According to the weather forecast on my i-Phone, it is currently sixty-four degrees and raining in Assisi, where (my i-Phone also tells me) it is 12:30 p.m. I added the Assisi forecast to my i-Phone because I thought it was amusing, because I could. But I find that I check it pretty much every time I check the weather in Indianapolis, and I have to say that each time I am surprised to find that it is not 90 degrees and sunny, which is how I always imagine it.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I walk myself from the Hotel Giotto up the narrow cobblestone street toward Santa Chiara. The cool thing is that I can include anything I ever saw taking that walk (or any walk, for that matter): flowers cascading from a high window; an ancient stone fountain, a particular pattern of chimneys, a beautiful little shrine. Once I saw a dozen or so scrawny cats on a low stone wall feasting on open tins of cat food, brought by an old lady who watched over them, keeping the tourists with their cameras at bay.
I can veer off and walk up the steep stone stairs to the main piazza and get a pink grapefruit gelato, if I feel like it. Or project myself into evening at the Basilica, listening to music among the Giottos.
But, usually, I keep going toward S. Chiara—for the promise of monks in Birkenstocks, nuns in baseball caps, and the line of tacky souvenir shops lining the piazza outside the church.
When I take this walk, it is always sunny.
But if I were sleepless right now, I think I would imagine the rain—a particular rain that I remember from my first time in Assisi, when the air cooled and the sky turned the most remarkable deep, drenched blue, the cypresses darkening as if ready to whirl up into it. The stone walls of the city were white, white, white and shining. The rain came suddenly: buckets of silver water pouring from the sky, battering the windows of the painting studio, splashing off the stones of the terrace.
Yes! I would definitely imagine that rain—and how, when I turned away from the window, the artificial light in the studio seemed strangely beautiful to me, the paintings on the easels lined up there alive with color. How happy I was, how I could not stop looking at them.