Out of all religious celebrations, my least favorite is Easter. I’d rather not get into reasons why, though lacy short sleeved dresses on the coldest Sundays in Texas history have a minor role. (Seriously, the Texan weather gods must spend three quarters of the year siphoning away stray breezes to be released all together the moment flimsy Easter dresses emerge.) Our church here in Italy does not officially celebrate Easter, but nonetheless, I prefer to distance myself from institutions for the weekend. Campgrounds work nicely. Campgrounds in Sorrento work very nicely.
Our experience this year was different from last year’s in that we didn’t drive the entire coastline, stumble into any creepy processionals, or need the sunscreen, but the defining factor of our trip was still wonder. The wonder of waking up to Mount Vesuvius drifting above the bay on a floe of sky-blue mist… the wonder of the girls running themselves giddy beneath succulent orange trees… the wonder of following an unknown path down a cliff face to the water’s edge where cats napped on volcanic remnants and boulders presented themselves for the jumping… above all, the wonder of putting our busy life on hold while we shacked up with beauty for the weekend.
Thanks to a fitful forecast, we put our Capri plans on hold and had the kind of see-where-our-feet-take-us day we love so much. The first place our feet took us was… back inside the tent to play Curious George Uno, sneak a few chocolate eggs, and wait out a cloudburst. Admittedly, it wasn’t the worst way to spend Easter morning, but we were still glad to see the sky take its emotional issues elsewhere. After all, there were pigeons to chase! Merry-go-rounds to conquer! Strawberry gelato to dribble deliciously onto our mother’s jeans! We wound our way through the Sorrento shopping district scoping out lemons for Operation Limoncello 2010 and followed an inkling down the coast to pretend stray cats were panthers and ogle the waves, still turquoise beneath their cloud cover. Once little legs tired out, we drove down the block to Positano, so brim-full of color and bustle that we never had a chance to miss our derailed Capri trip.
The next day brought with it an impromptu detour to the excavation site of Pompeii. I’m glad I had the chance to be properly impressed by Herculaneum last year because Pompeii so thoroughly surpassed all previous experiences with ruins. I mean, there are ruins, and there are RUINS. Acres upon acres of stepping-stone streets, villas, tombs, bars, theaters, brothels, temples, shopping malls, gardens, and what my girls claimed as their own personal “beautiful castles.” It felt both heavy and oddly exhilarating to poke around a city where people lived 2,000 years ago. No denying that Vesuvius’s famous eruption was tragic, but getting to peek into an ancient culture without the distraction of progress felt like a gift—a head-warping, perspective-zapping, imagination-thrilling sort of gift to carry home on tired feet.
I know I’m not scoring points with the Spanish Inquisition here, but God is more real to me outdoors with the girls chasing butterflies or skipping over ancient crosswalks than in a meeting hall where we’re trying to make them behave like doorstops. Fresh air has a big impact on our spiritual lives, I think. Incidentally, the God we pitched our tent with—the one painting gold across the horizon and setting magpies in flight and coaxing wild poppies into the open—is the one that makes me feel religious celebrations have merit after all… though, if I’m going to be honest, I’d still take a camping trip on the Amalfi Coast, breathing in the fragrance of citrus trees and drinking up wonder, over lacy Easter dresses any day.