Sometimes when I travel, I am confused and over-whelmed when deciding how to translate the place--the experience--into words. When everything around you is new, and you want to convey all of that newness verbally, you will lose the meaning, the feeling, the heart of a place. As Nicole Krauss wrote in A History of Love, "to capture the whole tree, you should focus on drawing only one leaf" (actually the real quote is something much more poetic, but the gist is something to that effect). But, how does one choose the leaf??
This weekend we traveled to Rosario, Argentina's 3rd largest city, 4 hours northwest of Buenos Aires. And here is where I struggle with the leaf metaphor--what can I say about Rosario, or rather, what part of it can I describe that touches on the feeling of the whole? That it is the birthplace of Che Gueverra, as well as Lionel Messi? That it is not the capital of its province--Santa Fe--despite it being the province's biggest city? That it is the "birthplace" of the Argentine flag? Yes, I could say all of these things and expand on them to create a picture of Rosario. But I think that picture would be empty of heart, because truthfully, that is a textbook version of Rosario. As interesting as it may be, it does not connect with people, and that connection is the very heart we are after, the heart of the journey.
So, what is the heart of Rosario to me? I suppose part of it is the river beach where we laid in rolled-up jeans and got tan lines that perfectly outlined our t-shirt sleeves. And part of it is the crazy, unexpected, and over-bearingly patriotic flag monument that rises up out of nowhere and glows blue and white at night, kept aglow by the eternal flame honoring the flag's creator, Manuel Belgrano. And part of it would have to be the beautiful Sunday evening Mass we stumbled upon in the dark, the folksy guitar sounds strumming forth from its choir, parishioners taking Communion, the doors flung open in welcome, and the young couple catching the last moments of service from outside the side door, their antsy toddler at their feet, unable to sit still in a pew.
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