Melon wrapped in prosciutto seemed so ordinary now. My mouth was still savoring the best pesto I had ever had in the little Cinque Terra town of Vernazza Italy. Now the melon appetizer hardly registered on the delight scale. Morsels of our late lunch were still lingering and I secretly hoped we might want to have dinner in the same place to inhale more exquisite creamy pesto.
To my left, Dee laid on one of $2Euro yellow and white stripe cheap cotton beach towels that she bought in the equivalent of an Italian 7-Eleven store. The difference was this happened to be at the end of white sandy beach and inside an ancient soft pink salmon stucco building and oozed character and stories from every shelf and display. I looked down at the $5Euro bathing suit that I was wearing and was grateful I would not ever wear it again in front of anyone I knew.
Kevin, CeCe, Dee and I had decided to hike from Vernazza to next northern town of Cinque Terra, Montrose al Mare. We knew the five Mediterranean towns were connected by a hiking trail. We did not know several important details before we began our spontaneous and whimsical hike. First, this trail was the steepest of all the trails and I was certain we were on a billy goat path since there were several spots which one slip of the foot on the uneven rock path would result in a deep plunge onto small rock ledges. We decided to hike right after lunch in the bright sunny, humid part of the July day and forgot to bring water. Last, we were wearing flip-flops. Not exactly the right shoes for steep rock hiking. It was an adventure yet full of breath taking views of the multi color deep blue sea, the olive orchards and vineyards. We stopped to find shade and take pictures often.
Ninety minutes later, we landed in the tiny fishing village parched and determined to immerse ourselves in the beckoning water. It was like a siren from the sea was luring us directly to her. CeCe had discovered the $5Euro one size fits all bikini bathing suits. The three women, all very different shapes and sizes, chuckled as they compared how the string bikini covered certain areas better than others. We all opted for the swim top not ready to bare our breasts to the world. Our one rule for the rest of the day was the pact of no photos. We agreed to tell the story but absolutely no evidence would exist of the humiliating skimpish suits.
Before landing on the towel next to Dee, I floated for what seemed like hours in the sea. My arms dangled to my side, feet drifting below the cool water and my belly and chest stretching upward towards the divine sun, spilling happiness all over my softly closed eyes. I floated far away from the shore and people. In that spiritual moment, a voice awakened inside and cooed at me,
“You will leave your life of computer work behind. Today.”
I did not panic as warmth moved through my body like honey. I did not want to ever move from that spot in the sea. The voice whispered again,
“You are an artist and will trust your path. Trust your journey from here forward.”
My mind was still in the hypnotic state. I would agree to anything. The worry and panic was over. This is all I needed to know right now. The rest would come later. I was moving on.
“George, I am on a beach in the Mediterranean. Can you hear me OK?” I said.
“It’s great to hear from you. I can’t wait to hear all about your sabbatical.”
“I know, there is so much to tell you about. Listen, I have decided, I am not coming back to work.”
That was it, the end of an eighteen-year career in the computer industry that had served me amazingly well. My summer retreat to Italy had been the exact prescription for restoring my life. I could finally breathe and felt the pressure leak away from under my shoulder blades. Feeling the inner declaration still resonating inside, I knew I could keep worry and doubt away for a long time. Divorce done, son off to college, career quit, heart healed, I was ready to live again.