(A series of personal observations recorded as Italy takes action against the spread of Covid-19,
first published March 18, 2020)
The cities and towns have all gone quiet but the countryside follows its own rhythm.
It is quiet in the winter. It is quiet when it rains. It is quiet briefly at midday most seasons, longer in summer. But it isn’t quiet now. Farmers don’t follow ordinances, they follow Nature. Today there tractors in the fields, chainsaws on the hillsides; three-wheeled trucks buzz from town to somewhere beyond and back again.
Today I’m tired and just want to hear the soothing noises that the forest makes. It is a glorious day.
On the pathway I find more people than I would expect. There are two others. It’s asparagus season— at least it should be but yesterday my architect found only three slim spears. He’s much better at looking for them than I am. He has the ability to focus on their shape and single them out from the chaos of spring growth on the rocky hillsides. I instead look at everything and find things that aren’t asparagus. In these excursions we will often wander away from each other, spreading out to cover more ground. I will hear his whistle: where are you? We’ll meet somewhere overlooking the valley and he will have handfuls of the tender shoots and I’ll have handfuls of other things, twigs in my hair and calendula petals on my chin.
Look! We have a salad to go with the frittata! I’ll say as I show him the chickweed and violets and cucumber-y burnet.
Today I climb up to where the hillside no longer faces the valley but becomes part of the inside of a network of hills and mountains and trails. It’s March but there’s no mud on my boots. I find a wide grassy patch alongside a dry stream bed and I lay down on the hard greening ground. In a few weeks the green should be thigh-deep with nettles and borage; blackberries and burdock.
I listen and the sounds of the valley are so distant that I can barely hear them above the breeze through the bare branches, the bird calls and the buzzing of bees. It is a glorious day. We’ve had so many of them that this winter has hardly seemed like winter.
In the cities where it’s quiet now I wonder if they can hear what I do in the forest, belly pressed against the Earth. There’s no one here to talk about growing numbers or falling numbers, about the dead that can’t be mourned; about what’s closed, what’s lost or what to do alone at home.
Beneath this unyielding blue sky there is an even greater unease. My ear against the Earth I hear what she’s been saying for months: there’s no water enough in this wood to keep it from burning come summer, no water enough in the fields to keep them giving.
It is a glorious day. The cities and towns have all gone quiet.
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.