Momentary enchantment

A poetic excursion

Joseph Legotte
October 2, 2014

Those who have the opportunity to stay in Florence for an extended period of time will discover a certain transience unique to the city. It may first greet you as a cobblestone tilts forward and back, your center of balance transferring across the arch of your foot, instantaneously suspending your weight for the briefest of moments, only to return back to its disguised existence of stillness. You will definitely encounter it every day as you walk the city streets, catching glimpses of statued courtyards and foyers; through the giant portal, a door leaves momentarily as it is opened and closed. I am sure that you will find it with each passing motorino and taxi, not pausing for a moment as you flatten yourself against the nearest wall or person.


Florence becomes amassed in the tiniest of pieces, as each moment, each fluttering of a pigeon’s wings across the Arno, each dissipating puddle left from a summer thunderstorm and each gelato from Gelateria La Carraia or Gelateria dei Neri succumbing to your infatuated licks is a tiny grain of colored sand placed perfectly in the mandala that is Florence. The longer you stay and the more you venture into the depths of such an old place, the clearer and more beautiful a picture you form. But the incongruous mix of lightness and impermeability of this city fights any semblance of permanence. Even David could not stay still forever, and each overly ornamented monument is in a constant state of flux as the rain washes away the tears and blood of yesteryear, the grit and grime of industry, and the relentless howls of the umbrella people that fade into the distance just as quickly as they came.


Florence is a city of momentary enchantments, and no matter how many times you walk along the lungarni, the reflected colors of the Ponte Vecchio will always be different, always be as transient as the rays of sun that pass through thin wisps of clouds. It is likely you will find a favorite place for a panino, gelato, aperitivo, or that quick fix of espresso. It is likely your feet will fall in love with the same cobblestoned paths to and from the places that seem most important to you. Here the momentary will seem to last for days, for weeks, for months even. Until that day, when you decide you cannot live without your favorite plate of pasta at that one place you dine every Friday night, and you turn on to the street to find it closed. Until that one day, you wake up and walk to take your morning cappuccino and a sign is crudely taped to the door denoting the pause in existence of the café, as the proprietors have taken their vacation for the next three weeks.


Suddenly, the illusion of immutability has evaporated, and Lady Transience unveils herself again. She and Florence are the best of friends, and though they look down at the exquisite and magnificent mandala you have created, their breaths join your filled your lungs and together you gently exhale, blowing away each grain of sand, each remembered moment, into the restlessness of the Arno, allowing the fluidity of being to return to its earthly cycle; vulnerably clutching onto the memories, and ultimately realizing that the beauty and severity with which this city changes you, is evident and radiated through your new being, for you do not choose Florence: she chooses you. And though not as evident and overt as the intricately colored artwork you fashioned, there will be a new breath of life, a new crispness to your existence, a newfound appreciation for a life that is meant to be lived.      

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