Page 1 
by Larry Legg and Vanessa Summers 
Christmas 1998 

Van's desire to go to Sicily for the birth of Obelia seemed strange to me at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to see the associations in her mind. Sicily has a live volcano, Etna, and in a way - a volcano symbolises regeneration and renewal. People often forget that many of the important mineral deposits in the world started out in the heat and trauma of volcanic eruption.  

Since Etna was currently safe and not erupting or anything, I thought we could go and see it together and entertain ourselves leading up to the big day... which was predicted to be Boxing Day the 26th December although Van is secretly hoping for a Christmas day birth.   

Van and I don't have much family outside ourselves, so all-in-all I thought: ' hell, yeh, what a great place to stay over the Christmas boredom days.'  

So here we are, Christmas Day, with Van showing off her lump in the kitchen of the chalet we hired in Sicily.  

Just in case any of you are worried about Van and us seemingly trotting around the world when maybe we should be staying a bit closer to home, and a fast route to a hospital delivery ward - we're actually staying at a chalet within a mile from a resort with a baby-delivery clinic.  It's a great spot, with Etna right outside our window!  

Van and I are kinda free agents: we don't believe so much in all the modern methods of dealing with things, which for most people should be natural anyway. Van had already decided that Obelia would be born outside of any hospital and that it would be something that she and me would manage alone.  Van and me studied up on delivering babies ready for this great day... but we booked into the clinic at the resort... just in case we might need them.  

My only worry, which I didn't voice to Van, was that I found the incidents leading up to the conception of our child, still strange and unfathomable. I felt sometimes, that both Van and me were in the grip of some tobacco-crazed intelligence - and like a couple of puppets - our every move, thought, word, and action, were nothing more than reactions to unsuspected causality: perhaps our every twist and turn is but the result  of an  unseen hand inadvertently brushing against our intangible strings as it flicks the ash from a half-smoked cigarette.  


I think sometimes: 'Maybe... just maybe... what we call reality is no more real than the fleeting fantasy of an omnipresent mind. Our lives are like smoke, the by-product of someone or something else's conflict... the trailing wisps of a war raging between good and evil... or a tortured soul who's tragic tears form momentarily into transparent miniature dolls, dancing upon the air in a brief and hopeful bid to present beauty from misery as they fall... before being shattered upon the rock of despair beneath!'  

This Christmas - something about me and Van's life  came to an end! 


Most people think of Mount Etna as a single volcano but, as we found out when we arrived, Etna is a whole region of Sicily. It is a massive area which, in places, resembles a blackened battle-zone and in others - a lush garden abundant with vegetation growing on mineral-rich soil. Eruptions over the years have been all over the region and not confined to a single spot.   


The people here tell us Etna is a devil and and an angel: on the one hand it threatens to erupt anytime and damage their homes and lives... yet it also serves to supply them with mineral-rich soil and a lively tourist attraction.   
On NO! Larry's only gone and shown you that terrible photo he took of me Christmas day morning. I look so washed out here after the traveling. Larry was so excited and eager to get out and walking the slopes of Mount Etna, I didn't have much time to myself that morning.   

I digress... sorry!   
Larry and I had decided not to buy physical presents for each other. Instead, we would share the experience of a day on Mount Etna - and this would be a mutual present to ourselves.   

Christmas day afternoon was pleasant as we strolled gently up the slopes of Etna.  There was a chill in the air but the sky was bright and the day felt alive and well. While we walked, Larry told me some of the stuff he knew about Volcanoes... (I think he was trying to take my mind off the periodic pains I had been getting for the past hour).   

Larry said that eruptions occur at different points in the area and never in exactly the same place as before. He pointed to a mound on my right : "There!", he said, "That's where she blew a few years back. Come on, honey, we'll go up to the rim and look into the crater!"    


So up we went! When we were on the rim, we could see the hard plug of solidified larva down below in the centre of the crater. It's difficult to visualise the scale,  but here's a photo I took from the top of the ridge. Can you see a few other couples there at the top on the other side, peering down into this volcanic scar?   

As we stood there, two insignificant specks on a rock high up the Silician mountains, I tucked myself closer into Larry and the protection of his warmth. Maybe it was the wind blowing cold and empty, or an instinctive reaction to what seemed to me like a faint tremor in the earth...  
(I don't know which)... but a sudden coldness  filled me with dread.    

Even Larry, clutching me tightly, seemed deep in thought and unusually pensive - his dark eyes  transfixed to something below...   

... and then I saw it too: a faint wisp of smoke, rising like an animal's desperate breath on a cold winter's morning. It sighed from the dark line writing itself across the crater's floor. Then  I heard a noise: it was the sound a world made when it woke from a long sleep. It was an earth-scream! 

I'll never forget it, because it happened at precisely the same time my water broke and Obelia's journey into the world begun.    

Copyright Mic-UK, Lightscape Magazine, Larry-Legg & Vanessa Summers 1998

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