I’ve been down hard with the flu for the last two weeks and have done very little work. Worse yet, I’ve spent precious little time outside. It might seem an odd thing to hear from a city dweller but that’s actually the beauty of living in a city, and this city in particular. Our apartments are so small they lead to early onset cabin fever forcing us to spend a good deal of our time outside.
After being cooped up for what seemed like a lifetime, I finally made my escape late Saturday afternoon. Stepping onto the street, the cold, crisp air hit my chest like a sucker punch. But I took it all in, coughed it all out, and headed on my way to visit an old and dearly missed friend.
I cut through the alleys of Chiaia and headed towards Piazza Vittoria. Strategically choosing “pausa” as my hour of escape I found little traffic and few people out and about. Ten minutes later I was standing in front of my beloved sea.
The setting sun cast a deep shadow across Posillipo and cut a long swath of light across the water. It’s intensity obscured by a hazy curtain suspended in midair. My post card perfect Neapolitan sky was an eerie shade of grey framed by storm clouds that were as dirty as mounds of tramped through, plowed, piled up snow.
The sea, my deep blue sea sat nearly motionless, hard and cold like liquid coal. The only movement, tiny quartz like flecks glistening in the setting sun.
Even the tiny fishing boats that normally sparkle in red, white and blue took on an ashen pallor. And the grey and white seagulls darting between the sky and the sea only added to the feeling that I had stepped inside a black and white movie.
Beyond Castel dell’Ovo the sky seemed to be clearing, but I was still worried I wouldn’t catch a glimpse of my faithful friend. I felt myself walking just a little bit quicker, trying to make it past the curve by the Castle to see if she would be there. But my body, fatigued from the flu was sluggish, and every step I took felt like I was wading through quicksand.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I rounded the curve and she came into full view. My heart skipped a beat and I wasn’t sure if it was the cold air or the sight of her that brought the tears to my eyes.
She wasn’t as clear as I’d hoped for, but she was there in all her glory. I stood there quietly watching her for a long time, her snow capped peak slowly fading from view as the sun made its descent.
My mythical, magical, volcanic mountain. Her looming and ever constant presence draws me like a magnet. She is my master, my muse.
A Neapolitan friend of mine once told me that she can never leave her city for very long. To go days on end without seeing her beloved Vesuvius she said, makes her feel lost and without roots.
I didn’t understand it at the time but I now know exactly what she means.