A Sacred Spot in Sicily

November 12, 2012

This is the honeyed spot where my heart comes alive. I love it in my cells & my bones.

It’s here I drink my black wine, salute my fellow villagers, buy my daily bread, recharge my phone & my soul.

Sicilian Piazza















I cannot be there now. Family duty calls…

But when I close my eyes, I’m right here.

Do you have a sacred space? A place you love beyond all others? To paraphrase Raymond Carver, are you getting what you want from this life?

If not, set it all in motion now. Find that place where your heart comes alive: library nook, cafe window, mountain trail, room of your own.


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Sicily: A Story of Sitting Around

April 8, 2010

The men in my town are good at sitting around.

SIcilian Men Sitting Outside a Circolo

I like this; it makes the streets feel homey.

Retired guys gather at circoli, men’s clubs, like the above circolo for operai (workers) in Ragusa Ibla.

Sicilian men sitting outside in Ragusa Ibla

The Circolo di Conversazione for noblemen is on Piazza Duomo. Note the heavy brocade drapes and the fact that the aristocrats lounge on wooden chairs instead of plastic ones. Inside swing old cut-glass chandeliers.

Ragusa Ibla, Sicily, Circolo di Conversazione

The Circolo di Conversazione is across the street from the fishermen’s club. Someone told me the two groups never mingle or even exchange a buon giorno, but I’m not sure if that’s true.

Sicilian Men Sitting Outside Circolo San Giorgio, Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

Tourist tip for women in Sicily: don’t let the fixed stares of sitting-around Sicilian elders put you off. They’re curious, bored, sweet as pie. I started a conversation with these members of Circolo San Giorgio—yet another club in Ragusa Ibla—and the men responded with Old World courtesy, eager to use their schoolboy English to discuss New Jersey cousins, American politics, and World War II, when the Allies charged through the area during Operation Husky. They even invited me inside!

Two Sicilian Men on a Bench

I wonder what the wives are doing while the husbands are sitting around.


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La Zagara, or How I Was Drugged in Sicily

January 21, 2010

Here’s how I got into trouble.

After teaching a short course in Ragusa in 2002, I’d returned year after year to Southeast Sicily to root around for a little casa. The Fates pushed back with all their might and I finally admitted defeat.

In the spring of 2007, I came to see friends one last time and close the Sicilian chapter of my life. Ciao, Sicilia.

A day before bidding the island farewell, I scaled the long staircase up from Ibla’s Piazza Duomo to see the cupola from on high. After many years cocooned in scaffolding thick as wool, it had reemerged triumphant.

San Giorgio Cathedral, Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

It looked good enough to eat, like whipped cream on a tumbler of granita. I felt a secret joy. Bells tolled, clouds slipped up from the valley. I inhaled la zagara—orange blossoms on the breeze—like a drug.

I turned. There, on an unassuming little row house with a mottled wall and weatherworn door, I saw the magic words: VENDITA.

House in Ragusa Ibla

I saw. I called. I bought. Cast myself into a new world just like that. 1-2-3.

Never imagining for a minute what was in store.

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