Standing in front of the Napoleon monument in Corsica, I didn’t expect to feel it – this reverence. I stood amongst the crowd, mostly French, there to pay tribute to their hero. I was so happy for them, those gazing with such pride. As we moved slowly across the gravel path, getting closer and closer to the statue, I could feel their excitement build. And I felt it too, not so much for myself, but for them. I was truly happy – perhaps a little envious as well (because we all need a hero from time to time).
I read the stories, the legends, on all the plaques and pamphlets and books — this was not the Napoleon we were taught in US schools. Here, he was not short, he was, is, grand, celebrated. And standing there, amongst the believers, I could feel the magic, the wonder.
I walked by the cave – the cave where, as a child, he was said to have looked to the sea and dreamed of what he would be. Looked to the water and dreamed of what he could do. This is where I knew him. I knew that child — because I was that child. I heard the waves in his young ears. I heard the waves in mine. He had the sea. I had the lake — Lake Latoka. I would not have a throne or a monument. I would have a diving tower. I would not conquer nations, but my own fear, and I would believe.
I sat in the shade of the trees that surrounded Napoleon’s monument, and I no longer had to envy their joy, their hope, or their pride. I had it too. And I believed in it all – the possibility of it all. The possibility of looking out over the water and having a dream. The possibility of letting the waves carry you, buoying you bigger than you could ever imagine. I sat with my Napoleon. Smiled. Looked at the water. And knew I was alive!