La Verna

The winter sun is weak, yet warm enough to bite into the white mantle. We stomp through the snow that is beginning to thaw, falling from ancient fir and beech trees onto our heads. It glids into the gap between neck and sweater, slips between boot and foot (brr!). On the ground it has a crumbled look, like coconut flakes.

Lower down, now liquid, it trickles on the boulders, beside the cross, along the walls of the cave, next to the Saint’s bed. The chilly wind that blows through the rocks won’t dry it. Faith is not a bed of roses: faith is a damp cell. Having got to the summit of Mt.Penna, we enjoy the view from this natural balcony on the Casentino. We can’t go further. I remember the inscription over the monastery entrance:

Non est in toto sanctior orbe mons (There is not a more holy mountain in the whole world).

It’s Sunday. In the Corridor of the Stigmata, the latin chant of the monks rises in the air like the water that day after day, week after week slowly dries off: soon the thawing will be complete, spring will be back and we’ll be able to walk the full loop. But then we are going to miss this glare, this contrast of white and blue that reminds Andrea Della Robbia’s terracottas that decorate the Sanctuary.

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