Wednesday, March 27, 2013

children in little boats

I am listening to Chopin right now. Nocturnes. Chopin goes well with sailboats: their effortless bounce, his gentle and sad notes, rolling this way and that -- a seamless blend of melodies and bobbing sails.

When Diane and I retreated to our rooms tonight, she said -- my post will be all about boats and mountains. Yes, mine too. But within those boats and mountains, surely you'll imagine wisps of other stories, no?  Especially if the boats are piloted by little kids who are so adventurous! Deep waters, freezing winds -- none of this will stop them!

Let me go back a little.

It is our last full day in Gargnano. And it is a day of challenge for me. Whereas yesterday I could lose myself in a world of thought, today proves that the details of dying are hard to work through on a very pragmatic level.

So I worry about that. (And I cannot emphasize enough how helpful Ed and Diane have been in addressing the many issues that arose. Solid rock, both of them -- he, woken in the middle of the night with questions, endless questions on my part, she in listening to my worrying -- should I do this, should I do that? Saints.)

It is not raining, it is not snowing, so Diane and I decide to stick with our plan of taking the ferry up to Riva, at the northern most tip of Lake Garda. Let me forget about all else!

And in fact, the boat ride is magnificent! Clouds hover to the north, a mist appears, threatening a full blown fog, but then recedes. Despite all this, the views toward the shore remain crisp and riveting.

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And one hour later we are there.

I'd never been to Riva. And I have to say, I worry when I take a friend places. What if she'll think it to be a wasted trip?

Once there, we have four hours before the (one and only) ferry can take us back to Gargnano.

At the tourist office I ask bluntly -- can't we climb one of these hills or mountains to the side of us? 
If I cannot climb, will I be me at the end of the day? Climbing is my shield, my armor. Show me a path up and I'll stay sane!

We first walk along the water's edge. So many boats, so many children! I think they must surely have sailing schools here -- it's like Brittany, no? Little kids, learning to steer boats in the wind.

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But suddenly I hear the language. (Polish.)  Children hover by an instructor-like person, listening intently to directions. Are you Polish? What are you doing here? -- I ask, genuinely surprised.

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It's a regatta. They'll be racing tomorrow. Today, children of Europe are taking out their boats to practice.

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Children bouncing on waves. Such innocent little ones, dancing on the waters even as the winds howl and the air feels winter-cold.

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Children with friends, children with teachers. And maybe children with fathers? The last time I saw my father was on December 13. Maybe he worried that it would be our last visit together. He was short of breath. He moved slowly. I, of course, assumed I would see him the next year and the year after. Children think in those sequences: what is, will be.

I look back to my Ocean post of that last visit. For years now, my father was Poland and Poland was my father. Will I continue to go back regularly, now that he is gone?

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Children in and out of boats: they have that youthfulness about them. I'd recognize it anywhere. Like my father had? In the mountains?

Up I go now, following a town trail higher, higher, up a cliffy hill, to make the mind work fluently again. It worked before!

It doesn't work fluently today. This is the gritty side of life: you can't just will yourself out of troubles, you must attend to them. Calmness is a gift that comes after the work is done.

Kids lean forward, working their boats, catching the wind.  And what a wind it is, up here in Riva!

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I retreat down the hill, to meet up with Diane for a coffee and strudel.

And then we take the ferry home.

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To Gargnano. Where the sun is trying so very hard to break through.

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She joins me for my last Aperol Spritz at the Olimpia. It is a day of good-byes as I tell the sweet owners that I am ending my Gargnano days.

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We have a wonderful last dinner at the hotel, but I like the idea that Diane gave me of ending a post with an Aperol Spritz.

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Tomorrow, one last look at the mountain that I climbed and the town I grew to love. Tonight, I look out the window at the ribbons of light on the still waters of Lake Garda.