My friend Libby, lives in Sicily, with her partner Giancarlo. Libby is originally from Seattle, and I’ve known her for about 10 years. Since I’ve known Libby she’s had a steadfast love for all things Italian. She lives with Giancarlo, on a cool spot of land that’s surrounded by carob and olive trees a little outside of Modica.
Shortly after returning to Rome, I had sent Libby a message explaining I was overwhelmed after being in Mozambique, and asked if I come visit them. Graciously they let me stay with them for a couple of days and then let me stay at their beach house for a week.
The water is clear, and calm, and warmish. I am able to walk way out into the water and see the bottom and still only be waist deep. I watch people practice hand stands in the sea and people swim back and forth like a giant lap pool. Getting out of the water I’m covered in a fine layer of sand. I am the palest person on the beach, which is pretty normal. But compared to these Sicilians I am a ghost. I might be the only one around covered in SPF 50. And I still manage to burn.
I’d wake up in the morning to this sweet fragrant smell, of jasmine, that was so comforting the first morning I woke up. The smell was something familiar but so concentrated. I exist on a diet of coffee and some sort of sweet pastry in the morning.
I am tested in my Italian skills, which is good, but exhausting. Giancarlo takes it upon himself to entertain me one day. And then enlists one of his friends Giovanni, the next day. Neither speaks a lot of English and there is a lot of gesturing and looking up words. My Italian is pretty primitive and I’m sure I’m using one tense but I surprise myself for what I do know.
Living in southern California, especially by the beach, people live there year round. There is some ebb and flow of busy times and slower times but for the most part beach season is year round. This is not the case in beach communities in Europe, and particularly in Sampieri, Sicily, where I was staying.
October 1st the place shuts down. You can see summer disappear as a season. Empty beaches, and shuttered store fronts, and restaurants are done for the next 6 months. Beach clubs with lounge chairs and umbrellas are disassembled and for the most part it’s me and a bunch of older Sicilians. A gelato shop, and a market, and further away there’s a bar, are all that stay open. My whole week there I just kept thinking, ‘Now what?’
I didn’t feel ready to go home. The three things on the checklist of things to do were see some of Italy, Mozambique, and see Wilco, all of which I accomplished. But I didn’t know where to go if I just kept traveling. Where to now? And then the news happened.
The House of Representatives opened formal hearings of impeachment against Trump.
I could not get enough news.
The whole time I’ve been away I’ve kept a pretty healthy surface level approach of what was going on. But this news was Big with a capital B. I fell into this slow movement of seeing the change of the seasons, and the quietness of an almost empty beach to this noise of constant chatter, that was on my phone screen. What is happening? What are they saying? What am I missing? What does this mean? I’d sit and look at the water and listen to the latest Daily as they break down the impeachment proceedings.
The rest of the week is spent listening to various things while I walk along a tranquil empty beach.
I listen to
- The Daily a whole weeks worth, sometimes a couple of times
- Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend interviewing Bob Newhart
- All Songs Considered interviewing David Bryne
- Heavyweight ‘Becky and Jo’
I finish reading The Great Believers, on my Kindle. Read it, it’s great. I start A Little Life, which is the only book I brought with me, and I was starting to feel it’s dead weight.
On Wednesday night, Thursday morning there is huge cracks of thunder and lightning that looks like a strobe light, or a flickering lightbulb is failing. By Thursday, I feel recharged enough to think about what I want to do next, not go home yet, but I am grateful for the chance to reflect and be in this quiet place. I scour all the places to visit and decide on Milan next.