Monday, October 22, 2007

Footsteps of the Ancients

Sunday, October 21, 2007, St. Tropez, France

11 am and I have stumbled into the end of a race! Adults have just finished their 16 km run through the winding narrow streets of St. Tropez, and the kidlets have just zoomed past me for their 2 km sprint! I cheer and take pictures at the finish line. The 2 Euros crepe is sweet and delicious, but both internet cafes I seek are closed. Well, that’s a good thing actually, it feels eminently sane to close some shops at least one day in the week, and I will find something tomorrow in Barcelona. Anyway, if one of them had been open, I might well have missed this bit of time on the Mediterranean shore…listening to the waves skitter across the coarse sand and pebbles, basking like a black-clothed lizard in a low, warm sun. And I can’t even record this, so all I capture is a picture of the hills and houses across the bay…nothing to DO but be here now!

Friday, October 19, Pompeii, Italy

Wonders abound! Somehow I did not connect this cruise and its itinerary (even though I’d seen the listing of areas and cities) with the exploration of ruins…but of course! Wasn’t the entire Mediterranean coastline the playground, battle field, and home land of a consistent and changing parade of cultures? In 79 AD the citizens of Pompeii, just inland from the lovely Bay of Napoli, had had earthquake warnings of something rumbling beneath their beloved Mt. Vesuvius, but its actual eruption took them completely by surprised. And perhaps we would even now know little about their response to it if it were not for the records of the Greek Pliny’s, elder and younger, uncle and nephew, who observed it first hand? As with Carthage, I’m inspired to back track and learn even the standard history, as I remember so little of it from school. So we walk and crunch our way over the lapilli that broke through the roof tops that were being restored from earthquake damage, we poke into the baths, the brothels, the bakery, the restaurants…and the ghosts of 2000 years ago drift and peer out at our motorized, digitized presence; some of us from an inconceivable distance half way around the entire planet. What an extraordinary thing is humanity!

Wednesday, October 17, Carthage, Tunisia

Welcome, once again, to an ancient world! This time it isn’t monolithic standing stone circles of 5000 years ago, it’s the ruins of the original Punic (Phoenician) Carthage, topped by more ruins of the Roman Carthage above. Bricks, mosaics, sculptures…Romans knew how to build what they wanted!

Tuesday, October 16, on board MSC Melody

3:30 pm, 3 hours out of Ibiza (Balearic Islands), on a course heading of 101° (nearly due east) for Tunis on the north African coast..

I am wired in many different ways here…looking north out a portside window at the horizon that bisects the tall windows of the pool/buffet area. Lunch is over, tea time is in half an hour and soon I’ll go get my harp to play for the new friends from Belgium. The Mediterranean Sea is navy blue, a color I noticed last night, and one I don’t think I have seen in nature before. In my ears the Tethys mix # 4 of harps, flutes and kotos washes over the background voices, child-shouts from the pool, and ambient music, providing a watery sound track for the moving sea before me. I have just downloaded the recent pictures from my camera of yesterday’s departure from Barcelona, and last night’s sunset…and the pictures I took are true to the majesty that unfolded for almost an hour as the clouds and sun danced their backdrop for the waves and wake of our passage.

Then as now, the waves are moving from the east and today I am grateful for that as my incipient sea-sickness is not so bad when we head into wind and waves, rather than broadside, and due to the cool, cloudy (occasionally rainy) weather today I am kept more indoors than I’d like. I am now keeping the acupressure bands on my wrists as they help more than I imagined, but I try to stay in view of the horizon. I got a Dramamine from the information desk just in case, but the captain’s party is tonight, I am going to dress to the 9’s and will take the pill only after if at all…the swells are bigger now, just in the 15 minutes of writing this. Best get below decks for the harp before they get any bigger…

Monday, October 15, 2007, setting sail on MSC Melody

The awe of the sea…the mystery beneath the deadly, beautiful surface…the lure of the horizon where the eye rests on its flat expanse…what lives beneath its opaque and long-lived nature?

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