For this post in this special series by Beth Barany and I on Travel and Writing, we share about the importance of following the bread crumbs of curiosity when you travel in order to discover new stories, settings and information. Look for more posts from us every other Wednesday. And get information on Beth’s Paris retreat, and my VIW (Very Important Writer) retreats here in the Catskills.
When Dorothy set off on her journey through the land of Oz, she was kindly instructed by Glenda, the good witch of the North, to “follow the yellow brick road.” She had one destination in mind, Oz, and so she stayed on that yellow brick road. She did have adventures, true, kind of in spite of herself, but she seldom strayed from that clearly defined yellow brick road.
For me, traveling is all about the opportunity to get away from the usual and expected, the known and the routine. Some of the best experiences, discoveries and stories are found on the byways and side roads.
So when Bob and I traveled to Tuscany, Italy, almost a year ago, we researched and laid out our own rough itinerary instead of signing up with a tour group. We didn’t want to be locked into others’ schedules or destinations.
On a recommendation, we made a last minute decision to drive to Assisi from Arrezo. After parking outside the town, we walked up steep streets, stopping to look at whatever caught our interest, including most of the churches.
Then we walked into the tiny church, Santa Marie delle Rose, expecting to see the usual paintings, tile work, and gilding.
Instead, we halted in surprise and awe.
In the nave of the small church was a unique art installation, simply titled, “Maria,” created by Italian artist, Guido Dettoni della Grazia. The artist had shaped a form that fit his hands and represented the different aspects of Mary such as Mary at prayer, Mary pregnant, Mary holding her child. Not the just the Catholic Mary, according to the artist, but the universal Mary. The form was then replicated 33 times, signifying the number of years that Jesus lived in the world, each time in a different wood. The forms looked like they were floating in their individually-lit six-foot plexiglass tubes mounted in and around a large omega on the floor with an equally large alpha suspended overhead.
A docent explained the exhibition to us as Bob and I walked through it, caught by the play of light and shape. I knew that Bob would enjoy looking at the varieties of woods, being a woodworker. But I was caught in the magic and spirit of the place, in a sense of mystery and the mystical, and in the stories represented in the exhibit…the archetypal and spiritual ones and the artistic and individual ones. I found myself, at one point, moved to tears.
At the end of our time there—I had to force myself to leave—we bought a melamine reproduction of the form. It is the only thing I brought back from our trip to Italy to memorialize our time there when we decided to follow the bread crumbs of curiosity. It is the reminder of the reward for not taking the well-marked, well-defined yellow brick road.
The best stories are most often found when you follow the bread crumbs. Trust yourself and your instincts and you’ll be rewarded with unique experiences and stories that continue to resonate.
If you’d like to take a trip into the exhibit at the Santa Maria delle Rose in Assisi, Italy, then click here.
And wherever you travel, follow the bread crumbs.
And check out Beth Barany’s post on following the breadcrumbs here.
VIW (Very Important Writer) Retreat Days: These days are for intense, focused planning and problem-solving, and can be done via phone or Skype ($397 for a half day) or in-person ($597 for a half day). Full day retreats are also available. Email me for more information or to schedule your retreat.