Wednesday, June 6, 2012

on italy - portofino.

portofino through the trees.
our one day trip that we took was to portofino - about thirty minutes north of sestri levante on the coast. the drive there, while stunning, shaved a year or five off of my life. dio mio, as they say. curvy, tiny roads carved into the side of cliffs are not for the faint of heart, nor the box-shaped picasso car we rented form hertz. but we got there safely (thanks brian!) and the whole time i kind of wandered around in awe. i was in portofino! portofino! the land of beyonce and yachts! i hoped no one noticed how badly i did not belong there. but underneath this mixture of awe and giddiness and happiness was guilt.
a nagging, persistent, heavy-laden guilt.
for the day we were in portofino was the two-year anniversary of my friend's passing away. and the feelings you have when you are just coming out the throes of grief you feel again. you don't want to laugh too loud. or smile too large. or enjoy your last bite of food or the fresh air or the beautiful flowers too much. you hesitate in those feelings because you feel guilty. because the one you grieve for can't experience those things anymore. because the ease in which you can now again enjoy simple pleasures means your grief and your sadness are changing and softening with time. so it makes you feel guilty. i hesitated savoring that sip of cool wine, and muted my praise for the views. it just didn't feel quite right with me.
at the top of portofino is a little yellow church, which we reached after a short climb. i went in and spent a few minutes saying a little prayer for debbie's mother before walking out back, where a small cemetery lay. i saw a marker for two women - what i assume were a grandmother and her granddaughter - with the latter passing away in 1944 and a birth date in 1928. she was 16 when she died.
you see, while every person has an unique story, worthy of being told, at the end of the day we share very similar sorrows and joys. hearts will always break and love will always conquer all. there will always be people that die too young and there will always be people that live long, complete lives. there were many who visited portofino before me, and there will be many more to follow. and that grave reminded me - if we have learned anything in our existence, it is that life tirelessly marches on. it will go on to tell new stories, but woven in the same pattern as our past. we can punish ourselves for as long as want for a major loss - it matters not to life. it will relentlessly push on, with or without us.
we all have, to a certain extent, a fate waiting to befall us one day. some of us will be luckier than others. some of us may just barely escape them - good or bad - and go on not knowing the difference. but our stories and fates will be told time and time again in this world. life does not need us to embrace it in order to go on, of that i am sure. it is up to us to decide how to handle the in between and make our days belong to us.
i believe i'll try to spend more of mine in portofino.
pretty sure james bond is in that boat.


  1. Beautiful post, Colleen.

    You're a beautiful writer and I love these posts where you really make me think. I don't know what this life has in store for me, but you're right, I need to take every day I do have and make sure to make the most of it.

    I'm sorry aboutthe loss of your friend, too. It's so sad when I hear of someone so young dying. And my heart aches for everyone that once knew her and is still grieving too.

    P.S. your dress is totally amazing. And it looks terrific on you.

    1. thank you for your kind words! about the writing and the dress :)

  2. I'm so glad you made the day trip to portofino and I know your friend is too. It tickled her to see you enjoying yourself. She was there with you and is happy to know you're thinking of her. She's with God now. Everyday is Portofino where she is.

    1. this comment made me tear up - everyday is portofino for her, indeed. thank you for sharing this!

  3. Colleen this is such a beautiful post - in both pictures and words. I read this before work this morning and found myself thinking about it throughout the day. I totally know what you mean about that sense of guilt.... I have been in that stage of grief several times and I know it too well. I always found the surprise of it - the surprise that I could actually laugh or smile or enjoy something again - a relief though. For those many dark days when I felt like I would never be happy again, it was a relief to feel like somewhat of myself again.

    And as for your pictures - beautiful dress! And I love that picture of you and Brian... in Italy! How fun! My absolute favorite picture is the one with the boats in the water and the colorful buildings framing the left side. I think that's frame-worthy! Also, that white & yellow striped building might be the happiest building I've ever seen.

    1. i know exactly what you mean - that sense that you are getting back to yourself. that you can laugh and smile and be happy. grief can make us feel out of sorts for so long we sometimes forget what "normal" feels like. and when it comes back to you, usually all of a sudden one day, it is definitely a relief.

      and thank you! that little building made me so happy too. all the color they use in decorating on the coast was very inspiring!

  4. Beautiful post Colleen (I welled up a little bit reading it). I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend and I am glad that you were able to find some peace and reflection in that little yellow church. As ever, your beautiful photos have me wanting to back a bag and go out there and embrace life (in a fabulous dress)!

  5. Such a lovely post. You look sooo gorgeous! That dress. The scenery. It's all perfection. xo.


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