30th April 2012: Home From Jo March’s Europe

I am home, having spent the last week walking my feet off in Florence and Rome. What I said about Florence last time still very much holds. This time I wasn’t alone with Ada but joined by Z and A and Greer Gilman and we all had a delightful time. I have bought a tapestry, and Z says that the only thing better than owning a tapestry is being aware that he will one day inherit a tapestry. He says he doesn’t care if he never sees another Annunciation, but he loves Florence.

At one point Greer and I were talking about Little Women and Jo March’s desire to see Europe and I remembered something. When I was a child infuriated by Aunt March’s perfidy in taking Amy instead I realised all at once that I was in Europe. I mean I wasn’t in a bit of Europe where any C.19 Americans would have wanted to visit on their Grand Tour, I was in Aberdare, but all the same and even so. I was in Europe where Jo March so very much wanted to be. I could be in Europe for her.

On Friday we went to visit Brother Guy Consolmagno at Alba Longa (or Castel Gandolfo as they call it these days) and we saw the observatory — with a moon rock and a number of meteorites and a rosary made by TNH all in the same case. Then we walked through the papal gardens. There are olive trees and Roman pines and a formal Italian garden with fountains and hedges and statues, and there are the genuine Roman ruins of Domitian’s summer palace among the telescopes of Jesuit astronomers. A was sketching a fountain and I thought that right then I was in the layered complex older civilization that Jo March longed for. That fountain, the ruined theatre behind it, that sunlight through those trees…

We carry ourselves forward, and we carry them with us. Some of them are dead and some of them are imaginary, and they can’t see what we so badly want them to see and we can’t even send them postcards letting them know we wished they were there. But we were there, for ourselves, for them, for you, for the past and the present and the future.

And furthermore, we need to make things and be excited about the things other people make and keep building the possibility that the future might be even more beautiful than the past and have spaceships in it.

Posted in Books, Human culture, Life as it blossoms out in a jar or a face