rough cobblestone, smooth marble. the perfume of blossoms and the earthy, musk of rich tuscan soil, cypress trees and olive groves. soft, white leather and coarse, dark tapestry. pungent, aromatic wines and flakey, fruity croissants.
italy is chock full of pleasurable contradictions, including the creative unification of ancient and modern. for one week in june, I was a tourist in florence. the experience left me unfolded, tranquil and inspired to create.
considered the birthplace of the renaissance, florence is an exquisite dream. the history is vibrant and succulent. when combined with the culture – food, wine, art, and architecture – it is intoxicating. inspiration is not only found in marble and brush strokes, or through one’s finely tuned five senses. each person i encountered was a lesson in class, civility and passion. waiters and shop clerks, mothers with small children and business men on the train; i was welcomed again and again by a gracious and helpful people.
italy was home to the great minds and creative energy of scientific wizards like Leonardo Da Vinci, and Galileo, and artistic geniuses, such as Raphael, Botticelli and Michelangelo. the massive creative output within that relatively short span of time in history fascinates and inspires me. the creative yield of the florentine’s between 1200 and 1500 is neither a cosmic bias nor exclusive commodity. italy’s charisma helped me discover the greatness i am capable of.
wandering the streets and standing in front of some of the world’s greatest man-made works – like Michelangelo’s statue, David, and Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ – was a profound experience. simply breathing deeply in those monumental spaces ignited a passion and romance for my life, and stirred the creative potential inside of me. as i roamed florence, i wondered if Brunelleschi was seeking to make his mark in the world when he engineered the Duomo, or if he simply held his vision, made a plan, applied great skill and saw it through to completion.
while painting the Sistine Chapel, could Michelangelo ever have fathomed that hundreds of years after his death four million people a year would travel the globe to gaze upon his work? or was he was hired for his ability, applied his unique technique, submerged himself in his passion and left the world his magnum opus.
have i the gall to compare myself to the greats of the renaissance? why yes, i do. they were human beings, as am i. while i could never recreate the significant works of timeless masters, i can create a masterpiece of my own life and time. not considering the outcome, i will live with the intention of creating a beautiful life now and pour myself into it.
tender yet powerful, these realizations inspired me to create a short list of astonishingly simple ways to maintain my own italian creative renaissance:
1. ride my bike everywhere. it’s good for my body, my brain and the environment. (canadian condition: until it becomes too cold and my hands freeze around the handle bars.)
2. dress well every day. even on my bike. italians typically dress spectacularly. chinos, crisp white shirts, blazers, and great leather shoes = class.
3. buy more geraniums.
5. learn a second language. (french is on my goal list.)
6. practice patience, helpfulness and cool. (i’ve never met a more calm, cool and collected bunch of people.)
7. savour quality in wine, food and relationships.
8. be more sensual: scents, flavours, textures – fluid movements, deeper presence. (i will lean into my life.)
9. be intentionally creative. listen to better music, buy more art, dance closer, eat slower, throw more parties, appreciate design, aim for quality, open more windows, keep the television off, hug more people, put fresh cut flowers in every room – create spaces with an ambience that is addictive.
10. kiss more. aim for quality, not quantity.
renaissance means re-birth, or new beginning. i feel awake; revitalized with the certainty that there is no better place or time to be, and that there is no greater calling than to be present to those who share my life each and every day. here, now. pulling weeds nestled among the flowers in my yard. now, behind the desk in my office, in service to others; planning and creating. now, piled into a heap on the couch with a sun kissed ten year old with gigantic chick-let teeth and sparkling eyes. now, allowing my art (words) to pour love (creativity) onto paper.
our western culture is obsessed with fame and wealth, discovering our purpose and becoming our most successful selves. my own inspirational dissatisfaction has led to never ending self-improvement, relentlessly seeking answers, and constant lifestyle innovation (read: bigger, better, more, new). i have pushed myself to decipher and reach for a higher calling. florence, its art, culture and people, gently led me to the crystal clear realization that i lack nothing. i am not missing any pieces to the puzzle. i already possess everything i require to create my life’s best work. it is alive inside of me, patiently waiting for me to tap into my creative potential and let it flow; to live my own masterpiece.