Walking through the old, old church, I immediately fall into an automatic reverence, a cellular awareness of the sacred. I was sort of raised Catholic (and sort of not at all), and something about entering a Catholic church always gets me.
This little church is nestled into the 10th century hill town of Ventimiglia, Italy. Turn after turn of tiny streets, basil adorned windows, laundry hanging artfully from balconies, kids, dogs, and just a couple of stores for the locals. A pastry shop, of course. There are seven of us climbing the hills and exploring the turns, and for some reason, even before we enter the church, we all start using our library voices and pointing quietly.
When we arrive at the church, we become even quieter and when I guide our group to the back, we silently take the stairs to the crypt. If I have this right, the crypt is from the VIII century and well... there’s something about this that makes you think - or maybe just stop thinking.
Across from the crypt, is the baptismal area and just by touching the stone vessel, I sink deeper into the reverence mode. I mean ... how many babies have been lowered into this thing? By how many parents who felt deeply about the importance of the gesture? No matter what I believe personally, I am always moved by being in the presence of anyone’s sacred spot. It’s kind of like my sacred gets to brush up against their sacred and for a moment, they share a kiss. I love that.
Climbing the steps back up from the beautifully lit underground of the church, I detect a familiar scent. Having had my nose-ego greatly stroked the day before at the Fragonard Perfume Factory (I aced the smell test, thank you very much), I allow myself to go with it. And I start waxing poesy about how-many-years-of-burning-incense-it-must-have-taken-to-get-to-this-perfect-smell. I whisper about the incense having sure permeated the stone walls, one sacred mass at a time. I close my eyes. I see them all, these centuries of incense smokes making magnificent curls. My inner Catholic girl is waking up from a long sleep and stretching her arms up to the vaulted ceiling.
My friend Jim is near me. He listens. And then, quietly, he suggests:
“OR, it could be this” - and points to ... (oh man, I can barely write it) ... a freaking plug-in. A smelly pluggy thing. The kind you find in airport bathrooms and government buildings. A plug-in. Right there in the thick holy stone wall. Still hoping that there is a mistake, I get down on my knees and I give the thing a good sniff. Yup. Sure enough. Scent of Catholic Church. Delivered right to our noses through the power of electricity and chemicals.
All of a sudden, I can’t stop laughing! Humility takes over the reverence and I am brought back to now. The contrast between my words of seconds ago and the vision of this beige plastic gadget somehow tickles my funny bone to the max. Laughing so hard, I take a fuzzy photo, and then I have to step out of the church and let the hilarity out all the way.
Contrasts. Surprises. Reminders to stay humble, I love them all.
Today, I invite you to play with life. To be ready to see your words turned on their heads - to be surprised by things not being the way you thought. And to allow the delight to tickle you!
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Happiness & Creativity Retreat in Italy
I write because this is the way I am able to taste life more deeply.