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The sun is setting earlier now – gone are the summer nights when my garden was still light at 9pm. Now the sky begins to glow at six-thirty, and the golden orb hits the mountains on the far side of the valley just before seven. This evening I ran through the errands in the circle of our neighborhood with Luna in tow – to the supermarket to collect our Harry Potter cup (that reveals images when it gets hot – yes, Rami and I are both excited) that we earned from collecting stickers and a few other random groceries. Then it was to the auto school to get the information to prep for signing up and starting driver’s Ed as soon as next week, then around another corner and back towards home and I stopped into the Post Office (the first time I’ve been to the one near us, and I was pleasantly surprised at how pleasant the women working in there were – in the center it’s the opposite) to ask about what in the world I had to do to pay the 250 Euro fee for my citizenship (after being blocked from my online application for more than a week because…I honestly don’t know).

Then we made it back up through the park and I saw all the empty space where the umbrella pines used to stretch into the sky before they cut them down last week – chainsawed flat to the grass and the pieces picked up and taken away. The only thing left were the stumps and sawdust.

We climbed up through the park as the sun started to glow, and as I sat up on the benches overlooking the city, the towers, the hills and valleys that make up this ridiculously beautiful part of Tuscany, I realized that I subconsciously practice mindfulness more often than I think.

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally…and then I sometimes add, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

I’ve researched mindfulness in-depth (ok kinda), I’ve organized seminars for my past students, and have read books and articles and practiced it consciously. But being a writer is being mindful. Because I could say as I did, that I sat up on the hill and watched the sunset, but if I wasn’t aware, if I wasn’t mindful, I wouldn’t be able to tell you about the billowing clouds rising up over the mountains in the dusk had turned a deep blue across from the deep orange and yellow sunset, but that the clear sky above them was blushing pink until it faded to blue above my head, above the umbrella pines that they apparently dare not to touch – the ones that frame the city for those that sit on at the top of the park, like natural pillars of a dirt-floored balcony. If I hadn’t noticed, I couldn’t tell you about the bells clanging from their towers all over the city, I would have forgotten to mention the man sitting on the corner bench in the twilight – his face illuminated for just a second in the flame as he lit his cigarette and then disappeared into his silhouette again. I would’ve forgotten about the bats that streak through the sky just above our heads, graciously clearing out some of the horrid mosquitoes. I would’ve missed the dogs barking far below in the lower park as they ran under the lamplights, the new LED lights, that pop on instead of glow to life. I wouldn’t have been able to write about the open windows dotting the houses that sit at the edges of the park, flickering on one by one as it gets too dark, as people come home from work. I watch one woman in her kitchen as she pulls out pots and pans from the top cabinet. Another man leans out of a third floor and starts to drape white sheets out into the clothesline and they pick up the last slivers of light from the sun. So do the umbrella pines – their bark glows almost red as the light gives out, slips under the earth until tomorrow, and so Luna and I slip out of the park, back down the street, and I’m happy for cooler weather, and earlier sunsets that I can pay attention to.

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