This past week, I received in the post, a CD full of images from my friend’s camera. Melanie and I had taken a trip over Easter to Florence, Italy, and both of us snapped indiscriminately with our respective cameras. Having her over for dinner a couple weeks back, she reminded me to burn my version of our travels onto a CD for her. Here she was, a week later, repaying the favour.


I didn’t have any expectations that her photographs were better than mine. After all, her level of photography was point ‘n shoot, whereas I’m a trained photographer. However, opening up the CD, I came across at least 4 images that really did something for me; it wasn’t about technique or who knew more. It was about having captured the moment. And the images made me realize that, despite what my head had been saying about our proficiencies, creating art was and still is very much linked to one’s heart. And my heart, during the trip, was anything but inspired or calm. It was not a happy heart. Though I hated to admit it, my own collection of images felt flat as a consequence.


My personal world had come crashing down around me days before the trip. It was not the type of crashing like that of the Twin Towers. Not the loud destruction of a detonated building designated for rubble and removal. Nor was it the kind one would imagine when the San Andreas fault decided to be angry and test Bay Area bridges in their ability to flexibly sway and bounce. How is that one’s personal life cannot be measured on the same magnitude as an earthquake to the Richter Scale? Nonetheless, my heart was measuring a solid, silently screaming 8.2, and it was this kind of emotional state that sped me away from London, on the Stansted Express, with Melanie, who innocently gazed out the window in anticipation to delicious pastas and gold-leafed Madonnas.


When we arrived at the hotel near the Duomo, we unpacked. Out came skirts in hope of good sunny weather. T-shirts. Flip-flops. Lotion and shampoo. Electrical chargers. And of course, out came my broodiness (neither check-in counter nor x-ray machine had registered this burden). Despite my one rucksack of belongings, traveling light I was not.


For four days, whilst stomping about the Uffizi Gallery, Academia del Art, Piazza di Michealangelo, while sampling pizza Margheritas, Florentine steaks, risotto del carciofo, and cappuccinos, I carried my tormented heart in my hands. Something was cracking and ending, and I was not at home to sew things back to together. I had to be a tourist and be surrounded by Renaissance art. Art that I’d hotly anticipated viewing. After having studied Art History for so many years, and gazing at these Western iconic pieces as small photographs in a book, here I was, looking up at the actual artists’s pieces. My God, was I moved, by pieces I did not think I would be: the Botticelli’s in particular. And of course, Michealangelo’s David. Anything Michealangelo.


Through the dimness of my clouded mind, the thought pierced through like a simple shaft of afternoon light: here I was, in the bosom of what had produced the Renaissance. What was needed for such art and culture to flourish? Abundance. And what had I been feeling all this time, after having left the States? Impoverishment. Personal, emotional, social, financial impoverishment, on its varying different levels. How did I know to choose a city to vacation at, and one which would symbolize my need for change so blatantly? Not only that, Melanie and I had chosen to travel during Easter break. No, I am not Christian, though Melanie is, but the symbolism is not lost on me. The resurrection. New beginnings. Hope. Rebirth.


Looking back at Melanie’s travel photographs, there is one image she captured of me that brings about a firm sense of closure. She snapped this image of me in the vaults of the Battistero di San Giovanni, gazing solemnly over a fully-lit candelabra. Generally I shy away from being photographed. Here, Melanie captured the most non-tourist image of me — no goofy smiles or funny faces, but one which shows the truest sense where I was mentally, as I contemplated quietly the end of things. Something about the soft overall hazy quality also lends itself to illustrating my mood.


Now looking at the image, I realize that I was just on the cusp on some new beginning that I did not know, nor could have anticipated. All endings bring new beginnings. I had to go through two and half months of turmoil and uncertainty, and my friend’s compassionate eye to show me.

Erica, 34, London UK