Almost fifteen years ago my husband and I traveled to Florence from Paris on our honeymoon for the sole purpose of seeing the Statue of David by Michelangelo. After a very long night in a couchette with two strangers that had a horrible cough, we arrived in Florence. We had two days to see David and I woke with a fever of 102. I was barely well enough to catch our flight let alone wait in line with the rest of July’s tourists to see one of the most famous works of art in the world.
I have spent the past six months building context around this statue for our children. We have visited the marble quarries where Michelangelo handpicked his materials. We have visited Carrara and the marble ports. We have driven the same crooked path he guided his ox cart down containing the magnificent and powerful stone. Most recently, we spent time with an amazing marble sculptor learning about classical tools and how to maintain tradition in today’s sculpting world. Last week we were going to fulfill this lifelong dream. It was a rainy Friday before high season and we were going to make a day out of it after picking up my mother at the Florence airport.
Our plan unraveled in slow motion. We discovered after two hours of anticipating my mother’s arrival that we were at the airport a day early. My children all burst into tears as the reality that we had the wrong day set in, after almost two years of not seeing their grandmother. I promised we would have fun since we were in Florence. I told tales of gelato and pizza and tag in the piazza. We drove around Florence dodging endless tour busses and rain-soaked streets for another hour looking for parking before we realized it just wasn’t mean to be.
We decided it was time to give up in all the right ways. After all, one thing I have learned in my tenacious studies of this magnificent, yet elusive work of art, is that Michelangelo’s depiction of the classic biblical hero, was revolutionary. Instead of crafting a heroic David, the sculptor chose to show that moment of excited yet peaceful anticipation. He carved an unrelenting material such as marble into a universally human moment. It is that moment after a decision is made but before any action has been taken. It is a moment of clarity, certainty, and detachment from the outcome. In Michelangelo’s statue, David is triumphant, not in his victory but in his resolve.
As we turned our car away from Florence once again, I realized the meaning of my quest. It was not to see David in all his glory but to understand his courage to be completely present. He had, in a sense, already won and in doing so, brilliantly reminded me to have unwavering conviction in my own path.