Fill your page with the breathings of your heart

There are no better palliatives to the disease so many humans inflict upon mother earth than to return to nature and all those beings who are one with it. There are delights upon this planet that will never change our lives.

Like this shepherd and his flock passing up a gorge I saw on my way home to Longoio the other day:

What greater influence upon keeping calm can the scene of this person, alone but not lonely, with his dogs and his sheep, have?

What greater delights can our ripening cherries have on the palate of our thoughts?

And even in the worst of the ‘acquazzoni’ (‘showers’ in Italian but they are more like mini-tempests in this country) what happiness can Flip (one of my ducks) impart when she enjoys feeling the rain drops on her candid plumage?

Let us enjoy even the smallest everyday things of life. Let us always be one with nature. Let us savour each minute of our lives with the enjoyment given to our first glance of anything beautiful and with the custody given to the thought that it could well be our last on this planet.

 

Elysium on Earth

In these lovely spring-time, true-blue, wall-to-wall sunshine days there’s no better place to go than to visit the stupendous display of ‘giunchiglie’ or wild daffodils that grace some of our appenines.

There are two mountains which at this time are filled with vast spreads of these delightful, heavily scented flowers which are also interspersed with several other wild floras. One is Monte Croce which I have described in my post at:

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/if-there-is-a-heaven-it-is-here/

The other is the Prato Fiorito (literally the flowering meadow) which is the whale-backed mountain overlooking Bagni di Lucca.

Yesterday I could not resist immersing myself in wild daffodils. Taking the road from Bagni di Lucca to Montefegatesi I branched off at the sign to Albereta and reached, via a somewhat bumpy road with hidden culverts, the starting point of my walk to the flowering meadows of Prato Fiorito, which is marked by a crucifix.

I following a fine little footpath.

Soon I reached the intoxicating expanses of the jonquils which, more correctly, should be called by their Latin name ‘Narcissus Poeticus’.  It was a joy to be there and the air was so sweet and the views so clear.

Wordsworth’s famous lines were quite apt  for the flowers were

Continuous as the stars that shine

and twinkle on the Milky Way,

******

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

 

Again, since these flowers are correctly called in English, ‘poet’s narcissus’, (or sometimes ‘pheasant’s-eye daffodil’) I could take these lines from Keats’ last sonnet which came to mind as my brain and all my feelings became ever more inebriated by the powerful scent of the narcissi spread around me, and embracing my whole being in a variation of the Elysian fields for I seemed, indeed

awake for ever in a sweet unrest, 

and felt, too, that I wanted to

live ever—or else swoon to death.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring into Life

Do not expect to drink mountain spring water from your tap even if you live half way up an Italian mountain. When we first moved to this area in 2005 our tap water was horribly chlorinated. Later the chlorine was reduced but disaster struck when our menagerie was added to by two gold fish ‘Tira’ and ‘Molla’ (‘Push’ and Pull’ named after this adorable Italian cartoon character called ‘Tiramolla)’

The poor finny fellows died shortly after their tank was filled with tap water.

We wondered what this water was doing to our insides too. Fortunately, we have two nearby sources of spring water which will surely guarantee a longer life for us. One is just up the hill from us on the path leading past our house. The other is off the main road accessing the Controneria which we use when going to and from Bagni di Lucca.

We take on average six bottles and fill them up at this hose pipe connected to the spring water supply every time we go past…

There used to be an old TV advert test where viewers were asked to see if they could taste the difference between butter and a certain brand of margarine.

We can certainly taste the difference between official GAIA tap water and our lovely Refubbri stream water. Some people may object that there may be a dead goat sometimes above the water supply but we prefer anything to that chlorinated concoction served from our tap.

Incidentally, spring water makes all our boiled dishes taste better too and as for a cup of PG tips – it goes down the gullet superbly!

Th ultimate test is, of course, feline. We’ve tried testing GAIA water with spring water and our official trio of cats prefer the real McCoy to GAIA. They even resort to drinking rainwater rather than touch a drop of the GAIA stuff.

Water is truly the most valuable resource on our planet and truly defines our world. It’s more precious than anything else and I can foresee the time (sadly) when in future ages people will pay the earth for it. As for bottled mineral water transported in plastic bottles from sources so many kilometres away – I suggest we keep away from it as far as possible for that too truly is spoiling the planet with diesel transportation fumes and plastic bottles.

 

About Guardian Angels

In case some of my blog readers were still unaware, our pretty little Fiat 500 ‘Cinquina’ – Sergeant pepper vintage i.e., fifty years old – is, alas, no more.

Hit by a T. I. R. on the night of May the first on the rear left mudguard, it was pushed over on the right and skidded to one side of a stretch of autostrada that was in a tunnel in the Apennines. The T. I. R. did stop some distance down the tunnel. The driver had no option: there are video cameras throughout this stretch of road – but didn’t even step outside his vehicle to see how we were.

Thanks to Sandra’s foresight (she was driving and holds an advanced driving license together with years of driving experience, especially with our Cinquina) she realised that it was possible to extricate ourselves from the car through the roll-back soft roof. Goodness knows what would have happened to us if the car had actually rolled onto the roof or not been catapulted into the emergency lane…

We phoned emergency services and stood trembling by the side of the autostrada for what seemed a long time (although it wasn’t more than around ten minutes). The police arrived and halted the traffic while they took photographs and measurements of the accident scene. The ambulance came and strapped me onto a bed. Sandra was content just to take a seat in the vehicle which travelled alarmingly fast.

The venue for us was at the Ospedale Maggiore, Bologna. Tests, including x-rays and blood samples, were taken from us and fortunately, apart from concussion, a cut lip in Sandra and scratches and bruises for both of us we were declared out of immediate danger and fit to leave the hospital by morning.

