Friday, November 30, 2007

The Old Man Of The Mountain


The Old Man Of The Mountain

The wonder of the journey is often in the unexpected, that serendipitous find waiting around the next bend that makes the whole trip worthwhile.

While we were in Florence Jay and I took a day to hike from the village of Fiesole to the tiny hamlet of Maiano, where we had reservations at a traditional trattoria for lunch. (You're not sick of these Florence anecdotes yet, are you? I hope not, but even if you are you're stuck with this one since I've been waiting for a chance to share it and this week's Sunday Scribblings prompt of walk gave me the perfect opportunity.) You knew food was going to enter into it somehow too, didn't you? I suppose that was a bit of a foregone conclusion, what with me and Italy and all. Nevermind, it's a minor part of this tale. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah...

While walking we came across an old quarry, one hundreds of years old. Rock from this site and others like it built much of Renaissance Florence. I stood at the base of the quarried rock imagining the backbreaking work it must have taken to first quarry it and then transport it to the city miles below. When I looked up, I was surprised to see a face looking back at me out of the rock, just as he must have looked out at so many others over the years. He seemed almost a living part of the stone, a sentinel keeping watch. What emotions hide behind that stony visage? What does he think of this work of man? Was it in fact for the glory of Florence, or the glory of the Church, or did he feel that his world had been ripped away, leaving him raw and exposed? How many stories have those stone eyes seen? What was the reason for the sadness they seem to hold? I could barely look at Michelangelo's Prisoners* in the Galleria dell'Accademia, so painful did I find their imprisonment in the stone, but my old man of the mountain seemed somehow more melancholy than trapped. Perhaps it is because he appears more organic - a living part of the stone, almost its essence, rather than something being freed from its clutches.

I can't help but wonder how he came to become my old man of the mountain. Was he an accident of a workman's chisel, or did the quarry master have a sense of whimsy? However he came to be, I am richer for having found him.

He had some lovely neighbors too. These are a few of the things we stumbled across as we walked through the woods that day.





A warning to watch out for falling signs?


* Michelangelo's Prisoners are a series of unfinished sculptures where the subjects seem to be struggling to break out of solid blocks of marble. Michelangelo believed his figures were divinely created within the rock, that as he attacked the stone with his chisel he was simply chipping away the excess to make them visible.

23 comments:

Jo said...

Great post......I love the photos too!

Nancy said...

This is awesome. I love all the posts and photos from your trip. Thank you for sharing.

Lucy said...

who could tire of heaing about Florence! Beautiful photos and the mountain is amazing! I SO hope to visit Italy before I'm old!

Just Jen said...

What a great post, you explain everything exquisitely.

ell said...

I love your Old Man of the Mountain.

I wonder if he shows himself to other travelers. Maybe you're one of only a select few to glimpse him. And now, you've shared him with us. :-)

UL said...

What a beautiful walk, I am so glad to have walked with you through the pictures. Thank you.

UL

Stacy said...

Great walk.......and beautiful photos.

gautami tripathy said...

Thanks for taking us all on a beautiful walk.

gautami

paisley said...

it gives the word coincidence a little more imagination doesn't it?????

Rob Kistner said...

Very cool little trek, and super fotos... loved the sign! ;)

Robin said...

Thanks everyone, and do please try to ignore all the ridiculous tense changes in that second paragraph *blush*. I really should learn that I can't write well while simultaneously cooking dinner and putting my kids to bed...

Maddy said...

Great post and I particularly like the 'real' optical illusion.
cheers

Poppy Fields said...

What a great walk!

Betty C. said...

Fabulous final photo! I guess the sign couldn't stand up to what it was warning against...

Crafty Green Poet said...

I could never get bored of stories of Italy so post away!

Secret Agent Mama said...

I keep staring at him, I can't stop. Wow! How I would love to visit Italy someday. Thank you for your scribble, it was remarkable!

Secret Agent Mama

tumblewords said...

A great walk and the photos are superb! The falling sign is a kick! Love them all and the words that accompany us on your walk!

Summer said...

Gorgeous photographs! The first is my very favorite.

Fourier Analyst said...

What a lovely walk. I too was moved when I saw the "Prisoners". It meant so much more to me than "David".

Just wanted to share with you my favorite Florence moment:

20 years ago, when I went to Florence on my own, I visited the gallery and took my time, enjoying it all and breathing in the culture. I finally decided that I wanted a picture of myself in the gallery. This is back in the time when they would allow you to take pictures inside, they don't anymore. So I asked a passing couple if they would oblige, showed them how to use my camera, and posed with my best profile, gazing up at David. As I am very conscious about my neck, I tilted my head to get the best "line". Just as the photo was snapped, I realised where my eyeline was...yes, directly at David's privates!! It is a photo I only share with very personal friends!!

SandyCarlson said...

He seems to have a lot on his mind!

Mojo said...

Your note on Michaelangelo's Prisoners reminds me of the one lesson I got in doing ice sculpture (back in the days when I did such things). My boss said "Look at the block and picture -- for example -- a swan*. Then cut away everything that doesn't look like a swan."

Your description of the discovering the face in the stone reminds me of another quote from Marcel Proust: "The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."

I think that's probably what Carmi was getting at with this theme.

Oh, and the second of your "ancillary" photos deserves a post of its own! Perhaps a Wordless Wednesday... it's a true winner!

(*Note: Swans are very popular ice sculpture subjects for some reason, especially for those new to the discipline. And no, I don't know why.)

Pamela said...

ooooooo awwwwww... I love that guy. He's a warrior!

MommyWizdom said...

Cool shots!! I will see nature in a whole new way from now on. :-)

MommyWizdom