Thursday, March 10, 2011

Italy: Without a Doubt

When it all gets to be a little too much, when the heat of the day goes from tepid to searing, when all this running around and shuffling and commotion becomes just so much noise and distraction, I pull in. I want my own little vision of Italy to wield its power over me. I don’t want to worry about whether or not I speak or understand the language well enough. I never will. I’ll never be an insider in the language of words department. That’s for other people with those talents.

No, the little universe of Italy that’s wrapped around my heart and mind is a place somewhere in the middle, with rolling hills and a nearby beach with salty water and the setting for the happiness that Italy represents to me. My Italy isn’t perfect but it’s damn well near, and it works just fine for me.

So when I get to worrying about the wood and the yeasts and the smog and the ennui and all the ills that beset a place with the human equation, and knowing whether it is Italy or America or Pakistan or Libya, there has to be a dream, albeit my own little Walter Mitty version, that allows for grace and life and love and breathing room to take it all in and luxuriate not in the reality of Italy but in one’s very own special little shrine to the potential of what Italy means. And for me it means a place where I can look and walk and think and feel and be exactly who it is that makes me the unique person God has made me.

My Italy has endless fields of vines, trellised any which way; it doesn’t matter. Because no matter how they are arranged on the stalks the grapes that come from them will turn into a wine that isn’t judged by the alcohol or the pH or the residual sugar or the character of the ambient yeasts that are attracted to the berries hanging on those stalks. It just doesn’t matter. They are perfect for me and my needs and they have been for as long as I can remember.

My special little place isn’t hard to get to but people don’t flock there as much as they do to other places. Which is fine for me. I shy away from crowds and the masses that need a Tuscan sun or a room with a view. For as long as I can remember, the Italy of my dreams, the Italy I have walked under my own sun and moon, lets me amble freely, with or without a camera, alone or with friends and family, speaking in English or my fractured Itala-Calabo-Siculano that I snuck from listening to my parents and grandparents. In that place no one makes fun of my cadence or indicatives; they don’t mock me for using lei instead of tu. Because in this very special place the language we are using comes from the eyes and the heart. The mouth is better suited for sipping the wine, which is perfectly balanced and would be, could be, the only wine I would ever need to drink for the rest of my life.

And while this vision is drawn from real memories, it has become my personal crusade to live that life, whether I am in Controguerra, Italy or Italy, Texas in a way that doesn't require I be anyplace in particular. Blame it on Herman Hesse or Thomas Wolfe or Tomaso de Lampedusa or Naguib Mahfouz, or any number of people who have written about this so much more eloquently and in any number of languages. My heart-speak stutters with these words, but the images that pour out on any given day fill my little room with an Italy that can take me to the end of my days with ease. My life has been filled with these images, and fortunately my little camera has been by my side in case I forget one of those moments. Over the period of forty years that I have been with my constant companion, we have seen historical changes. But always with the big changes, the little unseen ones, the changes that forge through ones soul like blood through ones being, constantly moving, channeling, reinventing, re-creating. Oh yes, thank you very much; the Italy inside me is very much alive and ready to go another couple of thousand of years, easily. With joy. With passion. With courage. Without a doubt.

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