Like summer thunderstorms in Lake Maggiore

Imagine you’re taking a magic carpet ride over Italy. Heading north over Milan, bearing just a little to the west. You’ll see snowtopped mountains and valleys with big puddle-lakes, breathtaking beauty made known to the kosmos by George Clooney, poster boy of Lake Como.

But you’re not enticed, you’re heading west to Lake Maggiore and a tiny hamlet more than halfway down its eastern shores. With a handful of houses, one deli and one restaurant-hotel, Cerro is barely enough to claim its own name: it has to belong to something else, it has to be Cerro di Laveno.

I spent a few peaceful months there, with the occasional visitor or excursion and daily walks along the lake, losing myself in its quiet magnificence. The wood and stone house was tucked away in a corner and overlooked a sliver of blue. The pace was slow and steady, vast expanse of water punctuated by the occasional row boat, silence broken by the landlady’s calls after a wandering son.

Then it was August, and every three days, all would start afresh.

First you’d notice the thickness in the air. A shortage of breeze to cool the skin. Damp setting, weighing things down, glossing surfaces. The view a winter grey, grainy with mist. People walking past each other a fraction more hurried than usual, absorbed in thought, the sound of feet faster on cobble stones, something’s going on…

Then comes the pitter patter. Droplet, drop. Deluge. The rain is a storm – hard, unapologetic. Sound of thunder. You can’t but stand aside, take shelter, hide.

I don’t quite recall how long it lasted.

But then… the next memory is crystal. It’s quiet, I open the door and the porch is wet, shiny. Pure reflections revealing themselves to me. The old washed away, the air light again. Sun shyly coming out of hiding. The world refreshed.

The end is at once a new beginning – yes it can’t hold back, at that moment nature starts up the cycle again, building up to its next outburst.

That moment of catharsis. The vitality of change, the inevitability of cycles, the loss of what was. It smells of creative destruction. It tastes of life.

These days, my senses remember it well.

How many moments will each of us have – how many can we have – moments when we open the door to everything around us washed away and cleansed by a heavenly force, like summer thunderstorms in Lake Maggiore.

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