Day 40, books and the terrace
(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....
In the news here last week there were photos of people in the United States, lined up outside gun stores, which are apparently deemed “essential businesses” in many states, above bookstores even. I think about priorities and about poetry. If this is the end of the world, I’ll take a glass of smooth red Primitivo in one hand and a book in the other please. Will I be one of the first to go down, defended only by verse, by philosophy; by a paragraph about the study of the intelligence of trees? Perhaps. But I'll have taken with me no one who didn't want to come.
I learned last night that a residency I was supposed to attend this summer in New Mexico has been postponed until next year. Which means I have a long stretch of uninterrupted work time ahead and am excited to begin a project I’ve been thinking about for over a year.
Between fiddling with my various sketches and waiting for the delivery of some more supplies, I started to get my terrace in order today. I have avoided summers here in the Vallo di Diano for a couple years now so never made much of the wide second story (third for Americans) space with rooftop views outside my studio. Today I cleaned the gutters at the edge of it with a broom. If you’ve even spent a summer in southern Italy (or any part for that matter) you’d know why: I’m doing my best to eliminate any possibility of any droplets of water from any of my forthcoming potted plants to collect anywhere for any longer than a second or two. One of the reasons I haven’t been here in the summer (July most specifically) is the Asian Tiger Mosquito, brought to Genoa, Italy back in the 90s on a tire shipment from Brunswick GA where it had already arrived some years previous from, in all likelihood, Asia. I lived in Georgia for 20 years and am convinced that this mosquito mutated on it’s way over because I am now terribly allergic to its bites, to which I have no natural defenses, being instead especially attractive to it. I cannot avoid it since it’s active even in broad daylight and is clever enough to pass through keyholes and the smallest tears in the mosquito net (who has screens here?). One earlier summer I desperately took to chemical warfare, probably poisoning myself and countless other organisms in the process.
So the gutters are clean. And soon I’ll have vegetables and something flowery for the bees.
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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.