Today, like the days and weeks before it, I am suffering from election fatigue. I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only one. Almost one month ago we were on an anniversary trip, and today, I am missing that time away, our stop in Positano especially.
Positano is a small village on the Amalfi Coast, located in the Campania region of Italy. John Steinbeck famously visited there, later reflecting, “Positano bites deep…It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” That sounds dramatic. Like maybe he oversold the place. But he was right.
Positano is a dream. A town built into a mountainside descending to a gray rocky beach that then dips its toes into the aqua blue and emerald green Tyrrhenian Sea. From the water, the town is a mix matched puzzle of pastel colored houses, ascending to perilously rocky heights in the Lattari Mountains encircling it. From Nocelle, the town above Positano, it resembles a mosaic of buildings nearly falling over each other before making an abrupt stop on the muted shoreline.
On our first full day in this dream place, we took the famous “Path of the Gods” hike. The journey started with an overcrowded and dangerously wide bus on a small and frighteningly narrow road. On this death trap, we drove away from Positano to another mountain outpost, Agerola. From there we hiked back towards our little town, along the mountain ridge breathing in the breathtaking vistas, and slowly descending along the way. Words don’t do the experience justice. It was perfect.
Until it wasn’t.
It was, we believed, a three-mile hike. But at three miles, as we approached our mental and physical finish line, we came across a small sign. We nearly missed it in its unassuming size and inconspicuous placement. On it, three towns were listed, each with an estimated distance beside them noting how far each destination was from where we stood. Positano, it informed us, was still another three miles away.
It wasn’t a finish line after all.
There was still a descent to make. A steep one as it turns out. At the end of the day, we hiked twice as far and descended some 1,700 more steps than we thought we had to. My legs were shaking. My knees were aching. My body was under the impression it was being tortured. But that didn’t matter. We hadn’t made it back yet. Even when we lost our bearings with no view of earth or sky, even when our legs began feeling four decades their senior, we walked on, not entirely sure of where, but moving still.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Positano the past couple of days and specifically about that hike. I’d give anything for the view of that water again. Or the sense of perspective on that mountainside. But also, I’ve been thinking about life post election and how it feels a lot like coming to a sign that tells me my destination is three miles farther away than I originally thought. How mentally I had prepared for a respite, for a rest, for a break, only to find out, we may be going into the hardest stretch yet.
I thought November 9 and the days that followed would be the end. That finally it would all be over. Finally, we could all breathe. Finally, we could put away our visceral attacks and our divisive rhetoric. Finally, we could go back to being humans, together. November 9th was our finish line. Until we saw the sign telling us we had sorely misjudged the distance.
We still have so far to go, as it turns out.
And the hardest part may still be to come.
The circumstances were different in Italy, but I know the feeling. And it feels demoralizing. But the truth about our hike and the truth about today, is the distance left to cover was always farther than we imagined. No one pulled a fast one on us. It has nothing to do with which candidate won, which party got more seats, which amendments got passed. The finish line has never been the day after Election Day.
That’s the start line.
The work before that day may have been grueling. The months prior may have been exhausting. The division already a raw and deep wound. But that doesn’t change the reality. Even given all that, it’s too soon to quit. It’s too early to tuck tail and run. It’s not yet time to ride the bench.
We still have about three miles and 1700 steps to take.
When we first saw the sign telling us Positano was impossibly farther away than we thought, we panicked. This was not what we had prepared for. But then we rallied. Because if we dug down deep, our bodies had the energy we needed to keep going. Our legs had the endurance necessary for the descent to our town. And our will had the fight to push through. So we did it, though exhausted. We kept walking.
And let me tell you about the views along the way. Have you ever heard of the magic hour? It’s the time right before sunset when the light is golden, the colors are soft and fluid, and the edges of the world equal parts sharply focused and softly lit. It truly is magical.
Positano at sunset is enchanting.
If it hadn’t been for the three miles left to cover, we would never have seen our sleepy coastal town in the magic hour. Some of the best parts of our day were as the sun started to set—when we were first surprised by what was left to do, and then surprised with the panoramas that awaited us as we moved forward.
And I wonder if it is at all possible we have a magic hour before us in our country? Not a magic hour due to the party in power or the person in office or the legislation passed. But a magic hour due to the whole of us pushing forward, beyond where we thought the finish line was, digging deeper than we thought we ever had to, to keep going? I wonder if in doing what we have always known to do—whether in long hikes, or hard seasons—in taking the next right step, and then the step after that, if we just might happen across something exquisite in the process.
The work was never supposed to be done on Election Day, three miles in. The baton was never supposed to be passed from our fumbling hands into the hands of those who hold the power in the elected position. The baton has always been ours to carry. The work has always been ours to do. We are the people. With more power than we imagined and more resolve than we give ourselves credit for.
So we keep walking. Because we have no other choice, really, but also because we get to. Because we live in a place where Election Day results and shiftings of power are never permanent. Where the best work is done not in the marbled halls of the Capitol, the Oval Office of the White House, or the columned building of the Supreme Court. The best work has always been ours to do. The masses. The populace. The people on the ground with much to lose and everything to gain. And we do it because we know, the best views along the way, are only as good as the effort it took to find them.