Last Thanksgiving I was in Rome, gorging on pasta and gelato, receiving a “ciao bella” every time I turned around, and exploring cathedrals and museums to my heart’s content. One particularly striking memory from that trip comes back to me: I finished my tour of the sun-drenched Coliseum, waved at a gladiator, and made my way down the brick street to a plaza in front of an art museum. It was just about sunset in late November, and even Rome gets a little chilly in winter evenings, so I hugged my jacket closer to me and watched the medley of tourists and locals strike poses and snap photos. Idly looking around, I spied a somewhat hidden stairway leading up a hill behind the museum, and I took it upon myself to discover where it went. Leaving behind the bleating libertines, I ascended the staircase, stepped onto the patio…...and felt my equilibrium nearly vanish as Rome, breathing the brilliant streams of the setting sun into her ancient lungs, stunned my vision. She was on fire – buildings’ old skins shimmered with the long-lost glow of youth; rivers of color flowed into the skyline, the earth, the people walking down on the street, caressing them with color like a dancer flinging multi-hued saris onto her spectators; the orange sun was huge in the palette of the sky, and it seemed so close and welcoming that I wanted to embrace it, or have it embrace me. But what really brought me to the brink was the flock of birds making their primordial patterns across the sky, their small black forms cutting sharp fractals against the saturated wash. They swooped and rippled and turned all as one, and I couldn’t take my eyes off their completely synchronized dance. I must have sat there over an hour, feeling the chill of the evening creep its way into my skin, listening to the faraway voices of the people below me. Finally, long after the birds settled into their nests for the night, I slowly made my way through the narrow streets of Rome back to my hotel, feeling transformed, yet not knowing in what way.
During the remaining few days I had in Rome I returned to that spot at around the same time every evening, but I never had the mesmerizing experience that I did upon discovering it for the first time. The colors weren’t as brilliant, or the birds weren’t dancing, so it wasn’t the same. That one evening was truly a unique memory to cherish. A memory to be thankful for. What memories are you thankful for?