On Sunday, I went to the kind of beach that I was quite sure no longer existed. The path to the shore was a relatively common Sicilian landscape (the kind that continues to make me squeal with delight) — rocky terrain filled with shrubs of various forms and fields planted in blocks of wheat and olive trees. Purple thyme was blooming all over the hillsides and the sea breeze broke through the warm air.
The gentle path abruptly transformed into a mountainous descent and after an hour of walking, I found myself on a completely deserted beach. There was not a soul in site save for a small colony of seagulls. The beach was surrounded by sedimentary rocks packed with gypsum deposits which sparkled against the reflection of the sea. Who knew that a place like this even existed?
In other news, I’ve spent the week hanging out with Maira Kalman, Rick Meyerowitz, and a group of incredibly talented women, organizing a workshop on food illustration and laughing our way through many meals, many walks, and many interesting conversations. Of the surprising things that have happened this week, this might take the cake: Maira is quite fond of ironing — I’m talking about ironing clothes and I’m talking about hobby-level fondness — and asked if I had anything that could use pressing. I promptly produced an extremely wrinkled suitcase-weary collared shirt which the author of 18 children’s books, frequent contributor to New Yorker magazine, owner of Tuscanini’s pants, etc., etc., etc. proceeded to iron for me. Proof of her excellent work is available here.
I also saw Saturn this week, experienced my first Sirocco, learned the secret to a perfect gin and tonic (add one of these leaves!), and successfully completed my inaugural long-ish distance drive at the helm of a stick shift vehicle. My head is spinning for all of the best reasons. It’s been a crazy but really really good one.
My sophomore year at university, I wrote a list of everything I could think of that I might want to do after I finished school. I still have the list, aptly title AFTER COLLEGE, and it includes everything from “USAID project in Afghanistan” to “30000 Island” (I don’t even know what this entry means — just looked it up and I’m still confused.) Anyway, halfway down the list is “live in Italy.”
Do you ever have a moment where things are a bit fuzzy and complicated and you have certain ideas but have no clue how to make them anything and then you blink and somehow the thing has come together? No? Neither do I. Except that somehow, I just have. That moment has happened to me in a really really big way and I’m still pinching myself really really hard.
In an unbelievable turn of good luck/hard work/finger crossing/etc. this magical spot is the place that I get to temporarily call home. And so, this June, instead of watching corn spring up green around me until it towers overhead, instead of gorging on strawberries, instead of bouncing around farmers markets and packing up evening picnics and going on long walks with my best friend, I am moving very slowly and cautiously in an attempt to drill into my brain every single scene. I am staring at fields of wheat and seeing them change from basil green to golden amber before my eyes. I’m watching globe artichokes rupture from tightly closed fists into the most ridiculous purple explosions. I’m taking lots of walks (often while listening to this) and constantly trying not to burst into tears over the beauty and magic and impossibility of the crazy world I’m living in right now. This June is one for the books.
I really love a good book club. So much so that somehow, over the course of the past year, I have involved myself in not one, not two, but THREE of them. You don’t have to be particularly bright to realize that three book clubs is way too many book clubs and fortunately for the sake of my sanity, I’ve now whittled it down to about 1.5 book clubs. Which is probably still too many. But for now, this will have to do.
One interesting thing about these book clubs is that none of them have happened in person. I’ve spent the last year doing a lot of moving around and thus, inconveniently, the people I love to read with have not been near me. No monthly dinner party book chats shared with a glass of wine happening over here.
But fear not, because the brilliant and highly literate Tuesday has come up with the perfect and most aesthetically pleasing solution for a long distance book club in the form of my Christmas present last year: A book club calendar. AKA the gift that keeps on giving.
Last November, Tuesday and I created a list of six books we each wanted to read in 2016 and she compiled them into a beautiful calendar with quotes from the books and seasonally appropriate images. Each month (sometimes twice per month if we’re really on top of it) we have a phone call to discuss the book and it’s such a fun and special time to share ideas and to stay caught up, both on our reading and our friendship.
Five months in, I have to say it’s one our better decisions of the year. Though there have been times where I especially have gotten really behind on the reading, it’s been such a beautiful experience. Everyone should make one of these — highly recommend.
Here’s what we’re reading this year:
- January – The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow
- February – Notes from No Man’s Land, Eula Biss
- March – Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
- April – The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
- May – Ishmael, Daniel Quinn
- June – The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson
- July – A Widow’s Story, Joyce Carol Oates
- August -Purity, Jonathan Franzen
- September – Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett
- October – Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
- November – Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
- December – The House of Spirits, Isabel Allende