(n.) a mystical force present in all people that empowers them to affect the world, or to effect change in their own lives
Nestled in a small valley in the Chianti region sits an abandoned shoe heel factory, neglected and crumbling to the ground. Nella Valle Della Luna, as I have always called it, due to the topography and the family crest decorated with a crescent moon stamped against the exterior. A powerful thing, to give a dream a name. Almost as if you have given birth to something living, breathing, screaming for your attention. And in a way, you have… haven’t you?
A necessary ingredient to a dream turned reality, is declaring that dream to the world.
There is a certain period of time when it’s important to keep your dreams to yourself. At least, for the most part. There are some special characters you’ll let in on the beginnings of the secret – those whose eyes will sparkle with possibility, reflecting back your passionate enthusiasm and expanding your scope of what is possible. But they are few and far between. When you’ve first planted the seeds, there’s a sacred time of private nurturing – watering and waiting and allowing time for the roots to take to the earth, before you invite others in whose footsteps may carelessly trample the new growth into the ground.
Opinions and outside influences can be kept at bay for a while. Letting the seed burst through the soil and begin stretching its leaves toward the sun. Building confidence in the dream and knowing that it is purely yours – not to be tainted or confused with anyone else’s.
This abandoned factory – it’s my dream. It’s falling apart, and it’s beautiful. It may not be possible or reasonable to renovate, but logic is bypassed by an ambitious vision of expansive possibility.
Driving along the meandering roads of country roads on a spontaneous adventure with my mom, I find it difficult to resist the magnetic pull of abandoned farmhouses, strewn throughout the countryside. Across the patchwork hills of Toscana and Umbria, there are so many. Where there lies a forgotten pile of rubble covered in layers upon layers of dust, my eyes reach through the haze of reality to land on endless potential to let leash unharnessed creative freedom.
As my mom and I climbed through piles of crumbled stone tumbled down from aging walls, I could see nothing less than that potential. A perfect open space for a thriving community-centered hub devoted to movement, leadership, food, and art.
Within this shell of a dilapidated structure, I could see the layout so clearly:
A professional kitchen to host workshops and classes focused on slow, local food and the foundational pillars of nutrition.
Here, I would have the space to playfully experiment with recipes, with the thriving energetic capacity to cook and write the series of cookbooks that I’ve been dreaming of for years. Everything, naturally, would be in partnership with the local farms.
An open space dedicated to movement, with the option to spill out into the open air inner courtyard.
There would be more than enough space to host retreats and workshops, with an emphasis on leadership development; in addition to opening the doors to welcome those travelers who have their own agenda and happen to be passing by for a spell.
The art studio would stretch and expand and encompass the space from floor to high ceiling,
infused with sunlight from the multitude of windows. A multimedia space for photography and painting and a variety of other mediums, where I could focus creative energy to bring projects to life in a blur of focused intention.
And though this wasn’t in my vision when we originally came across the factory, there would be endless spots to create suspension points to provide a safe, warm, and romantic place to host Shibari & Kinbaku workshops.
Beyond the main room, a three-story wing would be filled with beautiful bedrooms, decorated with nude art and soft fabrics oozing watercolor designs. Walls tastefully curated with a collection of Tina Maria Elena, Drømsjel, and my own fine art nude photographs; surrounding beds decorated in hand-dyed spreads from creative textile genius, Anna Joyce. Perhaps, even with matching robes provided for the enjoyment of guests. The interiors would ooze sensuality and invite visitors to soften fully into themselves and the experience frozen in time. To walk into the space would feel like being encompassed in a full-body “MMMMM,” and somatically felt as a disarming exhale allowing a drop into the body.
And finally, a two-story wing to serve as a living quarter and to hold operations from. The utilitarian requirement of running any business, but it would contain the same soft, sensual energy of the rest of the space.
I could see it with such crisp clarity. I could feel the contagious surge of possibility fill my heart. (The only thing I struggled to see was the possibility of an expansive garden to support self-sustainability, as what we could see of the land seemed to be an unruly tangle of wild forest that reeked of stagnant water).
Logistics didn’t matter. Time didn’t matter. If only I could find the owner and convince them of my irresistibly captivating vision, I could walk in, plant a mattress in one of these dusty corners, buy a broom, and begin sweeping. Every day, I would sweep and clear the rubbled interior, and centimeter by centimeter, it would begin to come to life. I didn’t know how I would repair the walls or replace the broken glass in the many windows. But it didn’t matter. Each day, I would do the work and watch it transform, and eventually, somehow, it would all come together.
