no wonder my happy heart sings

by Ellen in ,

On this day last year, I was swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, asking kids nicely not to touch the giant flourescent jellyfish, because although it's pretty, they still bite, even in Italy. We were at Cinque Terre ("5 grounds". They are a collection of 5 towns: Manarola, Vernazza, Riomagiore, Corniglia, and Monterosso al Mare), our "vacation" spot we were stopping at to take a load off our feet for a couple of days. That was a lie. I used my legs more there than anywhere else. When you can hike to the top of a mountain on the Italian Rivera, there's really no way you can refuse the invitation. It was hard, but majestic. I want to come here on my honeymoon if I get to take one. If my sweet future husband and I come here on our honeymoon, there is a good chance the Americas will seldom see us.
10:04am: We are on the train going to Cinque Terre, and we have just pressed our faces against the glass to get a good look at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It's pretty big. And it leans. We are passing through the country with tiny towns built into the hills, and the town churches are easily spotted. All of these farms and vineyards are so beautiful. I want to sleep, but I don't think I can shut my eyes to this. Just want to take a moment to say that I am enamored with our trip leaders. They are experienced travellers, and lovely humans. They are so very unselfish with each other. I can only hope for a sweet husband who will someday frequently kiss me on both cheeks when we are in Europe.
10:18am: A lof of the kids are writing in their journals, and I always wonder what they have to say. Some more of them don't write, and I wonder why they don't have anything to say.

12:49pm: The Mediterranean Sea made my watch look funny. It's fine, because my first time swimming this Summer was in the Mediterranean Sea! I was clear (with an exceptional blueish-green tint that is quite overwhelming), extremely salty, rocky, and freeeezing. This is the most beautiful place I've ever seen, and I can hardly believe it exists in real life.

24 June 2008
We walked the Via dell' Amore (the road of love) from Manarola to Riomagiore, and then took a boat to Vernazza. We ate lunch at Gianni Franci where I ate fresh anchovies and mussels (two foods that completely disgust me. However, when I say fresh, I mean, we saw the guy bring them straight up from the Sea in his basket net apparatus, cook them, and feed them to us. Let me tell you: so delicious. I will never eat them in America) under umbrellas outside after visiting the chiesa da Sta. Margherita, where there were beautiful flowers left over from a wedding. Then we walked around the corner and back toward to train station to start our 5km hike to Corniglia, where these guys were there to point us in the right direction (there are cats EVERYWHERE in Italia. Probably because they don't have Bob Barker reminding them to spay and neuter their pets):

2:10pm: I'm sitting on a rock, resting my legs and drinking fizzy water. I'm in the shade of an Oleander tree, the aroma of Italia. There is water as far as I can see, and a slight fog hovering above it, even though the sky is clear. I have to lead part 3 of Jonah on the beach later, and I've been thinking about the conversation I had at lunch with 2 priests, a dancer, a doctor, a lawyer, and a salesman. We talked about Jonah and Jesus and the Old and New Testaments. We talked about how the word covenant goes deeper than being a mere set of rules. When Jesus talks about Jonah, he's responding to the Pharisees' demand for a sign that he's the Son of God. This entire trip, my walking prayer has been "O God, show me what it is you have brought me here to find", and I have realized that I have been making silly demands for God to show Himself to me. God has brought me this far, and while I've been praying that prayer, God has been jumping up down in front of me, waving his arms and shouting for me to see Him in the most beautiful creations, these young people, great artistic minds, and in myself. God is here, God is happening right now, creating and sanctifying everything right before my eyes, and He's showing me the history and creation of grace through the sea, churches, artists, my fellow travellers, and this Oleander tree I'm sitting under. After telling our own stories, I understand that mine consisted of a change in focus: from seeing everything through my own lens, to seeing everything through God's lens. And here I am, still trying to get it all in focus. Everything is spiritual.
Here we are at the peak:

8:17pm: We are having the most beautiful dinner at a restaurant built into the side of a hill. It doesn't have any walls or doors. The sun is setting in our tent, and everything is sparkling. We had Jonah Bible Study on the beach of the very sea where Jonah was swallowed, and it was more than magical. Here we are afterwards, tired but still the mood to be hilarious:

Now, my attention is captured by a trio of musicians. It made my entire visit worth it to hear "Volare" and "I'm Yours" (before it was the I'm Yours that it has turned into). I sung along with every word, and the boy singer (an American) in the middle kissed me on both cheeks.