From Italy to Irving: A Collection of Love Letters

The Grapevine

This essay originally appeared in the student newspaper The Cor Chronicle in April.

From Bonnie Baldwin, newly 18 and newly planted at Due Santi.

To burnt, sultry orange walls: Rough to the touch and home to hundreds before me, I lean against you so often. So often you stand beside me as I watch sunset after inimitable sunset.

To powerful, sedentary domes: You reach to the heavens while sloping down to me on earth — my tiny soul reflecting the glory of thousands of years of history as best it can, which isn’t very well, but all it can do is try.

To miles and miles of seashore: Your laughter softly echoes from the waves at my feet; your breeze gently leads me on some mysterious path; your sunshine bends down to grant me a kiss. You bring me excellent friends to smile with and share awareness of the overwhelming joy that makes its way to each of us like a bubbling stream.

To a grove of olive trees: I feel the air heavy with fruit. You sing me farewell, you nymphs, as though you know that I cannot keep you company much longer. My heart swells so much that I must run and tire it out, lest it jump out of my chest altogether, which would not be a very convenient thing in the afternoon before my final philosophy exam.

To a small garden: As we watch an old Mountain bid goodnight to a young Ocean — the innumerable tiny lights of the mountainside town harmonizing sweetly with their own reflections in the water — you bring someone to sit silently beside me, jointly appreciating the symphony. You whisper of unknown things to be discovered about the distant view, as well as the not-so-distant person sitting next to me.

To an old man in the midst of his culinary art: Your weathered hands and weathered face reveal to me that we know each other somehow, even though we have never met and do not even speak the same language. You are someone’s son, someone’s brother; another human being who understands wonder and pain and joy and wretchedness and glory; you are my friend — which you prove by patiently teaching me how to roast small bits of meat over an open, handmade forno that probably has been in your family for generations.

To the ice-cold water of some obscure inlet: Flinging myself into you, feeling your water bite at me and bring the blood to my cheeks, I turn my face upward and stare awe-stricken as the unhindered stars speak in tongues unknown to me. Zeus — showing his apparent disapproval — sends lightning into your more distant waters. Running with fear and then shaking with laughter, falling into the still-slightly-warm sand that is clinging to the remnants of the summer sun, I realize suddenly that I’d better run and clean myself up if I don’t want to be late for dinner.

From Bonnie Baldwin, not yet 22 and not yet bidding the past four years goodbye.

To ribbons of memory: You bind all these love letters together into a dusty pile beneath the past two years. You try to capture an Experience of Life, like many have tried before you and many will after. You don’t yet know that an Experience of Life is a power who will not be held down by any musicians, authors or geniuses — evidently, not even by girls who are newly 18. You don’t yet know that Experience speaks to all — that all have their own love letters to her, all are little giants fighting to win her affection — and she tosses her curls at all of us as she turns away too soon.

So, ribbons of memory, untie yourselves, but leave room for the ribbons of today. You’ll find that today is worthy of love letters, too.