People would come. Money would flow. Abundance would expand. Knowing exactly how to move forward several steps ahead didn’t matter, because every day I would be taking tangible, visible steps to build something that I would eventually turn into something saturated with love and pride and meaning. I have been no stranger to the process of building something out of my life – both personal and within business – but to build something with my hands would take on an entirely new level of purposefully driven action.
Eventually, with one step at a time, I would build my bubble of reality that I would someday hold with so much pride to invite others into. To sink into life a little deeper, be reminded of unlimited possibility, to heal, to grow, to connect.
Now, more than enough time has passed. I do not need to protect the seeds of this dream from careless footsteps, because I know that this dream is mine and I will not be swayed. Though I have been wary of the footsteps of others, perhaps what I needed to be more aware of was my own judgment that has kept these seeds from growing courageously beyond the first layer of soil. Judgment that declares this to be nauseatingly cliché, which has kept me from taking myself seriously.
The dream has stood the test of time. Many chapters have unfolded since then, and in some of these chapters, I have completely forgotten this dream. Focus has been scattered elsewhere – but over and over, I return to this dream. And the things I continue to return to, over months and years, are the things that catch my attention.
It is time (long overdue) to take this dream – and myself – seriously.
Truthfully, when looking through the painfully inconvenient filter of reality, the shoe heel factory of the Chianti region may not be the place where this dream will thrive. (I did, however, manage to track down a realtor who successfully tracked down the owners).
My favorite, most memorable times in Italy have been spent feeling part of a family at Agriturismo La Terra, balanced delicately on the border between Umbria and Toscana. The loving feeling of family is at the core of these experiences, and that feeling is greatly amplified by the location. When building something that is meant to thrive as a magnet for a likeminded community in the heart of Italy, I know the importance of being able to experience a panoramic view of the iconic rolling hills. To come to the heart of Toscana and be encompassed in a valley with no such views would leave a gaping hole in whatever experience you’d come for.
The goal, after all, is to create a limitless space of expansive possibility.
Having an expansive view is an essential ingredient to the experience.
Nella Valle Della Luna, as wonderful as the space is, is nestled in a valley and as such, is lacking those majestic views. The surrounding land, as best we could see, consists of a wild, tangled, seemingly untameable forest that is unlikely to be ideal for cultivating a garden – especially one of the scale needed to strive toward some level of self-sustainability.
But, wherever the wind will blow this seed of a dream to finally take root in reality – whether it’s Toscana, Umbria, or perhaps even Piedmont or Emilia-Romagna – this abandoned factory serves as a visual, real-life, tangible anchor to this dream. I have touched this dream. I have breathed the dust into my lungs. And, true to my nature, I have even gotten naked with it.
As it is an anchor-point to a physical location, so too it is an anchor-point to the memory of a way of being and a sense of self – a way of being when I show up fully as an enthusiastically active participant in my life. It is this trip, where my mom reflected back to me the truth that I came alive as soon as we landed in Italy.
In celebration of receiving my work visa in Sweden, she came to visit. We spent a few days traveling north to the Arctic Circle, with some stops for hiking and a quick meandering into Norway… to quickly find our way back to Stockholm via the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi; and spontaneously decided to take a trip to Italy.
As much as I have wanted visitors, when I finally received one, there wasn’t much that I was excited to show and share of the life I was building in Sweden. A quick tour of a couple of spots in the city was all that it took, and what was left over was the bland reality of a daily life that exists anywhere. Life felt less like an intoxicating experience to share, and more like a side effect of merely existing.
But Italy had always held a special place in my heart, and as my mom had never been, that was an experience I would be proud of sharing and exploring together.
So off we went.
Within the first hours of landing in Roma, that was when she observed a complete change in my personality. (And I don’t even like Roma). She observed a personality change as I took on a willingness to actively participate in life and express excitement in interacting with people. A desire to practice the language, which I have always loved. An increase of intimacy in exchanging eye contact and conversation. The subtle cues of engaged body language.
It is where I come to life, in this captivatingly complex country that holds an infinite number of stories that would not have time to be told even over a span of eternity.
Life feels… not easy, but it comes with ease.
There is a simplicity to life that ignites the senses.
Whenever this vision of mine comes back into focus, it feels simple. It carries that feeling of ease. It feels magnetic.
The twists and turns of 2022 have shown me that life is unpredictable, and much of what is unfolding is not in my plan. There is something bigger for me, and the Universe is going to push me in the direction I need to go.
In a multitude of ways, the biggest realization is that I am being called to cultivate community. With a lifetime of searching for a sense of belonging amongst an already-established group of people, I am finally taking the hint to see that what I’m seeking does not yet exist, and only I have all of the required ingredients to bring it to life.
