by Melinda Gallo

A week after my return to Florence

It has been a little over a week since we left Miami Beach. The day we left, we walked along the beach under a blue sky. I stopped a few times to just stare into the beautiful and warm water. I find the ocean magical and special as the water tirelessly reaches out to us over the sandy beach. I was mesmerized by all the colors of the ocean--from a dark blue to a lighter blue and then from a soft teal to white as it hit the shore.

This morning when I looked out at the Arno river that trickles down the cement embankment under the Ponte alle Grazie, I was amazed that the water consistently finds its way through my city despite the lack of rainfall we had in August. The last few days we've had some rain, which has been just enough to change the level and color of the Arno.

I love watching the water in the Arno shimmer: I find it inspirational. Its strength and determination inspire me to keep myself moving on my own projects no matter how dried up I may feel at times. Just like the river, no matter how empty it is, it keeps on flowing.

I can't help but think about Miami Beach and how just a few days ago, I was there, so far away from Florence. I remember the large palm trees, the people running along the beach, and, of course, the ocean. It seems odd to me that we can get on a plane for only a few hours and find ourselves in an entirely different place. I enjoyed my time there and followed the rhythms of the city as best I could.

When I travel, I try to not think about my home so that I can be present in the place I go to. It's easy to point out all the differences between the two, but it's not something I enjoy doing. I love trying to take in and accept a place so that I might learn something about the place or even about myself. I loved Miami Beach for its lovely scenery and its mix of diverse cultures. I was happy to experience an American city that I hadn't visited before because it allows me to come into contact with other people and to have new experiences.

I had thought that Miami Beach would be similar to any other beach area in the US, like the ones I've visited in California and Hawaii, but it was different. Living in Florence for many years, I had come to believe that maybe everything in the US was similar no matter where you went. But going to Miami Beach made me realize that there are still areas that are unique and special.

When I first looked out the window earlier, the sky was clear with only a few clouds and now the sky is turning grey. I look back out at the Arno, which has now changed to a darker green, and think about how large, and yet small, the world really is. I imagine the water in the Arno flowing into the Ligurian Sea, which is an arm of the Mediterranean, and then spilling out into the Atlantic Ocean. I wonder how long it would take to reach Miami each. Maybe the world isn't so big after all, and maybe in some way we are all connected.

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