Saturday, July 12, 2014

Stairmaster Deluxe

What’s the price for a room with a view? 1802 stairs to get down to the town.

I kid you not. We set off to descend into Positano on the high road and after a few false starts, found the stairs going down. Lots of them. Arrived at the narrow streets near sea level with their fancy boutique stores. The crowd here is definitely older and richer and more upscale than the Cinque Terre young backpack crowd. And the stores reflect it. Saw some stunning ceramic stores that make Biordi’s in San Francisco’s North Beach seem junior league. Didn’t even bother to price things, but they were lovely to look at.

As soon as we reached the beach, the rain came for the third day in a row. I think we’ve stumble on a pattern— as soon as we reach the beach, the gods shout “Rain!!” Actually, it was quite mild, but still dissuaded us from renting a chair and beach umbrella. So we checked out some boat schedules for the days ahead and started back along the low road until we found the stairs we hoped would take us back up to our place.

Checked to make sure with two older men sitting across the street and they confirmed that this was the way and gave us a kind of “Good luck! Hope you can make it!” good-natured gesture. Up we went and up we went and up we went again. Well, we had hiked out of the Grand Canyon some years back and survived Day 2 of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, so we had some confidence. And truth be told, it was fine. But still, ascending 1802 stairs for folks in their ‘60’s is a bit of an accomplishment. And since we had descended about that many earlier, we navigated some 3600 stairs today! No need to go to the gym and use the stairmaster!

In case anyone is wondering why I’m always counting stairs, a few words in my defense. It started when I ran cross-country in high school and found that counting steps put me into a meditative state of mind that helped focus me away from the pain and discomfort. And in fact, counting breaths is one strategy for Zen meditation that I use sometime (though here, usually just to 10 and then start again). Every summer, I count my swim strokes in the Michigan lake, usually starting around 500 and getting to 1,000 plus by the end. A way for me to keep track, but also a meditation of sorts. And so with stairs.

Talking at dinner about tomorrow’s plans, it all comes down to stairs. (Though there is a bus and we have the tickets we bought that we didn’t get to use.) But in some ways, walking is the plan. Nice to have a destination, but simply walking surrounded by natural and man-made beauty with every step, out in fresh air and a lemon granite (what we called as kids Italian ices, a syrup poured over shaved ice) or gelato awaiting us— well, that’s enough to make my day. Hopefully with a swim in the sea thrown in.

Without rain, please.

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