At the end of a February afternoon of fading light, there was one last bus to take down the mountain from San Sepolcro. It was a good day.
The Piero fresco did not just move me, but moved with me. I can’t say if a shape-shifting illusion was something Piero Della Francesca deliberately conjured in the wet plaster, now dry and fixed to the wall these past 550 years. There was, however, some trick of the eye in the light and shadow upon the sleeping Roman soldiers in The Resurrection.
What I thought I saw was something that played out in the span of time it takes for a person to walk inside from the daylight, and then sit on the viewing bench, and wait for the eyes to adjust to indoor light, while slowly picking the details from the shadows. If I didn’t think it would sound so crazy, I’d swear I the head of a Roman soldier turned in a blink.
I’ve been living with that mystery for some time now.
For the rest of the day, I took my time in streets, carrying a pack full of camera gear. I had several lenses for seeing near and far and wide; a fancy flash to cast different kinds of light; plus chargers, power cords, and the iPod that I use for picture and data storage. I made some those usual pictures of windows with laundry, and windows with flower boxes.
The bus was waiting outside the old walls along Viale Vittrio Veneto. That is the road down to the Arno Valley, but here in town the lanes are divided by a small park. More of the nieghborhood’s shops lie beyond that. It is good little sitting park with its gravel paths, benches, shade trees, japonica and dwarf laurel. Although inviting, the bus was filling with the people who took seats with lunch packs and vacuum bottles in their laps.
The driver spread his palms apologetically. He could not take my money. I needed a ticket. But where?
The driver pointed to the bar and tobacco shop beyond the two lanes of busy traffic and park. This last bus was nearly full. It was time to go. These workers had homes with children and wives and husbands who would be expecting them. The driver gestured again toward the shop, this time in a rolling and encouraging motion. “Vai. Vai. Aspettooooo.”
He would wait.
I dodged a scooter and a van in the first lane, jogged across the park, dodged passing cars in the second lane, and then dashed through door of the Bar Tobacco shop. I dropped a handful of coins on the counter, huffing “biglietto per Arezzo per favore.” The woman picked out the coins, and handed me the ticket. With that in hand I ran back: across one lane, across the park, across the next lane.
Someone was honking when I reached the bus. I glanced over my shoulder, Traffic had halted on both of those lanes. A trail of my gear lead back through the park. My pack felt disturbingly light. Two men from the far lane opened the doors of their Fiats and Alfas, climbed out and began picking up lenses from in front of their tires. Once in their hands, they turned them over, examining these objects for either quality or damage.
Drivers of two cars in the near lane did the same. The bus driver and some passengers stepped out and crossed over to the park. They too began gathering stuff: the iPod, a couple chargers, power cords, and the flash. This is where we all converged, with some of them handing me back my stuff, some of them still looking under the benches to see what else might have tumbled out.
Still, I did not dare believe I had it all when I was seated on the bus as it rolled out of the town. I unpacked and repacked my bag. Okay, I have most of it. Good, but what did I loose? The bus rounded a curve. Must be something. No, wait, it’s all there.
I had all of it, and something more.
Thank you, San Sepolcro. Thank you.