Saturday, August 8, 2009


The full moon has risen, orange-gold and lovely, preceded by a brightly shining Jupiter.  They are themselves, as ever, timeless and yet each time wonderful, while I am seeing them in a new place with fresh eyes.  I'm in Umbria, with friends, staying in an airy hilltop house with a wonderful view east to a line of purple hills.
The landscape here is so different and so transporting.  There is forest, woodland on hilltops and in valleys, that punctuates the rounded sweeping contours of the earth.  The golden wheat stubble is now being ploughed under, the plough leaving rich dark lines in the gold.  The farmers began ploughing yesterday.  They plough very early, at dawn, or very late in the evening, to avoid the intense sun and heat of the day.  Other large fields in this valley, always sloping and rounded, are planted in sunflowers, ripening now, their heads all aligned together to face the sun.

Now, in the night, with the newly risen moon (full two nights ago, but still only barely off full), there are stars in the clear sky, including one of the few constellations that I can identify, that childhood familiar the Big Dipper.  The frogs are singing in a constant high-pitched staccato, and apart from that there's stillness and silence.

In a couple more nights there will be shooting stars.  I can think of nowhere I'd rather watch them than up here on this hillside in the clear air.  I just wish Dom and Tashi were here too, to enjoy the place and the good company.

This being transported to another place is a wonderful thing, and such a privilege.  I am reading books (just finished Redmond O'Hanlon's No Mercy, about his trip in the Congo, published in 1997, fantastic and engrossing and disturbing) and talking to friends and new acquaintances, without a sense of rush or schedule.  Out behind the house two days ago I picked almonds (almonds!!) and hazelnuts, three kinds of plums, and two varieties of pear, from the trees planted there.  The lavender and rosemary grow in huge bushes, inviting and aromatic, and the tomatoes are sweet with the hot sun.

But more than those pleasures, I am taking a space from my normal pattern of thought to let my mind drift.  What a luxury!  And I find myself shaping stories in my head, stories and descriptions for my next project.  I should perhaps, well, no perhaps about it in fact!, be editing and polishing the entry on "Fermentation" for the Oxford Companion to Southeast Asian Food.  It's nearly done, but somehow, here in the newfound light and landscape of Umbria, I'm having trouble being diligent about finishing it off.  hmmm!!!

Soon, soon.  And meantime good wine, good oil, good bread, and excellent company, are reminding me of the pleasures of enjoying the present wholeheartedly...

1 comment:

Lesley said...

Wow!!! Lovely, lovely description. Hope you're enjoying your idyll. My sister arrives tomorrow for the Green Day concert on Saturday. I'm psyched.

And whenever I see/hear of meteor showers, I "remember" the spectacular Leonides shower on the Upper Missouri in 1835 (?). Tribes had a variety of names for it. The Piegan called it The Year the Stars Fell and said it meant the world was changing. Oh my. They were so right. 2 years later, the smallpox epidemic would decimate the tribes.

As you can see, I'm getting mentally back into the fur trade and gearing up for the big research talk in a couple weeks.

Enjoy your respite, Nom!