Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Everything Is Beautiful

Before I came here I watched a mini-series that aired here in Italy a few years ago, The Best of Youth. It chronicles the lives of two brothers starting from their early twenties in the seventies to today. At one point, one of the brothers, Nicola writes his sister from a trip abroad, “Everything is beautiful.” As time goes on his radical declaration is tested. It may sound strange but I identified so strongly with each of the characters that as I watched I felt as if I were given a glimpse into my own future. I related on an intimate level with the story portrayed on screen.
The political, social and spiritual transformations felt so familiar. The natural progression of relationships with their pain and dysfunction simultaneously wrapped up with joy and love is universal.

When Nicola is a bit older, his sister asks him if he still believes in the words he wrote to her as young man. He confesses that he’s not sure. Some things are beautiful but too many are terrible. I confess I too have felt conflicted this week. One minute I am in love with the small moments and then I’m thrown off by the difficult ones.

Beautiful is coming back from Orvieto and falling asleep to the sounds of a party in the patio below me. I dangerously craned my neck out to try and see but a canopy of vines prevented me from truly spying. I loved those sounds- the way the voices carried on the night wind and how when they couldn’t decide on what to play they would skip through the tracks. When I woke up late the next day I eventually wandered to the window again. I looked out onto the Umbrian countryside perfectly lighted with the midday sun. This time I could hear someone playing the accordion. It was so unexpectedly cinematic and lovely.

Terrible is the nauseous feeling I have as I try to write an article about a trial that disturbs me beyond belief. It is exhausting to feel close to something so horrific because it becomes familiar. You put yourself in the place of someone else and play out the scenario in your head wondering how you would react if you were in their shoes over and over again. It is painful. I see my own failure through the failure of others.

I think, however, beauty is most accurately represented in grace. I walked into a store with our instructor to speak with the owner about a potential interview she said something but I didn’t understand. A man called out the translation, “She says you’re beautiful!”
I think I managed to say ‘Grazie’ and I felt my heart swell up with gratefulness. By saying something that she didn’t have to say she allowed me a moment of beauty. She did not say that I was ascetically pleasing or attractive or that I was good, nice or right. Somehow that allowed me to revel in it.

How can we all be so awful and then so wonderful?
Everyday I find myself content and discontent. I am faced with the unexpected reconciliation and all I can say is that I have so much left to learn. I wonder which character would be me right now. I’m not halfway yet. This is just the beginning but by the end of the series, Nicola can say it again.Everything is beautiful. I am not sure that I can say it but I think I can hear it- just like I could hear the party down below and know it was there without seeing it. I know that someone sees beauty in me even if I do not.
I know that life is beautiful. Everything is.


  1. Claire-I think you've found your calling. You have become such a good writer and such a beautiful person. (I love you and the blue truck, in that order). It sounds like you are having a wonderful time, and I'm jealous over here in the sand. :) See you soon and congratulations on graduating! -Erin

  2. I agree with Erin, you are really a great writer! Can't wait to see you again.