The Watchmaker - II
A childhood year living in a medieval Italian city has haunted – in a friendly way – all of the other places I've ever lived. Part 2 of 2. (4 minute read)
Then gradually, like a kind of dawning, they will start to appear. I will be sitting by a fountain or walking by the city gates, and I will meet them. One-by-one, the people from my life will come forward from around the corners of Bergamo’s streets like welcome, but unexpected old friends. Sometimes they will appear passing outside the bakery window or beside me while watching thunderstorms from the piazza bell tower.
Sometimes they will arrive triggered by a thought. Sometimes they will come unsummoned. And these visitors will come, the near, the dear and the more distant, always miraculously, and always at the perfect time. My wife, my children, my parents, my brother, my friends, will be there, of course, but also the forgotten minor players of my life, the chance strangers with whom I laughed on long bus rides or for whom I held the door as they struggled with their shopping.
These people in my life, all of them so utterly precious, all of them part of me, show up at perfect intervals to sit or to walk or to talk, or sometimes to simply nod in recognition as they pass by in Bergamo’s empty streets.
No God Incarnate walks the streets here or answers pent-up questions or stops to entertain my desperate, calculated praise. There is no figure before whom to bow, no idol to fear, no sacred altars or thresholds now, no one for whom to offer the highest hosannas.
And yet, He is here.
He’s here in the perfect unfolding of people and place and beauty, timed so exquisitely, so knowingly, so intimately to my very self. Who could possibly know my heart this well but its own creator? If I look back on my life as the lovely face of a Swiss watch with its precious tick and gold sheen and handsome Roman numerals all vying for attention, then this place is the same watch, but the back has been delicately removed and laid on soft green felt and the unseen ticking heart of the watch is exposed now beneath the round magnifying glass and the bright lamp. Now I simply marvel at it all. The Watchmaker is present in this genius – His evidence is everywhere – and it seems enough to be one particular cog shifting so precisely in this dance.
The years pass with the steady spiritual momentum of a vast, swaying pendulum, and the visitors come and the visitors go, their memories endlessly drawing and redrawing lines in the sands of thought. The water runs down over the medieval city walls as time runs over my heart. Things – even, and perhaps especially, the heart – change with this flow, but imperceptibly and without a hint of labor – just as the frescoed Madonnas, unnoticed, crumble free and give birth once again to their buried children.
And then I notice one day, almost as an afterthought, that there are longer and longer stretches with no visitors – sometimes spanning years now – but these gaps raise not a trace of apprehension. When I want to talk to the others, they are there. When I do not, they are not. It is an effortless surrender into something else, something bigger.
My heart – your heart – is finding its completion now and the part of me that needed to share so deeply with others in those earlier times has altered. The hunger for the visitor – for the misplaced treasure buried in the Other – has worn through. The clinging sense of a self that completes with another’s presence has emptied out and washed away. There are no places now besides this one and no heart besides your own.
Bergamo’s work is nearly finished.
And then, just exactly before the true end, she reveals her secret to you. Wandering her ancient streets one evening, you see in a shop window, looking straight at you, simply and directly, the familiar reflection of the Watchmaker.
Feel something. Twice a week.