“Today my thoughts / Are swift and cool / As goldfish in / A lily pool. / Tomorrow, like as not, / They’ll be / Brown turtles blinking / Hard at me. / And I shall be / As dull as they / And blink back, too. / But oh, today!”
— Sister M. Philip, “Today”
I woke up several times during my first night in Italy far from my hometown of Madera. I had never been overseas. It was autumn 1997, and jet lag had convinced me that morning had come. The glow-in-the-dark numbers of my mother’s wind-up clock, however, disagreed with my skewed sense of time. My body eventually won the argument and I arose over an hour before my 6:30 wake-up call.
I stayed with 10 other pilgrims at the Hotel Sirenetta (mermaid), which fittingly stood by the Tyrrhenian Sea, part of the Mediterranean. So I stepped into the lingering rain-sodden night to pray and walk along the seashore.
The harbor city of Ostia, which means “mouth,” sits at the mouth of the Tiber River and had been the most important port of the Roman empire until the capitol moved east to Constantinople. Now the pounding surf seemed to bring only litter to the rocky beach, and most of the shoreline had been claimed by resorts and restaurants...