Home TravelItaly Memories of Green…

Memories of Green…

by GypsyHeart

Back in 1999, as I started to stretch my restless hummingbird wings and yearn to travel, I took a trip. I was heading to Europe for 6 months – France in particular – to challenge my solitude after a divorce and I wanted a means to commencing the journey with a hand to hold. In discussion over caffe lattes at a local cafe, a new acquaintance and I discovered a mutual desire to explore the Tuscan hills. Frances Mayes’ book , “Bella Tuscany” had whetted our appetites. Before we knew it, we had booked a 3 week tour which would see the two of us walking together in glorious Spring sunshine amongst villages and vineyards across almost 200km. It remains one of my favourite holidays ever; a perfect combination of laughter and new friendship and beauty and movement. Throughout it all, I kept prodigious journals. Here is an excerpt from a particularly memorable day as we rested from the trail in a Castello which dates from the Middle Ages. Set high above surrounding countryside between Montalcino & Pienza, it is still owned and inhabited by the Contessa and her family – descendants of the owners from 1438….

We are now at Ripa d’Orcia & have a quiet day to soak up the atmosphere of this enchanted place.

I am currently sitting in glorious warm sunshine on the spring green lawn of the mediaeval castle where we are staying. At waking the castle was shrouded in a thick swirling ‘nebbia’ but by 10.30 it had started to fly away to reveal soft blue skies with drifts of cotton wool clouds.
It is delightful to just sit and absorb – rather than make a day trip from here. We have just chosen to stop, & I am sitting in a deck chair in the warm light with my feet on an 800yr old wall, watching and listening to Tuscan nature. Dark spikes of cipressi rise to my right and against them floats a large delicate butterfly of creamy buttermilk yellow with black stripes. It plays on the soft breeze – dipping and gliding – hardly needing to beat its translucent wings to catch the air. A distant friend drifts into my thoughts as I watch it play on the tiny thermals over the garden wall. There is constant twittering birdsong from near and far. Ravens and pigeons, high on the turret of the castle, call in their croaking mediaeval voices (they seem to BE the sound of ancient stone walls to me!) There is a constant chatter of sparrows and finches and thrushes who flit busily from cypress to hedge to tiny gaps in walls.
If I listen very carefully there are a myriad of distant sounds as well. Down in the farmyard that we passed on our climb up to the castle a ‘gallo’ crows his morning call and geese bark a warning to the signora. The castle dog barks once or twice & is silenced by a “basta” from one of the residents. If I listen very carefully I can hear the rolling hiccup of a group of frogs in a distant cistern and there is a constant hum in the air of the local bees – this sound, like the sounds of cicadas in a Sydney summer, almost adds a dimension to the warm air. The castle makes its own honey and the bees are very apparent here; there is a large squadron making a home in a brick vent on the wall of the chapel.

Over everything is the sound of the wind – very now and then a breeze catches the cipressi and the soft swish of air through deep green leaves overlays all the other murmurs and sounds.

I am transfixed by the minutiae again (as I am so often, in places like this) Little black ants like tiny busy signori, go about their business on every warm surface… exploring my shoes, my toes and sliding between the pages of my book which toasts in the sun on the wall . Every now and then I catch a movement out of the corner of my eye & a little prehistoric face appears & watches me over the edge of the wall at my feet. It is one of the local green lizards who scurry around in the sun and can’t decide if I can be trusted. I want to photograph him as he eyes me but he is too shy & fast then, when I reach for my book, one hurtles out from behind my shoe only inches from my foot. I feel privileged to be so close.

This is truly living.

I feel myself wanting to be lost here for a while. Time seems to be timeless in this place. There is no sense of the ‘outside world’ and it is perfection for that reason alone. I take a moment to give thanks for the gift of observation and appreciation – I am so grateful for the ability . As I stop & contemplate a cuckoo calls off to the right in the woods – we have heard them at every turn of our walk so far – gentle, distant, never seeming to get closer or further away. And I recall in this moment a passage from Frances Mayes book ‘Bella Tuscany’ which says so much of what I fell right now :
         “ Happiness?. the colour of it must be spring green, impossible to describe until I see a just-hatched lizard sunning on   a stone. That colour, the glowing green lizard skin, repeats in every new leaf. “The force that through the green fuse       drives the flower” wrote Dylan Thomas. “FUSE” & “FORCE” are excellent word choices – the regenerative powerof nature explodes in every weed, stalk, branch sun working in the mild sun, I feel the green fuse of my body too. Surges of energy, kaleidoscope sunlight through the leaves, the soft breeze that makes me want to say ‘Zephyr’ – this mindless simplicity can be called happiness.”
As if to signal the ultimate quality of my feelings right now, a bumblebee bombs past my right ear like a big old B52 in the sun & that same elegant butterfly does a pass so close to my face that I hear the beat of its silken wings.

I am complete!

Here’s to lighting the fuse on future travels in 2017 and beyond

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Piera Potter July 23, 2017 - 11:47 pm

The art of just”being” is hard to accomplish. You have captured a moment in time with words, an admirable achievement.

GypsyHeart July 25, 2017 - 10:23 pm

Thanks P… thanks to sitting & writing ‘in the moment’, I am lucky to have embedded the sensation of being there forever…nice to now share x


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