As a spiritual person, I feel been blessed to learn and experience so many different religious practices and am always moved by the opportunity to pray, meditate and feel the divine around and within us all and honor the traditions that each culture has created to honor their own connection to divinity and love. Here is one recent experience that I want to share with you.
The Path of the Gods from Agerola to Positano is world famous for its views and inspiration but even with all I had read, I was not prepared for the experience that it provided me, (and my husband Jimi, my cousin Graziella, and her daughter Angela). We began our walk high in the mountains of Agerola with the clouds swirling around us. The fog provided a gentle breeze that felt good and cool as I knew the bright hot sun would soon be upon us. The cliffs of Agerola are unique- the views beyond anything words can describe and the smells of the wild mountain flowers, honey suckle, jasmine, lemons, rosemary, other herbs, and grapes are intoxicating. Every sense is stirred as you careful place your feet on rock pathways and stairs that date back to the 9th and 10th centuries. Homes built into the rock like caves that are still in use today, fill me with wonder as the only way to them is to walk these steep and narrow mule paths. We pass one beautiful well maintained home with a huge garden of sunflowers, vegetables, herbs and grapes to learn an 80 year old couples lives here. Three times a week they take the 30 – 45 minute walk up hill to get their supplies and other groceries. What a place to live, it feels like I am on top of the world, seeing further than I can ever see in the U.S, and where the sky meets the glistening Mediterranean Sea below, a feeling of infinity fills me as I can no longer see where one ends and the other begins the circle of sky, water and earth go on and on.
I am reminded of the song I sang with Angelika and the doulas of Austria Round and round we dance, we hold each other’s hands, we weave our lives in an circle. Our love is strong and the dance goes on…. For some reason the circle of life felt so powerful to me here.
We soon find a note that someone left to caution us for mating viper snakes ahead. Half way down we can see an old monastery on the side of the cliff, it looks like another canyon away, but in a short time winding down the trail we come to an archway and enter into the sacred gardens. The sun is glistening, birds are singing, the winds gentle breeze feels like a nice caress, calling us into silence and sacred space. Before us are two tables on a terrace overlooking Priano below with blue table clothes and 4 chairs, as if someone was waiting for us to arrive, but we don’t see anyone. I feel like I have stumbled into another time, quietly we walk and see the door to the Monastery is open; we enter into the old section from 1436 with Fresco’s still visible on the wall. I immediately feel a sacred presence and we move deeper to hear the chanting of monks, could it be? On closer observation we see it is a cd player calling us into the main chapel that has been renovated. Here candles are lit, and incredible fresco’s and art bring me to tears. I am called to the one red pew to pray in front of what I later learn is the Madonna de Grazia, the Madonna of grace and gratitude and thankfulness. As I sit before her, the alter is full of MotherBaby images, the whole cathedral is full of MotherBaby images and the circle of women.
I see a picture of a monk carrying flowers and a scroll in one image and learn he is Saint Dominica the patron saint of Priano where my Great Grandfather was from. He is the patron Saint of Astronomers and Astronomy and if you could see the night sky here you would know why they choose him to preside over these mountains that meet the sea. The twinkle of the stars are so vivid you feel as if you can reach out and touch them. Agerola celebrates a night in August each year with the stars are falling/shooting from the sky so much the village sleeps atop the mountain to see them and a band plays as the sun rises to honor the sky, the moon, the mother earth and all the incredible wonders of nature. I can only imagine how special this would be to attend, but today I can feel my own wonder with what is before me. There are so many hidden secrets in this region that are just asking us to take the leap of faith and allow ourselves to experience them. I am truly overcome with energy, emotion and the reverence that I feel in this sacred space.
I join my husband and cousins outside to have the lunch Graziella had prepared for us. Still no sign of anyone, but this entire Chapel, view and terrace just for us. We are offered the most beautiful lunch view. As we finish two other hikers come by, we learn from them that we had left the Path of the Gods and entered onto the Path to Priano- so without our knowledge we had been led to this sacred space. I walked between Agerola the village where my Great Grandmother, Angelina Milo was born and Graziella and my family still live, to the village my Great Grandfather, Louis Fusco was born in. In the middle I have been swept back in time to this sacred space with music, art, divinity and feminine grace and the wisdom of the Holy Mother fills me in a way I can’t explain and yet the feelings were so strong like nothing I have felt before. I am reminded how birth and life are one. When we trust our inner wisdom, when we allow ourselves to be guided by nature, to be lost in the music of our soul, this is a place that magic happens and in childbirth where we birth our babies and the part of ourselves that begins to understand the beauty and connection we have to nature as we are all one.
I am so grateful that I found the Madonna De Grazia and she deepened my connection and daily attitude of gratitude continues to l lead me to amazing discoveries.