Rome was…well, Rome. That means mopeds and exhaust fumes and lots of tourists. And despite all that? The Colosseum still impresses, the pasta is still perfect, and, at some point, the inevitable humbling sets in. This time, it was the Villa Borghese and the work of Bernini that left me feeling both inspired and inadequate.

The story of Apollo and Daphne has always been one of my favorite myths. Daphne, a nymph, unintentionally captured the attentions of Apollo, who was determined to have the beautiful creature despite her equal determination not to be had. In the heat of the chase, Daphne calls out to her father for help and is promptly transformed into a laurel tree to avoid Apollo's groping hands. A disappointed Apollo weaves a wreath from his beloved’s leaves, and wears it in honor of the love he was denied. Meanwhile, the beautiful Daphne remains a tree forever.

Bernini’s sculpture captures the pair at the moment of Daphne’s transformation, crystallizing the lust, the terror, the momentum, and the amazement of the tale. Daphne’s toes have sprouted roots, her fingers have blossomed into leaves, and Apollo’s mad grasp is thwarted by her skin turning to bark.

And all of this chiseled from cold white marble.

As an English teacher, I spent years of my life picking apart other people’s creations…analyzing plotlines, dissecting metaphors, etc. I never thought much about the process until yesterday. Standing at the base of the sculpture, I could not even begin to conceive of how one would go about creating something that complex, that detailed, that extraordinary.

How does one make flesh from stone?

I cannot even begin to conceive of the process, but yesterday I staring up at a perfect example of such a result, and I was left completely speechless. (And those that know Daisy know that that that is a completely foreign state of being for this chatty flower.)

I will live out my ordinary life and never be able to create something so perfect and so enduring as that ethereal piece of stone. I have to be content merely admiring it.

And yet I am grateful that in this crazy world, in the middle of a filthy city, there stands a villa that shelters objects so beautiful you can hardly believe that they were made by a mere man. And yet, there they stand: a testament to our potential.