June 14, 2002

Strange Convergences: Eagles, Restaurants, and Sunshine

The morning before leaving for our flight to Nice, I was sitting at my computer in front of the windows that look onto the greater Wilderness Cathedral. At around 9:30 I looked out over the water and an eagle flew past from right to left. A few minutes later, an eagle flew past from left to right. It could have been two eagles or the same eagle. That I will never know.

The strange convergence is as follows:

We had arrived in Gioviano (Italy) on Monday, the third of June, 2002. A joint birthday party for Katia (51) and Dina (80) was planned for Friday afternoon. The weather earlier had been stormy and rainy, with damaging hail and wind and Friday was still overcast and drizzly.

We went to bank to change dollars into euros and just as we were about to drive off, one of the bank directors ran out to the car with a business card in hand. She wanted us to know that her husband ran a restaurant in a little mountain village about 15 kilometers distance.

As it was already past lunch and we were hungry, we asked her to call her husband and tell him we were on our way. The skies were still gray to black and angry.

My fellow travelers expressed their disappointment that there would be no sun shining for the birthday party to which I said, "Wait and see. The clouds could part and the sun may very well decide to come out."

We were the only guests at Il Cavallino Bianco and were blessed with a wonderful meal in a huge dining room with a huge tree growing in the middle of it which pierced the roof.

We returned home under the same angry skies and at 4 p.m. the festivities began. In spite of the chill, Dina chose to be served on the loggia that overlooks the Serchio Valley and the Passo di Giovo. After I had sung "Happy Birthday" in Italian and we had begun to eat the strange convergence occurred.

Exactly six days to the hour, Texas time that I had seen the two eagles at The Wilderness Cathedral, two eagles began circling overhead. In the 29 years that we have been coming to Gioviano I had never before seen even one eagle before.

As the eagles circled, the clouds parted at exactly the point in front of the sun. Brilliant sunshine poured directly onto our table as the eagles continued to soar.

Just as abruptly as the sun had come out, it disappeared behind the clouds that rushed in to fill the tiny hole that had exposed the sun which shown only on Gioviano for a period of no more than three minutes. The sun never shown again that day anywhere in the valley or on the vast expanse of mountains that surround our village.

A few days later we went to eat at the tiny restaurant adjacent to Capanna Suzanna. We were astonished when the owner asked us how we had enjoyed our meal at Il Cavallino Bianco. I asked how he could have possibly known that we had eaten in a remote mountain restaurant many villages distance from Gioviano. It turns out that the two men had worked together in the same restaurant 30 years before and were still good friends who regularly exchanged news and gossip. One simply cannot be anonymous in these mountains.

Artists, Shoes, and the Devil's Bridge Anointment

Another three convergences had occurred on June 5th.

Katia had recently visited with the widow of a long dead but great, but almost unknown artist who lived in an ancient villa in a tiny mountain village high above the sea. The 94 year old widow still holds court surrounded by the magnificent bronzes and other works of art left by her husband; and Katia, who is working on her Masters of Fine Arts thesis compared his artistic genius with that of Picasso.

We decided to take a walk through the streets of Lucca on our way to the Mephisto shoe store where my mother hoped to purchase a new pair of shoes. When we walked through the ancient Roman amphitheater, I spied a new art shop of which the owner turned out to be the artist.

Katia mentioned that some of his works appeared to show the influence of Murabito, the artist whose works she had just seen in the distant mountain village.

It turns out that the young man was a friend of Murabito's widow and had indeed been influenced by his work. My parents, who had known Grace Murabito for many years then came into the shop and a good time was had by all discussing common themes.

After leaving our new friend, we walked along the Via Filunga to our favorite sidewalk café that is just in front of the Mophisto store. Before we could even sit down, a German man at an adjacent table looked up and without even examining us said, "You're from Texas, aren't you?"

It turns out that he and his wife had lived north of Dallas for a few years and somehow divined that we were Texans. Stranger still, he and his wife began to show off their shopping bags full of Giox shoes, a brand of which none of us had heard of before.

After saying goodbye to our new German friends, we went across the street to the Mephisto shoe store where my mother attempted to find shoes that were comfortable. Every pair made her "hammer toe" hurt so we moved on down the street and then toward our car.

After turning two corners we looked to our right and there was a Giox shoe store. We almost didn't go in but then curiosity got the best of us after having heard the Germans sing the praises of Giox and low and behold, the first pair my mother tried on fit perfectly and comfortably. Her 'hammer toe' thought that it had died and gone to heaven.

As the young artist in the amphitheater had been anointed as a Deacon in The Universal Ethician Church, I felt it was time for Katia to experience her anointment, and what better place than the ancient Devil's Bridge that spans the Serchio near Gioviano.

Katia was unaware of my plan, so unhesitatingly agreed to walk to the top of the high arch of the bridge while Sue and my parents waited for our pizzas to arrive at the restaurant across the street.

There were four tourists at the top of the bridge and I was hoping for the ceremony to be private, I waited for them to leave but they didn't and a woman I didn't recognize kept staring at me. Suddenly she called my name, ran over and hugged and kissed me on both cheeks. It was the wife of my mother's physician friend, Luke, who has a summer home in Vetriano, the village where my parents had purchased a house for my sister and her family.

They watched the anointment ceremony and then we all walked down for a nice surprise visit at the Devil's Bridge Pizzaria.

Iceland Imperfection, Found Luggage, and the Turkish Flag in the Sky

Our eldest daughter, whom we call "Eenie" has a friend from school who is Icelandic. He is fiercely proud of Icelandic precision and perfection in every aspect of their society and has let Eenie know in no uncertain terms that everything in Iceland is run like a well-oiled machine.

As Eenie wished to visit her friend on her return from visiting us in Gioviano she purchased a convoluted ticket which would allow her to stop over in Iceland for a few days on her way back to Texas. Her flight to Pisa took her from Austin to St. Louis, then from St. Louis to New York City, then from NYC to Iceland, thence to London, thence to Munich and finally to Pisa.

As she was fearful that her suitcase would founder in the perpetual confusion at JFK airport she personally saw to it that her massive suitcase was properly loaded onto the Icelandic airplane and routed directly to Pisa.

Of course, when she arrived in Pisa, her suitcase was missing. A very efficient Italian woman traced its location in less than a minute. It had been stranded in Iceland, with its tiny airport, few flights, and exaggerated perfect efficiency.

She was to call the next morning to see if the Italians had succeed in retrieving it. Indeed they had and the young lady in charge of its arrival it turns out, had been born in Pisa in 1971. Eenie had been born in Pisa in 1971. That, in and of itself, obviously does not merit mentioning as a 'strange convergence'. What does, however, is that the Pisan lady used to work in Huntsville, Texas, our hometown, at West Hill Mall, which we had until recently a third interest in!!! It was the profit received from the sale of the mall that allowed the purchase of The Great Spirit Wilderness. Now that's a 'strange convergence.'

Eenie left that day for Greece and then on to Turkey where she was to take video footage for EVN. On the 13th of June, Eenie arrived in Istanbul and that afternoon we decided to take a drive to Altopascio for supper afterwhich we drove toward the little hill town of Monte Carlo for a stroll through the ancient streets.

It was around 9 p.m. when we left the restaurant and headed toward Monte Carlo. The last afterglow of the sunset was still visible when I looked over toward the horizon and much to my astonishment there was a brilliant crescent moon with a bright planet which I believe to have been Venus just in front. It was a perfect mirror image of the Turkish flag!!! No other stars or planets where visible, just the symbol of the country to which Eenie had just safely arrived.



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