A favorite beach of mine has nestled itself into a hidden cove along Italy’s Amalfi coast. Four hundred stone steps meander like rotten teeth down the side of a cliff, sprigs of vegetation sprouting out between the cracks, thirsting for water but settling for mists of salty spray. I can’t look down, not yet. It’s still too far away. But I can feel the promise. My heart, it stammers. Do I really get to…? Do I really get to…? Do I really get to….see you again?
When the steps end the path begins. Pebbles. And sand. And some dirt mixed in. And suddenly, we are in the mouth of an enormous cave. If you stop walking you’ll hear water dripping, echoing, the moist air chilling your skin to goose bumps. But if its afternoon, it’s a welcome chill, respite for your shiny, sun kissed skin.
The beach has little sand. No, that’s not its call. It must be that arch over there, you say, the one we can swim under, right? Or what about the wooden boat hovering as if on glass, the water so clear eyes dare to dance for meters and meters below? Yes! That must be it, you say! And what is that feeling welling up in me? Is that part of its magic, too?
I kneel down, our hearts at feast. The gentle lapping of the Mediterranean, the soft warmth of the sun, a lullaby, a ninnananna, a rhythmic gift from universe to sea.
And beneath our feet, the littlest of treasures. One. Then another. Turquoise. Red. A soft green. And yellow. There’s dark blue, bright blue, shiny blue and purple. Patterns and swirls and crests and twirls. We run. And skip. And giggle to the beat of our hearts. One then two, then seven then eight. Our pockets once empty, swell to bulging. Our souls once thirsty, waltz to sea.
“Garbage!” says the old man with a scowl on his face.
“Treasure!” you say, “why look, don’t you see?”
But his head has turned away. He has forgotten. Forgotten the painted gifts. The garbage turned gifts, gifts of his sea.