It’s a lovely island and has a lovely name, but after a while I started to refer to it as The Rock. Regardless of all its natural beauty, that’s exactly what it is: A rock. It is hot and dry during the day, and in the middle of July the only breeze you’re going to get is from the waiter’s wrist as he uncorks your 10th bottle of rose. One thing that I especially had trouble with: there is no source of fresh water on the island. Fresh water is brought in by a barge twice a week during the peak season and pumped into man-made wells. This lack of water really weighed on me. It added to the isolation that I was already beginning to feel.
Now don’t get me wrong, the island is beautiful, it is truly special – and for anyone not on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I would highly recommend it. But it is rugged and I found it to be complicated. Not “complicated” in navigating the streets, complicated in its core. And in my mental state during the summer of 2016, rugged and complicated were not what the doctor ordered.
I felt like I was constantly on the verge of erupting, like Stromboli, the famed volcano and Island, which sat smoking not far away. Usually I’m an expert at lying around and doing nothing. But last year was not my year. I had hit a wall. The previous years had been a blur. I had moved a few times, had two children, my mother had passed away, we had started HEDGEHOUSE and… well, quite simply, it was too much. I just snapped and it happened to happen on a Sicilian Island. Oh the glamour. Perhaps my body instinctively knew that Italy – specifically Sicily –was a great place for me to quietly fall apart. It was cinematic at least. When I came home from that vacation, I remember thinking, “What the hell just happened?”
Our hotel was the first built on the island, and it is a work of art. Expertly terraced by hand, with smooth white plaster architecture, Cy Twombly color palates, and cascading bougainvillea flowing over every inch of the place, it absolutely delivered a peaceful communion with nature. But not all nature is peaceful and, like Stromboli there is an unrest, a sort of restlessness that simmers beneath the island’s surface that is easily detected if you spend more than a couple of nights there. If you’re in a vulnerable state -- as I was -- it can bring it out in you. Actually, I think some of the restlessness might be imparted by nature, as an important survival tool on these sometimes dangerous (and literally explosive) islands, but it also might come from the nature of hotel living itself.
The hotel is ruled over by a benign matriarch – its owner, elegant, commanding and shrewd. She built the hotel many years ago with some family members, and I guess there was some in-fighting; someone tried to explain the story to me at one point, but it sounded like the usual island gossip and I didn’t know how much to believe. Now she’s in her 80s and in great shape, the queen of her empire. She keeps court, and her courtiers jockey for her affections, catering to her every whim; if she coughed three to four people leapt to her aid with tissue in hand a glass of water, always with overly-concerned looks on their faces. But she’s no fool who gets taken in by overt flattery. In my opinion, It looked like she enjoyed the Machiavellian grumblings going on around her. I sometimes chatted with her tall, handsome Yugoslavian boyfriend. He loved cinema, and we got on quite well talking about movies. There was also a young writer who came to read from his new book as part of a cultural event. The book was in Italian, so I have no idea what it was about, but we had some really nice chats as well. Mostly about failed relationships -- What else? Then there was the night Italy played Germany in the Euro Cup. The whole island watched the match together; it was intense… and also another post entirely, but lets just say for now that I finally understand why people love that game. Again everything that happened there was intense. Nothing was just “oh”; everything had an intensity to it that I’d never felt before -- particularly on a holiday.
There is a saying “wherever you go there you are” and in the case of this family trip it proved to be true. Id like to say, I “erupted’ and hopped on my helicopter and returned to civilian life a new person with a fresh perspective but in actuality it was the beginning. The Rock was where I discovered that all was not perfect with me. That I needed some attention and for that I am eternally grateful to that old rock. I look forward to returning someday but next time I go it will be on a boat. A big one.