Three things I noticed today

I'm sitting on the top deck of a ferry bound to Lerici from Porta Venere. It’s the last day of a short, but satisfying, Italian get-away with my husband and in-laws. Summer is, more or less, finished in Norway, but here with pockets of warm Mediterranean sunshine and clusters of vibrant overhanging Bougainvillea, I’m tempted to stay longer and enjoy a second helping of Summer. More pasta and house wine, more walks and sea views, and more time to read at leisure.

Porta Venere is still busy welcoming tourists at the end of the day, even as we begin to make our journey back across the Bay of Poets, passing in front of the major port of La Spezia. We are returning to Lerici after spending the day relaxing and strolling the narrow street (pretty much one long narrow shopping street) between the Porta Venere’s crowded dock and The Byron Grotto. (English poet Lord Byron was known as a daring swimmer, who would swim the open water between Port Venere and Lerici.)

Three things I noticed today:

One. The return ferry is not as crowded as the one we arrived on six hours earlier. I sit in an open-air pew with lots of space between me and the other passengers. My husband has his head buried in his book, my in-laws are looking away from land towards the narrow channel of water that leads to the famed Cinque Terre region. The ferry is being boarded from below and will depart shortly. I look across to the adjacent ferry that is docked just an arm’s length away. It is emptied of its passengers, who are now moving up the pier towards restaurants, cafe’s, and gelato bars. The only person in view is its captain, and he is tossing crumbs from his bakery bag onto the floor. He deliberately steps on each crumb and crushes it. Three pigeons wait patiently for him to finish, as if this is the standard protocol: lower the anchor, turn off the ignition,feed the pigeons.

How did this make me feel:

Sweetness. Kindness. Strength. Intimate. A moment of pure selflessness.

I watched this exchange between the boat captain and the birds with a touch of joy rising in my heart and a smile forming at the corner of my lips. The care and deliberation of the captain towards the birds, who were easily underfoot, showcased a strength and tenderness. It was his moment, created by his compassion, which I got to experience. I was very grateful to have looked their way and to have taken notice.

Two. Three lines of passengers converge on the lower deck between the stairwell and the corridors to exit the ferry. The boat has arrived back to Lerici. I stand in front of two English speaking women and catch bits of their conversation. They are probably in their late thirties, early forties.

“Are you getting the creeps from that one guy in the group?”

“Yes! I’m glad that I’m not the only one who feels that way. He definitely is a bit of a creeper.”

How did this make me feel:

I had the sense that I had just observed a bonding moment between two women, who were traveling in the same travel group but had yet to make a connection. They just needed something to pass between them: bread, salt, or an impression to pass back and forth to create a bond. The person, who gave them the creeps, unknowing gave them that contact. They will probably go on with their trip feeling more comfortable with each other, and possible share meals and other impressions together. Years from now they may look back on their friendship and how it started on a ferry, in a crowded line, conferring about a creeper. And if this was a Hollywood script, one of them will have ended up married to him.

Three. (Same line. Exiting ferry) In front of me is a couple in their late forties, unknown nationality. The man jabs the woman in the buttocks with the point of his glasses. She, meanwhile, is pausing to let in a young mother who is carrying a baby in a cumbersome carrier device. The man continues to jab her, not looking to see why she is pausing her forward motion.

How did this make me feel:

It made me feel bothered and annoyed. I judged harshly the man’s prodding and jabbing of the ladies’ backside. So much impatience in his gestures; not caring to look ahead of her to see why would she be stopping. No communication between them; just the sharp end of the metal frames into the flesh of her bum to communicate ”get moving.” I’m saddened too; she must be use to such behavior because she did not flinch or turn around to look at him. There was no declaration to stop from her. It felt like the opposite of kindness—it felt selfish and rude.

I acknowledged my thoughts and feelings that this exchange brought up for me and I let it go. I can empathize with being impatient but not with prodding or jabbing. I can empathize with wanting to give space and help to a young mother, but not with enduring someone jabbing a metal end into my flesh without saying something. Behavior and gestures are revealing, and they don’t require a common language to be understood.

Humanity is all on the same boat. May we be so patient with ourselves and other that our actions lift joy and bring forth a smile to anyone who takes notice. What have you noticed today?

There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.

Lord Byron






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