The following day we had to get to San Benedetto Val di Sambro, the scene of the awful terrorist attack on a train at the start of the tunnel there in 1974 which left twelve dead including the courageous railway man, Silver Sirotti, who helped in saving many people before he too succumbed to the flames. Indeed, in San Benedetto station there is a plaque to his memory and his award of a Gold medal for civilian valour (equivalent of the UK’s George Cross) with the wording:

Controllore in servizio, in occasione del criminale attentato al treno Italicus non esitava a lanciarsi, munito di estintore, nel vagone ov’era avvenuta l’esplosione per soccorrere i passeggeri della vettura in fiamme. Nel nobile tentativo, immolava la giovane vita ai più alti ideali di umana solidarietà. Esempio fulgido di eccezionale sprezzo del pericolo e incondizionato attaccamento al dovere, spinti fino all’estremo sacrificio. Alla memoria.
— 14 maggio 1975

Sirotti was just 24 years old when he died.

At San Benedetto we made our dichiarazione or witness statement to the police who’d come to our rescue.

The following day we managed it to Sasso Marconi to see our poor car which had been transported there by a branch of ACI (the Italian car rescue association) of which we are members.

It was a very sad moment for us to say goodbye to a car, my christmas present to Sandra in 2008, which had taken us to so many beautiful places in Italy and beyond. In particular, we remember Sardinia in 2009, Corsica in 2012, La Maremma and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. We bid the wreck of the car adieu, at the same time remembering that a guardian angel had prevented the same act from being administered over us by those who care for us. That Cinquina was such a good friend to us and we had such happy memories travelling in it. I believe that in some mysterious way our Cinquina had sacrificed itself to help save us just like that guardian angel.

(La nostra bella Cinquina in tempi più felici)

It was an immense relief when we finally got home to Longoio and found our cats, fish and ducks ready to greet us and, of course, waiting to be fed!

Grateful thanks are due to the Italian emergency services, the police and, especially, to the country’s great public transport system.

 

PS As the Roman poet says: ““Pulvis et umbra sumus.”

 

War and Love

On the road from Florence to Pontassieve is what Rudyard Kipling described as a city of silence. It’s the Commonwealth cemetery for those who fell in the campaign to liberate the beautiful country of Italy from the scourge of Nazi-Fascism. I visited it last week during my visit to the city of the Lily. Among the English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish there were many from India and Nepal:

King George V said ‘One Could Truly Say that the whole world is surrounded by the tombs of those fallen in war. I’m convinced that even in the years to come there will be no stronger evidence of the need for peace than this multitude of silent witnesses of the desolation brought by war.’

These words never ring truer than today when over half the news we hear daily is about war. At this moment there are twenty conflicts happening the world which are defined as wars according the Uppsala definition (over one thousand deaths per year). Four of the them have caused over ten thousand deaths last year alone with cumulative fatalities of two million in Afghanistan, one million in Iraq and over half a million in Syria so far.

The cemetery near Florence has a particular resonance, not just because of its silent witnesses but because it collects together Commonwealth soldiers from the allied Fifth and the Eighth armies which worked their way up the Italian peninsula in often impossible situations of steep Apennines and bridge-destroyed rivers. My dad was a tank driver in the Eighth army and was lucky enough to survive although so many of his comrades didn’t make it.

Love and War is an oxymoron of strange power. Indeed, out of war for my father came love as he met and married an Italian Red Cross nurse. I would not be writing this otherwise…

Let us meditate in these difficult times on the names of those who died in these places so that we can today travel and enjoy the wondrous loveliness of Italy in tranquillity and happiness. As I spent my time walking by the lines of tombstones, simply but exquisitely carved out of Carrara marble with the names of those who died and their regiment and some whose name was known only unto God, all lined up in a beautiful greensward between the road and the banks of the Arno, I could only wonder at how the senseless and pitiful activity of war can still continue in so much of the world today.

 

Salt waves shall break but I won’t catch their sound:

the peace that comes to cease all war, all strife

will be a limpid lake in sacred ground

where flowers bud with sempiternal Life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mists of Time

Rain returned yesterday and for the next few days it’s going to be very damp and misty. It’s a good time, perhaps, to look back at photographs one’s taken ten years ago of this same part of the world.

Sometimes it’s easily recognizable where the photographs have been taken, sometimes it’s not. The village must be somewhere near Corfino by the views from it but is that stretch of water Lago Pontecosi?  And what about these amazing mill wheels?

Already mysterious mists of time are descending onto pictures I’ve taken here.

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From the snow’s embrace

a crocus thrusts forth its bud:

when will spring arrive?

A Perfect Day

What’s the definition of a perfect day?

First, perfect weather like we’ve rarely had it this so late in the year.

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Second, perfect company: people you really feel at your ease with.

Third, a perfect walk to appreciate the beauties our blue planet can offer to the entire cosmos of creation.

Aren’t the winter beeches and silver birches fabulous against that cerulean appenine December sky!

Fourth, perfect food. And, since it was also the feast of the Immaculate Conception, our host wittily quipped it’s also the feast of the immaculate confection.

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The bignole came from a patisserie I’d never suspected of producing such wonders. It’s called Da Pino and it’s located at Calavorno, a place one usually sweeps through in search of more romantic locations. I savoured their chocolate truffles and also their cherry liqueur bomba. Truly it’s a mouth-watering explosion of flavour. Be careful though: the cherry has its pip like all true cherries. So don’t get too stoned eating them…

Finally, a bustling Christmas mercantino di Natale at Fornoli where one meets half of one’s little world of friends.

That’s my definition of a perfect day:

 

 

Hills unfold blue waves:

The sun on my face breaths love:

Contentment of life.