I have a tremendous fear of heights.
Over the years, I’ve followed the advice to face that fear, and I’ve forced myself to go up to high places. Each time I’ve hoped that I’d get past the fear and the inevitable vertigo symptoms, and just feel the exhilaration. I’ve only come close to that exhilaration once – and it was here, as shown in my latest painting, on top the Guinigi Tower in Lucca, Tuscany.
When you visit Lucca, this 14th-century tower will no doubt grab your attention because it has oak trees on the top of it! There are many theories as to why there are trees up there – some say they were part of a shady garden for the Guinigi family, others say they were shade for an extensive kitchen garden of herbs and vegetables, while the most common speculation is that the wealthy family were just showing off.
This tower certainly piqued my interest as I walked towards it on my first solo trip in 2006. I had no intention of going up there, but as I got close, I remembered a promise I’d made to myself to try new things and conquer some fears. So I paid the few euros and started climbing the stairs. Once I stepped out onto the top platform, I went right to the concrete bed in the centre with the leafy trees, thinking I’d sit here and slowly work up the courage to approach the exterior railing. (I mean, I’m REALLY afraid of heights!) But as I got to the trees, there were teenagers sitting up in the branches – some dangerously close to the edge of the platform! My knees instantly went weak. I couldn’t look at this potential emergency-in-the-making so I hobbled over to the railing and hung on for dear life.
It is said that if you look toward the horizon from a height, it will help with dizziness, so that’s what I did. Second by second, I calmed down as I skimmed the Pisani mountains far off in the distance. Gradually I was able to cast my eyes down towards the city of Lucca, and make out the circular Anfiteatro I had just visited. I began to relax, especially as the kids in the trees had left without incident, and I was alone up there in the spring breeze.
After several minutes surveying the panorama, I was now able to go back to the trees for a quick inspection. They were remarkably healthy and how their root system thrived in this shallow bed was beyond me. I then left the tower and climbed my way back down to the street. I felt very proud of myself for having met the challenge. I would never have seen this gorgeous sight if I had stayed on the ground!
I chose this particular subject to paint as a reminder that new experiences still await and I want to emerge from this pandemic ready to conquer more fears and challenges. How about you?
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