Autumn is in the air here in Sicily. Mornings are brisk and foggy and evenings require multiple layers. Strangely though, from the crocuses popping up all over, it seems the garden hasn’t gotten the message.
Best things right now are: juice-dripping candy-sweet plump and delicate persimmons littering the trees in the orchard; air that smells of overturned soil and fermenting grapes; smiles and waves from local folks who now feel much less like strangers and more like neighbors.
I’ve not been writing as much as I’d like to be or taking as many pictures as I should. I sometimes worry as moments pass throughout the day that I’m already forgetting them. Why aren’t I keeping a better written record? But there’s always this contention between experiencing things fully as they are happening and taking yourself out of the moment to record them. With only a handful of days left in October, I wish for a photographic memory.
A friend and I ran away to a little beach town in the north of Sicily this past weekend, for what we assumed would be one of the final guarantee-ably warm sets of days of the year. Instead, it rained almost the entire time. But despite that (or possibly due to it, as the case may be!), it was a beautiful and refreshing trip and I’m very grateful for having had the opportunity to make the journey.
Cefalù is a small town on the Tyrrhenian Sea with 14,000 inhabitants. Over the centuries, it has been conquered by many different civilizations and the footprint of those various groups can be seen in the architecture, city design, and artifacts scattered around the area. In addition to ogling at all of the ancient sites and walking from what felt like dawn to dusk, I also ate a load of arancini and almond granita, got a bunch of sleep, and read this book (recommend!). All in all, a lovely little vacation.
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.