And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. – William Shakespeare
Lately I have found that various Shakespeare quotes have been coming to mind as part of my every day life; it’s a strange-slash-geeky phenomenon. This quote came to me today when I was thinking how becoming “the girl who notices” has me seeing the everyday world in a different way.
My daughter and I went on an amazing three week adventure through Italy in November 2010. We started in the south, Sicily and made our way up Venice stopping at Matera, Amalfi, Rome, Florence and Cinque-Terre along the way. The pictures you see here were taken on this trip on the Amalfi Coast, Path of the Gods.
The walk is between the towns of Agerola, Praiano and Positano, about 500 meters above sea level. It was a beautiful day; we were so delighted that we had chosen a day with just the right temperature for a hike.
Aptly called the path of the gods; it was a surreal experience with absolutely breath-taking scenery that honestly defies description.
The path was quite rugged and steep in areas. We were enjoying the coolness of the day and feast for the eyes but we often wondered whether or not we were going the right way or if we were even still on the right path as there was nobody else around and there was very limited signage.
As we neared the end of our hike, it started to rain. Little did we know that there were 1500 steps at the end of the path to get down onto the main road. The rain become more intense as we descended down the uneven, slippery steps. In case you are wondering, 1500 steps in the rain at the end of a long tiring day are a shit-ton of steps and it felt like they were never-ending. Every time it would seem like we were nearing the end, we would get down another level to see that it turned and there were even more steps ahead.
Exhausted and very wet, we reached the road only to realize that we didn’t really know which way to go. We could see a village in the distance which we believed to be Positano so we headed that way but we clearly under-estimated the distance because although we were walking and walking we didn’t seem to be getting much closer to our destination.
I’m not even sure how much time or distance later, a local bus came by and the driver stopped when we waved at him. Fortunately the bus was headed to Amalfi, where we were staying, and although we didn’t have tickets, he let us board and a young local woman kindly gave us two of her tickets. Tired, frustrated and soaking wet, we were so grateful that this bus came by at just the right time. Had it come by any sooner, we would have still been too determined to abandon our quest to have dinner in Positano. At this time, we were ready to accept a change of plan and the kindness of strangers to help us along our way.
I was thinking about the path of the gods today because it reminds me of the journey I’m on now. I feel like I’m having this incredible experience, my heart is so full of gratitude for the wonder, beauty and peace in ordinary, every day life. I also feel apprehensive at times, wondering if I’m off-track or have my lost my way. I’m still experiencing all of life’s challenges but the difference is that I feel better equipped to handle those challenges because I am stronger and more stable emotionally, more at peace. I also fully expect that there will be times, when I’m really tired, when there will be 1500 slippery, windy stairs for me to walk down. I am open to the awaking of my heart, willing to accept that this experience … this life may be different than what I had once thought.
“Emptiness is not what we thought. Neither is mindfulness or fear. Compassion is not what we thought … love, courage. These are words that point to what life really is when things fall apart and we let ourselves be nailed to the present moment.” – Pema Chodran