The Florence Journals: Serendipity, Luck and Design in the Cosmos

I wrote this entry on my first full day in Florence, Italy, September 2, 2014.

Serendipity 1: Started before I even left the U.S. for Florence. I stopped by my office briefly, prior to my trip and a casual friend, Amy Geiszler-Jones, stopped in to say hello. As a freelance journalist, she was in the building interviewing one of my colleagues. She had interviewed me several times before and we’d hit it off. I mentioned I was going to Florence for 2 months on a writing retreat as part of my sabbatical. She mentioned that she had a friend in Florence I might like to meet. She put us in touch through Facebook. We made tentative plans to get together.

Serendipity 2: Both of us considered cancelling our meeting, me due to jetlag, Lauren Haas because she had decided to leave for Milan a day early. Both of us decided at the last minute not to do so. Why not meet? We both needed to eat anyway, or so our thinking went. We met at the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge over the Arno River where goldsmiths and jewelers sold their wares. It is still much the same today. We walked on looking for a place to eat and have coffee. We found a lovely outdoor restaurant, and as it was a mild morning, decided it was the perfect place to stop. Both of us ordered Italian breakfast, which included cappuccino, a crescent, and orange juice. I may fall in love with this breakfast. The cappuccino (for those of you who know me, you know I am not typically a coffee fan) was frothy and bitter. Two packets of sugar later, it tasted like heaven, the perfect blend of sweet and bitter. The crescent was flaky and tasty. The orange juice freshly squeezed and delicious. But, I digress. Lauren and I settled in to get acquainted.

Serendipity 3: Lauren started talking about her world travels. She defined herself as a traveling, freelance journalist, then clarified that where she traveled didn’t necessarily have anything to do with what she wrote. Her stories were fascinating. She had simply jettisoned her life 1- ½ years before, selling everything, to travel the world. She picked up writing gigs where she could get them. Her specialty is travel writing. At one point I asked if she had ever been to Peru. She told me that she acts as a grant writer for a very special orphanage in Cuzco called, Niños del Sol http://www.ninosdelsol.org/(formerly Case de Milagros). I talked about my work with Angels of the Amazon http://angelsoftheamazon.org/in the Tahauyo River Basin, one of the tributaries of the Amazon River. As Lauren talked, it became clear to me that she could benefit from a communication intern to assist with the organization’s website, Facebook page, newsletter, and communication with donors. I told her I had a number of students at Wichita State who would be qualified and would benefit from such an internship. We will continue communicating to “set things up” for this internship.

Serendipity 4: As I mentioned in my prior post, I am using this sabbatical to vision my future. I may enhance what I do in the academy, reduce what I do in the academy over the next several years, or leave the academy all together at some point. I have never “been” anything professionally other than a professor. Lauren’s story of leaving everything behind and becoming a traveling writer fascinated me. She shared a number of sites she’s found helpful in her journey. They include www.copypress.com for writing assignments, trainings and tips, and ww1.helpx.com for volunteer opportunities worldwide.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but the things Lauren and I have in common make it seem almost destined that we should meet. The serendipities that brought us together and that emerged during out conversation have the potential to lead to lasting collaborations valuable to both of us. She’s also an amazing person I thoroughly enjoyed meeting. Plus, we both like Jason Mraz and Norah Jones. 

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