We bundled up for the volcano, knowing the elevation would require warm clothes. We stopped to take pictures of the volcano from the ocean side. I took pictures of the suns rays reflecting on the ocean like a beam of light from a place unknown, a perfect, circular reflection on the water.
Mt. Etna is covered in dark black-brown lava, its pieces surprisingly light and jagged-edged. Put a seed inside and the breathing room allows for a good place to grow. But the mountain is huge, its massiveness unclear until you see a person hiking its edge, a balance beam and a tiny silhouette against the blue sky.
We snowtubed down the volcano, down the slope of a crater and over little jumps. I was sad to leave, but sure I would return one day, and I looked back watching her puff little steam clouds into the blue sky.
We ate a late lunch in a small village on Mt. Etna, at a pink house where the food was five star. The town was still; the pink stone house waited for us with inviting tables, small glass jugs of red wine set out, bread and cheese, a mushroom salad, an artichoke salad. My taste buds absorbed the delicacies as if Id never eat again.
After eating I went outside, exhausted from applying energy to the feast. It was an hour before sunset, with a golden, warm glow. I sat outside, speechless with two friends in quiet that made time stand still: warm sun on my face, relaxed, no place Id rather be.
I thought of people Id want to share this moment. At that second, a church bell chimed. I felt the moment shared, by anyone who had ever been there, or that I wanted there. The bell called us to experience it together. I lay back, and listened, and stared at the clouds soaring by.
I needed something to remember the experience and knew exactly what: one of those little glass jugs, and maybe some wine, too. I had my tour guide ask, in Italian, for permission to take one. The chef couldnt understand why I would want such a thing, something that was so usual to him. But he gave me a liter of wine and the jug for $5. Soon, everyone in the group wanted the same. Of course, there wasnt wine enough in the restaurant, so our busload followed the chef down the windy, sloped edge of the volcano to his wine cellar.
We followed him down, watching the sun set behind the volcano, frustrated we wanted to stop and take pictures, and hysterical that this guy just la-di-dad down to his cellar.
We got down there, and he forgot his key! He told us to wait a minute while he went to his fathers to retrieve it.
Fine, we thought, we had just enough time to take pictures of the most perfect view of Etna and the sun. We ran around giddy and ambitious. An old Sicilian woman watched from the steps in her backyard full of thriving orange trees. Youve never had an orange until youve had one from Sicily: juicy and refreshing, just what an orange should be.
The woman wore an old dress, with floral apron. Her stockinged feet were stuffed into brown shoes. Her pudgy cheeks made her smile inviting, contented. I saw in her eyes an envy, that we returned a look of wanting what each other had and a curiosity of why either would be envious of the other.She seemed to see it, too. She slowly walked to her orange trees, held out her apron and began plucking the fruit. She fit so many oranges in her apron; it was obvious shed done it before. She gave us what she could, her oranges, and so much more. Our gift to her was a sense of pride. This was a Sicilian woman, her backyard the base of Etna, with all that she needs. Proof of the fertile powers of the volcano, from her come godsends.
We thanked the woman for her kindness and she insisted thanks to us. I held my hand over my heart and told her she was beautiful inside. She put her hand up to her face and caught tears filling her eyes. I looked at her with my own tears.
We drove away, speechless, awestruck. I had goose bumps everywhere. This was Sicily. She has been here all along.