This week my parents visited, and we made many long walks through valleys of oak woods and along rolling hill ridges, following scenic parts of the Francigena Pilgrimage near my home, a long, difficult route that starts at Canterbury Cathedral in the UK, taking the traveler pilgrim via France and Switzerland all the way to the Vatican in Rome. I was struck by how difficult the path is to follow now, with trees blown down across pathways, faded signs and rushing streams to cross using makeshift bridges of rotted branches. This pilgrimage is not as popular as the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela, lacking facilities and forcing pilgrims to camp in the open, a true challenge for the devout. After these walks we drove to the nearby Lake Bracciano.
Lake Bracciano: A Painting by Me. (c) Annika Milisic-Stanley
Mother loves the lake, named after a castle-topped town; a deep, blue volcanic crater lake teeming with perch, eels and pike. Kingfishers give us flashes of shiny emerald feather and white herons search the shore for worms and tiddlers. The lake shined azure blue today, last week golden under a strong sun, or pastel peach through cloud reflections, the edges melting into hazy hills and a lazy sky. Every new costume evokes a painting I have painted, or a mood I have felt. The sight of the gently lapping water is always cathartic, comforting my eyes, a symbolic eyewash.
Yet, for some, the lake is melancholic in the eerie quiet and calm, mirror-like surface. On windy days, white caps smash in onto black sand, dragging out the driftwood and human detritus, spewing back lake grasses that dry, brittle and white, a pale dunes of thatch. People swim near the shore, frightened of the depths in the centre, imagining limits at the very edge of endurance, deep enough to outdo life. I wonder about this when I see her, lady lake, metaphor for all the ways we take an innocent thing and transform it with the psyche, our memories and preconceptions. This human disability that stops us from shutting down our inner self to simply let the lake be.
Have a good week!
The Disobedient Wife is my debut novel, published with Cinnamon Press in 2015, winner of best book 2014, and RBRT Contemporary Fiction 2016 prizes.