Monday, February 23, 2015

The Call of Vesuvius

When my trip with Jenny fell apart, I no longer had the heart to go to the places we'd planned. And yet signs were pointing towards me going anyway. I think I previously mentioned crying, calling my mom, throwing the i-Ching, writing in my journal—but it wasn't until I got my feet moving that I could get the compass to point in one direction. As my head cleared, the small voice could be heard. It said, "go climb the great mountain."

Interesting how dreams are made. Last spring at my son's piano recital, as a young friend of ours played and sang "Pompeii," I sensed that my long-held desire to see the ruins was ready to move on deck.

I am somewhat into volcanos. To wit:

  • I tend to pull the Pele card (Five of Wands) from Goddess Tarot decks. 
  • One of my most vivid childhood memories was visiting the hot, seething crater of Mauna Loa as a 7-year-old, and watching a log explode when a ranger kicked it in. 
  • The Cinderella character in my musical/novel is a sleeping volcano (her name is Ashley St. Helens and she lives among her step-family, the Hills). 
  • I had once worn (and written about) a Vesuvian red dress.

When I started looking at Google Earth, I grasped that Pompeii was actually a real place and that Vesuvius was an actual mountain, not just a mythical one. When I realized one could actually hike the Mount Vesuvius of myth and legend, the desire burned like, well, lava.

From above, the perfect circle of Vesuvius winks like an eye...or a giant zit. The black hole of the crater seems bottomless in its shadow, a giant anthill where chthonic gods and creatures of the imagination might crawl. The beckoning was magnetic.

But with only ten days to travel, Jenny and I had sadly scrapped the idea of going to Pompeii and Herculaneum. On our art-and-nap itinerary, it would be too much rushing around.

With Florence forsaken, however, I could still see making this pilgrimage alone.

Now if I could only figure out how. There are thousands of tours to take visitors from Rome to Pompeii in a day on heated/air conditioned busses for tourist-sized sums of Euros. On the third or fourth page of a Google search, though, I found ways to see this part of the earth independently. And even better... a way to ride a horse up the volcano.

HORSES AND VOLCANOES? What is this, a children's book written just for my inner ten-year-old?

This adventure also coincided with the lowest overnight price I could find in the area (17 Euros, about $21). Everything came together with the wonderful, welcoming people at Hostel of the Sun in Naples. I stayed downtown at Fabio's studio and caught the early train on Monday.

(<< BTW this is a Gypsy breed!)

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