Surprised? I have to say that I wasn’t.
You see, Sicily had been playing this game with me from the moment I stepped off the aeroplane. Just as intense heat turns the horizon to quivering jelly, the last ten days have highlighted my ideas, preconceptions and assumptions as insubstantial mirages time and time again.
What I thought was a shell of a house turned out to be a palace. The family I thought was eternally broken is more perfect than I could have known. What I thought was a stone picnic table, was actually a carved stone alter for some extremely dodgy black magic.
Thinking back to my pre-Sicily self it’s like looking at the outer skin of an onion. This trip has been the catalyst for a lot of peeling … of excavating … of deepening down.
Before I left the UK I had a pile of ideas about this small island off the coast of Italy; heat, dust, parched land, blinding light, Mafioso, concrete buildings, good coffee … Many of those preconceptions may have been real, but they were only the outer layer of my Sicilian Experience To Come.
Driving southward, away from Tripani, a new layer began to emerge. The land lay low and squat. The sky, a seamless haze of blue, burned down on a land that was dusty and dry as I’d anticipated, but also rich in harvest.
Between the mismatched squares of soft, ochre scrub land that grew like coarse raw wool, scorched and felted, were neatly stitched patches of slate green. These olive groves were an oasis to the eye. The trees, planted in perfectly straight rows, looked as though someone had combed neat partings into them.
On higher land, wind turbines rotated, sleepy as the old men with leather skin and crumpled brown paper eyelids who glanced up from the cafes we passed.
“I’ve judged this book by it’s cover,” I thought and as I thought I gazed up at the houses that squatted on the hillsides, unfinished like shells. These were skeleton houses; cool in their stillness, with toothless windows, mysterious and desolate.
Winding up the torturous mountain roads to Caltabellotta, I was worried about our accommodation. All these houses, with their shuttered windows, looked so unwelcoming. Yet when we arrived as our own “shell”, stepping through the heavy wooden door was like entering a palace. Once again my preconceptions had fooled me!
Similar to the oasis you find behind the doors of Moroccan Riads, our apartment was cool and quiet. There were frescoed ceilings, patterned tiled floors, countless lamps, clocks and dark antique furniture, bowls full of fruit and a fridge full of cheeses, meats and fresh bread welcomed us. There was fresh white linen, towels, a library of books in Italian, beautiful art, two writing desks and rich Italian coffee.
Later that evening, as I looked down onto the town of Caltabellotta and the twinkling towns beyond, it really came home to me that our experience of the world is made up of layers upon layers upon layers.
When we travel to new places, we can peel back our preconceptions, yet we simply find ourselves on the surface of another. I can observe the Sicilian culture, yet I’m locked out by the language. I can learn the language, yet I’m locked out in my cultural perceptions. I can experience the cultural perceptions, but even if I was raised in a family in Sicily and knew the stories and traditions of this place, there would still be more layers of history and mystery that lie unpenetrated.
On that first night in Sicily as thought about life’s layers and the mystery of what lies beneath, it bought me right back to Gorgeousness again.
Our culture is obsessed by cosmetic appearance. We are so fixated about what appears on the surface, the papery skin of Who We Look Like We Are. Yet, inside is where the mystery really resides. This is the palace of antiques and good food and books and stories, where delicious living really takes place. To stand back and judge ourselves as being half finished, imperfect, desolate or ugly and to remain in that position is to be stuck on a highway, deluded and trapped by our own preconceptions, never stepping inside the richness of life.
To find your Real Gorgeousness you have to penetrate the layers of Who You Are.
You have to get to know It, taste the essence of It, let go of the barriers between yourself and It.
The book, Grow Your Own Gorgeousness, says that the path of gorgeousness isn’t a destination, but a journey. It’s a process through which you peel back layers, travelling deeply into the richness of You. It’s about learning a new language; building a new relationship with your body; dipping your feet into a new “inner culture” and daring to put aside the tourist and instead become a native to your Self once more.
And to do this means going beyond all of your preconceived ideas and opening your mind to a new adventure.
For the next few days I’m going to take you on a little adventure into your gorgeousness. There is no right or wrong answer. There is no prize. It’s simply going to be a journey of peeling back your layers of Self, to sacriafice some of your fixed preconceptions and in letting go, grow a little closer to your gorgeousness.
Are you coming along on the adventure?
P.S. I’m happy to be back!