So….where was I?
Oh yes….I had just finished that enormous serving of vegano gelato, weaving my way back through the delights of Florence, day dreaming about being here with Javier; trying to focus on the outstanding beauty and not the throngs of tourists, most of whom seemed intent on eating. Fortunately my subconscious had ruled out the pizza which seemed to call to me from every street corner!
With the forbidden sweetness of the gelato having elevated my energy levels I could have continued taking in the endless day dreaming about the last time I was here with Javier, wonders of the city; but the truth was I had been awake since 4.30 am on a complicated travel itinerary that included two trains, a plane and two buses. A full day’s activities awaited me tomorrow so time to turn in for the night.
It took a while to finally get to sleep, my mind as always continuing it’s incessant wonderings long after the physical body has called it a day. A few familiar faces appeared in my dreams, but since I no longer keep a daily journal I’m afraid the details have escaped me now. Still – always happy to receive these mysterious encounters as they remind me of the hidden forces at play in my life. (Note to self : resume recording dreams.)
No matter how early I wake, it takes me hours to get through my morning regime which includes the essential juicing, coffee enema, showering, and wound dressing. Since there was precious little room in my case for clothes these days, there would be no time for indecisive dawdling. Long gone are the days of my youth when I could rise up and be ready for the outside world in thirty minutes or so, depending on the occasion. I’ve ceased travelling with a juicer on short trips and replace the fresh juice with a powdered green drink, and can usually manage to fit two concentrated servings of coffee for the enema in a tiny plastic carryon bag allowed for liquids. However, on this journey space was limited what with assorted tincture bottles, homeopathic remedies and iscador injections, let alone the usual toiletries. So………having experienced the horror of coffee leaking all over the place on subsequent trips I had already planned to substitute home-brew with run of the mill hotel coffee – I mean this was Italy – how bad could it be! Yes indeed – after 15 years on the road with cancer, I consider myself a veteran of ‘travel survival tips’. (If you’ve read my book, you may recall that I even managed a coffee enema sitting in the sink of a cabin onboard a ship to Athens. There was just no floor space; and my legs had swelled up like tree trunks. It did the trick as always, preventing the toxic load from damaging my liver). Still – on this occasion it was no easy feat procuring, then juggling the coffee, and enough hot and cold water, with both hands full, and no spare digits to navigate the elevator. In hindsight of course, two trips would have prevented the burns I received on that manoeuvre, but hey…..logic is not my best trait at 6 am in the morning.
Hours later – mission accomplished – and out into the streets I go, map in hand and confident that I can follow the instructions to the Villa Viviani, where Shumei Italia are hosting the 19th EU anniversary and conference on Natural Agriculture. Since it is a special occasion I am wearing a dress, no problem there, but with the ‘lymphoedema’ challenge I decided to purchase some support panty hose, to alleviate and indeed camouflage the wounded appendage or ‘Peggy-leggy’ as I am now referring to it. Seemed like a good decision when I put them on, but now as I slip and slide out of the oversized (on account of bigfoot), but nevertheless sensibly flat footwear, I realise that I am seriously out of practice when it comes to wearing hose. Even at 9 am in the morning, the sun is beating down , and with me shuffling as opposed to striding along I soon realise that perhaps the journey will take a little longer than anticipated. Circling the famed ‘Duomo’, memories take me back a few years to when I succeeded in scaling it’s endless steep staircase for a breath-taking bird’s eye view of this historic city.
No time to amble now, it’s on to the Plaza San Marco where I have been instructed to catch a bus to the Villa. Having just missed a bus I will no doubt miss the pre- conference Japanese tea tasting, but I’m still in good stead for a timely arrival and can finally relax on the bus after a full morning’s preparation.
So there I was seated successfully on the right bus heading in the right direction….phew! I knew that the journey was to take about 20 minutes, and so with one eye firmly on the electronic screen that notified passengers at each bus stop I allowed myself to observe the fascinating diversity of the experience. I love the way Italians express themselves and with it being a Saturday there was lots of comings and goings to entertain my ever inquisitive mind.All was well, until I noticed a young Asian family running for the bus, with the driver pulling off unawares."Arresto,arresto! – stop stop", I bellowed, along with several others, just in the nick of time. In they climbed, the father trying to juggle the bags and belongings of his two tiny daughters, one of whom was tucked under his arm with legs wriggling, and a horrified look on her tiny face as she tried to draw attention to the fact that she had lost one of her shoes in the process. I spotted it just in time and with one more " Arresto! arresto!", the shoe was retrieved and we were off again. "Just like Cinderella", I said trying to calm the little girl and make light of the averted catastrophe. Just like Cinderella indeed I mused, attempting to settle back into my seat, but in that brief encounter I had taken my eye off the ball, and glancing up at the screen I saw Via Gabriele D´annunzio. Already? That was me…."Scuse, scuse", and without a moment's hesitation I was off the bus – phew – that was a quick twenty minutes – now, "where was the Villa Viviani?" After asking a fair amount of passers – by, resorting to speaking in Spanish with an Italian accent, I discovered that I had inadvertently gotten off the bus prematurely. Via Gabriele D'annunzio was indeed a very very long road and apparently I still had three more stops to go. Oh well, shouldn't take me long, and so I continued on. On and on, it seemed forever, and to make matters worse the road was now on the incline – Yep – that's right Uphill. The good news (ha!) was by this point both feet had sufficiently swollen in the heat, enough to prevent my shoes falling off. It wasn't until I had reached the third bus stop with no sign of the Villa Viviani, that the truth set in – there were four more stops to go. Mama Mia! Why, oh why was this happening? No sense in wasting time waiting for another bus that may not come and with no taxi in sight, there was little choice but to continue on foot. I was well outside the city by this point; I could actually see the golden 'duomo', far below.
