Sunday, January 12, 2020

Where to, Now?

Let’s take a little skin trip. Step outside of your little world, just for a few minutes. Let’s go to Italy.

“Ahh,” you say, “Been there, done that.” And yes, maybe you have gone to Italy a time or two.

There is another Italy, one that is elusive to most of us, even those who speak the language fluently. It isn’t an Italy of words. It isn’t an Italy which mandates judgement, or even preference.

It’s something I have seen inside the viewfinder of a camera, and hints of it in films. I’ve felt it while hiking in Abruzzo and driving my motor scooter around Pantelleria. I’ve smelled it in the kitchens of aunts and grandmothers, and tasted it on numerous tables, both majestic and humble. And I’ve sipped it from the finest crystal glasses to the commonplace tumblers. Still, I keep looking, thinking there is something about Italy that evades many of us.

Recently, I watched a documentary about an Italian chef in Modena, and saw it again, the shadow running across the screen, taunting me to follow it.

And like a moth to a flame, I gave chase.

“But,” you say, “you’re just sitting at your desk, sipping your coffee. You aren’t even in Italy! How do you expect to find something that’s 6,000 miles away?”

If I have found out anything from the trips I’ve made to Italy, it is that the Italy I am searching for doesn’t have to be in Italy. In fact, that’s what is so compelling about Italy. While many think it is exclusive to that precious peninsula, I have this little ray of hope that what I am looking for in Italy is closer than Rome.

Admittedly, it would be a lot more fun to be there. The food, the wine, the musical language, the beautiful bodies, hovering a few inches above the cobblestones, little angels mingling with those little devils. Watching the ballet play out in the piazza, the perpetual passeggiata that one can find from north to south. But that’s not the flicker I’m following, not this trip.

“That which cannot be seen, but that by which one sees. That which cannot be heard, but that by which one hears. That which cannot be tasted, but that by which one can taste,” echoes of lines I read in an ancient Indian manuscript many years ago. It is the fire, the wind and the misty enigma that indelibly marks Italy and makes it such a timeless treasure trove for the senses. But it is also something I hope can discover outside of Italy and within my being.

Sure enough, the wine, the olive oil, the music, the art, the interchangeable ingredients offer some hope. Making bread with salt from Sicily, olive oil from Tuscany and yeast from Lombardy, with American wheat, and these hands, part American and part Italian, can one cozy up to the flame at 5 AM in the urban windswept plains of Texas? Will it be like being in Modena? Is there no more a need to compare, when one is stepping outside of the little worlds we have imprisoned ourselves within?

It all hinges on one’s ability (and desire) to get out of oneself to get into one’s being , to let go. This is a great lesson Italy has taught this pilgrim. One’s fears, one’s anger, one’s glass-half-empty take on things, so pervasive in today’s world, just doesn’t cut it with the timeless and seamless existence that is Italy.

So, yes, I can live on this little island in flyover country and take what has been infused into my spirit and character from the many exposures to that thing about Italy which is so darn special. Where to, now?

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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