Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 9 Salita dei pazzi

How appropriate that the old road to Calimera from here, so-far one of my favourite walks, turns one to be named  Salita dei pazzi -- Madmen's Climb.

I often meet people willing to talk when I walk along that peaceful three kilometer trek. Today was no exception. Anna Gentile was taking some exercise with her dog, Frizzie, and she's the one who told me what it's called by the locals. She's a physical education teacher, so because we hadn't finished our conversation by the time we got to the bottom at the mouth of Calimera, she suggested we turn around and do it again. Frizzie and a stray dog loped along ahead or ran into the groves and argued among the olive trees.

What the heck, a little extra exercise wouldn't hurt. We exchanged contact info when we parted. She wants me to give a group of her friends a yoga class.

I went ahead to the town square. There really wasn't much happening. Many of the shops in these parts take Thursday afternoons off. However, there's always the cafes, which sell pastries and ice-cream as well as coffee and alcoholic drinks.

White-haired men had started to gather at a series of outdoor tables to play cards. The tables sat under a pedestrian walkway in front of a series of shops. The anziani stared at me as passed among them to get inside one of the cafes as though I were some kind of exotic creature. Okay. Okay, so the red, red hair might strike old men living in a rural town as strange but don't these guys watch Italian television? It's pretty hair raising.

I went into the cafe with the idea of picking something up for our dessert tonight. I'd made pasta sauce with fresh picked Roma tomatoes and mushrooms a couple of days ago.

I asked for an assortment of half-a-dozen little cakes, which the very nice woman behind the counter chose for me. When I went to pay, I discovered I'd left my wallet on my desk. I apologized and explained I was senza funds and would return the next day to try her pastries.

The dear thing wouldn't hear of it. She insisted I take the package and bring the money later. When I told her I'd walked from Martignano and couldn't come back this evening, she waved me away and told me tomorrow would be fine. The bill was 3.8 euros.

I attribute her generosity to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the one that lives at the shrine I pass just before setting foot on the Salita dei pazzi.

Here's how it went: as I walked by the shrine today I thought, why not hedge me bets? I'm not a believer but the truth is when it comes to religion, I don't know what to believe. However, I discount nothing. I thought it couldn't hurt to say a little prayer, which I did.

Prayers are always self-serving, and mine was no exception. I asked Her for help in inspiring me to be a good writer, and perhaps even a good novelist some day. I figured I'd start with a not too big request. It's been a long, long time since the Virgin Mary and I have had any contact.

Anyhow, once me prayer was done, I placed the palm of my hand on one of the warm stones that houses her. I kid you not, a shiver passed through me like an electric shock. I'm not saying the shiver originated in the finger of a celestial being. Maybe I was just cold. But it makes you wonder, eh?

 Anna Gentile and her friend, Renato, who just happened along, with Anna's dog Frizzie. Behind them is Calimera.

The courtyard of a Calimera house. This one seems more luxurious than most, although most courtyards are not visible from the street.  
 Senior gentlemen sit at tables one one side of the piazza playing cards.

Below, a pair of older women stand chatting across the street.
A forest of cactus plants laden with prickly pears turns a field on the Salita dei pazzi into a sculpture garden

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