Archive | July, 2010

A little Italia

21 Jul

After finishing up my teaching gig in France, I traveled through north and central Italy for a bit.  In Firenze, I met a man who told me that writing in the moment is a much different process from writing out of memory.   It creates a different kind of art. Not better, or worse, only different–memory allows us to mold to a certain extent our stories.  We can change our stories, and in the process, change ourselves.

I was very tired when traveling through Italy.   I didn’t do much writing, though there are several lucid and brightly detailed impressions that remain with me that were never recorded.  The scant traces I did write are like sloughed skin, so fragile and untrue they now seem to the form of what really happened.

I remember fields of poppies from the train window on the way out of Bologna, a woman with a pink backpack standing beside two nuns at the station in some small town.

The blinding white heat of climbing in the hills above le Cinque Terre–walking through the high villages that are still small—smaller than their notable touristed neighbors below—buzzing with insects and sun, the lunar green of the vineyards and the sea gloaming below.

Florence.  Oil paints, Louis Armstrong, sparkling red wine, ricotta with honey.  Mirrors, clocks, a cool respite in an otherwise unbelievable day.

Rome.  Friend from Corsica meets friend from Montana– the ever-giving fountains, the gray heat and clouds, running through the streets, thinking I’m crazy to be running through Rome, of all places.

Lucca.  An ivory church tower at dusk, olives and cold lasagna from an alimentari, eaten at the feet of that church.  Murals of lapis lazuli, ripe cherries and their pits, a red Porsche, twisting hill roads lit up by headlights.  Indulgence, indifference.

When I was a kid, Italy existed for me as France did–a place I explored in my dreams, romantic, ancient, sumptuous.  A place where reality, where who I was in reality, didn’t apply.  How is one allowed to feel indifferent in Italy? Well, I did.  I wanted nothing typical.  Days washed over me, ran through me, like so many waves.  It’s not that I didn’t care–I just was tired of looking for something that, as I’d learned in France, didn’t exist.  Instead I found something more honest.

Manarola, Italy. Population < 500.