Yesterday, we all got to sleep in because, instead of doing yoga at the Sea Ranch, we went to Specchio di Venere right after breakfast and did our yoga there.
Specchio di Venere translates to Venus Lake. It is the place where we cover ourselves in therapeutic mud and soak in hot springs. The story goes that Venus (Venere) wanted to see if indeed she was beautiful because she had a date to be with her lover Bacchus. So off she went to this lake, Il Specchio di Venere, to see her reflection in its mirror-like surface. When she saw her reflection she was pleased and had the confidence then to proceed to be with her lover. The lake is in the shape of a heart. It is an ancient crater filled with water that bubbles with hot springs. The lake is not surrounded by sand. Rather, it is surrounded by a fine particulate matter made of sodium, calcium, potassium, and sulfur.
The yoga session at the lake was probably one of the most interesting, challenging, and entertaining yoga sessions I have ever taught!!! There were gusts of winds so strong that both MaryAnn and I got knocked over while in Malasana (a squat)! I could hear smothered giggles from the group! The wind kept blowing away our mats and towels, sunglasses, and at one point, my camera shimmied away from me, so finally, we packed our towels and did yoga with feet on the mineral earth facing the lake. That meant we could only do standing poses. One gust of wind just about knocked me down while in tree pose! We were all laughing and I reminded everyone to really use their core and send down tap roots through their feet. I cannot imagine how hot it would have been if the wind were not blowing because the sun was strong. While I was in Warrior I facing the class, a lady runs up to me and says, “Ma, Francesca!! Ti ricordi da me??? Sono Patrizia!! Di l’anno scorso!” (But, Francesca, do you remember me??? I’m Patrizia. We met last year!) And she kisses me on both cheeks, all this while I am in Warrior I! Yes, I met her last year. Shel was cracking up saying, “You gotta be kidding. Fran knows her?” Then Patrizia and her scantily clad friend asked to join us and, of course, I said, “Yes, but I have to teach in English.” So they joined us and before long, Patrizia decided she was in over her head, didn’t understand a word of what I was saying to the class and so she packed up and left, but not before another goodbye kiss while I am in Triangle.
OK, so then there is a topless lady in a g-string doing some very interesting leg exercises while on her back, facing us! Oh my! Then two people with mud all over their bodies go walking by. They walk by the g-string lady doing her inner thigh strengtheners. Are we in a Fellini film or what???
At some point, we have Vito, whom I met last year, who comes by, says, “Ciao, Francesca!! Ti ricordi da me? Sei tornata???” (Hi, Francesca. Do you remember me? So you’re back??) Seriously, I am trying to teach and Vito decides to stand right next to me and stare at the yoga group. Better than TV. As if that is not enough, there comes Saverio, our tour guide’s assistant, and he, too, decides to stand next to Vito to watch the spectacle. So, the not-so-kind Francesca, feeling quite protective of my group and irritated by their staring, says to the men, “O che facete il yoga con noi o che CAMINATE!” (Either you do the yoga with us or you WALK ON.) Guess what? They walked on.
After yoga, we went over to cover ourselves with mud. The mud goes on black and dries bluish-gray. Afterwards, you go into the lake and wash it off, swim around, and then go soak in the hot springs. It really is pretty magical. The mud bath leaves the skin feeling soft and healthy! We then hungrily ate the panini sandwiches Erminia made for us. We also had some of the loveliest peaches, plums, pears, and grapes kissed by the Pantescan sun.
We had our afternoon yoga session in the Warehouse. The winds were still gusty and we needed a break from the sun. Yoga in the Warehouse felt perfect. Also, we did the Bijam (seed sounds), o, ooo, or, ah, ae, ee, and mm, for the yoga chakras in the Warehouse and the thick walls enhanced the vibrational sounds. Great space for chanting OM.
