I remember in spring 2016 I was going through a rough patch, a time of uncertainty regarding the future steps to take, and making sense of the past ones, having to face the fact that I was probably going through a mild depression and having to acknowledge that and be conscious of the life events, griefs, disappointments, separation that led to that gloomy place.
I was in my apartment in Rome, unwilling to go out and see people just writing and writing, tales, self-analysis, using every technique and method I knew as a trainer on myself, and still could see the abyss there, really a couple of steps and pulling together enormous amounts of strength not to be pulled down.
It was one evening as I was using a storytelling training tool on myself to make sense of the place where I was that I recalled a friend and colleague of mine, Carmine, some months earlier while taking a stroll by the Bolsena lake on a placid Autumn day told me about the Vision Quest activity he had undergone in Arizona (USA) as part of his development as trainer and mentor, which implied fasting and being completely alone in the desert, and how that was for him a rite of passage, or something that can be called a rebirth of sorts. At the time it got me curious, I always had an interest to discover ways to reawaken our primordial selves and never did anything about it. Out of the blue the memory of that conversation returned in all its details as if I was living it once more, so vivid, so clear.
I stopped all that I was doing, putting down the pen and the ink filled papers (yes I am quite vintage, sometimes even love writing with candlelights, not to mention the three quilts on my desk). After relaxing on the sofa, felt overwhelmed by a growing sensation of peace as I took my decision to set off alone in nature and only carry with me water, some papers and a pen. No analysing pros and cons, no rational overlook at all that this decision implies. In my heart I knew I would go to the sea, and also knew exactly where; not far from Rome is a very long beach and at the very end I never encountered other humans, only the local fauna.
The aurora started to paint the sky as darkness leaves to envelope other regions of our blue planet, the streets are practically empty, the noise of birds awakening, having returned along with spring’s mild weather, and the promise of a sunny day. And there is me on the empty streets, a jacket a rucksack with three bottles of water pen, paper and nothing else. I am smiling, an overall good feeling crosses my body from hair to toes, feeling the adrenaline, fear and excitement an adventurer or warrior might have felt in the ages past. It is just me on the train as the sky starts to paint with the colour of sunrise and the first sunrays cast their crystalline spell over the blue waters of the sea. That is my stop. Have not been here since decades, just a dim childhood memory of how this beach looks like when my mother took me there once. Of course I get lost in the fields and tall eucalyptus trees and plentitude of bushes, can’t find the entrance and I know that there is one. After two hours of scratching my legs and arms and stepping on muddy grounds I see a farmer, who can point me in the right direction. There is a passage, a very secret one looking like gigantic rabbit hole made of thick bushes and a very narrow path and looks dark. My friend was right, there are so many metaphors on such journeys. Bravely or recklessly I don’t think twice and step into the pathway, the darkness fades almost immediately and find myself in a golden wheat field, looking at some ancient ruins to my right, hills covered with forests to the left and a long, long line of turquoise waters, I made it.
The sand is already warm and it is clearly daytime, its even almost hot, as my steps sink in the sand making my journey a slow and heavy one, and yet the energy and curiosity is mounting up with expectation which I try to stop in order to experience the process rather than the destination which I did not know.
I am walking, one hour, two hours and can’t help noticing and observing lizards all around with their fast movements, curious looks at me, or keeping still baking in the sun. Why are they catching my attention? Lizards are absolutely among the most common animals to be seen around here. Then I recalled my friend and his tale from arizona, how he was told to pay attention to nature around and how his unconscious mind is trying to communicate with him through symbols, what the ancient tribes might have called spirit animal, or, animal guide, and what our scientific and rational society calls Gestalt meaning-making or unconscious. So I paused, what does a lizard mean to me? The first thing that came into my mind was something from childhood, if you cut their tail it grows back, and then attentively looking at the little reptiles imagined them huge resembling dinosaurs, the remnants of the primordial lives that populated this planet of ours. Then translated to myself what my unconscious mind was trying to tell me – I need to find regeneration energy and power by reconnecting with all that lives and has lived since the beginning of life itself, something that later I understood was the beginning journey into the world of ecopsychology, my study, mission and what I feel as a purpose.
I ended up spending 3 days and 2 nights on that beach, making camp by a wall of what may have been a fisherman’s hut sometime in the past, either sitting by what was left of the walls, walking around, dipping in the water, still too cold. The first day was hunger, boredom, and realising that water was too little, the night freezing and humid (no wonder being by the sea) sleepless and coloured with running around, push-ups and pull ups to keep warm. Although that first sunrise felt like a victory while smiling and looking at the waves urgently brushing the shores. A slow good feeling starts to rise, once more my lizard companion shows up and looks at me, as if asking “still here human?” forgetful of pen and paper I start to draw and write on the sand, with a consciousness from the inside that whatever insights, ideas and inspiration I got I would never forget. The day went a lot faster than I thought, it was discovery after discovery, the happiness of finding the footprints of a fox, a jelly fish washed ashore and that I pushed back in the sea, the respect towards the carcass of a giant turtle not far from me, and the feeling of self-love growing as the sun climbed in the sky. Laying on the sand, looking at the clouds moving and just smiling. Hunger and thirst still assailing my body from time to time and then it went away. That night I did sleep, yes it was still cold, and had dreams, something I seldom recall when I am in my bed, My third sunrise in this place, a place that was not anymore a stranger to me, an outside challenge, rather a place that has become both outsider and part of me, nurturing my inspiration, creativity and insight. The sun was even hotter this day and its rays and salty breeze filled my body and mind. I took pen and paper and decided to reflect on my experience metaphorically expressing it as a fairy tale. Before I knew it, late afternoon came as the sun begun its descent I understood that it is time to return home. Exiting the secret passage I turned my phone on again and reached out for one of my best friends, one who would have no idea about the purpose of what I did and someone who would listen suspending judgement as I celebrated my own rite of passage.
Every year I commit to returning to this place at least once, and pay my respect to the lizard.