(A series of personal observations recorded as Italy takes action against the spread of Covid-19,
first published March 20, 2020)
Usually I don’t see anyone when I go walking in the woods. Months will go by and maybe I will see one person collecting kindling and maybe I’ll see somebody else hunting mushrooms. I’ve learned seasons by questions like: where are you going? You going to pick chestnuts? The questions that come whenever I’m caught going up the hill by someone in town, as they remember something they did when they were children. There are few reasons to venture into the forest.
I’ve learned to say “walnuts” in the fall and “asparagus” in the spring because not everyone understands the roots and green medicine I gather, not even here where all the most beloved beliefs are pagan.
Today there were more asparagus pickers than I’ve ever seen at one time before. We keep our distance and nod buongiorno. I ask someone clinging to the steep hillside if he’s had any luck.
“Not too much but it passes the time.”
There are helicopters in the sky today, to remind us where we’re supposed to be. But after a thousand of years of outside rule (or no rule at all) most folks of this valley are unperturbed. Coming down the trail and into town and back to the studio I pass, as usual, Pino’s garden. He’s there and I forget to wish him a happy name day (it was yesterday anyway). He’s there as he’s been for days and he’s still trimming the smallest branches from the smallest branches from whatever branches he’s pruned from his trees.
I wonder where all the branches will go as they should have been burned yesterday in bonfires that should have lit up the night for miles around in all the towns that San Giuseppe watches over. It’s a celebration of spring that starts after dark on the last day of winter with wine and sandwiches and sugared zeppole. Here the Church is just a disguise, a jacket and a hat for the old worshippers of nature who burn the Witch of Winter on this auspicious night. Without the festival, what will come of spring? The forecast is calling for snow next week.
We are close to the ground here.
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.