We’ve all had them. Striking moments of clarity that give us pause. I find they often arrive suddenly. In unexpected places. Like the sunny afternoon I was walking this castle rampart, built in 1361, with its commanding view of three Tuscan valleys.
In that moment, I had a felt sense of the transitory nature of power. This hill village dating back to Etruscan times is said to have been settled in 814 A.D. Travelers passed through it on their way from France to Rome.
It’s a place where the pendulum of power swung back and forth from local hands to Siena’s sway during a 200-year period before surrendering and swearing fidelity to Florence’s Medici rule in 1559. During those 200 years, Wikipedia reports that citizens enjoyed “peace and prosperity marred by violent episodes and, that although the town was eventually conquered, the fortress itself never submitted.”
Gazing down at the place now famed for wine production, I wonder about the people of these earlier times. How certain were they about their view of the world and their way of life? How tightly did they stand for what they believed to be right? How did they deal with the vagaries of these exchanges of power?
On this gleaming afternoon, my head is full of questions no one is left to answer. I stare hard at vague, emerging shapes of lessons I will carry home — not in my bags, but in my heart — about the sweep of time and just how tightly to hold on.