As I write this blog, I’m sitting on the deck of our apartment in Riomaggiore, Italy. It’s one of the five villages that make up the famed Cinque Terre that overlooks the Ligurian Sea. It’s been deemed as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its timeless beauty and historical significance. It’s also one of my favorite places in the entire world. It’s simple. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful.
One of the main sources of income for the Cinque Terre region is tourism. People like me come from all over the world to see this incredible place. With that in mind, many of the local residents have found it’s easier to go into the tourism business than to continue their traditional family methods of farming and agriculture.
Certainly everything evolves, but sometimes it comes with a price. The residents of the Cinque Terre found that out in late October of 2011.
Devastating rains hit the area (22 inches in four hours), sending walls of mud and debris cascading into the historic towns of Vernazza and Monterosso. You can read about it here and see some of the footage as well. My wife and I had lunch yesterday at the harbor in Vernazza. Where we sat yesterday was under 13 feet of mud that day. It’s amazing to think about that.
Rick Steves wrote an interesting note about the floods in his recent travel guide to the Cinque Terre…
The people of the Cinque Terre were taught a tough lesson. It’s their beautiful land that brings the tourists. But with the affluence brought by tourism, some had abandoned their land – learning vineyards unplanted and centuries-old drystone terracing to crumble – for less physically demanding, more profitable work in town. (Grapevines have far-reaching root systems that help combat erosion, and traditional vintners keep their stone terraces in good order.) After a generation of neglect, the unprotected land was washed down into the towns by the violent weather.
While I was thinking of that fateful day and the impact it had on the villages (which thankfully are back to normal today), I also thought about all of the times that we neglect things in our personal lives until it’s too late. We got caught up in the latest this or that only to have the things that are most important to us crumble away, often without even realizing it. Certainly work done in the Cinque Terre vineyards wouldn’t have stopped the flooding of those two villages. However, it certainly could’ve made it much less damaging.
There are often bedrock things in our lives (family, faith, values, etc.) that we put to the side to pursue other glitzier, shinier or newer things. However, it’s that bedrock core that makes each of us who we are. When we lose it, the entire hillside can crumble along with it.
Reading about the floods was a good reminder to me to keep what’s important close to you important … even if it’s been important for years. Losing that can have a devastating, long-lasting impact.
What are your core values? Have you been neglecting them lately to pursue other things? Now might be a good time to inspect them before the next big rain falls into your life.