COMPETITION: LITERALLY LOST 80
Sunday 06 June 1999
ark never turns black-dark. The stars exert their most powerful kilowatts. Also the moon, glassy in old windows, wavering and rising from bottom pane to middle to top is a pleasure for the insomniac to watch. The one nightingale, who must live in the ilex above the house, pierces the quiet with insistent notes. Dawn is the sweetest time on earth. In the last moments of dark, the birds' chorale begins. One of us wakes the other. Listen, they're starting to sing now. So many, a rising cloud of birdsong, a lift, an ushering-in. Then the sky - no rosy finger of dawn but a suffusion of rose out of indigo, the quietest light on the hills and the rushing songs of the birds still rising over the absolute world unto itself. Moles, voles, porcupines, snakes, foxes, boar, all the creatures burrowed for the night return to day with this music, as we do. The deep freshness of the earth returns to those who sing, to the fusion of colors. As the sun brightens, colors sharpen and separate from each other. But where is the cuckoo at this hour?
Our friends wake to the sound of the bird who sings, "Wheat, wheat." Ed listens every day for the bird he says sings, "When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette...." from West Side Story. We take them on a wildflower walk around the land. All spring, I've photographed each flower as I found it. Most amazing have been the wild white and purple orchids. My book with the medieval wildflower cover, bought in Asolo, now bulges with poppies against stone walls, ragged robin, purple lupin, cotton lavender, wild carnations, lilies, dog roses, still unidentified spiky blue flowers. The many yellows are hardest to identify with the wildflower book in hand. There simply are too many that look similar.
Susan and I cut off rose leaves with black spots and some with the dreaded rust. These go in a bag to be destroyed. She shows me how to take cuttings from my favorite pink roses in front of the house, which survived thirty years of neglect and still bloom with a clean, violet fragrance especially strong early in the mornings. We spend hours in the garden and on the terraces picking wildflowers, then down to the orto to fill a basket with lettuces for lunch.
At home in California we are so busy we have 8am phone conversations two or three times a week, shorthand exchanges of vital information about our daughters, both of whom are in graduate school, about her bookstore business, and what we're managing to read. A few days to walk, go to a museum, cook dinner, and sit out under the benign lights of fireflies and the Milky Way, reconnects our friendship. "Why don't we have more time at home?" we ask each other, but we don't have an answer.
Like the birdsong, like the droves of butterflies and bees, the volunteer flowers in profusion delight me because they come purely as gifts of the land. Just as I'm waxing about the pleasures of rural life to Susan and Cole, an English friend calls and says they've arrived to find two drowned baby boars in their well and they've fished out the rotting, bloated carcasses with a hoe.
At dinner Cole speculates on why we've taken this place so much to heart. "Is it because it's a return to a simpler time? You get to erase the urban blight from your minds for a few months each year?"
Relaxed and enjoying the evening, with lanterns along the wall, lasagna, and the Vino Nobile they have brought, we agree. By dessert, I retract. "That's not really it. It's the end of the ugly century here, too." I flash on the prostitutes along the Piero della Francesca trail. Trucks on the autostrada polluting like mad. Frustrating strikes, which are so frequent there's a space in the newspaper announcing when public services will not be operating.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Forget 'The Dress': Here are five of the biggest news stories you might have missed
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 MH370: 'Putin ordered plane to be flown to Kazakhstan space port,' conspiracy theory claims
Thailand tourism video Love En Route criticised for featuring Instagram stalker
The Atlas of Beauty: Photographer travels around the world to capture cultural diversity through stunning portraits of women
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
Chief executive of Malaysia Airlines: The toughest job in travel?
The 10 Best hiking boots
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
£12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...
£23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...
£26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...
£18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...