Baby and Bathwater Work Ahead (Italy #10)

The temperature is hot. Not quite the marks of 30 degrees Celsius recorded in August but warm.

Patrons drink their orange-coloured Spritz in the cafes by the canals. At times I even abandon my Coke Zero for Acqua Frizzante.

Provision of a bottle answers most of my requests for Acqua Frizzante. I only think about sources of fresh water once we walk past a boarded-over well.

For centuries, the city got its fresh water from rainwater collected in cisterns in town squares. Private wells supplemented the public facilities.

In 1858, the Ufficio Tecnico Comunale counted almost 7000 wells (6046 private and 180 public ones). Nowadays, they are used sparingly. The sources of refreshment sealed.

Have I done the same with what once nourished me?

I long assume the declining strength and resilience of my body. What of the spirit? What will be the spiritual equivalent of water, that which sustains life?

The experts say that those retired need to develop a hobby. I’m not sure that answer suffices for me.

During this trip, I often think of our children and grandchildren. The recurring images and conversations surely tell me something.

The remnants of the Christian faith stand omnipresent in Italy, with more churches than Winnipeg has 7-Eleven convenience stores. The frescos and sculptures remain magnificent, and I understand why my wife and friends never seem to tire of their exploration. But most edifices leave me cold or alienated. My heart feels no resonance. I do not belong. 

One of the gifts of retirement is that I no longer feel the duty to smile at whatever religious rhetoric I find meaningless, insulting or oppressive. Since I am no longer paid to attend church, I can honour those times when my spirit cries, “too much church!”; yet, the music, Scripture and some practices persist, like rebar in my life.

The language I use to make sense of life draws from Christian theology and ethics. Over the eons, those stories, Scriptures and practices have carried the heavy loads of upheaval and persecution, providing direction, refreshment and nourishment. 

The theological phrase that thrusts up its hand is “Jesus is the living water.” However, my questions include, “what does that even mean?” The pivotal story from which the phrase comes is set in Samaria, a land outside the approved limits. The encounter is with a woman deemed on the edge of her community. Should I seek nourishment in encounters with situations and people ‘on the edge’?

Some baby and the bathwater work lies ahead.

During times of transition, to what sources of nourishment do you/have you turned?

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