Soul-searching in Sampieri
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
'What you seek is seeking you.' - Rumi
Yes, ‘soul-searching’ may sound a little lacklustre but a cliché is a cliché for a reason!
The thing is - how do I even search for something that never goes anywhere?! And if it doesn’t, why do I at times, feel like it just ups and leaves, without a trace?!
These are some of the questions I ponder while lying on the warm sand, marvelling at the harmonious sight that makes up this magnificent gem of a beach - Sampieri.
A tiny fishing village on the south-east coast of Sicily, part of the splendid Val di Noto, Sampieri has a food shop, a bar, couple of beach lidos, a handful of warm-hearted locals and 3 kilometres of that pristine, golden sand beach, lapped by the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean.
A string of quirky synchronicities paved my way to this place, a month ago now. Like the rest of the world, I was feeling the effects of extreme isolation, a big part of me longed to discover a new place, to experience a fresh aspect of myself, to revive that joy for life that springs up for me when I first wake up in a new place and smell the air outside.
Have you noticed how each place, however large or small, has its distinct scent that makes up a big part of its character?
These scents, I cannot always describe with words. After a few days, I stop feeling them so acutely. They become a part of me.
In Sampieri, it was a sweet mixture of jasmine, dry earth and pine that soared through my window, on the back of the early morning sea breeze.
I look around the neighbourhood and naturally marvel at the starkly different sight that stretches around. Where I come from, houses are often dark in colour, rectangular in shape, with small windows that look like patches of band-aid. Here, they are in light pastel shades, looking fat and happy to take up all that space, peacefully wrapped in the huge arms of their verandas.
After a day or two, I begin to meet the locals. Seemingly, I'm the only foreigner around in mid-June. What catches my attention is the joyful energy that pervades. Each time I’m in the little supermarket, the guys joke and laugh with each other and one often sings while stocking up the shelves.
The local farmer – Franco, who sells his produce at a large stall down the street, teaches me the Italian words for his vegetables and eagerly explains, gesticulating how I can prepare some local recipes with them.
A lively, old man with warm eyes stops me while running on the beach one (very hot) morning and explains – ‘It’s too hot for running, the body spends too much energy like this, try walking instead.... Trust me, I’m 88 years old….’ – smiling his huge smile, he walks away.
This all started with the very first person I met here, as I disembarked from the ferry at Pozzallo port.
Matteo, the owner of Cento Sicilie - Holiday homes and villas in Sicily is my host. He manages the apartments at the fat, happy house I’ll be staying in for the next month. Honest and generous to the core, he’s one of those rare humans I’m fortunate to meet, from time to time in life.
Throughout my stay, he reminds me what it really means to pour your heart into one’s work and how transformative this can be for the person at the receiving end of it.
Yeah. It’s nourishing to feel welcome.
Back in my light, happy house, with wooden shutters and jasmine bushes for a fence, the first place I go to each morning is this gorgeous veranda – the pink blue softness of the horizon stretches as far as the eye can see from it.
The mind imitates its environment, according to my favourite science of Ayurveda. So open, expansive views, it says, stretch the mind and allow it to return to its natural state, which is as limitless as the sky, basically.
And there’s something humbling and purifying in having only the bare essentials around for this long – a simple food shop, a fruit and veg stall and a beach. We can’t get distracted from our inner experience.
Plus - having to slow right down.
Slowing down my speech so my limited Italian can make sense. People slowing down theirs so I can get what they say. Eating, so I can fully taste the rich gamut of fresh flavours. Walking on the beach, so I can revere the lapping waves, their sound and the happy faces of people as they play, chat and nap on these natural dunes.
I see how, when I fully drop into each moment, time slows down and I can experience all this more fully.
A dear friend sent me a message, many years back now, when I was just setting foot on this soul-searching path. I still carry it, as a screenshot in my phone, I’ve kept dipping into its meaning over those years. It says:
‘Enjoy life, places, emotions, people, experiences, colours and flavours to the fullest! No matter how unexpected or awkward they may be, just make sure they don’t run over your skin, without speaking its words to your soul!’
Right here, these words echo within and make me shiver from the power of their simple truth.
Because it is about that. Being right here, fully, in the string of moments.
And yeah, it’s not about searching.
But it’s ALL about finding.
Finding what it takes to get back to ourselves. Back to belonging.
We don’t necessarily need to come to Sampieri (although it helps), but we do need the willingness, to change something that no longer feels in harmony with our essence.
Meanwhile, June flows into July and the heatwave reaches crescendo. In some moments, I feel I can catch fire and nothing I do can change that.
But ultimately, fire is a purifying force. It’s vivifying and vital.
Right now, what’s left in the ashes is – gratitude.
And somewhere, in the depths of me, I hear a soft whispering - 'let's just stay a little longer.'