12 June 2012
We move around, outside, following the sun or shade, as we wish, circling the house much like the cows across the road that circle from hay feed to the woods, down to the pond and back. Sometimes, when the sun becomes too strident or the wind in the shade rustles the pages of my journal, I come inside to write, either upstairs in our studio, or, if Joel’s clacking away at emails, I retire to our bed from where, with the French doors open to the afternoon light I can see into the shade of the tree and beyond, to where the sun still illuminates the land.
Yesterday, the Gianni Magic began. He came for us late afternoon in his pick-up, which I call his Silver Steed, and took us down the road to a semi-derelict building that used to be a winery. He wanted to show us the color of the walls; a fleshy pink reminiscent of medieval Sienese stone. In the back of the building stood the long-unused, enormous wine barrels, which Gianni will re-purpose for the floors of his house.
From there we gallop along an old Etruscan road so that he can show us an example of the 50/50 nature of reality and the reality of nature; the former, a field where someone has been dumping old broken vehicles. To see this kind of ignorance bordering on criminality, in such a place of beauty really hurts. I mean, you can literally feel your heart twist, as if it has received a direct injury. Less that a 100 yards further along we stop to look at the reality of nature: a rape field rolls down the side of a hill with a shock of color no Persian rug could hope to equal. We alight and walk into the field, its energetic hue seeming to flood our beings with health and radiance. The hills multiply in every direction and in the distance is the faint outline of Mount Amiata.
We return to the truck and journey on. There is no sign of humanity: no electricity, no traffic, no radios or TV’s and I wonder, instead of having all these ridiculous ‘days’ like Presidents’ Day, Secretary’s Day, National this and that Day, what if we had National Nature’s Day and every single person was given access to a field or a beach or a forest of pines in which to spend an entire day?
We turn a bend and there, coming out of a clearing in the woods, appears a beekeeper! We stop. He removes his netted hat and we greet each other. He tells us to wait, puts on his protective mask and disappears for a minute, returning with a small wooden box filled with bee pollen. “Eat,” he says, and we each take a big pinch. It is like nothing we have ever eaten before; sweet and soft and crumbly, like aerated felt. It disappeared in the mouth like ambrosia, nourishing body and spirit.
Gianni asks him where he’s from and what he’s doing here. He says, simply, “Nature saved me.” Originally from Abruzzi, he now lives on a neighboring hill to Gianni’s where he is the director of a rehabilitation home for boys who are drug addicts, having been one himself for many years. Now he is helping nature save them, teaching them how to make honey and other bee products in order to support the home.
We continue on, Gianni dropping us off at our house with the promise we will dine together later to celebrate the first official day of work on Gianni and Luana’s new home. I bring a soup I made yesterday from vegetables, sausage and cannellini. Luana has grilled eggplant topped with cheese and tomato. We eat peaches and cherries for dessert and then walk down the lane to the site that will be their home.
It’s a magnificent ruin atop a hill, sitting in a grove of olive trees with a 360 degree view. When you look in every direction from this place you see only ancient Etruscan land, starting with the sunrise, where their kitchen will greet the day and ending at what will be the veranda to our apartment looking out to the sunset over another field of rape. It is wild here, and yet tranquil. Boar roam here, and on a far hill a flock of sheep graze. The woods are filled with mushrooms and…wait…what do we hear?
The first day we arrived, Gianni told us that if there was anything we wanted, to just ask. “Oh, Gianni,” I said, “Bring me a nightingale.”
About 10 years ago, when we were all living on the estate down the road, we had 2 friends from Cape Cod visiting for a few days. One night, just as we had all gone to bed, Gianni came a-knocking; “Come,” he said, “Come.” And we all piled into the back of his pick-up and drove to the far edge of the estate to an old farmhouse. Some 50 yards before reaching it, he shut off the lights and engine and, finger to lips, beckoned us to follow in silence. He led us to the back porch where he lit a candle and whispered, “Aspetto,” In a few minutes a nightingale began to sing…and sing…and sing. For an hour we sat in silence, listening, the single flame of the candle glistening the tears on our cheeks.
Now, 10 years later, Gianni stops, finger to lips, “Aspetto,” he whispers, and there, from the woods on the far side of the rape field comes the singular song of a nightingale.