I will sing a new song.
Prayer leads you to see new paths and to hear new melodies in the air. Prayer is the breath of your life which gives you freedom to go and to stay where you wish and to find the many signs which point out the way to the new land. Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule or a source of support in time of need, nor is it restricted to mealtimes or Sunday mornings. Praying is living. It is eating and drinking, action and rest,teaching and learning, playing and working. Praying pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the unceasing recognition that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive. Henri Nouwen, "With Open Hands"
Every dawn, the Italian birds let out a veritable cacophony of raucous melody to greet the rising sun. Crazy loud. And this morning apparently they awoke the seagulls, because they quickly joined in, soaring over the quiet Mediterranean surf. And then the roosters. A new melody. May my heart celebrate the divine gift of being alive, today.
And may I notice the many signs pointing to the New World.
And we were the first pilgrims that this quite modern (1980) parish church had ever had, and they were so happy and quite nervous and wanted to do it right. And of course yesterday afternoon as I tried to haltingly explain in Italian what I wanted, at last one brother was so overwhelmed, he asked if I spoke Spanish, and hurried off to find the brother who had been a missionary in Peru. After a bit, he asked me if I spoke any English. And it turns out the first brother was an English-speaking Filipino who ever-so-carefully checked each of our credentials before stamping and dating them. Sweetness. As was the very fresh pastries and the carefully frothed capuchinos for breakfast before one of them shouted, "selfie!" And before they prayed for our journey, that we may see God in a fresh way.
And wow, we hit the big stuff right away, a great big hill, and many very long and very dark and very full of wild motorcycle riders tunnels, and the lovely down side. For every up, there will be a down. A beautiful down.
And once again I was quite nervous to purchase fruit in a French street market. The quite brusk Frenchman oddly kept shouting, "Come on, come on," as I struggled to produce numbers and names. But eventually my "s'il vous plaît" and "Non, merci" and of course "excuses-moi" won him over, and we were able to chomp on fresh apricots all day long.
While we were very impressed with ourselves for going through Monaco, actually it was squeezed in tight traffic, lots of it, and long stop lights, and we went no where very slowly, so I suggested up. My brave Brandon blanched (alliteration). "Christy, those are the foothills of the French Alps. We are talking five thousand feet." But all of us were weary of breathing fumes, so I led, somehow the Great Dane bike is leading, with Brandon bringing up the rear, up this tiny curving road straight up. After a bit, the crew decided that this was the driveway to some fancy resort at the top of the cliff overlooking the bay filled with yachts and cruise ships, but no, a kind French woman assured me in French that this was a road, very very steep, but that if we could do it, it would lead us to Nice, beautifully.
Also through La Turbie most beautifully with a Roman triumphant arche on top of this hill of the most beautiful stone village imaginable (and btw French public toilets are a marvel of electronic convenience) and Eze and a national park with part of the Roman Road which we actually didn't find, and Eze with an accent, and Villefranche-sur-Mar. But all of that up paid off in a long, long glorious down along the French Riviera, far more down than any of us thought we deserved, but yep, we had climbed 5,000 feet.
And as we soared down, down, down into Nice, I pled with my God, much along the lines of Abraham's servant, asking for some steadfast love as we entered a teeming city of two million, "Help Your child to find the train station." We headed through the traffic towards the sea, assuming perhaps that would bring us to the oldish historical part of town, thinking along the lines of Grand Central Station or that refurbished Denver station, but the troops were fading, hungry and tired, so I settled them down on a nice tree-lined street, almost plaza, and went off to seek some kind soul willing to help a lost stranger. But the only person who would pay me the least attention was this slightly tipsy white-haired old man. "The train station?" we sorted out in my brilliant French. "Ah, the train station. Let me show you the train station." And he put his arm on my shoulder and pointed across the street to where they were waiting with the bikes. "The train station," he crowed with a smile. Out of all the hundred kabillion buildings in Nice where we could have paused, we parked in front of the train station. And now we head to Marseilles with nowhere to stay, just a wing and a prayer, and an invitation to celebrate the divine gift of being alive.