Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Gates of Paradise

I've written about these doors. They are the doors of the Baptistry in the Piazza del Duomo. They were created by the blessed hands of Lorenzo Ghiberti during the height of the Renaissance out of solid gold. Three years ago I stood outside these doors next to my father whose eyes were blinking madly in a futile struggle to stop himself from crying. He and I have that in common. We weep over beauty because we appreciate beauty.

I've only got a few days left in Florence and I made the effort to go and see these doors to shed some tears there for my dad. I normally walk past them without a second glance. I see them everyday, and normally my view is obstructed by a swarming mass of Japaneese taking one hundred photographs of themselves next to the doors. I never bother attempting to get a good look at them, normally. I know a secret, though, that all the tourists don't. 4 a.m. is the best time to go and see those doors. Not many folks are on the streets at 4 a.m. and they certainly aren't standing outside of the Gates of Paradise. I realized this one night as I attempted to walk home without falling when I realized through my blurred vision that I had a totally unobstructed view of the doors. I was too drunk to really see them, though and suprised myself in the morning when I remembered that as I walked away I'd noted mentally that I could go back at 4 a.m. sober and stare at the Gates all I wanted. I wound up back there at 4 a.m. more times than I can remember, really, and thats mainly because I was always back there drunk. Not once did I go back sober until finally I realized my time in Florence was coming to a rapid halt. If I wanted to get some one-on-one with the Gates, I needed to make a conscious effort to get there at 4 a.m. without drinking.

I was wide awake at 4 a.m. and had maintained a perfect sobriety the entire night. I grabbed my camera, walked five minutes to the Duomo Plaza, and sat down on the vacant marble steps directly across from the Gates. And then I cried. I sat there until the sun came up, as the San Lorenzo hawkers wheeled their carts past and a the first brazen, bleary-eyed tourists hustled by, beginning their day extra-early in a rush to cross everything off of their itineraries. I beheld those gleaming doors until my view became obstructed. For that one brief hour, they were mine. I could finally look at them and see the intricacies, the details, the love and devotion that had been poured into their making. I'm still unable to grasp the reality that a man made them with his two hands. I cried because I knew my dad would have been thinking the same thing if he had been sitting there with me. I cried because my time to appreciate those doors had run out, and I'd only done it once. I cried because they weren't going to be a part of my every day anymore. I won't be able to walk past them on my way home from school ever again. The rushing tourists would stop and look, and sure enough that huge mass of gawkers was beginning to form. It was time to go. When I stood up my heart was heavy, as if the marble of the stairs had seeped through my skin, settling down-a thick marble coating in my chest.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

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