I was midway through an email to my mother, updating her on my recent activities and travels in Sicily, when a feeling of sudden restlessness swept over me; not unlike the way the sea occasionally dashes over the rocks and ancient seawall on the eastern side of Ortigia. It dawned on me that in two weeks time, almost to the hour, I would be back home, surrounded by family, my earthly possessions, and a general sense of familiarity in landscape, culture, and language.
But instead of easing my mind and warming my heart in the way a large fireplace can heat up a room, the vivid images of what would be waiting for me upon my return seemed only to draw the heat and warmth from my conscience, venting it into the night sky as a thin, gray exhaust.
The monotony and stress of school and work. The routine of everyday life. Having to face the fact that I’m not far from graduating and I have no grasp of what I want to do for a living. The strange feeling of loneliness during the holidays, despite being surrounded by loving friends and family. Driving to McDonald’s at 3AM wondering, “What the hell am I doing with my life?” The words materialized immediately in my mind, and it was undeniable; I was not ready to leave this place that I have come to love.
Perhaps most curious is the fact that on the very same morning, I had felt an inkling of homesickness creep over me, partly genuine nostalgia for home, and partly a form of escapism from the rigors of finals week. How then, can I be so startled by the thought of going home? How could my desires and opinions change with such brevity? Had I really fallen in love with a region that is often the scorn of many mainland Italians? If so, what about Sicily had captivated me?
Was it Sicily’s paradise appeal? Strolling along the sea on a temperate October day with the sun shining on my face, the scent of salt water drifting through the air on a warm ocean breeze, and the flavors of Sicily dancing on my palate. Maybe it was the pace of life, slower and more relaxed than the go-go attitude of American culture, an aspect that makes the days seem long and able to be savored one at a time. Perhaps it was the rich history of the island that is reflected in traditions, architecture, and language. I was fortunate enough to be able to witness the procession of two religious statues through the streets of Ortigia. It was the perfect end to a semester full of new experiences, seeing Santa Lucia in all her argentine glory paraded through the streets.
Indeed I learned a great deal about Sicily and Italy from classes and from immersing myself into the daily life of Ortigia, but I also learned a lot about America from comparing and contrasting different aspects of culture, lifestyle, and government. I will leave Sicily with memories of new friends that I will never forget. I experienced the simple joy and pleasure, for the first time in what seems to be ages, of the kisses, the laughter, and the companionship of one lovely young lady, albeit for a brief amount of time. In some ways though, there was more than just one lady I had become involved with. “La Sicilia… Donna anche lei: misteriosa, implacabile, vendicativa; e bellissima…” writes Sciascia.
“Un uomo cambiato,” I found myself repeating in thought as I walked through an empty Piazza Duomo, Orion’s belt twinkling overhead. “A changed man,” yes, that’s what I’ll be when I go back. Indeed, my experiences have changed me, but now I wonder to what extent Sicily has changed my opinions of everyday life, and more importantly how it has redefined my concept of home.
No, maybe Sicily isn’t home, but then again maybe home isn’t really now either.