Tuesday, October 16, 2012


 I am celebrating the new year by changing the sheets—something I confess that I probably do not do often enough. Here in Italy, laundry is always something of a production. Umbria is not just the home of s-l-o-w cooking. Although Italian washing machines do seem to get things cleaner and with less of an impact on the environment and the clothes, they require an investment of time and forethought. Electricity is expensive and not to be taken for granted. Some frugal people only do laundry on the weekend when the rates are lower. I like to do it on a sunny day so I can hang the clothes out to dry, the way I imagine the local contadine do.
As I consider things new and fresh, I am reminded of a message I just sent to a new friend who already feels like an old one:

Ciao, G
Thanks for your delightful message, which is a reminder that it can be nice to grow old here with new friends. Whoever tells you that you are a good writer is right!

I'm impressed with your energy to tackle a top-to-bottom kitchen clean-up while simmering cinnamon-scented peaches and plums in honey just a few days before your departure. And I sense a kindred spirit in your description of your attention to your 90-year-young mom. I could totally relate to your watching for the reassurance of a breath or a snore. I see that you, C, and I have moms about the same age, which has its own joys and worries.

Jim's mom, to whom we owe our having been able to do this renovation, lived to be 91, still sharp and beautiful. As we were coming out of a Gregorian chant concert at a church in Perugia yesterday, Jim realized that that was the anniversary of the day she died. He thought about lighting a candle, but then realized that she would definitely have preferred that he eat a nice gelato in her honor:she never lost her appetite for the good things in life.

 Bang, bang, bang! Today is a splendid fall day, at last--unless you are a bird getting shot at. It's high season for bird hunters and the also the eve of the Jewish New Year.

And although it’s a Sunday, instead of being in church, since 6AM the hunters have been having a field day. Despite the sunny skies, it is NOT a good time for a peaceful walk in the woods. Especially not without bright-orange bulletproof duds.

Never having been here in Italy at this time of year, we did not realize that September 1 is the start of the bird hunting season, and that the big moment for wild boars comes on November 1. I keep thinking of the boar families we have seen crossing the road on several occasions. Hope they have some good hideouts. There's also a confused young deer that likes to run along the road--not a good habit these days for those wanting to be inscribed in the Book of Life. 

Even though it was only for a concert, it did feel strange to be sitting in a public Mass in Perugia’s cathedral, and that was after a visit to one of my favorite museums that was full of religious art. In trying to put it all together, I like to think that there is something universally religious about the spirit that makes sublime art and music.

I'm wishing you and your family an easy transition and tante belle cose as we all re-connect with our fall selves.--xxx, d

It can be tricky to figure out how to formally acknowledge a religious holiday from afar. Usually I go to services with my mom. But here I am thousands of miles away from her and any formal services. I am going to have to improvise:time to strip the bed. A clean slate is in order.

For writers, the metaphor “to be inscribed in the Book of Life” for the coming year is especially powerful. I am hoping that there can be many ways of demonstrating that one is worthy of being included.

This post has had a very troubled genesis, and I recognize that I am taking a risk by including it. As I often do, I sent it to a few friends for comment before trying to post it. Usually, they reply, which gives me some reassurance that the piece might be ready for Prime Time. But this time, no one responded, which gave me pause. 

When I asked my husband, another non-responder, about it, he said that because it operates on several levels and contains a letter within it, it might be too complicated. It reminded him of those nested Russian dolls that I cannot resist. And then, as often happens in our remote corner of Umbria, we lost our internet connection for almost two weeks, after which we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of dear friends. Their visit had already been postponed once, due to a health problem. We all thought the time was ripe.

And then we received the kind of message that no one wants to hear:on the eve of their departure, their vigorous, young son-in-law was felled out of the blue by a massive stroke. He would not be inscribed in the Book of Life. And of course our visit will be once again deferred. Maybe next year?

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