(From: Writing in Italy, June 2017)
It’s Wednesday. The day the weekly pages go out to my subscribers. The day I type up at least some of what has been written the week before to share with the people who are supporting this writing project.
Today…because I know it’s Wednesday and I have typing to do…I left at 8 am to go down to the beach to get a coffee, write a little, and be closer to the water.
I have begun to dread the trip down to the beach…because the trip back up is so difficult. A mile pretty much straight up. And by the time I get back up the steep entry into town, the steeper driveway up the apartments, and the 20 plus steps up to my third floor apartment…I am toast.
On more than one occasion I have been so overcome by the heat and humidity I have been done for the day when I finally got back up to the place I call home here. Cold showers and cool drinks could not shift the pervasive feeling of unwellness that occurred after the walk back up.
The humidity here catches me by surprise. Coming from the southeastern US where humidity is something you cut with a knife so you can breathe…I cannot even discern that there is humidity here. But the weather reports regularly indicate that the humidity is over 50%.
In the low 80s and 50 %-78% humidity, on average. It feels so nice out. Until you take that 45-degree angle hill in the full sun. And then it is beyond good cardio…it is dangerous. My next-door neighbor who is a good decade younger than me reports that she has also had some days coming up the hill where she never recovered…so it’s not just that I am old and out of shape. That at least make me feel a little better.
Today…it’s a beautiful 81 degrees F …with 66% humidity. Friday…the prediction is 70%.
When I returned from my walk about noon today…I was soaked in sweat. OK…full disclosure…once I pulled down my jeans to use the bathroom…I could not get them back up. I was soaking wet down to the skin.
That damn hill…has become my adversary. I tried to make it about exercise…and that just made it worse.
So…I have started complaining about this whole coming up the hill thing. In fact…the past three days…I didn’t even go down. I was on strike from coming back up.
Theoretically, there is a bus that comes back up. I am investigating that. But as of now…it is me against the hill.
What I wanted to share with you here today is not really a part of the book…and what came very strongly into my space…was what I discovered on the way back up today. I hope it speaks to you wherever you are and wherever you find yourself lacking perspective…or courage…or both.
The beginning of the way back up from Marina di Ascea to Ascea sopra is a cemented path that is easily at a 40-degree angle. This back path up is located at the far end of the commercial part of the lower town (marina). To start the journey up, I have to walk through a short tunnel and then meet the path that has been paved…because it is so steep that erosion would soon take it over and it would be impassable.
At the top of this section of the path, there is a small picnic table and benches. I assume so you can rest up before you get off to the next steep part. The area around this rest space is an olive grove. The road from the table upward is a gravel path.
It’s true…the trees are an olive-green color. Fully leafed now…but not yet time for olives. The blue nets that will catch the olives at harvest are neatly rolled up under the trees. Like colorful snakes slithering from trunk to trunk. The olive trees have broad, gnarled bases. They appear both majestic and ancient.
There is something quite awe-inspiring about walking through this olive grove.
Today, as I was walking though the grove…I turned around and walked backwards.
Doing so allowed me to look out over the incredible panorama of orange-tiled roofs and the unending expanse of the Mediterranean Sea. The blue of the sea met the blue of the sky in a divine display of color and oneness. Long white slivers of foam marked the place motor boats were speeding through the salty water. Here and there dotting the blueness, were the white triangular sails of the non-motorized vessels.
What came into my head in that moment were the words… “This will soon be your last day here.”
You don’t ignore words like that. Words like that come from places higher than I can reach with my little outstretched human arms. Words like that come from the Master Creator Who keeps everything in perspective.
In my more human brain…I heard…. “Here you are complaining about this hill…and soon that hill will no longer be a problem…because you will no longer be here and have this opportunity to see that view.
Tears came to my eyes as I felt the full effect of that truth.
And…realized…that every day is the last day we will be able to do something, love something, have something.
