If the measure of a person’s worth rests in the quality of her friendships, then I am indeed blessed. Gathered in Stephen and Lucy’s backyard on Saturday—the only sunny day all weekend—my closest friends and I dined together at my birthday fest (abbiamo fatto una festa per il mio compleanno.)

My love of comparing and contrasting (and several glasses of prosecco) led me to consider the current richness of my life, and the family that I’ve come to find and rediscover. There have been lean times—my teenage years following the death of my mother, the estrangement from my father in my early 20s, and the initial shock and peculiar silence of Belltown after I separated from my husband in 2006. However, after years of cultivation, I looked down a long table in the growing twilight to find a strongly rooted network of intelligent, talented, loving friends  looking back at me with forkfuls of delicious food and facefuls of smiles.

Hours before I arrived, I saw my astrologer as I do every year for a transit reading. We discussed at length the coming fall, which presents as a slow, solitary, yet empowering and hard-working phase (nothing slower than living in a non-motorized ancient Italian hilltown!) and a starkly different springtime  jam-packed with creativity, romance, and abundant, surprising opportunities that will all compete for my time.

In order to fully embrace the introspection and solitude that I’ll find in Civita—which is integral to my work—it has been necessary to invoke a pause: to choose to stand still rather than doing or starting something. I’ve treated these last few months as a down-cycle, a time for letting go, even as activities have revved up.

I’ve turned down opportunities for jobs and serious relationships because it hasn’t felt like the right time to begin anything anew. Even my birthday fest was planned and executed by someone else at his offering—I simply accepted and showed up. (And thoroughly enjoyed myself. Mi piace molto.)

Truly, it is a season of endings even amidst the abundant growth and stability of my core relationships—and perhaps it is because of that strength that I no longer need to question making such a pause now, or the larger one that I’ll make in 35 days. I feel inexplicably assured that my place as a friend and partner will be kept while I’m gone, and that I’ll return as a person transformed and better able to assume those roles, perhaps seeing them in a new light.

I also believe that the things that disintegrate while I’m in Civita will be best left as dust—no regrets.

When I shared this with la mia bella amica Martha, ending with the sentiment that I’ve given up trying to control or understand the reason behind life, she said, “The moment you acknowledge that you don’t—and can’t—really know or control anything is the first moment of wisdom.” 

I don’t know from wisdom, but I’m sure glad to have friends with me on this journey who are smart enough to point that stuff out.