It was more than two years since my 20-year relationship had ended, yet even as I tried to move forward in my life, I couldn’t let go. And to make it worse, I had no spark of motivation and no vision of a future for myself. It wasn’t depression, it was just blank. I’d never hit ‘blank’ before. It was terrifying.
Everything can change in a moment. And it did. That moment led me inexplicably to be sitting in late May 2012 at the only available table outside a tiny flower-filled café across from my charming family-run pensione in Lucca, Italy, town of a thousand churches. It turns out the young couple next to me were from Big Sur, California and ran Writing/Wellness retreats in Italy and Bali each year. I’d never heard of such a thing.
My little voice said, “Carmell, you’re going to do that.” (now I do.)
Now at this point I’d been traveling for nearly a month with a backpack, no plan, and intense anxiety about what I’d do with the rest of my life and where I’d sleep the next night interwoven crazily with divine wonder every single second. It was exhausting.
Underneath it all, I was haunted by the unuttered seeking of whether there was some deeper direction or purpose for me.
That’s when Marc Chagall appeared. The auditorium of the renowned and opulent Paris Opera House had been closed for rehearsals the day I went which meant I was unable to see the famous Marc Chagall ceiling. I did not expect I’d have the chance to come back and see it before I flew back to the U.S., but I hoped. As I traveled to Holland and then to Italy, the thought of Chagall’s ceiling would pop into my head. I acknowledged it and let it go each time.
Weeks later found me in Florence trying to decide where to spend my last 3 days in Italy. Everything was within 1-2 hours by train, yet nothing “sparked.” My Airbnb host, Elisa, finally said, “Carmell, if I could go anywhere, I would go to Lucca.” Spark! The next morning I headed on the train to Lucca, town of a thousand churches, surrounded by 50-foot high, Roman walls lined with Cottonwood trees and Medina poplars.
And here I was at the little cafe outside my pensione next to Jade and William telling them of missing the Chagall ceiling in Paris when Jade said, “Carmell! You realize there’s a Chagall exhibit in town?!” I stared into her young face, shocked.
At 9:07 pm, I climbed the shallow marble stairs of a modest church on Via Filungo I’d already passed three times. Paying my 7 Euros, I entered the dark chapel and found myself all alone with Marc Chagall in a 900-year old Roman church. Canister lights hung low from the rafters illuminating only his paintings in the ascetic interior. Latin inscribed the walls from floor to ceiling, and a single unadorned stone slab altar stood in modest devotion at the front. The rose window over the doors behind me faced west, showing the deepening blue of the sunset sky that was the perfect match to Marc Chagall’s favorite blue.
I could never explain this, and yet in a single moment, I knew: You are exactly in the right place, Carmell. All is exactly as it should be. Let go. Trust.