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A Letter from Sicily: The Magical Island and the Gift of Language

Before the devastating pandemic, my wife, Rosetta and I usually found ourselves in Sicily during the 4th of July holiday.  It just was the way our journey occurred.  In the past, I often would take the July 4th holiday opportunity to reflect on the Sicilian people, the island, its food and culture. 

This year, fortunately, we have returned to Sicily for another adventure.  It is — and will always be — a magical island, unique in its soul, character and history.  Sicily is an island with a diverse history — it was the center of Mediterranean history for years (decades, even centuries) and home to Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Norman cultures.  Each of these distinct and fascinating cultures are reflected in Sicily’s art, architecture, food and most importantly, its people.  It is a land of historical diversity that stands as an example to the world in a healthy understanding and acknowledgement of its diversity.

My Sicilian adventure, however, has been even more enjoyable as a result of my ongoing education — to understand and speak the Italian language. It is one thing to live in Sicily among the people and enjoy the warmth, the family, the food and the sites.  It is quite another to learn and speak Italian with the Sicilian people. 

Now, of course, my language journey is ongoing (e.g. for the last 4 months) but it truly is a labor of joy and love.  With the support of a brilliant professor, my wife, our family and friends, I have been fortunate to learn the beauty of the Italian language. 

While it may sound trite or simplistic, the ability to communicate in Italian, even at a beginning level, has opened my eyes to another beautiful part of Sicilian life — the ability to communicate with the Sicilian people in their native language.  It is an experience that has exponentially expanded the joy of Sicily.  As a result, I have been able to experience new insights, joys, and gems of discovery. 

Even at my rudimentary level of Italian, I continue to learn the multitude of ways that the Sicilian people live life to its fullest, with appropriate regard for priorities of love, family, accomplishment and respect.  The Sicilian people at their core consistently demonstrate their historical sophistication, warmth, embrace of the human spirit and complex understanding of the human experience. 

Sicilians live by a warmth and beauty that is shared with their family and friends.  They act consistent with their traditions of warmth, love and connection at the emotional level.  Sicilians do not shy away from feeling, expressing emotion and bringing a true sense of honesty and clarity to emotional experiences, and ultimately love for family and friends.

Along with this masterful complexity of feeling and emotions, they carry with them a terrific sense of humor that reflects their own confidence and ability to enjoy moments of intimacy in a variety of settings — whether it be through the narration of a story with touching and hilarious moments, or a tale of tragedy that demonstrates a sensitive understanding of life and the human experience. 

I am a fortunate person and grateful for all these life experiences.  Life has brought me to Sicily with my beautiful Sicilian wife.  She has given me so many gifts — but this one shines bright in the constellation of a life’s journey — the Sicilian people are not only magical, but they reaffirm the value and complexity of everyone’s personal journey and the values needed to complete the journey in a fulfilling and life-affirming way. 

As we say, with gratitude, grazie mille!

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