The Mind Caving In

“The oldest building in Rome with its original roof still intact is the Pantheon, rebuilt atop an older, fire-damaged temple by the emperor Hadrian around AD 125. When you see the Pantheon for the first time, your mind caves in,” (Doerr 57).


This picture was not the first time I saw the Pantheon; it was the second.  The first time we happened upon it was during a night walk of some fountains in Rome, and the shock of unexpectedly being near the Pantheon left me without words.  I walked underneath the columns, placing my palm upon one, upon its history.


“When you first see it, the Pantheon is about wonder. You walk through the gigantic doorway and your attention is sucked upward to a circle in the sky. A filtering haze floats inside; a column of light strikes through the oculus and leans against the floor. The space is both intimate and explosive: your humanity is not diminished in the least, and yet simultaneously the Pantheon forces you to pay attention to the fact that the world includes things far greater than yourself,” (Doerr 57-58).

The oculus is 27ft in diameter. Logically, you can read this number, but when you see a picture of it, the perceived scale of the oculus does not amaze you, leave you holding your breath, as it does when you are inside of the Pantheon. I knew the oculus would be 27ft in diameter, but I still was not expecting it to be so large.

It had rained earlier that day as I stood with my gaze fixed upward, through the oculus, to the heavens. The floor beneath the opening was hardly damp. Where did the rain go?

I didn’t want to leave the Pantheon. I could have stayed there all day (as with all of the places we went in Italy) and been content with the space revealing new parts of itself and my self to me.

Uncovering the True Self

In one of my very first blog posts I posit: “If it is true that ‘It is not necessarily at home that we encounter our true selves,’ I wonder if when we travel and encounter our true selves, if we can bring that self home, back to the cube?”

To which I and Johann Wolfgang Goethe have an answer.  Goethe writes in Italian Journey, “I can confess it now: finally I could no longer bear to look at a Latin book or the picture of an Italian scene. My longing to see this land was more than ripe. Only now that it is satisfied have my friends and fatherland truly become dear to me again. Now I look forward to my return, indeed all the more so because I feel very certain that I shall not be bringing all these treasures back just for my own possession and private use, but so that they may serve both me and others as guidance and encouragement for an entire lifetime.”

What is the self that I encountered while traveling? She was aware, engaged, negative stress-free, adventurous, excited, in community and conversation, open to what London and Rome had for her, vulnerable with friends, kind, caring, curious, hopeful, observant, reflective, willing to take (smart) risks, energetic, active, loving to the self and others. I liked her.  A lot.  And I intend to share who she is with the world I left here while I went abroad; a world that may not have changed as much as I did, but who I come back to changed.

Near the end of the trip, I felt ready to come home, but I also knew that I would be leaving again, and hopefully sooner rather than later.  One of the biggest metamorphoses for me was the stripping of ideas that I had built around myself about myself and who I could be and what I would do.  I left behind parts of myself in London and Italy, to be recycled as the  Romans do (thoroughly and probably to be turned into art).

There was a full-moon on the night we went to Frascati.  Auriana and I joked that the transformation of our selves would be complete.  What I realize now is that the trip was only one part of a lifetime of transformation of the self and though the current confines of American culture may try to snub my spirit, I don’t have to let it and I don’t have to live the way I’ve been socialized to.


The Alan

I hadn’t been sick in over a year, so naturally, while abroad and pumping my system with vitamin-C, I catch “The Alan.”  Alan may or may not have been the originator of the illness that kept me from the Colosseum and the Forum, but instead of feeling the energy of brutality and imperialism, I slept the crud mostly away. Luckily, I only had to rest up for one day before I felt well enough to participate in the group again.  And, as divine fate would have it, I did get to see the Colosseum and the Forum at night, thanks to a misroute on public transportation.

Selfie @ the Colosseo!

Sketch to See

“If drawing had value even when practiced by those with no talent, it was, Ruskin believed, because it could teach us to see–that is, to notice rather than merely look,” (de Botton 217).

Two sketches: one looking out of a third-story window of the University of Washington’s Rome Center; the second, an apartment building across from the train station at Ostia Lido.

A sketch of an obelisk at the Piazza del Popolo.

A sketch of Vicolo del Cinque’s view from the terrace.



Frascati: a full moon, a happy famiglia Italiano, the best tasting wine and olive oil I’ve ever had, and salty porchetta that melts in your mouth.


Frascati: a beautiful view with beautiful souls and senses overload.

Cincin! Cheers!

Ostia Antica

The Baths of Neptune; the Theater.

Ostia Antica: the Portland of Rome.

What determines whether a city will continue to be a city, or whether it will fall to ruin and be walked not by citizens but by travelers?

Leda, Leda, Leda

Leda looks to be happily entangled with the swan, bashfully looking away, toward her twin babies.  The story goes that the Zeus-swan either seduced or raped (this is a big OR) Leda on the same night that she slept with her husband King Tyndareus, so the father of her twins have been disputed. The egg in the painting implies that the twins are born from Leda and Zeus. I was drawn to this painting because it is part of a theme I noticed in the Galleria Borghese: women being subjected to the wiles of men and the power of the patriarchy.

St. Peter’s Basilica

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Standing in the energy of one of the most believed to be sacred spaces, I experience full-body chills that last more than a few seconds.  The gold adornment makes the room feel warm.  A choir is singing.  People are gazing, their eyes drinking the beauty.  Their jaws drop as they take in the expansiveness of the space. When I was a practicing Christian, I would have identified the chills as the presence of the holy spirit.  As a practicing agnostic, I still identify the chills as the presence of the holy spirit.





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The Rape of Proserpina in the Galleria Borghese by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Standing in front of this sculpture by Bernini, the emotion and movement classified by Baroque style details so powerfully a woman’s fight to be free from the strength of her rapist, and I feel overwhelmed, disgusted, angry.  I want to help her.  I am conflicted by the beauty of the art-form itself, the talent it takes to craft such realistic moments, and by the outrage of the portrayal of rape.

I am at once possessed and repulsed by this sculpture and by the idea of woman being possessed by man.

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