(A series of personal observations recorded as Italy takes action against the spread of Covid-19,
first published March 15, 2020)
I wake to the sound of bells, as always. Despite the call to the early mass, the piazza won’t fill this morning. No one will lean against our kitchen window gossiping, unaware that we’re drinking our coffee inside. I don’t especially mind.
A piano sings faintly from two floors up. I’m slicing the bread when he comes in. I can tell something is different.
“What do we want to do today?” he says.
But this is my question. He never asks it. These past months he says things like, “I have to do this and then I have to do this and then I have to do this and then.... What does that even mean, “want”? Who gets to do what they “want” all day??” I know I confound him with the way my compass works.
This week though only two job sites are running and his assistant is working on some drawings at home. There’s nothing to catch up on in the office this weekend, everything else is on hold. We talk about the weather instead of the news and he decides he wants to be outside this glorious day, to go do some work in the garden behind his mother’s house. He hasn’t seen her in well over a week. Worried for her, he’s kept his distance; eats lunch at our house instead. Twice already she’s called him saying, I’ve been baking. I’ve put some biscotti aside for you, come by.
More than twice he hasn’t gone by because two of the carpenters on one of the projects he’s managing have been quarantined and he has had contact with them. It isn’t worth the risk.
Today he goes, quickly and avoiding the piazza, so as not to disturb the carabinieri, and is very very careful. He doesn’t enter the house. They talk face to face, but she is up on the terrace, he stays down by the well. Her cough is better. She’s knitting things for his sister’s baby girl. She leaves him a panino wrapped in paper (no plate to touch and give back to her) and his brother brings him a beer.
I decide I want to walk in the woods and then go to work in the studio. (I realize I choose this quite often.) Sometime in the afternoon he calls. Arsenio with the stable across the road has made braids of mozzarella, do we want one? Of course we do. Emanuale’s making bread outside in the pizza oven, do we— yes, of course we do.
As I’m warming yesterday’s soup on the stove he comes home with the cheese, two kinds of biscotti; the bread his brother made. There’s also a small crostata, a jar of Rosario’s honey and a couple bottles of wine.
He says the apple trees and the pears have been pruned. We’ll get some good fruit this year. Tomorrow he’ll tackle the persimmon and mulberry. It’s almost too late for this work—everything’s starting to leaf out, to bloom. It’s fortunate timing really when you think of it. The artichoke patch has been weeded. Concetta’s cats are all in heat next door- what noise! The escarole is still too small to harvest. Do we want swiss chard? There’s swiss chard. And maybe a handful of brussel sprouts. You know, it’s incredible the number of birds...
Are you laughing?
Why are you laughing?
It’s nice to see you like this again, I say.
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.