by Melinda Gallo

Taking the time to cultivate joy

Every morning I open up my persiane (shutters) and look out at the sky above the four-story hotel that blocks my view of San Niccolò. I can’t see the sun rising along the Arno, but I can see the vivid colors filling up the sky. If the sky isn’t overcast, I consider going outside to stand along the Arno and watch the sunrise. Most of the time, however, my head convinces me to stay home where I am comfortable and warm. Sometimes I do feel inspired to just head outside no matter what thoughts might prevent me.

Living in Florence :: Taking the time to cultivate joy

At the beginning of the year, I planned on going outside to take a photo of the sun rising in Florence for a friend’s birthday. It was the first time that I had thought of doing anything like that, but I wanted to show my friend how her special day had begun here in Florence. I remember strolling along the Arno waiting for the sun to rise. The temperatures were below 0°C and it was still dark outside, but luckily the sky was clear. I wasn’t sure what the sky would look like at sunrise, but it ended up being beautiful. From that day on, I have gone out many more times to watch the sunrise and to admire how colors in the sky evolve.

Before I opened the window the other day, I said to myself that I wouldn’t go out. I was still tired from not having slept enough and I knew it would be cold outside because the chilly air had seeped into my apartment during the night. The cold air rushed past me and invaded my apartment even before I finished opening the persiane. I left my windows open to change the air in my apartment and put water in my teakettle to boil. As I sat in front of my computer to check my email, I was distracted by the sky’s vivid colors of gold and pink.

I got up from my desk when the teakettle whistled and took it off the stove. Instead of pouring the water in my teapot as I normally do, I walked over to my closet and grabbed some warm clothes. I put my sweats on over my pajamas, laced up my running shoes, wrapped a wool scarf tightly around my neck, zipped up my down jacket, placed my iPhone in my pocket, and ran out the door. I didn’t have enough time to get my SLR because I was afraid that I’d miss the sunrise.

I dashed down the stairs and darted across the Ponte alle Grazie to get to my favorite corner closest to San Niccolò above the Arno. It’s where I can admire the Torre di San Niccolò, the reflections of the buildings in San Niccolò on the Arno, and the lampposts lined up along the low brick wall. In the winter, the view is even more stunning at sunrise because the sun pops up right behind the torre (tower).

Since the sun had still not made its appearance, I marched along the narrow sidewalk toward the Biblioteca Nazionale. Florence was relatively quiet with only a few cars and motorini (scooters) whizzing by behind me along the lungarno. Very few people were walking outside except those who were walking their dogs or going to work, and a couple of runners heading toward the centro (city center).

I took a few photos, but didn’t like the view as much so I returned to my spot near the Ponte alle Grazie. I leaned against the muretto (low wall) waiting for the sun to peek over the low hill behind the Torre di San Niccolò. I watched the gabbiani (seagulls) fly above the rather still Arno. Every once in a while when the traffic light at Ponte alle Grazie turned red, I could enjoy a moment of silence. I listened to the water flowing over the embankment and breathed in the cool air floating above the Arno.

After taking a few pictures, I returned to my apartment, made my tea, and quickly got under the covers. I sipped my tea while I waited for my fingers to warm up before posting one of my sunrise photos on Instagram. As soon as I post the photo, I feel a surge of joy ripple through me. I always hope that others will enjoy the photo as much as I did taking it.

I am fortunate to live in Florence. Not because it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but because it has taught me how to love. I could just walk in centro and look up at the monuments, walk along the Arno and never take a moment to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me. But I would be missing out on an opportunity to cultivate more joy in my life. It’s not enough to see Florence’s beauty. I have learned that I must be present with her so that I can better embrace, admire, and appreciate her.

I am truly happy that I caught the sunrise earlier this year because it taught me that with a little bit of effort I could receive so much joy. I take many more moments now in my day to admire and embrace Florence. Each time, I try to take photos to share because I love to include others in my admiration and appreciation of my beloved city.

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