A Month of Sundays
October 30 – Paris, France
It is an unusually warm fall morning as I walk the quiet streets of Paris on my way to mass at Notre Dame. The streets are damp from rain the night before but this morning the sky is blue and cloudless. Paris mornings are typically slow, but this Sunday is even more tranquil as I navigate metro closures and join the stream of tourists crowding buses towards the cathedral. I worry I have missed the early mass until someone tells me Europe has “fallen back.” Suddenly I have a full hour to grab a coffee and croissant and look at souvenir stands. Soon the bells announce the time to enter the darkened, incense filled church. Organs play, choirs sing, and the stained glass lets in glimpses of diffused light. It is an interesting experience for this occasional Catholic, but the true Ode de Joy is after the ceremony. Outside, Paris is awake and congregating in the famed plaza. As tourists snap photos in the front, family life takes place in the back. Children play in the park in the shadows the gothic building, leaves drop from the fall-colored trees lining the Seine, and on a nearby bridge a musician provides a Rose en Vie soundtrack to this Parisian Sunday.
November 6 – Finale, Italy
I have traded in the grandeur of Paris for the simplicity of Finale, and crisp fall days for a cold November rain. I have arrived on the brink of the first winter storm of the season and with the forecast comes a strange drama as the town readied itself against flooding. It is not unplaced worry. By Friday floods in the much larger city of Genoa have claimed six lives. But on Sunday, the worst has passed and I see my adopted home in yet another light. When I left in June, the town was an explosion of tourists and summer visitors. Now the streets are empty. Even the locals are safely inside. I trace familiar steps along the boardwalk listening to waves crash along the empty beach. Familiar church bells ring as I walk up the vicolo alleyways, but soon all is quiet and there is just the sound of trickling water making its way from rooftop to sea.
November 13 – Reno, Nevada
Casinos and canned beer are probably not the best remedies for jet lag. For three days, I have had no need for a watch and have floated from time zone to time zone in the surreal setting of Reno, Nevada. I am as far from France and Italy as I can be as I roam these wild-west streets but I still see distorted versions of my travels. I have passed by weddings and rock climbers, hippies and homeless all within the few blocks of the main strip. I’ve gotten lost in my hotel and circled a ballroom sampling American craft beer in cans. Time is irrelevant in Nevada, but now I must try to adjust to an Arizona schedule. It isn’t easy. As I pass through the casinos, people who have been up all night are still playing their luck at slot machines and tiring enthusiasm still crowds around a craps table. At the Nugget Diner, scrappy locals take advantage of “hair of the dog” omlettes and Bloody Mary’s. The best beers of CANFEST are still keeping me happy and I pack a few for the road in my rollie. A few hours later, it is dark again and the cab drops me and my beer-soaked bag in front of my desert home.
November 20 – Flagstaff, Arizona
I am back in Arizona, where our summer has finally lost its hold in Phoenix. Now our days are an ideal 70 – 80 degrees and we no longer need to get up before the sun to climb. An Italian has joined our Tempe group and a call from Flagstaff is all we need to get in the Festa to show The Kid an American road trip. We make the transition from desert to high country – summer to fall. As we approach Flagstaff, icy rain showers are on our heels. It is a three-season day but we are set to outrace winter and quickly toss our bags into our friend’s car and dash towards The Pit. We have dodged the rain and as we walk toward the trailhead, the rocks come into view below glowing in the momentary sun. The Kid breaks into a smile bigger than his face and we are all but running down the path. The clean, cold air fills our lungs, we skip over left over snow, and he stops for only moments to take photos. “This is a beautiful life, no?” he says. And on this Sunday, back in my home state surrounded by friends old and new, only one word comes to mind: “Amen!”