Inside/Outside / Dentro/Fuori

I’ve quickly learned that what I consider to be hot weather is merely warm to the Civitonici, although the word for warm actually translates as “hot,” as in, Fa caldo. That said, we all agree that the weather of late has been caldissimo.

For days, our shutters have remained closed, our interior spaces dark, and our food at room temperature. We move less, we sweat more, and I’ve learned not to drag groceries uphill from Bagnoregio on foot when it’s over 90.

Watching everyone -including myself- fade to the internal was as curious as watching this morning’s refreshing ghostly fog envelop Civita, turning the city inside in a completely different way. With time and heat, the fog burned off by noon, but the day turned out more temperate than it has been.

These pairs of opposites innate to Civita –inside/outside, continuity/change, hot/cool, tourist/resident, fog/blue skies– had me considering how internal and external forces work here. By turning inside, into these private lives that I’ve been describing, are we making an intentional choice to turn away from the outside world?

How much concentration within a community gives rise to a purer sense of identity — and how much is xenomorphic navel gazing? And, if one decides to step outside, how does Civita look from there?

To answer these questions, I strolled out of the main gate and down the causeway, observing the unintentional difference in my gait as I walked down the steep stones. For two weeks, I’ve pounded up and down that hill climb – partly to escape the heat, partly from the desire to make good use of my time, and partly to avoid blending in with the tourists.

This time, my feet enjoyed the sense of concave and convex curves between the stones and mortar as I made my way down, surefooted as a goat. I didn’t blow past people, nor was my pace intentionally slow; it simply felt right. The breeze picked up, dropping the intensity of the late afternoon blaze, and I felt in balance and in charge of my destiny.

From the end of the causeway looking back at Civita, perched precariously on top of the hill, I listened as people began and ended their tours. On approach, I heard a consistent bracing and awe between them; on return, most seemed quiet and reflective, as if they absorbed some of Civita’s internal focus.

At that, I realized how things are beginning to change in my mind after two weeks here. I don’t feel like a tourist or visitor any longer, but I’m not yet a Civitonici. Day and night, I’m finding a rhythm that works somewhere in the middle.

In fact, I believe that the extreme dichotomies unique to this place –challenging topography and access, closeness to nature (animal, vegetable…and insect), lack of transportation, the weather, historic buildings, lush and edible gardens, new ways of preparing food, and certainly, the people– are what is bringing me closer to a fluid center point.

After two weeks in Civita, the initial awe of an outsider is beginning to lift like the fog, revealing an opportunity see more clearly, and therefore, investigate these principles more deeply. I’m learning how this immersive experience encourages a person to contract inside first in order to expansively explore these opposites, and ultimately find the common ground –and meaning– within them.

A question I posed in my proposal was, how is Civita relevant to our modern lives? One way to answer that would be to ask in return, how few places such as Civita exist where time and exposure not only continue to alter living rock, but retain the power to soften, expand, and reveal a deepening inner humanity within people like me who come here to stay?

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