For a long time, I’ve believed in the power in building a bubble of reality – my version of reality – that will serve as a magnet, pulling likeminded people to me. Community will naturally expand with those who are seeking a similar kind of lifestyle, and who believe in the possibilities of a richer life with more depth.
In some ways, it sounds like a cult. Come! Drink the kool-aid! Leave modern society behind as you know it.
But I see that so many of us are living in a stressful modern society that is keeping us busy and sick and burnt-out, and I truly believe that there is a simpler way, and that life should not be so hard. Days can be spent taking care of the land, serving people with high-value services and experiences, creating art, cooking delicious food, socializing with likeminded people, laughing, sinking fully into moments of stillness, and feeling a wholesome inner peace.
I truly believe, with all of my heart and from the depths of my soul, that it is possible to live in a place where you experience the simple pleasure of being astounded by the depth and sweetness at the foundation of ever-day life – over and over again. Why do so many of us live lives that we feel we need to escape from, instead of choosing to live a life that is woven with threads of magic?
I want to taste life as a nectar that trickles delightfully onto the tip of my tongue. Don’t you?
I want to embrace life. I want life to wrap around all of my senses.
What an insult to dishonor life by simply tolerating it. Where is the living in a mere existence?
It’s a known saying: “go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated.” Could that be true of the thriving, dynamic essence of Life itself? Perhaps that is why life feels like a chore to so many here. When life is treated as being a tolerance that requires alcohol, distractions, and cheap hits of dopamine to make it through every day, why would the true essence of Life stick around? If I were Life, I’d migrate south to hang out with people who soak me up in every possible way.
Perhaps that’s precisely what Life has done, and it’s a migratory route I have been called (multiple times) to follow.
When I lean fully into the courage to follow with devotion set at one hundred percent, I believe that as I build what I believe to be possible, others will come.
If we want to meet the people in life who will complement our hearts and souls, then we hold the responsibility to live life in alignment with our highest calling, and to walk the path with courage.
How else can we expect to come across the people our soul is yearning for? Adventure will find adventure. If you are living your life out loud, then that life will serve as a powerful magnet to those who, too, are diving fully into the experience of a life fully lived with an enthusiastic passion emanating infectiously from their eyes.
As with any dream, goal, or reprogramming of the mind (or heart), it takes time for the physical reality to reflect what lives so vibrantly in our imagination. So how do we activate our magnet before that reality comes fully into existence? The more time I take to calibrate my own inner compass, I see that the magnet is charged by our thoughts, actions, vibration / energy / frequency, and choices. Most importantly, I think, is where we direct our attention. Fortunately, our attention is something that we can hold on to, no matter where we are today in relation to the end goal of our dream.
But I digress…
I have been inconsistent in my commitment to this dream, Nella Valle Della Luna, in part because while it does feel simple, there are logistics that I am not fully certain in how to navigate.
More prominently however, there’s a feeling that this is a dream that surely everyone must have sitting at the back of their heart and gathering dust. It’s one of romance, made for the movies, and so damn cliché. For many, an unrealistic pipe-dream that will always be out of reach. A cozy daydream, but always a life that will be unattainable. If ever within reach, it will have to come after a list of checked boxes of achievements.
So, if that’s the case, then who am I to actually be the one who declares this to be possible, and to make it real? Well, it’s an incredibly silly question because I can do as I damn please, and besides (and most importantly) who am I to ignore the callings of my heart, when I feel so strongly that the world needs what I desire to build?
To share this in writing is the beginning of building this dream. A public declaration of the brick and mortar vision that I am yearning to build. This page on a website holding a bunch of words that can serve as jumpstarting the magnetic pull.
Because while any dream can be built on your own, there is no denying that it would be much more fun and quicker to come to fruition if created with an enthusiastically likeminded team of dreamers. If this lights up your heart, then take this as your formal invitation to please reach out.
Because, what if?
I believe in days that have the gift of time. The space that allows you to softly sink into the sensual essence of each moment, as the petals of life unfold around you. Days saturated with slow food, deep conversations, laughter that rumbles from the belly, and so much more immersed in depth so vast your toes will never touch the ground beneath.
A life creatively curated. Taking care of the land and plants. Building a space infused with energy that you feel proud of. Cultivating a lifestyle of simple pleasures. And feeling so much pride in what you have created, to invite others into, so that you can watch their eyes light up in infectious wonder at the vision of what, too, could be possible for them if they choose the courage of following their heart.
So, what if we listen to our hearts and follow the path that defies all logic and requires no justification?