(A series of personal observations recorded as Italy takes action against the spread of Covid-19,
first published March 14, 2020)
I look into this face all afternoon because I don’t want to look at the news anymore. I don’t want to look out the window either right now but something’s going on so I do anyway. The carabinieri have stopped a car full of people who should’ve known better than to go four all together. To make it worse, they don’t have their documents in order: they’re missing the auto-certification that states where they’re going and proves that where they’re going is on the very short list of “acceptable” outings permitted. I watch the argument, the exchange of paperwork. They’ve been fined and they’ll have to go home to a full 15-day quarantine, no exit for any reason whatsoever now. The new directives for our region came out last night and are, inexplicably, more strident than the national regulations. It is even forbidden just to go for a walk. Out here in the countryside that makes no sense and I feel the stirring of revolt. Where I go, they won’t find me.
He comes in to my studio after I’m lost again in the face of this blue-eyed Cherokee.
“Have you filled out your certificate?”
“It could be three months in jail you know.“
But this is someone else’s movie, I want to say. In mine I’m a bird.
Instead I say, “Don’t worry I’ll do it before I leave.”
When I come home without it later he’s exasperated. To avoid the fight I ask him to fill me in on the news I’ve been avoiding. In the hospital in the next town over from ours they’ve confirmed a new case today. Great Britain isn’t shutting anything down. As if what we’re doing here is pointless.
Maybe what we’re doing here is pointless? Before the lockdown reached us we spent weeks in this argument but I hold my tongue. My opinion won’t change what is happening and we can’t know yet what’s right or wrong. I save my energy.
A car goes by with a loudspeaker blaring. It’s a woman’s voice and she tells us to stay indoors and keep windows closed tonight. At 11:30pm they’ll be, for our safety, spray-disinfecting the entire town. They don’t say with what. I want to go sleep up in the mountains, out in the open where the air is just air.
Later, not in the mountains and not falling asleep, I remember a different blue-eyed Cherokee, one gone crossed to the other side.
“Feed what you want to see grow,” he reminds me.
So I tear my attention from what wants to pull me under and I am painting again, behind closed eyes, dancing at the cool edge between shadow and light- the edge that defines the form, gives life. I remember what I know: the dark passages are essential, but best kept passive in this kind of painting— they are transparent, without detail; a whisper in our awareness. To draw too much attention to the shadow is to ruin the balance and beauty of the whole. Instead, seeking to activate, saturate, glorify the lights (feed what you want to see grow), I am tracing shapes on this golden face. There is a grey-violet in the soft turning-away of the cheek; vermillion warmth where there would be breathing or blood.
And there are these eyes to fall into, a deeper sea.
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.