Thursday, June 16, 2016


Everything was unusually calm and well organized at the airport. WHAT? Where was all the chaos that always tells us we're back in our adopted country?

Instead of having to run around like a nut in order to find a porter with a cart big enough to hold our dog's crate (which happens to be larger than some Paris apartments), we stumbled on a cute guy named Luigi who said he'd be back for us once our luggage and dog arrived.

The typical situation is that our dog Murray gets unloaded first and is plopped down in front of the "large and irregular baggage" department. It's usually no problem to find Murray because once he hears our voices, he starts barking very loudly, conveying the internationally comprehensible message, "GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

This time, before we knew it, the bags had all arrived, and lovely Luigi brought Murray to us, whisking our entire load to where our friend, Roy, was waiting to pick us up with our car. Could it be that we could get home without any misadventures?

Not so fast.... All was suspiciously copacetic during most of the hour-and-a-half ride to Orvieto. It felt like summer already, as we encountered our local shepherd (still bald and naked as ever from the waist up behind the wheel of the tiny car he uses to herd his sheep. I’ve often wondered if he’s wearing any pants, and have yet to find out.) But 20 minutes from our destination, our 2002 Honda CRV started bucking like a bronco.

This was familiar to us, since it had happened before and had supposedly been fixed. Hmm... Would we be able to make it home, the road to which is, under the best of circumstances, full of challenges? Roy remained unflappable, and we somehow managed to get there. Phew! But we're not out of the woods, yet. This car needs a doctor. We know whom to call--it's just that his repair shop is a bumpy 20-minute ride away.

We're naively thinking that by using our "reserve" car, the 1999 Renault--the one whose specialty is to dry fruit on its windshield--we might be able to drive to the mechanic in two cars, and leave the bucking bronco there.

But when my handy husband opens the Renault's hood, he gets showered with many of the acorns stored there over the past four months by some enterprising wildlife. Let's not even mention the nests of the wasps that enjoy setting up housekeeping inside the car's door hinges. We call our mechanic to let him know we're going to try to make it to his place in both of these over-the-hill vehicles, one of which has been driven nowhere for the past four months. Ready?

My husband asks which of these cars I, the least confident driver I know, wants to use for the twenty-minute jaunt ahead. The potentially bucking bronco? Or the untested, manual transmission Renault? It was a tough call, but I ended up going for the bronco, since that was the more familiar car. As it turned out, that was the right decision.

The plan was to follow behind my husband and flash my lights or honk if the Honda started bucking. All had been going fine with me when I saw J signal, stop and pull over in front of one of the few houses along our remote road--the very winery where we had stopped to deal with a similar problem before.

Oops! In our worry about the bucking Honda, J had forgotten to check the water level in the Renault. The temperature light going on and the flashing, red STOP RIGHT NOW OR THIS CAR WILL EXPLODE alerted him to his error.

He raised the hood, got clunked on the head by a few hundred more acorns, and saw the evidence. At this point, a car coming from the other direction stopped to see what we wacky non-natives were up to now. When I explained about the water problem, they were amused, asking questions in a dialect even more incomprehensible than what we’re used to. Realizing that we were hopeless, they joined J under the hood, pointed to the empty water reservoir, gesticulated wildly while exclaiming something like “aha!”,and kindly offered to bring us a few bottles of water from their place just up the road.

Why does this man look so stunned? Maybe because when he raised the hood, he got whacked by a shower of acorns?
Yes, indeed! There's no water to be found in here. Now what?

There may not have been any water, but there were definitely plenty of acorns.

When they invent a car that will run on acorns, we could be all set!

This is the beauty of life in rural Italy: we all became fast friends, and discovered we knew some of the same people, including P, the owner of the vineyard in front of which we had stopped. Just then, P came out of his house smiling, perhaps thinking, "Oh, it's YOU again??" (When this happened a previous time, he had kindly escorted J and the problem car all the way into town to be sure he'd make it there. Further, the nice father and son who stopped to help us this time were well known to P: they're the ones who had sold him the property where he now has his winery.)

So far, Providence seems to be looking out for us--not only did we make it to the mechanic's without further misadventures, but the names of our new father-and-son guardian angels are "Angelo Senior" and “Angelo Junior.” Viva Italia!

Monday, January 4, 2016


Today, on the brink of Christmas
and my 69th birthday
I find myself looking out
not through French-style rose-colored glasses
but through my Italian windows
the ones that bear the signature,
la firma, the leitmotif  of this house that we brought back to life.

That signature, even at the age of six and a half, continues to reveal
multiple possibilities:
Could be a butterfly, but a rare one like Nabokov's Karner Blue
Or a flower? A four-leaf clover?
Or four bodies with a head and curvy linked arms--an Italian-style
Family of Man?

Unlike a coat of arms that one is born into
this logo was the one we chose--
a design inspired by what we saw
on the gates, the "cancelli"
of our adopted country

I'm not even sure of the Italian equivalent of "la vie en rose"
"Ottimista" is all that I can think of
or the oft-used "magari," that oh-so-hopeful "maybe"
How can one not love a country that has a verbal tic like that?

I need to check the origins of "firma" whose solid sound radiates feet-on-the-ground permanence
like the head-on-shoulders interpretation of my window motif.

And what about those "cancelli"
that mark our entrance and exit
from this property?
Is something being cancelled out?
Welcomed in?
Ushered out?

Usually at war with ugly prepositions, I see that I have embraced them here, and
ditto for those gerunds so pesky in English or French
but that are full of positive energy in Italian.

In three short weeks I will exit these cancelli
re-don my French and American hats, fly like a butterfly across the ocean, and magari land on terra firma, having kept my head on my shoulders, keeping in mind that my butterfly-adorned cancelli will be waiting for my May return.

And magari, to think in those terms will not be
Looking at life
through rose-colored glasses.


"So which one of you has the appointment?" As usual, the staff looks a bit puzzled to see us cosily making ourselves at home in the waiting room. Let me explain. 

My very dear writing partner and I share many things, including our dentist. She lives closer to his office (where I spend much of my life--see TAKING MY NEW FRONT TEETH FOR A SWIM ) than to my isolated house that is reachable only via unspeakable roads. So we often choose to meet at the office when I come for my dental appointments. That our wonderful-and-well-worth-the-wait dentist always runs very late doesn't hurt our plans to have our own little visit. 

Although I have written on the subject before, in July 2013, (ON THE COMFORT OF HAVING A WRITING PARTNER   ), I don't think I really explained very well what it has meant to me to have, at long last, a writing partner. With a writing partner there is always someone "nearby" who can be trusted to give great critical advice or a second opinion about whatever I am writing or mulling over. Today, it being Wednesday (the only day he comes here from Rome), I will be there, and E and I will have a chance to catch up in person, in addition to our constant cyber meetings.

And because she is so modest and discreet about her own multi-talents, I feel privileged to be an extra set of eyes for her. Her poems, drawings, photographs, and varied examples of her skill as a wordsmith deserve a wider audience than me. Some day I, along with her many friends, would like to see an exhibit of her own works of art. But in the meantime, we enjoy our dental salon and
find encouragement in showing each other whatever we are working on. 

I'm reminded of my favorite quote from "Charlotte's Web":

"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer." 

I am so lucky to have found her!

I couldn't decide which one of these pictures to use, so you are getting them all. I like the fact that I fell in love with these Italian-made glass pens long before I dreamed I would be living in Italy. This one currently resides in my desk in the States. Would she rather come back home to her native Italy? Maybe not just yet. For the time being, her owner enjoys being able to hold her while stateside, as a touchstone of her adopted country.