It is hot; Italian hot. The headline reads, Caldo Record, record heat. If this keeps up cypress trees will wilt and statues return to their quarries. We are here in the parched Umbrian hill town of Assisi.
The spirit of St. Francis is in the air and in the dust. We can almost see him up ahead communing with stray dogs. There are birds nesting in his hair. He has shed his raiment for rags. He is walking barefooted just as the man in the square selling Gelato is bare-chested.
Peggy and I are glad for this slow and quiet place after hectic Florence where I gave up our car, unable to solve those streets of changing names. A sea of frenzied tourists blocked passage on the road and when I found a clearing it was because a pushcart had been over-run by a motorist.
Here in Assisi we walk. We walk up a hill to a castle ruin. On our way a family stops us offering grapes in a kind of communion. We bless them as if...
Down in town we are at the great door of the Basilica, I, in my T-shirt and Peggy in a sun- dress with her bare shoulders, smoldering. We are stopped and refused entrance by the friar at the gate. He cannot allow the sacrilege of her shoulders. As if Francis had never seen flesh or Cimabue and Giotto clothed all their immodest frescoes. As if he is protecting naked Jesus.
The friar may have lost his way in the smoky incense of confession and absolution. He doesn't see the nape for nave., what is sacred in front of him; forbidden contours of a body, her holy shoulders with the wings of a windhover in her blades and the parchment between. He has missed the swan of her neck sculpted for the glory of God.