By Emma Caylor ’16
Photo by Emma Caylor ’16
“Che è l’interno della casa?”
I snap out of my focus on drawing the coffee house in the Boboli Gardens. Sitting directly next to me is a small boy, maybe six, looking at me pointedly and gesturing at my sketch. I flush, I do not understand the young boy. He apparently has been drawing next to me for some time now, as he has a quite accomplished sketch of the same building I am drawing. I look to his mother, who is gesturing for him to stop bothering me.
“Non parlo italiano, mi dispiace. Parla inglese?” I manage to stumble out, adding an apologetic smile to the end.
The mother looks tired, but nods obligingly. “He asks if what you are drawing is the inside of the house.”
“Oh!” I exclaim, “No, no, these are drawings from the rest of the gardens. Very clever guess though!”
The mother conveys my message to the young boy, who in turn looks disappointed with my response. His mother then repeats that I do not speak Italian and that he should leave me alone. Just like that, the language barrier made itself manifest, barring me from having a genuine conversation with a young artist.
However, no matter what language one speaks, all can find a beauty and muse in the Boboli Gardens. There is a serenity unlike any other in the gardens, particularly in comparison to the hustle and chaos of the city proper. With one hundred and ten acres to explore, there are infinite possibilities for private moments in various hidden spaces. Within each moment is a space in tie and the physical that one can call their own. In these instances of ownership, I connected with my surroundings, taking in each minute detail. This experience lines up directly with an exercise carried out by Georges Perec in his book Species of Space. In this book, Perec carries out an exercise in observation, focusing on the minutest of details to create a mindscape so accurate that one can manipulate it to the point of absurdity. In a secluded space in the gardens, I could easily record the shifts of my environment, including the scents wafting in on the breeze, the songs of birds, the movement of insects and cats, and the wind patterns through my hair.
With this sort of preface, let us return back to the scene in front of the coffee house. I had chosen that spot, directly in front of the coffee house, because of the way the structure seemed to both blend in and burst from its surroundings. I had watched a cat stalk through the freshly mown grasses, listened to the water bubble in the fountain, and smelled the cloying scent of roses in bloom. The spot seemed a perfect place to arrange myself and sketch. Apparently, I was not the only one, as the boy had dragged his mother and father to the same spot. So, in summary, in one single moment, barring all barriers of language, age, and nationality, two artists simultaneously recognized the beauty of one single space in a daunting complex of beautiful spaces.