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ISCHIA: Island of Flowers

I am presently enjoying several weeks in my beloved Italy.  There is so much to write about but I think I have to give first place of honor to the Island of Ischia, which sits just off the coast from Naples.  We arrived in Naples, via Rome, on a Thursday evening and after six days catching up with jet-lag, eating LOTS of mozzarella (among many other good Italian dishes!), and going to Bahia Blanca, a favourite beach on the other side of Gaeta, we took the ferry over to Ischia. This is an island formed by volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.

The first thing that visitors to Ischia notice as the ferry approaches the island is how green and fresh everything is despite the heat.  Because Ischia is a volcanic island it is quite mountainous and its slopes are a rich green as they come down to meet the various towns and villages.  Almost every garden is rich in flowers which at the moment are in full summer bloom.

All of the streets are lined, usually on both sides, with tall rhododendron trees dripping flowers in every shade of pink imaginable.  Bougainvillea in all its many shades spills over walls, climbs fences, and trails up and down the walls of houses as though an artist had dipped many brushes into different colors on his palette and splashed them here and there in wild abandon. Hibiscus offer up their beautiful shallow open trumpets as though about to create some romantic perfumed symphony, and huge pregnant balls of mauve and blue blooms top the stems among the lush green foliage on large hortensia bushes. Everywhere is a riot of color.

But color does not stop with God’s amazing creation.  The residents of Ischia have added their own artistic touch to their island.  Houses are painted in every pastel tint available.  Shops are decorated with colorfully decorated tiles or painted murals and a wild profusion of products hangs in doorways, spills out onto the sidewalks, or fills windows in such a way as to entice the passerby to stop and peruse and, perhaps, buy. My heart and soul are filled with color since being here in Italy and Ischia has played a principal part in that.   

Poetry: Greek God on a Tube Train

As mentioned in my previous posting, Musings-  Creativity and Cold! here is the poem that I wrote in September 1980.  Perhaps I should set the stage a little.  I had returned to live in England in October 1978 having lived the previous ten years of my life on the beautiful island of Sardinia.  Sardinia is located about forty minutes flying time due west of Rome in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  It is an Italian island.

The weather there is fantastic.  Hot and sunny from mid-May through to mid-September.  Delightfully warm and sunny from mid-March through to mid-May and again from mid-September through to the end of November.  There are a few exceptions to these time lines but they are just that, exceptions.  Winter lasts from December till mid March but is not so cold as to be brutal, nor is it so rainy as to be continuously miserable.  I remember sunbathing many times in January and February.

So to adjust to England’s climate when I returned to the UK in late 1978 was difficult to say the least.  The culture and way of life was also problematic and frequently I found myself spiraling downwards on the emotional level as I tried to stay positive and live up to my nick-name – Sunny!!  One day as I sat on the underground train going to work I was struck by my sense of isolation and felt myself being swallowed up by and absorbed into a daily “grayness”. 

Each person in my carriage was totally closed in on themselves.  Nobody looked at anybody else.  It was as though each one of them was enclosed in one of those glass domes that are used to protect special dolls or statues.  I found myself reacting to this by going in on myself – under my own glass dome.  But suddenly there was a moment of “aliveness” which brought me back into my real self.  The following poem describes that incident.

GREEK GOD ON A TUBE TRAIN

Somber blue, black and gray pinstripes
Seated in uniform regularity
The full length of the carriage,
Like regimental toy soldiers on an assembly line
Waiting to be dispatched, briefcase in hand,
To equally somber banks.
Dead-pan, pallid faces devoid of emotion,
Set above their city suits.
Bored, I stare ahead, merging into the nothingness
That surrounds me.
The train stops, doors open and close,
And suddenly my eyes are shocked wide open
By a non-conformity in this sea of gray monotony.
There he sits, or rather lounges,
A healthy sun-tanned lean Greek god,
In indolent disarray.
Tight jeans mould to his masculinity,
And he wears an open neck shirt from which spills
A heavy gold chain nestling in luxurious hair.
His dark and heavy-lidded eyes smolder
As they roam lazily over my femininity,
And I welcome his bold male gaze in the midst of such insipidness.

London, 24 September 1980  

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