(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 27, 2020)
I watch the prime minister’s address on Saturday night and spend the day digging in the earth on Sunday. We have another month ahead of us before there will be a cautious normalcy, before we can take a coffee out, or go out to eat something with friends. Perhaps. Between now and then, little by little, there will be movement. My architect’s work-sites will open next week. Next Tuesday he’ll need to go across the valley, which hasn’t happened in nearly two months. I’m envious. I want to go across the valley on a Tuesday too. I would even go to his meeting, stressful for him and not at all interesting to me, just to see if the poppies have started blooming near the Carthusian monastery yet, or if there’s still snow on Monte Cervati; or if the storks have come back to their nests this year.
Today there’s something more than spring in the air, though there’s that too as, for the first time in many months between winter and this virus, I get on my bicycle and take a back road to the next town over (a stone’s throw, really), cutting across fields and patches of trees, farther from the shadow of the mountains than I’ve been in awhile. From this distance they are green-turning and white or rose in places where they’re blooming between grey-green olive groves. There is so much air to breathe out here.
There is wind because I am moving and the small pack of dogs who would normally give chase bark and then back off when I laugh at them. I’ve got their number and they have mine—this isn’t the day for a confrontation and I clearly don’t have treats in my pockets.
A small 3-wheeled truck buzzes past me going in the opposite direction and I hear, “Ooay-- Pittrice!!” [“hey, painter!], and an arm waves from the window.
Moments later there’s another friend standing at the edge of his small strip of farmland. We shout hellos and catch up from a distance. He, a free spirit who came home to Italy a decade ago after a lifetime up north, and his wife, an artist, didn’t get up to Switzerland to work in April of course (maybe at the end of June). They’ve planted some of the land, just in case they have to stay down here all summer, and have planted just a little of it, just in case they don’t.
I go to the next town over because the best nearest place to buy seedlings is there and there’s at least one strip of the garden ready for tomatoes or peppers or something. I’ll have to go again because they don’t have everything I want now.
“In settimana… mica domani (this week, maybe tomorrow)”, the owner of the shop assures me with a shrug.
The vague approximation does not bother me in the least today. I’ll be happy to ride over every day this week, my auto-certification in my pocket. I have a garden to plant.
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.