn’t live without her. When I told her I loved meditation, silence in forests, that it helped me get over Paul, she said she was in love with a man and had been for the past three years. She’s told him how she feels but he says it’s all her stuff, he’s Italian and says he feels nothing towards her. I said attraction is usually two-way… Eventually I discovered he’s a Franciscan brother who she’s known for three years and she keeps coming back to Assisi to try to resolve this strong feeling she has for him. She can’t fall in love with another man until she resolves how she feels for the Franciscan. The only time she can really talk to him is at confession although she’s actually a protestant. She went to a Catholic school and always felt the odd one out not being allowed to go to confession. He’s on his path of celibacy so he takes the role of priest hearing all her problems and she feels it’s not right, that these brothers and sisters are always hearing other people’s problems as if they don’t have their own. If he allowed himself to love her he’d be seen as weak, diverting from God’s path … I said she could come and live in Assisi down the road from him and he could carry on as a priest but talk to her in confession and he could be a sperm donor for her so she could have his children and he could see his children growing up … that’s a solution.
It’s good that Mario can’t understand English because we talk about all these things and he doesn’t understand. He slept in my bed last night because he says he was cold in his but I think he just wanted to sleep beside me. He’s so sweet. He gets up and goes out and leaves me here. The sun’s out. Yesterday was magic, so full. Pietra says she can’t imagine staying in one place for very long and she loves being on her own, she doesn’t really want to get married and have children but if she does she’d like to live on a community and not be stuck at home with children all day. She’s really reaching out for something difficult, being in love with a Franciscan brother. I think his name’s Joe but she kept quiet. I’d love to write a novel but most importantly a film script set here in Assisi with the changing seasons. I crave to write films and to capture the beauty and reality of nature against the confusing lives of people, all their hidden desires. The element of celibacy and simplicity of clothing of a Franciscan against a well of a doctor craving this man and not being able to get along with life without him. In confession he asks her what she wants to do now and she just wants to be in love with him and the rest of her life is not important. What an intriguing story I could write … going to mass at 7 am with the sunrise and olive trees. Little nuances.
I sit in this room not wanting to go anywhere. If I just wait, everything will come to me naturally. Mario’s very good, he puts up with me being completely myself. We carry on and we’re very good company for each other. When Pietra asked me if I could stay in one place for the rest of my life I said yes, I could imagine staying in Assisi and living in a house with a big double glazed window looking out at the view we have now, having a fire, a kitchen, I’d be very happy. Mario wants to work and have a house where I can live if I want to. I’ll just carry on and give in to whatever comes my way.
I love empty days, days without a plan. The sun’s still shining, the snow’s still frozen and people walk past my little house crunching the snow.
There is nothing to write. There is nothing to do as I sit in my little room alone, in peace, with a bird outside the window singing in the snow. And why wouldn’t you sing on a day like today? I don’t want to go anywhere. I need a shower one of these days.
I do not feel at ease. Mario’s selvaggio (wild) Danish friend has called in and I do not trust him.
I am too different from Mario. He has a blind faith in Catholicism. Mario is too Catholic for me, it’s not my culture.
I do love Mario’s generous spirit and pure heart.
Assisi is completely white. Staying indoors drinking Earl Grey tea and eating minestrone.
Mario is sleeping. A candle burns.
I want to live in a country in which English is the common language.
My hands are cold in Assisi, I have the flu and I’m ready to move away from Italy. I don’t want to live here in the future.
I have given Mario all the love that I could because he’s been good to me, we’ve had such lovely walks and smiles.