In the shadow of one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes





Pompeii 1

This morning I paused and looked at photos from our gala Italian wedding trip last June.  Most of you may recall reading about that here on the blog recently, one year later, but better late than never, right?

The photos Barry took of Pompeii brought back memories of so many things.  Mostly, that I had just recovered from being sick with digestive woes for the first three days in beautiful Italy.

I tiptoed around Pompeii more scared of getting sick again than Mount Vesuvius erupting.


The city of Pompeii is famous after being destroyed in 79 CE when Mount Vesuvius erupted covering it in at least 19 feet of ash and debris.  This quick burial successfully preserved it for centuries before the ruins were discovered in the late 16th century.

Between 15-20,000 people lived in ancient Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum and most of them survived.  Two thousand people died that fateful day.


The volcano is still very active, but it has not erupted since 1944.  I read before we visited that scientists think Vesuvius is one of the most dangerous in the world.  Experts believe that a catastrophic eruption is due any day, which would be an untold tragedy because three million people live within twenty miles of the volcano’s crater.

Add in some of the 2.5 million tourists like us who visit every year.  It could be a tragedy to surpass COVID statistics so far.


The above photo captures some of the horror of that day when so many lost their lives.  After Vesuvius erupted, the fallen bodies were encased in layers of hardened pumice and ash.  The decayed corpses left voids, and in 1863 archeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli and his team produced plaster casts.

A quiet hush passed through the crowd of tourists as we filed by the buildings containing the casts.  Recent CT scans of the plaster casts have revealed a wealth of information about the people living in ancient Pompeii.  Many of the city dwellers died from severe head injuries as they tried to run from collapsing roofs and buildings.


One of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world today…  I remember reading an article in May, 2019, that Vesuvius could erupt ANY DAY now.

Should we visit? I wondered.  Or stay as far away as possible?

I am thinking of danger now, and how we assess our risks.  In these COVID days, many of us are weighing risks and costs daily.  Should we eat out in indoor restaurants?  Should we wear our masks outdoors when surrounded by other outdoor people?  Should we stay home or visit family?  Should we have dinner with friends in a socially distanced way?

Everyone listens to his or her own internal beliefs and nervous systems and makes different decisions.  Sometimes our decisions prove correct.  Other times costly.


We can only assess, and assess again.  My risk-taking or risk-avoiding may not be yours.  I will probably never choose to go skydiving.  You may never choose to visit Pompeii.

I want to live somewhere in the vicinity of caution and respect–but not fear.

Sometimes that’s a razor-sharp line that we can find ourselves crossing over.  We cross over into fear and need to find our way back to calm and peace.  Or we cross over into indifference and apathy and work our way back to respect and caution.

And still–Life holds all the cards–and we never really know what will happen, do we?


The look on my face in the above picture just about wraps it up.  I am looking at Barry taking photos and saying, “It is soooo hard to be here when you’ve been this sick.”

But the next picture captures another mood.  How quickly it can change, right?  Now I am delighted to be with friends and family, finally feeling better, heading toward Positano and the wedding of our precious daughter…


Mount Vesuvius did not erupt.  Danger nodded at us, and let us pass.

May danger let all you pass, as well.


About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in August, 2020 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to In the shadow of one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes

  1. Carol says:

    Isn’t it fun to look at the photos and enjoy that experience again, minus the sick part?
    As to Covid, the numbers just keep climbing, over 5,000,000 in this country alone. Have we angered the Gods?

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, I did so enjoy going through these pictures this morning and remembering the whole experience. (Not the sick part…) As for angering the Gods in the case of Vesuvius or COIVD–I have no idea!

  2. Stacy says:

    Thank you for the kind sentiment. I’m glad you chose to visit the doomed city. Fear should never keep from doing the things we want to do. But, I agree – a balancing act between choices and their consequences (and my character touches on this in my soon-to-be-published second novel). 😉

  3. Susan D. Durham says:

    Thought-provoking and…beautiful.

  4. I Wilkerson says:

    Aren’t you glad for the travel you got in before all this started! I know when I count my blessings, last years trips (right up through the first weekend in Feb 2020) are right up there!

    • Kathy says:

      Yep, you are so right, Inger. Those of us lucky enough to travel last year are probably still all savoring our memories. They may need to last awhile!

