There are days which will stand out in my life. This was one of them.
It is easy to get carried away with ourselves. Well, I guess I shouldn’t project my own shortcomings on to others. Let me say, rather, it is easy for me to get carried away with myself, especially when I meet a challenge I had set for myself. This happened with me today.
We left our hotel and headed into the mountains to stay near Noto Antica. As I had mentioned Noto is an ancient city that was rebuilt at a new location after the infamous earthquake of 1693. Noto Antica, the original location of the city, was located in the mountains above. So, we headed through the new city, past fruit-laden carts, up the mountain to the ancient city high above. The trip required that we make a 550 meter gain in elevation over eight kilometers.
The night before I reviewed the elevation profile of the ride for the next day. I am not ashamed to admit that I felt more than a little trepidation as I thought of the next day. My ability as a cyclist boils down to simple tenacity. I am not fast. I am skilled. While I can grind out the miles, this was going to be a challenge.
As we approached the switchbacks that climbed up the side of the mountain I girded myself for the haul. The Sicilian sun drew the sweat from every pore, stinging my eyes, obscuring my vision. I stopped frequently, draining both water bottles before I was halfway to the top. My thighs were burning and my backside was sore from the saddle. When I made it to the top, I was elated. I had achieved the summit under my own power. I was slow, but I had done it.
We stopped for lunch at the top. The view was incredible. From where I stood I could see the fortress at Cape Passero that we had seen the day before.
We ate, drank, and relaxed. As we sat by the pool a beagle came by to be petted. Being do lovers, we enjoyed playing with the little guy. My ego as we headed out from lunch had really inflated. I did it. I passed the test. Aren’t I something?
Then as I approached the hotel I passed the walls of Noto Antica. Behind the large remaining wall, were crumbled buildings, arches leading to rooms open to the elements, rusted grates and gates. I could not help but recall Ozymandias by Shelly. Who was the mayor of the city the day before the earthquake? Who were the great men of business, the leaders of the community? All were gone. All of it dust.
What was my little stupid bike ride in comparison?
I got off my bike to explore the area a bit. I listened for the ancient echoes that reverberated from the stones. Although I was hesitant to leave what seemed to me a sacred place, I turned to continue my trip to the hotel. However, I did not remount my bike. Past the collapsed wall there was a tree-covered park where people would have picnics. How poetic it all seemed to me! Residents of the modern Noto would drive up here with their families to picnic amongst to ghosts of the past.
This too is my Italia.