Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Sitting on the Stoop

It is late afternoon in Lecce, Italy. I take a chair out the front door and sit on the sidewalk outside our Air B&B.  A neighbor parks a car and nods to me. A woman walks by and we exchange Buona Sera’s. Three cats come down the street and play under the parked cars. A man walks his dog, but the dog doesn’t notice the cats. 


I remember my New Jersey childhood and all the summer nights of front-stoop sitting with my cat Zorro on my lap. Greeting the passerbys, noticing the birds and squirrels, sitting doing nothing but soaking in the pleasures of the approaching evening. Minus the posture and conscious attention to breath, this was perhaps my initiation into zazen meditation. Having the cat on the lap helped.


I never do this in San Francisco. Partly because it’s usually too cold when dusk falls. Plus I don’t have a cat. But plenty of people walk on our street and indeed, I could be greeting them. Note to self.


Let me confess the initial reason for sitting out front today. We got a rental car and on our street, you have to pay for parking until 6:30 pm and we arrived there at 5:30. So to save a Euro, I decided to sit outside until 6:15 and watch out for the meter maid. I saved the Euro and got the extra perk of remembering the power and pleasure of the front stoop. 


Speaking of pleasure, it was such a glorious day, waking up in the lovely house with its stone walls and high ceilings and little nooks for lanterns or statues. Sat my first zazen of the trip to the sound of shouts outside and post-meditation, went to the terrace and watched the young men across the street playing a spirited game of soccer. Then a stroll through the town to the rental car place and off we go, me driving a stick shift! It’s been a long time since I have and I loved it! 


We decided to find our way to Gallipoli some 40 kilometers away without using either GPS or a map, simply by following signs. And we did it! Even found free parking exactly where we wanted to be, at the tip of the city on the coast. Another beautiful town with the narrow winding alleys and exquisite doorways and plaques celebrating poets who lived there. And then a seaside restaurant with fresh fish, local cheese and a welcome salad. More meandering, that informal walking meditation, stop for a 2 Euro double-scoop gelato with the best coconut ice cream I’ve ever had. 


“Home” to the front stoop sit, shopping at the local market and cooking at home, topping off the day with wine and chocolate and Rummy 500 with my wife Karen and her friend Marcia. Three more days together before five more friends from Karen’s bike group meet up with us to begin part two of this trip. 


Looking forward to another front stoop sit tomorrow. Maybe one of the cats will come join me. 


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