Today’s Miles: 0
Total Miles: 3,506.8
Italy – December 31, 2016 to January 2, 2017
At least twenty empty wine bottles crowd the table, filling in the space between dirty plates and almost finished glasses. The food is mostly gone. Only scraps remain from platters of cured meat and cheeses, loafs of bread, a tray of baked polenta, and skewers of beef.
The New Years countdown is over. Fireworks have already exploded in the town. The dancing is slowing down. A few people have left to get some sleep.
Francesco comes over as I stack the bottles together for a picture. People brought them covered in foil so we could drink and guess where they were from. I know nothing about wine, so I just guessed Italy or Europe or Planet Earth. Francesco and I both stop and stare at the table crowded with the remnants of the feast.
“We didn’t eat the lentils,” he says.
A pot of brown lentils sits untouched on one corner of the table, left behind as an afterthought in the whirl of the night, forgotten and cold next to the piles of empty wine bottles. In Italy, eating lentils is supposed to bring you money in the new year.
“It will be a poor year for all of us,” I say.
Francesco and I look down at the cold pot of lentils sitting among the empty wine bottles and scraps of food. We both laugh.
“Poor and happy,” he says.
I nod. I think of him and Sarah and how I met them, how Sarah once was an exchange student in Vermont with Berney and John, how whenever I think of Berney and John I think of the color blue, the deep, endless blue of Lake Champlain, the kind of blue that made the yellow plastic of my kayak shine against the water three years ago. I think of their grandkids jumping off the dock on a summer day and the little plastic toy hedgehog the smallest one had. She called it Hiccup and I always wanted to write a story about it. I still do.
Berney and John to Sarah to Francesco to me. So many little threads that connect people.
I look at the pot of lentils and think about working at a law firm. I might be a partner by now, churning out contracts between corporations, billing hours that would pay for weeks of this trip at a time.
Then I think of Berney and John again, the day I left their house to paddle north toward Montreal and the fur trading routes that would take me to the end of that 503 day journey. I think of the sailboat docked at the border and the man that heard I was lawyer once. He said I must be the richest of all my classmates. I laughed until he pointed to his heart.
“No,” he said. “Here.”
I leave the lentils sitting untouched in the pot as I finish stacking the wine bottles together for a picture.
“Poor and happy,” I say. “Much better than the opposite.”