Eventually, a bus did come whizzing by, and I made a desperate effort to flag it down, flailing my arms for it to stop. But when the driver apparently failed to see my desperate being, I felt my spirit waiver and tears sprang up through my eyes. Gosh – it had been a long time since I’d had a good cry, I thought, when the tears finally stopped, and I had pulled myself together. Looking up into the far horizon I could see the turrets of a castle, but never did it dawn on me that this indeed was where my feet must carry me. Oblivious to how much further I had to go, the realisation dawned that it was my legs that had carried me thus far….My sad swollen legs that I had been complaining about had indeed carried me up a mountain. And my body, my wonderful body that despite the years of dealing with cancer, had never given up. There was to be no quitting now. People all over the world were in desperate circumstances, and I was but a speck in the scheme of things. The reality was that there was to be no coach and snow white horses to deliver this Cinderella to the ball today, but guess what? I was one of the fortunate ones because I had long ago discovered the resilience of the human spirit.
And so it was that I actually made it to the majestic Villa Viviani with just enough time to drink almost two bottles of San Pelligrino mineral water, splashing the remainder on the ‘boiled lobster’ that had become my face. Moments after taking my seat, heart still beating beyond it’s usual rhythm; the ominous sound of the Japanese Taiko heralded the beginning of a very special gathering.
Glancing down at the program on my lap I beheld the theme of the event :
Nature’s future has roots in it’s past: Our wish for you to take from this day is a message of hope, to be remembered in each moment of your life. To give us all the courage and strength to build a better future.
Well, I for one would not be forgetting this day. As we began with a silent meditation and ´Jyorei´, the healing light that Shumei is renowned for, I was able to breathe deep with gratitude to be once again in the presence of such like-minded beings. My story takes me back over thirty years now to the time I spent on top of the Japanese mountain, ‘Misono’; such a big part of my life is intertwined with this noble philosophy. Here we all were, from far and wide; friends who have become family, and strangers alike, all intent on sustaining a more natural way of growing and developing food. This was something I had been pioneering, even before cancer had arrived in my body; and now I was more passionate than ever to continue the mission.
Since it is not my intent here to write in detail about the day’s event, but rather record my ‘body and spirit’s’ movement through it; I must hasten us through, lest it necessitate a ‘part 3.’
With it being the day after the dreaded ‘Brexit’, a lot of the afternoon’s conversation was centered around the continued European unity that Shumei had fostered over the last 19 years. From Japan to America, and then over to the UK and out into the EU, there was a determination to continue dedicating energy to the cultivation of growing crops without chemicals. Lunch then was a fine fayre of produce including ‘natural agriculture’ olive oil, wine, and spelt pasta. Having worked up quite an appetite on the uphill journey I required double helpings, although one glass of the award-winning wine from the Sacrafamila, and a prudent mouthful of dessert was quite sufficient. Sharing a table with both Italian and American friends gave me a chance to relax and debate the unbelievable state of affairs in the political world. Moving on to greet some lovely kimono-clad ladies brought a different sensibility, with lots of laughter at my attempt in remembering long lost Japanese vocabulary, and times long gone by.
With so many people to meet and greet I could not truly appreciate the beauty of this 13th century villa and it´s surroundings – apparently Mark Twain had lived here for a while.
Later that evening, before exhaustion demanded sleep, I would lie awake re-visiting it all again, the things and the people that inspire me – reflecting on my ‘role’ in it all, my purpose in life; and the things that move me to action. ‘Action’ – that was key – It had all happened so quickly, this decision to come to Italy. But as experience proved to me over and over again – somehow one needed to heed the call of that still small voice when it whispered, “do it….just do it”! Sure, I was still paying off my treatment for last year at the Oasis of Hope, but if I had not taken that action, perhaps I would not be here today, able to keep on moving through it. So – yes, overcoming fear was a constant – and living beyond it…..well that brought in the magic…..and where there was magic, there was the possibility of miracles.
And so…time to load up my trusty suitcase for yet another train journey to Umbria where my dear old friend Michelle and her faithful dogs are waiting to welcome me back to their very special home; and with the anticipation of meeting the microsurgeon, Dr.Paolo Gennaro I foresee a part three on the horizon. Arrividerci Firenze.
To be continued…..