This was meant to be a piece about first times, alternatives, and connecting, but in a completely different way from what it’s going to be.
Just in time before the summer heat, Veronica and I decided it was time to reach the summit of Mount Circeo, an enchanted mount growing straight from the sea in South Lazio, more precisely in San Felice Circeo. It’s meant to be the home of Circe, sorceress who managed to keep Ulysses with her for years during his Odyssey, while turning his men into pigs. Legend has it that the mountain is shaped as her profile, so you can still see her towering over everything, facing the horizon.
This time, Eleonora was with us. Excited in her rock and roll style, it was her first time venturing outside Rome to visit the surrounding outdoors. Moved here from Sardinia a few years ago, sites so familiar for us were actually completely unknown to her.
One of her questions soon after she jumped in the car really sticked with me. “Why are we going there? What’s there to see?” Actually, no one ever asked me such question, yet it was so pertinent and logic, especially for someone not used to spend a lot of time in nature, or hiking. And it suddenly made me realise we really behave like conquerors of the useless.
Nevertheless, I truly believe nothing is more useful and meaningful than to venture outside, just for the sake of it. To explore, just ’cause. Beauty, curiosity, good vibes. It’s the most human and authentic thing we can do.
And this is so true, that this exact answer instantly resonated with her too. Because we are all humans and we all have it in our guts, no matter how urbanised and natureless we are.
Those feelings and questioning you experience during your first times are one of the most important things we have: it keeps us humble and aware. Their preciousness is absolute and it reminds us our core purpose.
The magic itinerary
Think of an uphill. Make it a little more up. Perfect! That’s the angle you are looking at. About 4.5 km long, with an elevation gain of 590mt. Being a sea mountain and starting the itinerary basically from the beach, you trek your way from the very base to the very top. So even if it’s a short path, it can still be quite demanding because of its perpetual steepness.
The itinerary starts from Torre Paola. The path is very obvious because of the (too) many arrows and marks, so there’s no chance to get lost. If you want to enjoy a little more peace, avoid weekends, when it gets really busy because of its popularity.
The environment is rather surreal: you see and hear the sea rumbling beneath you, yet the wood you walk through is much like a true mountain environment.
In general, it really feels like being in an Enchanted forest. Incredibly bright bursts of light downpour through the trees and the luxuriant vegetation, illuminating the undergrowth in such peculiar, enchanting games of chiaroscuro. Trees are incredibly smooth and strangely bend. Long and thin, they look like fingers coming out of the soil. Some of them have weirdly shaped barks, some other are so polished they shine. Everything grows wild and unspoiled. Isn’t freedom the greatest of magics after all?
The important things
We were all going through some very hectic days in our lives, working working working, worrying worrying worrying, possibly wasting wasting wasting, as we’ve all been trained to do while growing up in this corporate system. It was meant to be our day off, before another long series of WWW days.
As soon as I moved my first steps, a bad work e-mail arrived. I kept going, hoping it would all get better and be okay. But the more we hiked up, the worse it actually got. A rush of stress started to embrace everything, until, reached the first small peak before the actual summit, I just couldn’t take it anymore and asked everyone to turn around and go back. Because of work.
And it felt just so wrong.
What happened next is a long series of unfortunate (are we sure?) events, that cannot actually be told (tooooo boring!), but that can be summed up in a few, incredibly powerful lessons, which could have never been reached without two things: nature, and love.
Nothing in life can be more important than life itself. Work has a major impact on us, that’s true. And it’s absolutely vital. It gives us money to live, to actually go on adventures and set off to explore this beautiful planet of ours, or simply eat our everyday meal.
However, there’s no way a job can be more important than spending quality time with those you love, including yourself, or asking more than what you can give in terms of energies and resources of all kinds.
Career is an invention, it will never be worth it to sacrifice too much of your life for it. Important things are other.
What you should be afraid of losing are moments and people and places, not paychecks.
Of course, quitting your job wouldn’t be a solution, but striving 100% to create the job and the life you want, letting passion and curiosity speak instead of status and belongings, that’s just vital if you want to call it life.
This choice will happen when you truly realise two things. The first one is that this is the life you have: it’s yours and it’s one and the decision really is up to you on how to use it. You really better ask yourself if that’s how you want to live it. All the rest is an illusion or an instrument of control. The second one is that money is important, but not in the amount we think we need it. We can live with less. We can stop to consume and just use.
Life has a very peculiar way of listening to your prayers and showing you the path. It will make you bright, but first it’s going to make you strong, so you will know how to shine properly even when clouds try to hid you down.
As Eleonora would say,just because there’s an arrow pointing at it, the marked path isn’t necessarily the direction you are meant to take. Sometimes you have to go offtrack – to then realise it wasn’t off at all. Actually, it led exactly where you wanted and were meant to go. As Veronica would remind: you choose how to react and respond. You choose what to feel.
Indeed, as Victor Frankl once stated: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. In that space, magic truly happens.
So maybe the only thing we truly have to do is just to let life happen, recognise problems and pains as opportunities, and count our blessings, because when we are in nature and surrounded by friends, that’s all we have. Nothing other than blessings.
Breeding never is a pleasant phase. It can feel cruel, indeed, and hard. Yet, it’s one of the most beautiful things that can happen to a human being. While I was up there, a few moments before deciding to go back (and I will never be more thankful for the support I received in that moment), all I could feel was an uncontainable excitement, despite all that negative stuff happening. As if I was under some sort of spell myself.
“If something hard to face is about to happen, than it means I’m about to grow and get one step closer to my true self and my true sense”, I thought. To quote Veronica once again: everyday we learn to walk. And every fall teaches us to step up again, probably stronger, probably just because it’s necessary we learn that too, sometimes because we’ll soon need to help someone else to get up. Regardless, I will never forget, nor I will never confound anymore that (incredibly frigging scary) feeling of amazing change in progress with the stress of something bad happening.
We stick together, because important things stay…actually, stick! And the most important things are not things. They are people and values and clean air and a protected planet.
We were just one hour away from the summit, yet, there was no try to force it. On the contrary, just a massive amount of empathy and understanding for what was happening.
We are raised by society with the myth of self-made men, or Wonder Women. We are trained to believe relations are not worth the risk, the renounce, the fatigue. Forget about vulnerability, and authenticity and support. You are meant to be strong and never ever fail. In a nutshell, perfect and unbreakable.
Truth is, we are here exactly to build relations and connect. Empathise. Offer our support. Help.
We better pick our important things and stick to them. Be coherent, like nature is. No corporate bullshit: Spring is coming on March the 21st and sun is rising tomorrow morning. Be mindful about that. Be mindful about the suns you choose.
I reached the summit a few days later with my Mum and Dad, who were the cherry on top to truly understand all these lessons. The view from the top was beautiful, but the truly amazing part was the journey. Any doubts about that?
Invitation to visitors
I’ve noticed so many little pieces of garbage during my hike. Please, besides keeping it clean yourself in the first place, if you happen to go there again, bring a bag with you and take some of it back. If we all mind a little, it will be a mindful world.