May 7 2013
Between Nice and La Spezia, a distance of some 180 miles, there are 175 tunnels. It is, for me, one of the most maddening of drives: for basically 4 hours one is going from light to dark to light to dark, one’s eyes constantly adjusting until they are popping out of your head on springs. This stretch of the tunnels comes approximately in the middle of the journey from Provence to Tuscany, two cultures which, in leaving the one to go to the other, demand another kind of adjustment.
By the time we entered Tuscany, last Thursday morning, the floater in my right eye was vying for space with the addition of a ring of jagged light, so that to look out to our beloved countryside was, much the same as the tunnels, like experiencing night and day almost simultaneously. The effort to adjust, optically, became so draining I just wanted to close my eyes, but how could I not witness our homecoming? So, through squinting lids, I breathed in the familiar landscape. Those magnificent rolling hills, which in just a few weeks will become tawny gold, are now, especially after a rainy first half of spring, deeply, vibrantly green with here and there a splash of scarlet poppies and mustard rape.
And so we make the adjustment, from the jagged outcropping and patchwork quilt of vineyards and orchards with which we had resonated for 4 months, to this vast expanse of undulating emerald that is our valley.
We skirt the village, taking the back roads to the farm; we are not yet ready for the outpouring of welcoming love which we know will greet us from every shopkeeper. Not to mention making the adjustment from months of speaking poor French to dusting offour adequate Italian. Our poor brains; it’s a wonder we are still able to communicate with each other in English!
But we are ready for Vincenzo and Silvia, the owners of this farm. We have timed our arrival for the end of their lunchtime and sure enough, they are running to greet us as we pull in, smiles as wide and deep as their hearts. And then we see this year’s additions: an enormous acacia tree has been planted near the house which in 2 years from now will provide a splendid spread of shade. Two antique climbing rose plants have already made their way 6 feet up the wall of the old outbuilding and the broom along the road, which was knee-high 2 years ago, now hides the road completely. Likewise a row of lavender next to the clothes line has grown vigorous and boasts a thousand spears which with just a few more days of Tuscan sun will soften into their bloom, perfuming the air with almost narcotic fragrance.
As always, Silvia has been kind enough to make up our bed with our own linens and we look at it longingly, knowing that wiser fools would get under the covers and sleep like nobody’s business. But we are mere fools, so, of course, we begin unpacking which, you may recall involves more than a couple of suitcases…remember that van full of stuff? Its contents are here; a whole spare bedroom full. Oy.
We make it through a dozen boxes before being rescued by Gianni who, after doing a jig with us, takes us up the hill for dinner with him, Luana and their son, Giovanni. Within minutes we are rattling away in Italian and by dessert 2 of us are on the floor in helpless laughter. No adjustment necessary.
Now it is Tuesday. Everything is unpacked and all our treasures, collected during our time in Provence, look like they’ve always been here, as do we. And yet, how strange, to feel this deep sense of belonging which we always feel here but which now has a counterpart in Provence. The link between these tunnels of love is the tribe of people and their deep attachment to and respect for the land and the harmonious rhythm of living in tune with nature.
I look out the window now and see that a heavy spring rain has set in, probably for the rest of the day. Our first load of laundry, which in just another 15 minutes would have been bone dry, is instead being baptized: a line adjustment.
This continual shifting of our tectonic plates is as necessary as the thousand adjustments per second that it takes to ride a bike and we are most definitely up for the ride. However, it would seem that we still haven’t learned to get off and rest before falling off in a stupor. As a result there is one more adjustment to be made and for that I will, in 20 minutes, lie on our healer’s table and let him re-align my body.