(A series of personal observations recorded in the countryside in the province of Salerno as Italy takes action against the spread of Covid-19, first published April 17, 2020)
Quarantine. From the Italian "quarantina". 40 days. Forty days and nights in the desert. Forty days under the bodhi tree. Have I been in the desert? Not really. Under a tree? Occasionally. Maybe I haven’t been making the best use of these 40 days. There have been some visions though, and a few demons. We still have a ways to go. Another 40? Maybe.
A few days ago, Tuesday, Italy started taking some very tentative steps to lifting restrictions. Bookstores now join the exceedingly short list of “essential businesses” and have been allowed to open up again. Our local bookseller’s shop is only big enough to turn around in. It was Arsenio’s father‘s before his and he not only sells books, but pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, paper, cards and envelopes. Not many other booksellers do, nor will they send a fax for you or make copies like this one does....
(A series of personal observations recorded as Italy takes action against the spread of Covid-19, first published April 14, 2020)
It’s been a few days since I took to the hills and so this morning I go, prepared with gloves, shears and a large bag to collect some nettles for drying and some for a soup. I’m drawn into the details: all the things growing from between the rocks that line the path, or escaping into crevices with the flourish of of a tail. Most everything growing or escaping is green, which is a good thing. I am aware that soon the black snakes will come out in the open to mate and the brown and grey vipers have probably already begun to leave their hibernation.
Moving past the dry open rocky part of the hill I enter the woods.
There are more things blooming or about to bloom than there were just a few days ago. I’m curious about the things I don’t recognize. Some of them are from a plant family familiar enough that I don’t mind crushing a leaf, smelling, getting a sense of it. Something is budding that I will come back and check on soon because I think it might be comfrey. I wonder what else besides the plants I already know are useful, edible or medicinal.
There’s a place where two paths converge and this is where I start to find my nettles.
(A series of personal observations recorded as Italy takes action against the spread of Covid-19, first published April 13, 2020)
I’ve rather lost count. I’ve skipped some days. Is it Sunday? Was it Easter? Monday? After so many weeks the effort of keeping track seems meaningless.
It’s spring. It's now later in spring than it was earlier, when all the moist sunny places were covered in bright yellow blossoming lesser celandine. Now is when the wisteria just blooms. Today is part of the greater period of wild fennel, which sprouted just after the violets did, and part of the smaller period of orchids, which will disappear months before the fennel seeds, being too delicate to face the heat. If it weren’t for my architect, I’d already have wholly succumbed to a calendar more like this. I would say things like: on the day the wind brings sand from the Sahara, I’ll meet you between the two walnut trees after the periwinkle opens but before the sun touches their leaves. I would be living by my own clock. It wouldn’t be a clock based on business hours. It might not even be one based entirely on the sun. What if I’d rather wake when the moon rises? Always at a different time so as to better know each hidden part of what passes for a day.
(A series of personal observations recorded as Italy takes action against the spread of Covid-19, first published April 9, 2020)
(I skipped a day)
A full minute of joyful ringing bells at midday and the Quaresima, forty days that began with ashes on a Wednesday, is over. Holy Thursday.
There’s something else in the air today too. The street in front of my studio has seemed busier and busier with traffic and passing conversation over the past several days, even during the hours of the midday lunch break when it’s typically nearly silent. The piazza in front of our apartment is fuller. The sun is higher and brighter, the air drier; the day warmer. Spring is rushing now; every day something else spouts flowers or yellow-green leaves.
It’s as if, collectively, patience has run out. Can we just get on with it already?
I added this blog as a way to share some thoughts and experiences around the impact of Covid-19 on my life here in Southern Italy. These posts have been a near-daily practice during this time and are largely unedited, most having been first posted on Facebook. They are of course in order with the most recent entry on the first page. I invite you to explore previous posts or even start from the beginning.