Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chuck Becomes Almost Mystical in Erice

Erice--spectacular views as we travel up the mountain

          Chuck, my rascal cat, and I have traveled the world together, but there have been few places as ancient and as mystical as Erice.  
Located in Sicily on top of a mountain, it has a Greek name.  And that is just one of the fascinating things about it!
Its ancient heritage includes Arab, Norman, Phoenician, and Saracen occupation.  And you can still see, after thousands of years, the city walls that were built to protect the city from invasion, and the two castles, which housed the noble families. 

Typical street view--the stones on the street, the narrow passageways
        Erice looks old, very old, as you wander through the cobblestone streets and pass under archways made of stone.

One of the two castles still standing in Erice

So, while we are in Sicily, on the Palermo side of the country--we relish the idea of trekking up the mountain--yes, Erice is located on the tippy top of a mountain--Mount Erice, of course, to see this ancient city which was well known throughout the Mediterranean area during the ancient age.
In fact, an important cult was celebrated there.  It was said that the animals chosen for sacrifice would voluntarily walk up to the altar to be killed.  That may sound a bit implausible until you come to Erice and feel the place.  It’s mystical, and that feeling that anything can happen begins the moment you begin to ascend the mountain.
I think Chuck, my rascal cat, feels it too.
His whiskered nose is plastered to the side of the window, straining to see out, as we follow the road.  
And this is when it begins to happen--In the early morning, the fog and mist act like a shroud and completely cover the land so it makes you feel as if the mountain is floating in air.  It’s a bit eerie, but beautiful.  The higher you climb, the more spectacular the views.  The entire countryside is at your feet, but you see everything through this cloud of mist.  
Once you reach the top of the mountain and before you reach the town, you travel past a forest of trees.  

The medieval forest that skirts the town of Erice

        To me, the forest represents the typical magical forest of every fairytale and ancient tale of lore.  The trees are ramrod straight.  The leaves are the greenest green.  And admission to the city requires a passing through under an ancient stone archway--a city gate--that was built centuries ago to protect the townspeople from invaders.  

The city gate--the magnificent archway that one must walk under

        To me, it feels like some kind of portal that whisks you from the present day to a time long past.  
And on the other side is Erice.  Because this place is so different, so old, so authentic in its look, it attracts a great many tourists.  Even Chuck seems to be enthralled.  He aches to hop out of my smart bag and sniff around.  Centuries of adventures await him.  
We are on our way to Chiesa Matrice (Mother Church) the medieval Catholic Church--14th Century--which stands as a testament to how long stone can endure.  

Chiesa Matrice (Mother Church) - 14th Century

        The bell tower with the bell that stands adjacent to the church.  We stand off in the distance and stare at the church.  

The Bell Tower

Most of the tourists, I suspect, are in the  main part of town--shopping, so this section is almost deserted.  But I love old buildings.  

Close-up of the bell 

        I’ve let Chuck out and he is moving about--sniffing and exploring. 
And then he’s gone.
I’m not sure how it happens.
I’ve poised to take a photo of the church and I’ve taken my gaze off of him for half a second.  
Has he wandered up the broad steps into the church?  Into the bell tower? Is he interested in the view?
I run over to the church to see if it is open and if he’s inside.
The door is open, of course, which means it’s one more possibility--he could have walked inside or not.  I scan the area again, hoping for a glimpse of him.
He must have wandered into the Church.
I am determined not to freak out.  Cats have a great sense of smell.  They can find their way back when they become bored with their exploration.  There is time yet.  
I am this close to entering the Church, determined even to try and appreciate the inside of the Church and imagine what life must have been like for the people so many hundreds of years ago . . . when out the belly boy prances.  Totally unaware that he’s caused any problem.  
I narrow my gaze and tilt my head.   My lips are definitely pursed.
He glances up at us but misses all the signals of disapproval.  
“Chuck,” I whisper.  “Get over here.  Now.”
Slowly, he sniffs his way over.
For one moment I’m actually jealous of his superior sniffing ability. The stories he must be reading--the hundreds of years of trials and tribulations that have been played out on these steps.  Near this church.  In this town.  He can sniff every one of them.

The "scene of the crime" where Chuckie suddenly appeared--prancing down the steps

And we’re not leaving Erice yet.  There’s a pasticceria that’s world renowned that I want to visit.  Run by an ex-nun.  Chuck has heard all about it.  Which is probably why he’s being so cooperative now. 
I’ll tell you more about what happens there . . . next week.  
        To read more about Chuck and his adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com
         Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is now available in mass market paperback and ebook formats at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com 

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