Today smells of rain and crushed geraniums.
Across the street from the studio there’s a building being renovated. It’s owned by the Church and will be the home of the new priest, as the old one has not, after nearly three years of retirement, agreed to leave the apartment that would normally house the village priest. Before the renovations, the Church had allowed a man to live there, a painter who, having no family left and being rather lost in society at large, was taken in and given a home. He showed me his paintings once, colorful beautiful visions done with an un-taught naïve hand. He took care of the roses at the edge of the garden and had geraniums in the all the windows of the stairwell turret. I can see them from my terrace.
I’m not sure where he went when the work started last fall, but he left behind the geraniums. I don’t believe they’ve been watered since. They definitely haven’t been watered since the jobsite was closed over a month ago in accordance with lockdown ordinances.
My architect is not the architect for the project, but is the manager of the site. Think babysitting someone else’s children after you’ve had your own and have your own ideas about how they should be raised, ideas that might differ a bit from the other parents’ ideas but there’s only so much influence you can have. This is what it’s like.
Look,” I say to him. “The geraniums are dying. We should go get them.”
Being manager of the project, he has the keys.
“Why? Don’t worry about the plants.”
“I’m not worried. I just want more plants for the terrace and these need some care. We should get them. I’ll give them back once they’re healthy again and Don A. moves in.”
“Now? You want to get them now?”
There’s a very light rain. We’ve just finished our lunch. This isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation.
“A quick walk across the street and back for the sake of digestion,” I say.
“We should wait at least until there are more cars on the road again. If the carabinieri pass—“
“I doubt it’s illegal to cross the street with a geranium.”
“Well they’d ask what we’re doing and –“
“Gardening, we’re allowed to garden.”
After the incident with Maria and her husband being told to stop tilling their own land, I looked up and read through the long wordy ordinance. Turns out that the carabinieri they encountered were over zealous. Gardening your own land it perfectly legal, even here in Campania.
“And your garden doesn’t even have to be at your house!”
Because many aren’t, but instead are scattered around the edge of the densely constructed town, as they have been for centuries.
My architect finally gives in, insisting that I stay in our doorway and keep an eye out for the blue cars of the federal police. I can’t see his face but I know he’s rolling his eyes all the way across the street and up the stairs. In two trips he brings me three large pots full of leggy and wilted geraniums, covered in dust from the earlier demolition. They need a rigorous pruning and a lot of water. I am in love with the smell of geraniums and am here in a cloud of this earthy perfume, here on this terrace and here, when I had so many fewer words, on the back stoop of my childhood home; and still here in Portugal 26 years ago looking across almond tree groves to the sea, taking geranium leaves out of my 2-year-old’s hand.
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.