The elderly men walk with hands clasped behind them, in the small of their backs. I've tried it, and it provides some balance for the steep climbs. Grandfathers and grandmothers walk their grand babies in their strollers, greeting their friends, sharing gossip and stories. Their voices fade in, up and then out as they pass my little yellow house. Young people gather in the park at night, play their car radios, laugh and create a playful sound that cuts through the quiet of the night. The "Dr. Seuss-like trees" that so fascinated me when I arrived, have sprouted leaves that completely block my view. Seems somehow fitting that the view has left just as I am leaving. The pull of community is so strong here - celebration of life and death, beginnings and endings, history, family, sharing stories, sharing coffee, walking, always walking and greeting - is something I will miss, since I don't have the opportunity to observe this from my house, so far out of town in Grass Valley, sitting by itself on the hill. Isolation is so, well, isolating. The group of young men who play cards each day, the sounds of "echo lo!" from the older men who watch; Chelso sharing cherries with me, or salad still warm from his garden; the way the butcher shouts "Brava" when my Italian is correct; the way I am asked "Come stai? Tutto bene?" by people; the simple greeting of "salve" from a stranger; the way the air smells so clean, cool and crisp in the early morning; the sound of the annoying scooters, like a far off bumble-bee on approach, then like a science fiction spaceship on arrival; the sound of Italian being spoken, rapid fire, but like music with all those vowels, rising and falling; the sight of 100 cyclists outside my window on Sunday morning, or the 200 runners training on the hills that take me out of the village; the street markets, with the best bargains to be found in the "heaps", like 3 Euro linen shirts, new, with the tags still on them - if you're patient enough to paw through the heap; the killer-strong coffee that keeps me running all day; the quiet of the early mornings, with nothing but the birds and the rustle of leaves in the air; my little rental car, which took me to the most unexpected places, small hidden villages. ALL THIS and more, I will miss more than I am able to articulate.
I have said a thousand times, that I am so grateful for having had this opportunity - to step away from the realities of everyday life and live a short fairy tale existence. I return home with a renewed sense of self, and anxious to see friends, family, my house and my dog again.
CIAO ITALIA. Grazie Mille!