Not long ago, I went to Italy. I packed a small suitcase, boarded a plane, landed in Rome. I was there about ten days, and we traveled from our monastery home in Orvieto to Florence (Firenze-Santa-Maria-Novella) to Rome (Roma-Termini). I journaled my way through gelato afternoons and sitting on the edge of the river taking naps, through long train rides and walks around Orvieto hearing church Italian - una colomba and Signore Dio - like so much music.
You can read about a few of my thoughts here and here, my musings about the stars, about the sweetness of life, about the delight we can taste and touch if we are looking.
I have always heard that traveling changes a person. That you leave and the dust of the place sticks in your hair and on your skin. That the place breathes inside your bones, calling on you.
But I think traveling changes places too. Our homes without us in them shift their shapes, grow to expand new people or close in on the empty spaces we left behind. When we go back, we'll find it different. Maybe what we think is all our own glorious transformation is just as much the place we left resettled into a different position.
I imagine Italy is different, now. The hills I think I've captured in my camera have long since tilted a little more towards the setting sun and spilled their real dirt over hundreds of scrambling feet. The ruins gazing up at me in January from hundreds of years away have looked on other faces and moved back towards the dust.
I wonder how much DC has changed while I've been gone. How the streets have been scrubbed clean, again and again, how much rain and humidity and earthquakes they've had. How new restaurants have emerged, how Eastern Market smells, whether or not they still make the hazelnut latte the way I love it at Ebenezer's. I imagine the city has stretched its arms open to new people and that perhaps the small mark I made on it remains, tucked away on the bus or perhaps on the sidewalk of M St in Georgetown where I think I realized what it meant to know and love a place.
Since I began this blog a year ago, I've traveled - to California and back twice, to the District, to Italy, to Pennsylvania, countless times to Gordon. I've traveled in my heart, too, from disappointment to joy to fullness to unanswered questions.
And tonight, at the end of a long (too long) day, and before the beginning of classes tomorrow, I hear all those places bending and stretching towards what is new, and my own heart echoes the same. Because traveling changes us, and our homes. And after this year of journeying, I close my eyes and wonder, what will home look like now?