You are that person, and your beloved face, at that instant, is for ever engraved in my memory: those grey eyes calmly fixed on mine, the cold air, lips made for love, a kiss, a wish. How far did the dream go that day? Your still body, expecting, your smile, the black shirt you wore, the thin silver necklace: my reflection in your eyes, on that cliff, far from everything – the challenge as your hands softly rested on my shoulders… I observed the rock going out of focus, as suddenly you filled my vision, eyes only for you, once unattainable beauty… Then your hair escaped the cap and my heart sunk…
The cliff was cold, just touched by the morning sun. We heard the cry of the eagle, above us, searching the plateau. The rock was damp with dew, your finger traced our names on the smooth surface… You had forgotten the vertical, but of course I had not: I was your guide, your knight…
So the rope held us together, and you laughed as I made the innocent move that brought us closer, tightening your belt – then you said: “only the eagles can see us, we are free Mister”. And so I will write the story: the beautiful red-hair, the cliff and the tight rope.
The Dolomites are an alpine mountain range of North-Eastern Italy, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. It is said that part of the Dolomites are the last genuine wilderness left in Western Europe. The North-Western part of the range lies in the autonomous province of Bolzano-South Tirol, itself part of the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige-Südtirol. The Dolomites’s people have a long history and diversity of cultures and languages: besides the Italian and Germanic (Austrian) influences and traditions, the historic linguistic minority Ladin population, in a majority in some small communes of Val Badia, maintains a tradition and culture with roots in pre-Roman and Roman times.
The province of South-Tirol (capital Bolzano, or Bozen) exhibits a linguistic and cultural diversity unique in the European Union. After WWII and a period of unrest and sometime violent protest, the province won its autonomy, enshrined in the Italian constitution, through an exemplary case of culturally sensitive negotiated compromise on the part of the Italian and Austrian governments.
The Dolomites, whose high peaks tend to be around 3,000m, host some of the best, and vertiginous, rock climbing routes of the Alps. In winter there is a variety of skiing options, from beautiful off-the-track skiing to world-class descente and slalom pistes. In Val Badia (Gadertal) Corvara hosts the annual Mens’ Slalom World Cup.
The declining sunlight casts long shadows on the meadows, trees and rocks magically elongated over the sensual curves of the valley.
The little cross is hidden from view, not far from our path, but few walkers know it is there.
It’s almost our secret, a tiny haven nestled at the foot of the magic mountain, a special place: we belong there.
We can hear the small stream, running through the pine trees, as you turn your beloved face towards me, the green eyes I worship, deep into my lost soul, as images of our fall flash through my mind, and yours.
There, high above the valley, is the vertical cliff where you last kissed me, before our death: we haunt this place, and only the spirits will ever know.
I leave the village early, silent still, only older people attending mass at this hour. The sound of bells resonates like crystal up and down the narrow valley. I can hear the stream rushing all the way down to the river, far away: icy water polishing ancient rocks. Boots hit the shiny pebbles along the road, soon the climb. I walk past a few farms, beautiful wooden buildings that tell the story of the happy valley…
Now is the top of the valley, the stream is now narrow white water, past the wood-mill and up the narrow track towards the pass. The sky is blue with little white clouds… Such silence, as I leave the sound of the water behind me, and start the difficult climb, in the scree, between the two cliffs. It will take me one hour, and when I get to the pass the sun will already be high.
Suddenly I hear the cry of the eagle, hunting: the King of these mountains. The backpack is light carrying just a few clothes and lunch – sober. There is no one around, I will meet climbers later, on the plateau, people who have climbed the vertical way, the way I will come down, in three or four hours.
When I reach the pass, I look back, overwhelmed by the majesty of the mountain. This land is my inspiration, as writer and as lover. The place where I want my ashes to be thrown to the high winds, when I come to you Lord, in your kingdom.
They crossed the plateau, stopping from time to time to admire the alpine plants hiding in the crevasses of the ancient ground. Pools of clear rain water glistened between rocks. Marmots came out in the open to observe them.
They walked quietly, stopped on a small ridge, admired the line of peaks, so close now, crystals on the blue horizon… [continue to excerpts]