Amelia had reached a strong place in her life. Her career was growing on its own after a good twenty years of fertilization, her marriage was loving and unconditional, her kids were grown and healthy in every way. She knew there was something left for her to grow into, to do, to achieve, but she didn’t know what it was. With her husband’s encouragement, and her partner’s prodding, she took time off to go to a fishing village and slow life down to reflect.
Upon entering the village life, Amelia was immediately enamored. The people were warm, and there was sunshine in their wrinkles and ease in their slow walks down to the pier in the morning and back to their homes as they went home for lunch. They told stories all afternoon, and any time she stopped them they had something to say. It was never just hi or bye or I’m fine, how are you, the empty conversation that she had in the city.
She found all of this magical and powerful, these people had it all figured out with the wisdom and fishing life and slow pace. Man! She was the one who really had gone off course.
Week four at the village, something started to percolate. Something that would take Amelia four more weeks to truly see. Underneath the wisdom and the daily conversation about the tide, the sunrise, the weather and the early morning peaceful fishing calm that covered the village like a warm blanket, something else appeared.
She first saw it when she left the pier one morning to go look around. She noticed Mr. Jola who normally led the fishermen, was away, asleep on a bench far from the pier. She quickly nudged him, certain he didn’t know he’d dozed off, that perhaps he’d gone to get bait and was thinking about the migration of the fish, when he’d fallen asleep.
“Mr Jola! Mr. Jola! You will miss the high fishing hour!” She said. Mr. Jola, shook with the disruption of this rest and upon seeing it was Amelia, jumped to his feet. “Yes, yes. I’ll get going.” And he walked lazily towards the pier.
A week later, Amelia went to Ms. Lova’s house during lunch to say hello. Ms. Lova was one of the four females that fished every morning. Amelia walked in, mouth watering, expecting one of those fresh baked fish dishes with olives and tomatoes, the ones Ms. Lova was always telling her about, the one she learned how to make and won a contest for when she was very young.
She walked in and Ms. Lova was asleep on her couch, the house was cold, there was nothing baking in the oven, no food on the table, no movement at all. Amelia wondered what was she going to eat for her daily hearty meal, the one that the town centered their day around.
She woke Ms. Lova, “I’ve come to eat your famous fish that you make each day from the catch, Ms. Lova! Have you already eaten?”
Ms. Lova looked at her. “Oh, darling, we haven’t had those fish come here in over 10 years. All that’s left is tiny little bottom feeders. Nothing to eat, nothing to sell.”
Amelia didn’t understand. There was so much talk about fishing, about the way of life of fisher people, of the zen of all of it. The awards the village had gotten, the fish it had provided the whole country.
Ms. Lova put her head back on the couch and fell back asleep.
Amelia walked back to her cottage and sat in the garden. She began to weep. These people had been the change in her life, the way she’d loved them, their stories, their lives, their WAY of life; it was so real, so powerful. But none of them were as they seemed. They’d never actually lived the rigor they spoke of, nor the reward. The whole time they were sleeping and in between, they were talking. It was only she who had the sense of worth and purpose in her; it was she that still believed. The village had given up years ago, and maybe had never actually strived. The fish were there one day and then gone another.
Amelia wanted to go home. She wanted to be back among those that achieved and believed despite it all. But she couldn’t, she was meant to stay to finish her book, her reflection on her life and to define what would come next. She had two months left.
Deflated. Without her ideals about her surroundings and the fishers, she was at a loss. If there wasn’t all the inspiration and magic she’d seen in this town, then what would she do?
Amelia didn’t go to the pier the next week. She fixed the garden, she improved the cottage. She took lunch to Ms. Lova, and a hat to Mr. Jola as he napped. She showed some of the fisher people how to grow vegetables in their small courtyards.
She had a large dinner and invited the village. There was no fish to eat, but instead they ate of the vegetables that she’d grown.
Slowly, no one was going to the pier in the morning. Instead, they would wake and water their gardens.
Time passed. And Amelia was meant to leave. The village gathered around her and said their goodbyes. “When you came here, we were no longer what we once were, or rather what our fathers told us we were, but we couldn’t find who we were meant to be. You showed us that.”
Amelia left, and went back to the city, to her husband, and her life. She changed her career and began helping others grow gardens throughout the city, and she changed her pace of life to reflect the pace she had in the village. She talked with everyone for longer and with more depth than before. When people asked her, “What did you do there? What happened in the village?” Amelia said, “Nothing much, we grew things.” knowing that it wasn’t what the village gave her that changed her, but what she gave the village.