I love heights…the beauty of looking for miles and miles from a high tower, the fantastic view from a mountain. I love heights, but I have a vivid imagination.
All along the coast of Liguria in Italy, at strategic points, stand ancient watch towers. From the highest point of one tower you can see other towers just up or down the coast. They were built during the late middle ages to protect the coastal area from pirates and the terrible Saracen hoards that used to sail along the coast invading the land, killing, raping and plundering. There’s only one problem, these towers are usually locked up tight.
That day walking in the hills we came upon a Saracen tower, locked of course, but there on the second floor was a wide opening, a sort of huge window. We found some boards nearby and decide to climb up to see what the ancient watchers would have seen from the top of the tower. I went up first followed by my newly wed husband.
Once inside the tower, we found some stairs which took us to the very top. The scene that met us was breath-taking and beautiful. Not far away was Thor Heyerdhal‘s village, he’d bought the abandoned village some years before and was remodelling it. Further down the coast there was Andora’s tower…further up Alassio’s. The sea was beautifully calm and blue-green that warm early summer day, the wind whistled in our ears. It was exhilarating to be there to see what the watchers would have seen!
Then we had to get down from the tower. I looked at the flimsy boards that had seemed so secure a little while before and my stomach seemed to flip-flop and sweat broke out on my forehead and seemed to run down my back. I looked at the board and looked down. I told myself that it really wasn’t so very high, but just thinking of getting onto that old rotted board made me think of how easily it could just fall tumbling either myself or my husband to a broken leg, or worse.
These were the days when cell phone weren’t even part of our imagination. We were also off any beaten path. No one came up here, it was still early in the tourist season, and Heyerdahl’s village was empty, except for the custodians, now that Easter was past. My husband decided to go first discovering that he too didn’t feel any too sure about those boards either. Finally courage in hand, as I tried to hold the board still, he shimmied down the board butt first. I kept seeing him at the bottom of the board, on the ground with a broken leg.
“Ok, no problem! It’s easy, just don’t look down. I’m holding the board!” he said.
At that point, my ears started to ring, and I felt dizzy. I saw the earth come up to meet me as I looked down at him.
“I can’t! I’m frozen! Oh my God, I’m going to fall!”
“Just don’t look down. Turn around and get your footing on the board. I’m holding it steady.”
I grabbed the stone window ledge as I turned around and put my leg over the side. At first I couldn’t find the board, but then, yes, there it was, then I put the other foot onto the board. Finally, letting go of the stone ledge, down I came to safety.
Over the years, the memory has become diluted with others, sometimes more unpleasant, so that the feeling of an empty drop from only two floors now seems so silly. I love heights, it’s just that I have a very vivid imagination.