Harvesting Words Then Letting Them Emerge

I have been away from this space for some time. I have not been idle though. I have continued writing. It has just been in other places. My notebook writing has been vigorously pursued and I have been working on a new book. I have also been working, travelling and reading.

Annie Dillard’s words in ‘The Writing Life’  resonate frequently. ‘The writer is careful what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, because that is what he will know.’ I keep these words close at all times.  A writer needs to absorb ideas and indulge in adventures in order to provide output. It is in living that the writer harvests the essential treasure to be transformed into words.  I had to immerse myself in the experience before the words could emerge. My recent adventures are swirling around in my head. They are ready to be transformed into words…

I recently returned from almost four weeks in Italy. During my visit I saw a host of noteworthy things. A week in Rome, a week on the Amalfi coast at Praiano and a week based in the tiny Sicilian village of Sant. Ambrogio provided rich, diverse experiences. Experiences too numerous to unpack in a single post.

A lingering memory however. revolves around two towers I saw as part of my great Italian adventure. The first, a modern art installation in Rome. The second, an ancient bluestone tower on the Amalfi coast at Praiano.

In Rome, my wife, Vicki and I took part in a Vespa tour exploring this ever intriguing living museum.  During a half day ride we visited a number of hidden jewels across the eternal city. Near the end of the tour we were taken to see an art installation at the MACRO Testaccio.  


Thousands of pieces of solid and flexible bamboo connected and interlocked, have been fashioned into a tower. Reaching 25 metres. it is both creative and imaginative. This amzing tower has been erected in a most unexpected location. This adds to the tower’s impact on the viewer.  Colourful lashings have been used to bind the bamboo into an impressive structure. We walked inside the ‘walls’ of the tower. We walked around it, marvelling at its intricate design. You can actually walk up into the tower, but on the day we visited, this option was not available. The boy in me loved the tower’s defiant stance, its stature. Arriving here was a great way to conclude our Vespa tour! Unfortunatley, the tower is just a temporary wonder. It will  remain towering over Testaccio until the end of June.

A few days later, we moved to the Amalfi Coast, and based ourselves in Praiano to be part of a friend’s birthday celebration. The house in which we stayed was perched high on the cliff overlooking the coast and the Tyrrhenian Sea. It took exactly 74 steps to reach our eyrie. From the window we could look across a nest of houses and restaurants to a stone tower. It stood on an elevated ledge on the edge of the coast. We were curious to find out more about this slightly asymmetrical structure, so one afternoon we launched an expedition. The need to view this intriguing structure up close and personal became an overwhelming urge.

What we discovered was an 800 year old bluestone tower originally built to operate as a pirate spotting tower. A spotter would scan the waters looking out for any approaching pirate ships. When the feared Saracen pirates appeared on the horizon, the spotter would light a fire to warn villages along the coast regarding the impending danger. A series of towers once dotted the coast. Most of them have long disappeared.

The tower lives on as artist Paul Sandulli's artist’s studio, Visiting this old tower revealed a gem of a place. Our curiosity had been rewarded. A thing of beauty is a joy forever as the saying goes…

So there you have it. The tale of two towers. Towers from different eras. One transient, the other enduring and transformed.  For me, both towers are equally unforgettable. These towering memories are shared here. They were originally noted in my writer’s notebook, using words and pictures. Student writers often linger on these entries when I share my notebooks. It’s hard not to be curious about such things.


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