As Lonely as Lighthouses§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: February 4, 2006; revised: August 15, 2017; readers in past month: 699


I came to Italy to finish what I began years ago, perhaps more than ten years ago. What that is, I’m not sure that I can say. That is to say, I’m not sure I can quite articulate it. It’s not that I lack the words, necessarily, but that I have not the courage to say it in fullness. Perhaps when I have finished what I started, I will have the knowledge, the understanding, and the courage to say what I will have accomplished. For me, Italy is a desert, my desert. It is isolation for me. I am isolated by language and culture. I am thereby isolated from humanity, as well as familiarity. So, again, Italy is isolation and therefore a dry cleansing. For others it may be romantic and fascinating, but for me it is loneliness. Much as Thoreau went to the woods, I came to Italy to live life purposely and deliberately and because I had business to conduct with myself and myself alone.

The loneliness is sometimes prolonged and ignored with telephone calls back to the U.S., along with emails and on-line chats. I gain momentary reprieves from new friendships and through acquaintances that I have acquired here in Milan and the surrounding area. My loneliness is soothed on the rare occasion when I get to sit and talk with the few people I know in Milan who speak English, to discuss life and the things that used to bring me happiness. Occasionally, I take excursions to places like Barcelona where I can rest in the U.S. sovereign territory of a Starbucks coffee shop and have exciting and interesting conversations with fellow Americans or with beautiful young Catalonian women who have dreams of a grander and better life that awaits them in the world outside.

These reprieves, though, are only temporary. I must admit and say that my loneliness comes in the form of a slow and deliberate cry, a pain that simmers within me, that can neither be ignored nor satisfied. I sometimes think it will be healed with the companionship of a woman, but other times I know that’s not the cure, but another distraction. This ache inside of me continues on like an albatross gliding endlessly for miles over open sea with no land in sight, on a light wind current and without the slightest movement of her wings, without even a twist of her body to sustain it. I wait and wait and wait for the process to be finished. I wait to complete my business here and I know it cannot be rushed. It’s the kind of situation in which if it’s rushed, it will only take longer, much longer. Breaks and alleviations only delay the murmuring of inevitability. And the work, it is grueling and yet it is no work at all. It is temperance and patience. It is merely waiting for realization, waiting for it to creep into my mindscape like a sloth. To do this I must solve a zen koan: my koan is simply my life, my existence, and nothing more. Such an enigma as oneself is perhaps the most difficult with which to come to terms, to resolve. To understand oneself is never easy.

I don’t know what’s to become of me, but I have certainty that it is nothing but good and goodness. I’m becoming stronger and mentally healthier and the results will be quite amazing if to no one but me. I have confidence that my achievement will be worth the efforts and I will be quite satisfied. I build and equip my new life here with the air of permanence and know full well that I cannot take any of it with me, nothing of material substance. However, I will not go back to the U.S. emotionally empty-handed when the time comes. I will return probably with no money, having spent all my resources on furniture, food, and travel, but I shall return with riches all the same. It is with this certainty that I endure and wait in somber pain.

This week I caught a line from a song that I have heard many times before, but never noticed: “I wish I were a writer that sees what is yet unseen.” I am a writer and I do see what is yet unseen. It may not always be clear to me and I cannot always describe it for those who do not see, but I see it . So it is that I cannot ignore what I see. I must pursue my dream (like those Catalonian beauties) and my vision and walk towards it despite the bad weather I might face, whether it comes in the form of a hurricane or abject loneliness. I must endure and I must wait. I must stay until I am finished. Although I do not know in the slightest when that will be, only I will know when that is, and I will not mistake it when the time arrives.