My beautiful neighbors broke through their fence one day…
I’m part of Daily and Weekly Post
This week’s photo challenge dives down into details.
A misty morning after a night’s rain in Umbria.
The day after La Befana will always be the day we put down our beloved Vladimir, who had been gravely ill with intestinal cancer. Five years ago on a sunny January 7th, his time was up and my heart still cries a little.
Vladimir, “so dignified and pure of heart” as our brother-in-law, Eddie, wrote, will be forever etched into my life and soul. Our beginnings here in Italy were made all the more wonderful with his presence.
An excerpt from my book, The Field Stones of Umbria, describes his last two days with us:
He spent the last few days of his life resting in the gardens, in the sunshine. He had stopped eating again, and this time we knew it was the end. The day before we put him down, I sat with him in the Japanese garden for an hour. We listened to the horses in the field, the sheep and their bells in the hills, and he watched the birds with his usual intensity.
A large woodpecker landed near the bamboo, and he leaped off my lap. Even though he couldn’t eat and was down to nine pounds from twenty, his instinct as a great hunter flashed for another moment. He was poetry in motion and I momentarily forgot that he was about to die.
The next day, when it was time to go, I found him in the lower meadow near the stream. I picked him up, his poor skinny body weighing nothing, and he draped himself on my shoulder. We walked all around the grounds, and I talked to him about the fields, the stream, the olive trees, the meadow, the lavender and rosemary, the bamboo and Japanese maples. I told him that all of “his nature” would miss his beautiful presence. He touched his nose to my lips, our secret kiss that we’d coveted for 12 years.
It was time to go. Pavel and I didn’t talk on the way to the vet. What is there to say? You have to do this, and there’s no turning back.
I held him while he was going under, Pavel at my side, both of us crying. The roller coaster of emotion had taken its last uphill climb. Our vet was amazing. Vladimir didn’t feel anything. He died peacefully. She cried with us.
We remember all of his antics, his playing, his purrs in the night. He still kisses me in his secret way. But most of all, we see his beautiful eyes gazing directly at us—questioning, understanding, loving, and connecting as no other animal has ever done.
Vladimir. So dignified and pure of heart.
A caravan pulls up to our neighbor’s house and the music starts. Bells are ringing, people are singing and shouting joyous greetings. The house is lit up with all the outside lights (which is very special here since electricity is so expensive!) to welcome the local bandwagon of people, gifts, and good cheer.
This Christmas Eve mission? To visit each and every house in this tiny valley where someone (or more) is at least 80 years old. And there are a lot of them! At least 20 people out of a population of 100 or so.
I stand on the terrace and watch and listen. My heart fills with joy, I smile. And I think to myself, I want to still be here when I’m 80.
Merry Christmas to all.
As I wrote in “The Last Firefly”, the season continues to move on. And since both the lavender and fireflies are gone, I’ve said goodbye to that header photo and replaced it with a late summer one.
This summer has been beastly in Italy. Our hottest since 2003. We’re watching the crops dry up and die, animals that don’t normally come down this far into the valley are desperately searching for water, and we’re living like cave people inside our shuttered house every afternoon. I don’t dare venture out until early evening.
In spite of the intense heat this year, late summer brings its own beauty and gifts. Local garden ingredients for making Ratatouille and glazed apples for desert.
My basil looks like a forest this year as it laps up the sunlight and heat.
The fields are rolled, leaving tracks that look like waterfalls…I can’t get enough of this scene in our little valley.
The sunflowers enjoyed the heat a lot more than I did!
And the biggest gift of all: a second blooming of my white roses.
It’s mid-summer. The season is changing. I felt it this morning all of a sudden, a bit like seeing sheep on the hillside that don’t seem to move, but you look again and they’re in an entirely different spot.
But yes, of course. The sunflowers are drooping their poor heads and the wheat has been rolled.
The shadows are longer in the afternoons.
And this morning, our last firefly. I hope he had a good night, blinking his last blinks. I’m sure he sparkled for weeks, but his reason for being has been accomplished. Farewell little one. Summer moves on.
Every time I bring a friend up to Montone, I see new things through fresh eyes. Today, it was rooftops and chimneys and campaniles. Ogni volta che porto a Montone un’amica, vedo qualche cose con uno sguardo nuovo. Oggi ho visto tetti e camini e campanili.
And a few little odd friends that live in a beautiful, modern sculpture just outside the walls of Montone. E anche ci sono pochi piccoli amici strani che vivono nella bella scultura moderna appena fuori le mura di Montone.
I had the pleasure to spend the day in Montone with a fellow blogger and new friend. Janine writes the blog Destination Umbria and her passion for Umbria, especially Perugia, is shown beautifully through her own photographs. I hope she realizes her dream of living here one day.
Ho avuto il piacere di trascorrere la giornata a Montone con un altra blogger e un’amica nuova. Janine scrive il blog Destination Umbria e la sua passione per Umbria, specialmente Perugia, e’ mostrata in bel modo attraverso le sue foto. Spero che realizza il suo sogno di vivere qui un giorno.
Below are more treasures that Montone gave us today.
Sotto ci sono piu’ tesori che oggi ci ha dato Montone.
(Ai miei amici italiani — scusatemi tanto per l’italiano…non scrivo abbastanza in questi giorni!)
So far away.
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door.
Doesn’t help to know you’re just time away…
-Carole King, Tapestry, 1971.
One of the hardest things (perhaps really the only hard thing) about living in Italy is that we’re so far away from our loved ones. I wouldn’t trade living in Italy for anything else, and yet… If only we could beam everyone here for the weekend!
At night, when I go out on the terrace to hear the footfalls of the deer in the fields, the night birds, the rain, or look at the moon, I think of our family in the U.S., our friends, my mom. So many things I want to tell her about, but alas, I can’t. At least not in reality. I can still tell her about the music we’ve just listened to, which she would love. Or the full moon–her passion. Or something our little Olinka did today, like climbing the olive tree.
When one lives as an outsider in a foreign country, it takes courage to keep the spirits up, to make new friends, to keep appreciating the amazing things one has. At least we made the choice to live here. The thought of the millions of refugees around the world who have been tossed out of their homelands because of tyrannical governments, religion, slave-trade, or war…well, it’s just impossible to fathom their cruel fate.
So, the moment of sadness passes, the thankfulness we feel for our lives returns, and the good memories dance in my mind. They warm the heart. They make it all worthwhile being so far away.