Dinner was divine (again):
Swordfish cut thin and baked with lemon, olive oil, bread crumbs and finely chopped almonds
Caponata (Sicilian specialty medley dish of eggplant, celery, tomatoes, capers, onions, sugar, vinegar)
Oven baked fennel sprinkled with bread crumbs and parmesan
Fresh farm made ricotta cheese, slightly salted, thickened by being placed in a cheese cloth for a full day, and served to us in slices.
Mostazuoli and Regina (two types of cookies, the latter encrusted in sesame seeds)
Wine soaked peaches (how could something so simple taste so good?)
So now, the group has requested and has me working on a cooking retreat, right here in Pantelleria..the year after next (September 2012). Not sure if our chef Rina will do a cooking course for us. She is terribly shy and I think it would take a lot of coaxing for her to agree to such a concept. Erminia loves the idea and says that she will work on Rina for us. It’s got to be Rina and no one else!!
Today, after meditation, yoga, and breakfast, we went on a hike with Tonino and his two assistants, Saverio and Paolo. Tonino is really a special guy. He has a way of renaming you. Mary has become Maria, Marilyn is Marilina, MaryAnn is now officially Marianna, he calls me Franci with a “ch” sound, Cathy is Caterina, Megan is Margherita, and so on and so on. Rebecca, uniquely, has become Rosellahara! That is Scarlet O’Hara in Italian! When I told Tonino I had no idea who Rosellahara was, he said, “Don’t you know the film, Passato con il Vento (Gone with the Wind?)” “There is that guy Clarkagablay. And that is where you encounter Rosellahara. Look Rebecca is Rosellahara!” And so somehow, the name has stuck.
Our hike was wonderful! We passed wild asparagus which is used to make risotto in the spring, “quercia” which is Mediterranean oak, rosemary, heather, yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace, eurphorbia, cistus (Rock Rose), wild fennel, lavender, and blackberries. We saw an entire area of the favare which are geysers letting out steam. In the favare area, we also saw the sweetest donkeys. Tonino explained to us that they are very affectionate and love to be caressed. The donkeys (l’asino in Italian and sceccu in Sicilian/Pantescan dialect) wanted to be pet by of us, but really took a liking to Shel. I hated to leave these fellows and I must have taken a hundred photos of them. I think they melted all of our hearts!
After the hike, we went to Tonino’s dammuso to eat our panini. But of course, Tonino had to make us pasta as well. “Just 5 minutes!” And voila, pasta with onions and garlic, very green olive oil and pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. After we ate, Tonino stood on the table and sang, “O Sole Mio”.
We rode back to the Calypso’s cave. The winds started up again and the water looked pretty rough, so only Megan and MaryAnn went swimming. On the bus trip back to Sea Ranch, Tonino had us singing our hearts out in Sicilian! “Churi, Churi, Churi di tutto l’anno. Amore chi mi lassa in’utunnu.” (Flowers, flowers, flowers all year round. Oh my love, you left me in Autumn.) We are all clapping, singing, and Tonino turns up the volume, keeps going back to the beginning of the song so we can sing it again and again until we are absolutely sick of the song. What a crack up. We pass local bars, people stare at us as we go by singing, Churi Churi, our bus vibrating with the old fashioned Sicilian sad lyrics sung to an upbeat Polka-sounding rhythm. Um Pa Pa Um Pa Pa. Mary suddenly says, “Hey, we’re on the Italian Duck Bus!”
And then we see the guys harvesting the grapes! Tonino stops the bus and the men welcome us, make us feel like movie stars! We take photos with them. We grab crates and pick zibbibo grapes with them. We laugh. These guys are great! Between these grape harvesters and the marriage proposals Marilyn and I got at the Pantelleria airport while waiting for our retreat participants’ flights to come in (the guy who proposed to Marilyn was so short, he came up to her mid upper arm and my guy, the rotund Benjamino, is Pantelleria’s only taxi driver), we feel quite popular here.
How appropriate that the last song we heard on Tonino’s bus on our way back to the Sea Ranch was Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World.
And, you know, it really is a wonderful world. Salute di Pantelleria!