When I was little, my grandparents read a lot of stories. I don't know how many times poor people had to read me "A Thousand and One Nights," "Pippi's Long Sock," "Crocodile Gena," "Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn," "Robber's Daughter," and many more. Whether it is because of this, or I was born with a fantasy, but since I can remember I have always pursued the adventures in life. On certain occasions, I spent ten years chained to a desk, staring at financial tables and drawings and discussing figures that excited me more about what typeface they wrote than what they meant. I regularly put self-help cards next to the tables, my favorite was saying, "Create a life you like so much that you don't want to take a vacation."
One day, after reading it again, I resigned and left for Italy. I had heard of Sicily. How beautiful and amazing she was. But after I had traveled Tuscany, Sardinia, Liguria, the Amalfi Coast, Marche and more, I didn't think there was much to impress me. And to be honest, when you live in New York, the "second generation" Sicilians of New Jersey who say "Lazan" and "Mozzarella" (instead of "Lazan I" and "Mozzarella") but have never seen Italy , and eating spaghetti with Alfredo sauce (which does not exist in Italy) at Little Italia are not the best advertising on the island.
After planes, buses, trains, a ferry and a donkey for luggage, I found myself not only in the fabulous world of true Sicily, but also on the incredible island of Stromboli, in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
I don't know what makes the island really indescribable? Is it a living volcano, on which the counting inhabitants live on the edge, in a constant battle with nature? Are the unique characters of the local people or the black sand shining in the sun? Is it the deep calm energy that is felt and that attracts the nervous from Milan, Rome and Naples (as well as Dolce & Gabbana, who have a house there)? Is it that the electricity on half the island was spent only 10 years ago? Whatever! There is no such story, neither with "Baron Munchausen" nor with "Sinbad the Sailor."
Approaching the island by boat, it looks like a picture from the movie "Jurassic Park". A sharp, green peak in the middle of the sea, from which smoke rises, sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker. The volcano itself has a name, Iddu, and the locals speak of it as a living thing. For example, if you are in a boat at 12 o'clock at night, under a starry sky and a sea glowing with plankton, and you look up hopefully to see the orange reflections of the gushing lava, the boatman, (of whom you have no right to doubt, because it's your only connection to the shore, and who in an absolute dungeon somehow drives his boat at full speed,) begins to speak in a Sicilian dialect: "Come on Iddu, explode a little, let the guests see you!" In practice, "Iddu" thunders on every 15 minutes and heard from afar. The first day you keep wondering what you're feeling, and those in New York even instinctively cover their heads and go to bed (we've seen cranes fall, planes crash, taxis roll over, etc.). Then you get used to it.
Periodically, Iddu erupts quite loudly. For example, 3 years ago, several days in a row, lava flowed from a height of 1000 meters directly on the slope and into the sea water. The spectacle was a huge "pleasure" for a bunch of photographers and researchers from National Geographic, but not for the locals, who had to be evacuated not only to avoid the lava, but also because of the tsunami, which necessarily formed after eruptions.
While I was there, the volcano behaved decently. People could enjoy a seafood pizza in the evening while watching the flying, orange fireworks above them. I haven't told ours yet, but I went upstairs to see the three craters up close. Given the fumes and the horrible sand that comes in everywhere and hurts more than a wax mask for the first time, it couldn't be seen that much, but at least you get the feeling you're experiencing something magical.
In fact, the story I am writing is not about a volcano, but about Mario - a fisherman, an artist, a builder, a volcano researcher, a model, an actor and most of all, an amazing human being. You notice Mario from the dock because he looks like Santa in shorts. His white hair and beard flutter freely and glow in the distance. His 70-year-old body shines in the sun as he deftly ties the ropes on the ferry. Mario is from a family with five brothers. They are all fishermen in the warm months, and in the winter they do whatever they find. They build houses or climb explorers to the top of the volcano, in a time embarrassingly shorter than I could climb it. Watching his face, you don't know exactly what you see. A mixture of nature, man, universe, primitiveness, combined with incredible spirituality. I spent three hours each morning with Mario and his brothers on the beach as they rearranged the nets and showed me the fish they had caught in the morning. I was told about their grandfather, who went to America in the 50s, when people from the islands moved en masse across the ocean to Australia. For the televisions, film directors and writers who have come to them over the years.
I thought of asking them about everything, but at the same time I "swallowed" my tongue and wanted to be invisible around them. I did not want in any way to interrupt their daily rituals, peace and beauty from the simple elegance of their existence. Mario also took me to his house to meet his wife and see his drawings. Unique works filled with colors, figures, monsters and all sorts of incarnations of their indescribable life among the natural elements of the volcano, the sea and the winds. The paintings were not for sale because they were his personal feelings, thoughts and inspirations.
I didn't want to leave! It was hard for me to break away from their magical world. So unreal and the opposite of everything I was trying to escape. Although I understood almost nothing of their Sicilian dialect, although I was still a "fresh" foreigner from the New York corporate world, I felt so close to them. Suddenly everything seemed so clear and easy. The questions you bang your head on in the big city, meditate, go to a psychologist, do yoga, acupuncture, body cleansing with diet or juice and sift, measure, philosophize for years, even though you have money, a house, you don't live under an erupting volcano , do not bring you water by ship every second week, the nearest hospital is not through three islands in the fourth and can only be reached by helicopter in special cases… The meaning of life, to love yourself and others, to feel full, needed and respected. The idea of starting a family, living in an environment of friends, enjoying the simple things in life, because after all, we all die sooner or later and nothing else is left behind.
Mario sent me off with a freshly caught, red starfish that was still writhing in my hand as the island disappeared into the horizon. He told me to return in May, when the top of the volcano, where it is not sprinkled with black sand, is covered with amazing flowers. There are no tourists, the hotels are cheap, the dolphins jump everywhere and I have a reserved place in the boat to go fishing with them at 5 o'clock in the morning. From now on, count the days until our next meeting. I am no longer the "Westerner" who seeks to be healed of chronic trauma developed from years spent in dusty offices, amidst the stress of endless deadlines and living in a huge city but with an infinitely lonely life. I am sure that I will learn a lot more, and each time in a new way. The way I felt every time my grandfather reread the same chapter of the book for the 86th time.