Hiking has taught me that the sense of being lost is among the most disorienting and disturbing there is. I can be a thousand miles from my house, but, as long as the trail is known, I feel grounded and at home. It is the path that is important; the sense of direction and purpose. Home, therefore, can be most anywhere. It is a state of being and connection, not an address.
There are times when the external events in life bust in and shake us. One gets fired from a job, or loses a lover, or gets sick. Friends and family die. The earth shakes, we lose the path, we are groundless. When I'm lost on the hiking trail, if I sit down, take a drink of water and a deep breath, usually the path finds me again. I don't find it, it finds me. And then I feel that I am home again, even if I'm mobile and in a strange land.
Today I am thinking of Venice. On the trail that is my life, Venice is a place that helps me recover my way. It is a place whose smells and sounds give me direction. Its tides remind me of the cycle of life. Its light—the light of Titian and Tintoretto—brings me to an altered state. It is easy to be an artist in Venice and it is no wonder that painters, poets, and authors have flocked there for centuries. In times when I am weary I feel that I must go there just to be.
It will take me awhile to physically return to Venice. So, today, I share a photo that I made on Christmas Eve, 2005. During a morning walk of golden light I found this moment. The city was silent, all my own, and then, in an instant, a nun walked out of her convent. The closing of the door echoed amongst the stones of Venice, her footsteps amplified by the silence. These are the sounds of a city without cars, where the lapping of water can be heard in unison with every step. At once I felt at home.
It is moments like these that we are grateful for the ride. We know that the roller coaster of life ultimately brings us back home. Home is a place of the heart and of the soul. Sometimes it is embodied in a specific place, a place we can return to again and again, even if, on this very day, it is only in the sights and sounds of my memories. I shall return to the actual Venice as soon as I can. But, part of me is always there.