Monday, July 14, 2014

Path of the Gods


After yesterday’s marathon stairway climb, we decided Sunday could be a day of rest. My wife painted and I slogged through my waiting e-mails and then sat on a balcony and read a bit. Somewhere around 2:00 in the afternoon, we both decided to go for a little walk somewhere. Five hours and 12 miles later, we returned.

Turns out that we had stumbled upon the Sentiero Degli Dei—The Path of the Gods. This area is believed to be the place Homer imagined for the Sirens in the Odyssey (a story quite fresh since it was our elementary school play last December). Perhaps that is what beckoned us on, the alluring song of the Sirens enticing us to keep going, not to our doom but to our upliftment. And so we continued on switchbacks through shaded forests, on open ridge trails, up and down the ubiquitous stone steps, but mostly staying on the high road trying to follow the red and white markers. To our right, always the sea, to the left, some steep cliffs or sloping hills. One is drawn into the expanse of it all, but there were also the details, the constant scurry of lizards at our feet, the lantana, morning glories and countless other wildflowers coloring the landscape.

We reached a fork and decided not to descend to the seaside town of Priano, but turn inland toward Bomerano. 30 minutes later, we arrived in a tranquil town with a main square of sorts, the old-style men’s groups huddled around tables playing cards or sitting on benches discussing the state of the world. The daily reward of gelato, a moment’s rest after the two and a half hours of hiking and the vague hope that there might be a bus to take us back. There wasn’t— and so we began the hike back to Villa La Quercia. Passed a sign with a quote from D.H. Lawrence and remembered a book I once read of his called “Twilight in Italy” and regretted I hadn’t brought it with me. Thought of the various authors who came to Italy— from Lawrence, Pablo Neruda, Keats to John Steinbeck and Liz Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray and Love).

Turns out that Goethe also walked the same Path of the Gods, writing:

“From above the track hollowed out in the rock, our gaze ranges over the wide expanse of sea, over the territory of imaginary mythology…”

 And Lawrence:

“…the view from on high along the Path of the Gods opens tour sight; it is the picture of the great loop of the Amalfi coastline that looks towards the west…to the crystalline mountains (of Capri) where the gods of today are forsaken and you find a lost self again.”

Walking back, saw a Visa credit card in the path—David Rosenberg was going to be a very unhappy traveler. I pocketed it and 20 minutes later, saw David’s American Express card. What’s going on here? Some scavenger hunt? A thief rejecting the plastic treasures?

As we passed hikers, I pretended to be in the middle of a conversation with my wife; “So I met David Rosenberg the other day” in a loud voice, but no reaction. Back at the hotel, I called the American Express number on the card using Skype (what an amazing service!) and got an agent who immediately called David Rosenberg. He got him and we had a strange conversation where he would talk to me, put me on hold, talk to David, talk to me again and try to figure out how to get the cards back to him. Finally decided I would just leave the cards with the manager— that is, after I went out to a ten-course dinner and charged it to David. Ha ha! Just kidding!

But it was time for dinner at our local place where we can almost walk in and say, “The usual.” Grilled vegetables, caprese appetizer, penne siciliano. And tonight in company with the final World Cup game. Having watched as many lead-up games as I have, I had to see the final. But truth be told, I’m glad it’s over, thrilled to be released from soccer viewing, that strange sensation of 90 minutes of tension awaiting the release of “GOAL!!!” Which didn’t come until two minutes before the second overtime— and not for the team I was hoping for. (Sorry, German friends, my daughter’s three years in Argentine had me leaning to South America).

But while the beer steins were clicking over in Germany and Argentinians were in mourning, I came back to our little balcony with moonlight flooding the waters in the cool night air, an exquisite close to the day having followed the footsteps of Goethe, Lawrence and so many others on the Path of the Gods. One couldn’t help but feel that kicking a little ball into a net was small and insignificant next to the constant immersion in beauty, where simply setting your foot on the path and opening your eyes and ears is the moment of victory, freely available to all. 

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