"Darn it, Gerardo! What´d you tell me to go home for?"
Pleasantly, I still had enough money to leave Michigan and go elsewhere. Michigan, with its unfulfilled promises, had worn me out. It would be a good time to go to a European isle, live in a tent, go fishing, snorkel, play the occasional soccer game in the nearest town, and progress with meditating experiments. On March 5th, I paid only $231 to fly from New York to Rome (on Air-Comet, a Spanish company).
Here; brush up on your meditating vocabulary with some Eastern terms I learned from Jack Kerouac:
"samadhi" - a meditating session
"dhyana" - the euphoric state of mind in which conscious thought ceases, and one experiences his surroudings as if he wasn´t separate from them (example: Johnny experienced dhyana bliss during his Tuesday afternoon samadhi under the willow tree.)
Once in Rome, I began traveling like a pro. I rode a late bus from the airport to Ostia (Rome´s beach town), jumped a fence on the beach, and slept in some wooden stalls used by beach-goers in the summer. The sun rose over the plooshing waves, and I started my day pleasantly by reading a bit. I exchanged money at the bank, bought cookies, and bathed in the sea. I went into Rome and saw the Coliseum, which was big and old and beautiful, on a wide-open plaza surrounded by greenery and other ruins and arches and man-made caves. And soon, I began hitchhiking, "Sud" (Italian for "south", although Franco my first driver and a suspected mafioso pointed out I´d errantly written "Sul" on my sign), towards the island of Sicilia.
On this trip, thankfully, there was no return end of a roundtrip flight ticket to tempt me into going home. And I carried a school backpack with a sleeping bag hanging off of it, and a black bag hanging from my shoulder, and these have always been rather comfortable.
The hitchhiking wasn´t that good, though. Thirty-somethings Ciro and Mario were my last ride. Ciro looked and thought like a low-brow criminal, and poor Mario only had four teeth. They´d stayed up doing hard drugs in Napoli (Naples), and they manipulated me into buying them cigarettes, then us drinks in their town. But, they considered me a friend, gave me cheek-kisses arividerci, and told me to call them if I had any problems hitchhiking.
The breath-taking Amalfi Peninsula offered me a quiet place to spend that night. The rocky earth lunged upward from the cool blue sea at the steepest habitable angle possible. Cars inched into precise position on the tight roads so our bus could exhale and manouevre past, as we passengers peeked straight down at the distant, depth-less water. The land barely offered a roost where one wouldn´t just tumble off. Brick, village houses or old, hilltop churches, or town buildings with pedestrian tunnels in their bases and lion-head sculptures for facades, or else man-made steps in the earth where citrus trees and gardens grew, occupied all solid ground. Rocky mountain fingers threatened to fall and flatten, out of the sky above.
It was very, very nearly impossible to find a free and unseen place to camp, but in Amalfi town´s heights the bright lights at night formed a big cross on the cemetery, and nearby I scaled a mortar wall and dropped into someone´s garden ... and ate peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches beneath a wise, huge, bendy tree with softball pine cones and broccoli leaves at the end ... while looking down at the puny harbour town´s street-lights ... then camped under a snug lemon canopy.
I decided then to go to Corsica, France instead of Sicily. This was largely due to my wanting to be somewhere where my tranquility wouldn´t be disturbed by trying to learn a new language. Also: God, I love France!
I camped a few more nights in gorgeous villages on middle Italy´s rocky coast. North of Rome, a ferry carried me to Corsica. I came up with the following goals for my time there:
1. to eat only unpackaged food (i.e. fresh bread, fresh meat, fresh cheese, fruits, and vegetables)
2. to fast at least one day a week
3. to observe at least one day of silence a week
4. to meditate twice daily
The key to meditating and eliminating thought, I guess, is to stop holding on to your ego. And, to do this, it helps to rid yourself of want, worry, and ambition - and/or be overwhelmed by your surroundings. I hoped my peaceful time in Corsica would help with my meditation. Maybe I would become able to levitate? It seems contradictory to be ambitious to have no ambition. Maybe I wouldn´t have to pay for a ferry off Corsica, and I could just levitate myself back to Italy, during a really good samadhi?
I think the world that awaits the meditator is as vast and amazing as the one we want and think and do in, and it deserves almost as much time.
On mountainous Corsica, I hitchhiked to pink, small, romantic, and slightly tourist-hungry St. Florent, pop. a couple of thousand. I walked a few kilometers around St. Florent´s own bay, to the opposite shore from the village. On a rocky hill that required some climbing to get up, I pitched my tent and unpacked for a stay.
The March nights were cold. The night sky was full of star mysteries. Birds tweebled at dawn and at dusk. Hefty mountains surrounded the sea and made one feel small. The sun was hot, the sea was clear and home to many of fish of colors and mostly small sizes, and the afternoons warmed the cold water for daring snorkelers. It was just what I wanted.
Thanks to Franco; Alexandr; Ciro & Mario - those crazy guys; and Cristophe, Sabina, Orne, & "Baldo" for the rides!