May 20 2013
Joel returned safely from Washington D.C., last Friday, his 2-day jaunt consisting of 24 hours of travel and 24 hours in Washington; a sort of 50/50 demarcation of time that reminds me somewhat of our journey, in that we have now been married for approximately half the time we’ve been together; last Saturday being our 12th Anniversary, an anniversary made all the more special because it is just down the road from here that we were married.
We awoke to find that Gianni had left 2 roses and a handwritten note on our doorstep. The note, written in pencil on old paper, saying how he remembers the day of our wedding and that it warms his heart again; that he is filled with joy that we are not dreaming of our life but living our dream, now.
After breakfast we went into the village to buy the makings of dinner and to watch the Mille Miglia, a 600 mile annual parade of some 400 vintage cars which always wends its way through the narrowest street of Buonconvento, a street which on this occasion is always lined with locals, the children waving flags. The year we married, the Mille Miglia took place the day after our wedding and our party of 45, all of whom had been with us for the whole week, were part of the festivities.
How much has changed since then. In may 2001 we were all still innocent of the horror that would befall just a few months later; 9/11 as we now refer to it, as if to reduce it to 3 digits might reduce its everlasting impact. It seems to me that a certain amount of spontaneity disappeared from life after that, and that this absence of spontaneity is further evidenced with the advance of the digital era; this era that is supposedly all about communication is, I often find, stunningly devoid of it. And this year the Mille Miglia was one such example.
Twelve years ago, the people lining the streets cheered and waved the drivers and co-drivers who likewise waved back enthusiastically. This year the only thing that remained the same was the unalterable beauty of these old cars, a beauty that seemed almost wasted on both drivers and spectators who were all too busy with digital cameras and instruments to connect with each other, so that all the excitement of such an event was completely absent. Only the children showed spontaneity, waving their flags and cheering endlessly to no avail; I saw not one driver respond and wondered where the boy in them had gone.
So we moseyed on to buy fresh baked bread along with a chocolate pear cake and the sardines and pine nuts, raisins and tomatoes which we would later marry with oil and garlic, oregano and saffron, a splash of red wine and, of course, pasta. We call this our honeymoon dish having had it many times during our 10-day honeymoon in Sicily. Toward 5:30 we made our way to the colonnade of cypress trees between which we had been encircled by family and friends, as we vowed our love, come what may.
This is the third time we’ve been able to celebrate our anniversary here and each time we feel ourselves surrounded once again and find ourselves spontaneously calling out everyone’s names. Although this time there was no accordion to serenade us back along the road to our wedding feast, nonetheless we felt the joy of our union and the roots we have grown deep into the ground of our marriage and into the earth of Tuscany. For it is to Tuscany that we made our first trip together, less than a year after meeting, and it is to Tuscany what we have returned every year since. But this weekend we felt the magnitude of living our dream…for it is here that we are living.
On Sunday we went up the hill to Gianni and Luana’s for lunch. There were ten of us at table under the vine-covered pergola and Joel and I grabbed the reigns of our Italian steeds and pretty much stayed in the saddle of conversation Italian style…everyone talking at once. Later in the afternoon, once everyone had left, the 4 of us took a long walk down shady lanes into sunlit fields strewn with poppies and daisies, the infinite hills rolling all around us.
We stopped and explored the ruin of a house, the vestiges of peasant life once lived there still echoing beneath timbered roofs now partially open to the cerulean sky, the empty fireplaces like open mouths, ready to tell the stories they once engendered. We rescued an old bucket, a wooden barrow and a handmade trestle as they were calling to us for salvation and restoration, to live again their functions.
We walked on in the comfort of shared silence and then, coming out into more fields, Gianni pointed to an old farm and said, come. And so we spent the next hour with Marino, Marina, and Marino; the first Marino being Maria’s husband and the second Marino being her brother. They range in age from mid-80’s to 92 and together live and work the farm.
I thought of the elitism with which some of the new generation of American farmers, talk of self-sustainable farming: they should come here and see the real thing. These 3 people raise pigeons to eat, hens are scurrying everywhere and 3 pigs are nicely fattening up. Piles of wood are stacked according to their various stages of seasoning; the orto – vegetable garden – is enormous. Three outbuildings hold hay for the animals. And the sole water source is a 3 hundred-year old natural spring, gushing water so pure that a cupped handful tastes like a healing libation.
Marina is fascinated by my iPhone and its ability to film her. The older Marino, encouraged by Gianni, talks of his capture by the Germans during WWII, at the age of 20. Tells how he was one of their slaves, digging trenches and living in them covered by a tent, hundreds of prisoners sleeping in the earth cheek by jowl, never to come above ground for 6 months. He made it home after 2 years, covered in lice and threadbare clothing. Later in the evening he will scythe part of a field, cane in one hand, sickle in the other.
Marina gives Luana and I 9 eggs apiece and thanks us for visiting. Nobody comes to see old people anymore, she says. I can’t wait to return. They are a lesson in how to live. They work to live and their work is in direct communication with each other and the planet. Their clothing, simple and much darned, speaks of the poetic elegance of mere necessity. And we are enriched, inspired and immensely grateful for their proof that it is still possible to live this honestly and with humility and humor.
We say our goodbyes and filled with love, the four of us sit at our candlelit table and share the remains of our honeymoon dish which, having matured over-night, nourishes our hearts as well as our stomachs.