Today’s Miles: 15.1
Total Miles: 3,723
Calizzano, Italy – January 15, 2017
I wake up on a flat bit of snow and pack my bag as the sun begins to light the sky. I want to walk before the sun rises high, before the crust of ice frozen in the night softens, while I can stand on top of the snow instead of breaking through it.
I climb higher, through the trees, up to a ridge where the snow breaks and disappears. The world is split into a patchwork quilt of where the low winter sun shines and where shadows linger. On the south face, it might have been a cool fall day, on the north, winter.
Dropping into a valley I study my map, looking for a way back up to the ridges on the far side, looking for roads or trails that will catch the sun. The route transforms into a game as I walk a road south, waiting for my chance to slip back up a slope to play again.
In Calizzano, I stand in an intersection, not sure which way to go, trying to guess which route would would sneak through the patchwork of snow. I step one way then the next, unsure, staring back at the map, my mind spinning. If this road is clear. If that track can get me there. If the sun reaches that ridge. The whole puzzle turns back and forth with no definite answer.
“Hello?” I hear. “Are you Daniel?”
I look up, shaken out of my thoughts. What? Who would know my name? Do I know this man jogging across the street to me.
“Are you Daniel?” he asks. “I heard you on the radio, on Tropical Pizza.”
I stare at him and nod, stunned that anyone would recognize me.
“I was working at the bar and looked out the window and saw you,” he says. “Come have a drink if you have time.”
I think about the day, about how I only have a few hours left of light, how I thought I could make it back to the ridge before sunset. Then I think about the slim chances that he’d hear me on the radio, that he’d see me walking by, that I’d be on that road at all.
The bar is packed with people. It’s a sunday afternoon. Football flashes on the TV screen. A group of old men crowd around a card table. Another group takes turns rolling balls on a big billiards table with no pockets and five pins set up in the middle. Davide introduces me to his friends and races back behind the bar he abandoned when he saw me walking by. Drinks won’t make themselves.
In between breaks, he sits with me and we talk. I find out he was on Tropical Pizza too, for a photography project where he decided to meet a stranger every day for a year, 365 of them, men and women, people from different countries, backgrounds, and religions. Day after day, he broke down that wall we all keep between us, reaching out and seeing someone as a fellow human, even for a brief moment.
“Can I take your picture?” he asks.
We head outside for better light. His project reminds me of my trip, of the people I’ve met along the way, of realizing that any stranger could be a friend, that us and them is an illusion, that these walls we build don’t protect us from danger, they create it, they they rip us apart from a beautiful world.
Somewhere on the mountains, the snow melts or freezes, the sunlight and shadows move, the path I would have chosen is good or bad, but I am not there to see it. I am lost in an Italian Sunday Afternoon, drinking spritz with Davide and his friends, watching football on tv, trying not to laugh when the old men at the card table almost break into a fight.
The bar is warm and loud, full of big voices and gesturing hands that threaten every drink on the tables. The snow can wait. It will be there in the morning. Tonight I’m with my friends in Calizzano.
Check out Davide’s project, 365 Strangers, it’s a fantastic look at humanity and when you’re done, go out and meet someone new and learn their story. Davide’s project is at: http://www.365strangers.it