Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Embracing people and places

The more I discover other parts of the world, the more I consider each place to be like a person. Each place has its own unique mix of history, culture, and energy. When I visit a place, I look at it like having a conversation with it. I might get an impression about a place based on my interaction with it, but I canít know it very well. Not only does it take time, but it takes a wide variety of experiences for me to understand a place. I have lived in Florence for the last fourteen years and I am certainly no expert. And, honestly, I don't want to be. If I believe I know a place, it restricts me from discovering more and from seeing it evolve. Every place and every person is constantly evolving. If we classify someone or some place, it makes it more difficult to notice the changes.

Me, My Heart, and I :: Embracing people and places

When I travel, I make a point of going beyond my first impressions. I donít deny having them, but I try to keep myself open to the place and the locals so I can gather more information and feelings about them. Itís a joy to learn more about a place because I try to consciously immerse myself in it while resisting the urge to categorize it. The mind wants to figure out everything while the heart wants to savor the discovery process.

What I find extremely important about a place is its energy. Its energy is not made up only of its buildings, parks, bridges, streets, and squares. Its energy is like the air swirling around us when we navigate the streets, visit its historical or natural sites, stroll through the parks and gardens, interact with the locals, or sit in a restaurant or cafť. A placeís energy is what we feel and sometimes cannot describe into words. It is like a mix of emotions running through us that we feel and yet canít contain.

When I first came to Florence, I made a point of keeping my heart and mind open so I could create my own relationship with her. I didnít want to be influenced by what others told me about Florence; I wanted to discover her myself.

Now that I am living one of my best relationships with a place, I know that I can create relationships like this with other places too. The love I have for Florence is so immense that I know that my heart can embrace other places too. Itís a gift to love multiple places, just like itís a gift to love multiple people. Our hearts were made to experience as much love as possible so we can ultimately share it with others.

I have been doubly blessed by Florence because I allowed her to nestle a place inside of my heart. Florence is inside of me just as much as she is outside of me. No matter where I am, Florence remains in my heart. I enjoy living in Florenceís embrace, but when I am not physically in Florence, I can still feel the love I have for her fluttering inside of me.

Florence has taught me to keep my heart open, which has allowed me to not only feel love flowing in and out of me, but to also see beauty in everyone and everything around me. I am fortunate to experience so much beauty in Florence, but also in every place I visit and in every person I meet.

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