  5. So sorry that posted. I was about to write that your trip was a profitable one- to see a famous part of history and to gather among relatives and or friends. You are braver than I about visiting that place No one could pay me enough to go there. But you have good memories and photos and it was a once in a life experience.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi, Yvonne! It was a lovely trip, indeed. When weighing about going to visit Pompeii–here’s what went through my mind. Mount Vesuvius sat between Naples and Positano (where the wedding was going to be held). We would have to pass by it anyway. Also thought, “what’s the chances of it deciding to erupt on this particular day?” Probably only a teeny tiny chance.

  6. dawnkinster says:

    We were there in 2006. I don’t know why it never occured to me the volcano could blow again…I thought the town was facinating and oh so sad.

    • Kathy says:

      Remembering that you said you visited Pompeii, too. It was so interesting and yet sad to consider. So many tourists! The place was crawling with thousands from all over the world, I think. The only reason I thought about the volcano blowing was that article that appeared in May. Probably nobody else in our party even saw the article and so were blissfully oblivious.

  7. So many things to think about and reflect on these days. You have my sympathy, I can totally relate to that feeling of tiptoeing around, wary of getting sick again… We do weigh risks and benefits daily now, don’t we? And sometimes all we have to guide us is our gut feelings, pun intended. My overly cautious nature has been stuck in overdrive since the pandemic started.

    The pictures are haunting. Chilling.

    When I was a teenager in the 1970s and we were living in Greece, my parents took us to the island of Santorini (Thira), which is the remains, part of the crater, of a volcano which erupted about 1610 BC and wiped out the Minoan civilization. It last erupted (less violently) in 1950. We spent a couple of nights there and I was scared to death, couldn’t sleep because of all my dark imaginings. We toured ruins, too. Now, from a safe distance, I’m glad we went.

    Thanks for sharing these pictures and your thoughts. Life truly is a risky business.

    • Kathy says:

      Barbara, you of all people would understand and sympathize with my predicament that day! So interesting about your story of visiting the volcano on Santorini in the 1970’s. I could imagine my teenage brain getting all worked up, too.

      Not sure if I mentioned to you about my latest passion of studying the nervous system with Deb Dana. She teaches so succinctly about our survival response, and how we can actually learn to regulate the nervous system. Sounds True offers a course with her (about $70) called “Befriending the Nervous System” and it is one of the most wonderful things I’ve bought during these Covid days. That’s what got me thinking about risk-assessment, and oh so many other things.

    • justasstrong says:

      This is true…..and still……none of us will get out alive….

  8. sherrysescape says:

    You expressed so well the tightrope walk between danger and excessive caution. Thanks.

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks, Sherry. What’s fascinating is that I have been studying an online course about the nervous system (see above comment for particulars if you’re interested). Apparently our system is always going between the sympathetic, dorsal and ventril vagal modes. Many times a day (or even in a moment) our systems are scanning the environment looking for cues of danger and safety. The course teaches about regulating our nervous systems when we’ve defaulted into danger or dorsal collapse/immobility. I am learning so much! Maybe you already know all of these from your medical training, but I have never viewed the world through the lens of polyvagal theory.

  9. Karen says:

    “I want to live somewhere in the vicinity of caution and respect–but not fear”. So wisely said and oh so true. We don’t know what each day will bring, even before Covid-19, but we still have to live our lives.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, I keep thinking about this a lot, Karen. And noticing when I cross over into fear or lose respect for a situation. Trying always to return to that place where we live our lives fully with loving respect. I am glad you agree!

  10. Joanne says:

    Visiting Pompeii must have been the most incredible experience. The odds were probably in your favour that Mount Vesuvius wouldn’t erupt on THAT particular day – and aren’t you glad you visited there now so that you have these photos to look back on? I know I would be. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Joanne, yes, the odds of a volcano erupting on the very day we were visiting was probably miniscule. But I am very glad to have been able to pour through the old photos this past weekend and fondly remember our trip there.

  11. Ally Bean says:

    I like your take on your vacation travels, learning something about yourself in the process of exploring. Respect is important, but does take a conscious effort to maintain sometimes.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh, man, Ally Bean–you are so right. It does take conscious remembrance and effort to maintain that respect. I think of it as a balancing act where we get tippy to one side, tippy to the other side, but hopefully learn to get across.

  12. Donna Des-Jardin says:

    So lovely Thank you fall is coming first leaves turning and evenings chilly

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s