Where to begin? How to describe Pantelleria? I've just written four long blog posts about it for the film blog, so I feel like I've exhausted all words and methods of description. And frankly, those posts are more extensive and very similar to this post. But I couldn't leave my personal blog devoid of these incredible photos or leave this story out of my chronicles of my year in Sicily.
Pantelleria, as I say in one of the other posts, reminds me of Tolkein's Shire, but with a Mediterranean flair. With its warm people who harken back to a slower era, its close-knit villages, its stone architecture tucked into the hillside, and the vast amount of amazing food, I feel like Gandalf should show up at any moment and whisk away a young local to go on an adventure to the far off lands. I have a feeling the resulting novel would read like a hybrid of The Hobbit and The Odyssey. Right in the middle of the Mediterranean, the island is ancient and mystical. It retains its North African roots, with incredible walled gardens of citrus and arabic names in its dialect of Sicilian. Our time filming there for "Sacred Flavors of Sicily" was like a dream. I was exhausted from the wearisome journey, but invigorated by the colors of the island and the seemingly enchanted lifestyle of the communties.
When we filmed the neighborhood feasts, where a dozen men and women (of all ages) prepared the meal communally, it felt like one of my Southern family reunions. All but the young boys, who seemed very disinterested with their smart phones, helped out with the decidely "unplugged" task of creating carved mustaccioli cookies, fresh ravioli and pasta, stuffed squid, and various other delightful dishes using locally-sourced island ingredients.
Even though I was as hopelessly clumsy as always, the late night dancing in the village dance halls was charming. It reminded me of community dances in rural Brazil two years ago, with teenage girls in stilettos dancing with old men, likely their grandfathers. The polka rhythms were too fast for me, but the feet of the locals knew the dances well, as they spun across the dance floor underneath the colorful decorations.
Unlike the disjointed modern world of urban chaos, the whole island seemed in sync with itself. The colors were in harmony, both those human-created colors and those birthed by nature. This consonance to me is the truest expression of the word "organic." Though I'm sure artificiality enters the island in the summer when the outside world invades the island via tourism, in the winter this place exuded authenticity and tranquility. And of course, exceeding beauty.
I'm a graduate student at Duke Divinity School, and a recent graduate of Pomona College, who is setting off to find my calling in the world. This blog is to keep in touch with those I love and to share my journey with others.