As Joseph races along the narrow road on our way to Fiesole, our conversation flows from current business to history to philosophy of life.  He believes if people could be open in life and to one another, we could end wars. It’s the ignorance, the fear, and the lack of education that keep people in war.  This tragic combination causes people to draw lines in the sand that if crossed, the fearful attack due to a lack of understanding.  He believes being open and accepting are powerful keys to resolution.

I ask him where he learned his philosophies – family, community, school? He said it is, in large part, his instincts. He was born with it. It is apparent to me that he is an old soul.  In addition to his instinct, he comes from emotion – from the heart.  It is important to him to be open and generous with people.  If you are hard, he explains, you close off the world and you are not willing to truly know a person. That’s how the line gets drawn in the first place.  This is a major cause of violence in the world.

He then turned down a new path of thought. He posited that even evil men, or powerful, corrupt men, throughout history had someone who loved them and did not think they were evil. In the eyes of the lover, he was beautiful.  He rattled off examples, including Hitler, Mussolini, and Napoleon.  Joseph acknowledged that life depends on our unique filters and perspectives – you see the man as corrupt, evil and horrible for committing atrocities or you see him as a loving man, an amore who is beautiful and stirs your heart.  Same man – different filters from unique, individual perspectives.  Who is right? Who is wrong?  Who is judging?

I watch Joseph as he talks and drives along the scenic, at times treacherous, road.  What do I see through my filter? A romantic, old soul? A philosopher spreading hope and acceptance?  A sage man who has experienced much yet focuses on the possibilities rather than prolonging incivility?

I was struck by the power of connecting with people and sharing experiences. I realized how important it is to travel and meet people from different cultures and countries to see what I can learn, how I can grow and how I can be inspired to change my filters.

At this point of the conversation, I knew I was with a kindred spirit and I understood all the languages being spoken – Italian, Spanish, English and of the heart.  I believe I understood so clearly because the conversations were filled with topics so dear to my heart.  We viewed life through similar filters so our language was universal.

The stories flowed, the sentiments grew and my heart sang.  This moment in time represents the life I want and choose to live. Here I am. I designed it. I created it. I had the courage and commitment to follow it and be true to it.  I was receiving the rewards of a lifetime, rewards that followed learning, growing, failing, succeeding, hurting, wallowing, struggling and in the end, at long last, getting up, dusting off and embracing an inspired life.

This was my reward for following Freyja – the bold goddess.  Thank you Freyja – it was an overwhelming reward.

Once in Fiesole, we sat outside on a patio that overlooked Florence.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  I asked how many people lived in Florence – over 400,000.  The city has a new your mayor who is only 35.  I had read about him while I was visiting.  He was creating a lot of change, such as closing off traffic to piazzas to encourage tourism.  Soccer man didn’t care for him and he let me know it.  He wanted my opinion of Obama.  He was very fiery when it came to politics and had his entrenched opinions.

After a glass of wine and inspiring conversation, it was time to return to Florence.  We drove back to the city down the fairy tale path lined by a stone wall.  The trees were magnificent and history filled their veins.  Joseph told a story about the importance of the tree trunks and roots.  They provide the enduring support as the leaves undergo transformation of the seasons – greens to golds and reds to dying and falling from the branch only to welcome new growth in the spring.  As humans, we, too, must have the solid foundation of the trunk and roots as we grow through the seasons from our experiences, instincts, emotions, education and interactions.  We can let go that which no longer serves us and embrace budding new growth that develops as we are open to life experiences.  As we grow, we can broaden our perspectives, perhaps change our filters, and ideally not draw the line in the sand.

We arrived at the market as vendors were packing up for the day.  To end the day, we enjoyed one last espresso.  I said my good byes and thank yous and headed back to my hotel to change. I had a night of jazz ahead of me at Caruso’s.  It was a perfect, unscripted, bold day.