Saturday, August 29, 2009

Capri - Reflections of the Island of Dreams

This article also appears on our Italian Journal page.

What may be Capri's best gift: the time and desire to dream. Capri is an island that worships the senses. The sweet, slow surrender to the sun, the tropical smell of lotion, the feel of fresh cotton towels and the sharp taste of the sea's salt on your skin. Sun bursts onto the water every morning. I open the hotel's wooden shutters to the brilliant light. Craggy rocks jut out of the water's surface, their reflections splayed onto the ever-rippling blue water. I look down to see roads narrow and winding. Compact-sized buses, stifling and glittering metallic, wend their way around the Island below me. Above me, a grassy hiking trail leads to the Island peak, where a 360 degree view of shimmering water awaits. The hike soothes the brain, calms the mind, taxes the body.

This is the heady, intoxicating mixture that awakens our long dormant senses. It gave us the tale of the seductive Sirens and headstrong warriors, Jason and the Argonauts. Centuries later, the Roman Emperor Tiberius was lured to the Island and made it his summer retreat. Far from the restrictions of Roman governance and society, Capri became his hedonistic playground. Such beauty and sensuality surrounded by the sea unlocked the Emperor's fantasies and ultimately, his good judgment. Perhaps he stayed too long in the company of the Sirens.

Now, so many years later, Capri retains this magic. You understand why Jason had to be tied to a mast to resist the call to leave his ship. I was not, so I could not. I dive headlong into the luscious decadence of sea, sand, and sweat. I surrender to the pleasures, at once earthy and ethereal. Where does this strong, almost magnetic pull come from? Perhaps from wearing as little as possible because of the heat. Perhaps from sensing the chance to live another way, to be a character in another life. Jason didn't know what he was missing. It ultimately killed Tiberius.

In a profound way, we are forced to acknowledge our separation from our usual lives and our connection to Nature. There is more of It than of us; no avoiding it. We are small and profoundly lucky at the same time. Maybe it's this mixture of opposites, these contradictions that blend inside of us and close us off to our usual states of stress and hurry. We surrender. We have no choice; do with us what you will. Capri obliges. It's ready to insinuate itself into our blood and our minds with its hypnotic beauty and heat. In a short time, our interior walls and protective barriers crumble, and we have no desire to rebuild them. At last, permission is granted to feel the breezes blow, the waters soothe, the sun caress. We are changed. It is glorious.

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