I continued up the hill. Skirting the last section and walking an extra mile of length to avoid the 45-degree climb into the upper part of the town. I was still soaking…and I at least had some gas in the tank when I got home.
The words that came to me in the olive grove continued to revisit me this afternoon. I got serious about not letting any more days go by as “usual” here. I spent half an hour figuring out how to string up a shade covering so I could type outside and I poured a short cold glass of vino bianco. I wanted to be in the experience as deeply as I could get. The heat of the sun. The taste of the place. The sea beyond me. The sounds of the little town below me.
I realized today as the end of week 3 approaches…the last day is coming faster than I can even imagine. In fact…I only have 2 weeks left in this apartment…before I have to move into another apartment for the last 2 weeks of my stay.
What became clear to me today is that every day is the last day for something.
Today IS the last day that we have. We like to say it might be the only day we have. But there was something very profound about standing there in the olive grove and knowing that I would one day soon be standing there for the very last time.
What do we do with that?
Relationship? Job? Friends? Children? Grandchildren? Partially-written book on the computer? Almost complete painting on the easel?
My plan is to relocate to Colorado when I leave here. So… I was aware today that I would have a very different view in a few weeks. Still beautiful. But not this one.
The language that would be spoken around me…not this one.
The plants growing around me…not these. Not lemons and oranges and olives and grapes.
The sounds will change and the wind will smell different. And that damn hill will no longer be my adversary.
I feel so much emotion as I am writing this. As I felt earlier today when I turned around and looked down at that scene of sea and sky and beach and rooftops.
What’s the point?
I thought about that a lot over the course of the day. Knowing that you are expecting me to give you pages from my book and here I am writing about…the view…this place…and last days.
And…in a conversation about loss…what more important perspective could we muster every day…than…this is the last day of something in our lives? How do we want to hold it? If even for a few fleeting moments?
You know, if I look back to last Spring. There are a lot of things I would hold differently. I doubt it would have made a difference in the outcome of the relationship…and yet…I know I could have shown up with a little more understanding…a little more compassion…
This is not a day for “what ifing” and it is definitely a day for thinking about the love we have… the people we have in our lives…the opportunities we have…and taking a long look.
I invite you to stand here with me today. Looking out on the deep blue expanse of sea. The olive trees around us. The orange tiled roofs below us. Stand here with me today…and take in the full effect of…this will soon be the last day I will have this view.
Then…shift to your own life. Your relationships. Your work. Your family.
What is the view there? Take a long look.
You will soon be in the last day of whatever that is.
What will the story be? Will you be like me and keep cursing the uphill climb? Will you let the hard spots take away the love and connection? Will you waste moments on the little things that don’t matter?
I am not sure why this is what came today. And I totally trust the guidance I receive every day to write what comes into my space.
As I am sharing it with you…I know it is for both of us.
It is not widely known…but my sister has recently had surgery and began treatment for breast cancer. My dad has prostate cancer and just decided…at 93…to discontinue his therapy.
Here I am in this place…with so many people who love and care about me and support the work I do…cursing a hill.
And I will not even be able to do that for very much longer.
It will soon be my last day to come up the hill.
Today could be the last day we will do something. Last May…I got a phone call and realized that it was the last day I would be able to call that person my partner. The last day I would be able to put my love and attention there. The last day I would ever be able to care about that person in that way again.
Loss creates an opportunity for perspective. If we allow it. Once we get comfortable again…we get complacent. As we saw a couple of weeks ago. We play around with the idea that we could live like every day is our last. It’s a fun exercise. And…very often…it is not we who are going out…it is someone or something we love.
The point today…is how do we hold that view of the utter perfection of the life that is around us? How do we find a way to do the hard parts without cursing all the good? How do we hold love and hope even when we might not be feeling at our best?
This is the one life we have. We can live it filled with fear and regret or we can go full out and love as hard as we can and be as creative and courageous as we can be.
And very often…loving big and being courageous are the same thing.