Sunday, May 24, 2009
One night in May...
About 4 or 5 years ago, I was living in Gaeta, Italy. It is a small fishing town and the population swells with tourists in the summer months. It is right on the ocean about halfway between Rome and Naples. I moved into my rental house late November. I found out that my job was to be excessed (eliminated) that spring and I moved from my house with a view of the ocean, mountains, orange groves, and the ever changing skies the last week of May.
When one moves to a new location, state, or even a different country as my moves tend to be... it takes a full year to see they cycle of plant growth, the seasons, the changes in the sky, the weather, and the various endless gifts each month offers as the month begins, unfolds, and closes.
I lived on top of a small mountain... with a wide sweeping view of the Gaeta Harbor, mountains across the harbor in all directions and then the open sea. On very clear days- I few times I even could see the faint grey outline of Mt. Vesuvius; the still active volcano in the Naples Harbor.
In the winter, the mountains across the harbor had snow on them... yet, my area would never actually freeze.. but, it was quite cold and damp from the cold winds blowing across the ocean.
Finally, the long awaited spring time arrived and flowers started blooming. I didn't have a car and my school was 4 miles away. My route was to leave early enough to walk the 20 minutes down the mountain, arriving early enough to walk to the city bus stop found at the base of the mountain. After about 20- 25 minutes on the bus, I would eventually be at the stop that was fairly close to the school. I then walked the last 3 blocks to work. I allowed an hour and half to get to work. This bus only ran once every 30 minutes each hour. Even though, I arrived 'before' the scheduled bus arrival time.. it was clear sometimes that they had either 'arrived earlier' than scheduled or the bus was running later because of traffic.
If the bus wasn't there by a certain time... I started walking towards school. From my house to the school the route was four miles.
On my mountain walk, there weren't any street lights and only 2 other houses were to be found in this area. I never saw the lights of any other house. When night fell, it was pitch dark outside. I met the movers at my house on the first official day in my house, they unpacked my household goods... ok, unpacked from the sea crates is a more accurate description. They do set the furniture out where you want it- but, most of the boxes are unpacked as you can for several days or in my case.. weeks. It's difficult to do so, because of working all day and darkness falling at 4:30pm in the winter.
Prior to moving into the rental house, I had been staying in a hotel in the shopping area at the bottom of the mountain. As a result, I didn't know how dark it got on my mountain until the next day after work.
It was late November and after work.. I started my 4 mile route home up the mountain this time. Before I could get home total darkness had fallen. I had only been on this road once the day before, when I met the movers, in the daylight. There was a fork in the road that went off to three different directions and my way was on the far left- or at least I thought it was. I remember standing there.. at the end of the paved road... and all that was before me was total darkness. I could only vaguely remember that there were either 2 or 3 different splits in this road and I knew that I lived to the left. I just wasn't 100% sure. So, I stood there.. no flashlight (it hadn't been unpacked yet) and not even sure where any of the roads were.. much less which direction to start walking. This area had thick trees immediately off to the road that was only the width of a car.
I remember standing there... trying to get my night eyes.. that clearly weren't going to come.. since, there was no moon and no light source only the woods and darkness. I finally prayed and asked God to help me find my way home. As I stood there, listening to the crunching of branches, animal sounds, and rustling in the grasses and trees all around me not knowing which direction to start walking. One road had a steep drop off along the sides of the road.
I stood quietly, trying to figure out which way to start walking, I finally remembered that my road had gravel on it. So, I slowly took a few steps.. listening for gravel crunching. I took a few steps, listened for the gravel sounds, and took a few more steps. I kept taking a few steps, listening, standing still and remembering to keep facing the same way until I finally made it to close enough to my house. (I always pretended that all of the noises that I heard were only stray kitty cats meeting up with their friends.)
One night, the following May as I was walking home with only a few more days left in my residence- darkness began to fall around 7pm. The difference? After several months walking home, I now knew my way home and since regular flashlights were almost useless in the total darkness of nightfall on the mountain.... I now always carried a small, powerful, very bright military specs flashlight at all times for my walks home.
I was thinking about the beauty and the serenity of this area and how I'd miss walking to work and home again ... watching the sunrises unfold onto a new day on the ocean and the beautiful sunsets saying goodbye as I walked home. I knew that I would miss the ever changing flowers growing along my walk and that I'd miss the sea most of all. I would have to move before I'd know what July, August, September, and October's nature's gifts would be.
It was now almost fully dark and as was my routine, I already had my flashlight in my hand to turn it on the moment that I could no longer see the ground below my feet.
As I turned the sharp uphill curve that led to the final straight path to my house... I beheld a sight so amazing that it caused me to stand so still lest it not really be real or disappear because of any movement or noise that I might make.
Before me was a multitude of fireflies... so many that surely all fireflies in Italy must have gathered at this one place before their summer season started. They were in the trees sparkling like white twinkle lights, they were everywhere, taller than the trees with no ending or beginning. So many blinking all at once... that they were illuminating the road before me. They landed on me like butterflies on flowers. I stood still not wanting to break the spell of this special goodbye gift. I was standing at the exact place that 6 months prior that I had prayed for guidance to find my way home.
I had no need of a flashlight that night.
The daily routines of life are the special events. Look for them, they are looking for you.