Reflections On Time From Gerace, Italy
A week ago I was counting every hour of each day, calculating how to fit into a mere 17 hours the multitude of tasks I deemed essential. Today I sit in the silence of a 400-year-old house (now a hotel and restaurant), enjoying a large, comfortable, and elegant sitting room. Birds chirp outside the window. I hear an occasional door close, or footsteps on the marble floor below. And time is not a factor. I have no schedule, no list of tasks to do. What a contrast!
How did this change occur? Was it necessary to fly across a continent, an ocean, and several European countries, and then to drive 8 or 10 hours to the remote city of Gerace (pronounced “Jerrachay”) in Calabria, Southern Italy, to find such unhurried peace? I don’t think so. Yet when have I given it to myself at home? Even my “quiet times” are scheduled into my day – measured and counted so as to be long enough, but not “too” long.
What makes the difference?
Permission Just to Be
Here in Gerace I have given myself permission just to be. I slept 10 hours last night. I did my stretches. I washed a few clothes. I read several articles, some of which have been waiting for months. I read a chapter in a book. I went out with OSO and Dominic (the evening manager of this beautiful hotel, Casa di Gianna) to walk through the ancient cobbled streets of Gerace, which dates back to the 7th century BC. We visited churches and admired doors, narrow curving streets, flowers in pots, balconies, and the unrushed simplicity of life in a small town.
Then we rested, read, had small sandwiches and a few cherries for lunch, read a book about Gerace while lounging on a king-size bed as if we had all the time in the world, or nothing to do, and both were true.
Then we went out to explore more of this unusual medieval town. We walked and climbed, then rested on benches. We watched people come and go, on foot and in cars. Old people, young people. Some on excursion. Some working. A family gathered for a Christening. Some men repairing the façade of an ancient doorway on the main square. On old man, perhaps homeless, perhaps senile, wandering the streets, morning, afternoon, and evening – hardly acknowledged by the townspeople, part of the background.
By accident I left my water bottle sitting on the street in front of a bench. Several hours later I retrieved it. It had not been moved a centimeter.
We asked for Gelato (Ice Cream) in small cups, using only sign language and finger pointing to accompany our few Italian words for please and thank you. We were brought giant servings in sundae-size glasses, replete with cookies and buns and sweets. When I tried to refuse, the waitress insisted we be seated on the square and served us – one giant glass of ice cream for each, followed by sherbet “for our appetites” and to clear our pallets. Late Sunday afternoon in Gerace, relaxed, warm, lazy.
In Scottdale the morning routine is fixed. Out of bed at 5:00 AM. Forty minutes of stretches. Household chores. An hour of tennis. Showers and dressing for the day. Then my quiet time: study and meditation, followed by breakfast, coaching sessions or class appointments. E-mail and Internet chores are tucked in between appointments and major projects, like writing, preparation of flyers, brochures, books for the printer, planning for future classes, trips, or workshops, which absorb the afternoon hours like water on sand. Whether after cooking and eating dinner or taking in a late afternoon movie, I am soon pulling together my projects to be done in front of the TV while I “relax” for two hours. Then preparation for bed and some quiet reading before lights out around 10:00 PM.
The rhythm is completely different. Though I no longer pressure myself when I can’t complete a project in the allotted time, my days are not spacious. Even special events – an evening out for theater, dinner with friends, or a trip out of town – are planned and scheduled. Everything “fits” into the hours of the day.
Here in Gerace, a day is a day and the hours are elastic. My muscles let go between events. I am at ease.
The difference is in my consciousness, not the place.
In Scottsdale I feel accountable to others and responsible for being productive. Here in Gerace I just am. I expect nothing of myself. Could I live like this, day after day? Could I just “be” in Scottsdale? I no longer have to earn a living. I am collecting social security and a pension. I don’t have to work. I do what I do because I love it. I love to teach the Wisdom. I love to be present to people while they grow. I value all the friends and Love Family members who enrich my life.
So why not live in spacious, quiet simplicity, enjoying the silence of my own home and the luxury of just being? Am I ready to free myself from the tyranny of time?
These are the questions I put before myself in unhurried reflection on a quiet Sunday evening in Gerace, Italy.