If life were a bridge, it would contain clear endings and beginnings, afford foresight on its distance and grade, and reveal obstacles in plain sight. One could gauge the energy she’d expend in traversing a lifespan before taking a breath.

In Civita, walking up and down il ponto each day is a choice to be –or not be– connected with the rest of the world. With planning, it’s possible to subsist for days without returning to Bagnoregio, something necessary when a storm arrives. While not impossible to cross the causeway during a thunder storm, it is ill-advised.

Today, Tony and I made our shopping for the weekend in advance of the storm rolling in now, late on a Friday afternoon. Knowing that Saturday, when the full force of the storm will hit, is the only weekend day when food is available for purchase in Bagnoregio, we opted to shop early and stay tucked inside tomorrow.

The only other time I’ve done such a thing was during Seattle’s epic snow storms of 2008, which demonstrates how different daily routines are in Civita. It’s not a true inconvenience to act in accord with Mother Nature, but it shows how intimately tied to nature we are.

Real and metaphoric bridges open and close in perpetual motion, depending on the weather, on one’s physical ability to climb the causeway or carry a load of groceries, or on the availability of services here or in town from day to day. Taking time to consider these things within the context of Civita–to reflect and act on relationships with humans, with the built environment, and with nature–requires a higher level of patience and a slower speed than our modern lives typically ask.

To escape from the rain, I sat within the Via Ponte Santa Maria, Civita’s main gate at the top of the causeway, to sketch and observe travelers. It occurred to me that the bridge, which divides Civita from Bagnoregio, from Lazio, from the world, is the same device that also connects it with people from every continent. Today alone, travelers from Italy, Germany, America, Brasil, Australia, and Canada passed by me as my pen flew across the page.

This dichotomy is true of all bridges: they create distance, but they also connect. In this way, Civita’s bridge has created an unprecedented retreat for me, certainly as a writer, but also as a human. Yet, in taking this pause from American life, from speaking English, and from my job, I’ve already begun to connect with people and life here in unexpected ways that I’m glad I couldn’t foresee: from growing dialogue with Corine, a June-born Cancerian, who makes delicious cappucinos at Peppone’s piazza bar, to Fabrizio, who co-owns the bruschetteria and makes wine in the valley below Civita at his organic agriturismo.

Without knowing, I’ve been drinking Fabrizio’s wine each night at dinner with Tony, which we were able to discuss today when he dropped by La Sala Grande. Because Fabrizio speaks very little English, I was again encouraged by circumstance to reach deeply into what I’ve learned from la mia insegnanta, Jenny, and expand out to connect with an integral person in Civita’s social fabric.

Like the Civitonici, in crossing the span each day, I choose to be apart from life outside. Yet, I’m also encouraging an inner life to grow: an emerging voice that considers Civita’s form, function and identity in order to create a bridge of another kind–one that connects new hearts and minds to this special place through the powerful bridge of storytelling.

(Visit my Twitter feed to view the sketch: http://www.Twitter.com/CivitaVeritas)

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