Monday, November 23, 2015


Mamma Natura really threw us a curve ball on the second Saturday in August. This has been a record hot summer with temperatures in the high 90's, all of which has led to fabulous produce--football-sized luscious tomatoes, my new purple pole beans, beautiful white eggplants, peppers, peaches, yellow plums. But then we had a crazy hail storm that caused a "domino effect" on my normally invincible tomato and bean supports. ZUT! NUTS! OY! PORCO MISERIA!
These poles used to be vertical!

What's wrong with this picture? Everything!

Still attached to those crooked poles are loads of heavy tomato deliciousness.

Whatever you do, DON'T try to sit here! (This was part of my incompetent attempt to solve the problem)

Now what? It's definitely time to call for reinforcements!

Our neighbor, Farmer Galli who, except for his magical aged sheep/cow manure normally keeps us out of doodoo, had surgery that has kept him from being as active as he'd like. But as you can see from these photos, we needed an expert consultation, pronto. He and his brother came right to our rescue, bringing their generations of contadino skills and all necessary equipment with them.

As I mentioned to a dancer friend who is a choreographer, to watch Farmer G and his brother in action was true choreography!

You've seen the "before"; here's the "after":

Now that's more like it!

How did they do it? We watched, attempting to be helpful (but more importantly, to stay out of the way). 

All I can say is that it was pure poetry in motion. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, and we their caretakers  all say, GRAZIE! 


To be the lone dissenter in a "do not resuscitate" order–that's one place where one's voice counts. That was the situation when my father was in the hospital after what seemed to be a terminal event.

My ever-kind baby brother disagreed with my position of lone dissenter who was not ready to give up on dad. I understood where he was coming from when he said, "Would you want your last memory to be of someone frantically pounding on your chest?" No, but if it turned out not to be my last memory--that I would live to have a few more--I might be grateful for that.

In dad's case, the cardiac arrest situation fortunately did not present itself, and we did get an important two-and-a-half more months of vital memories.

Was the disagreement over whether to resuscitate part of the drama of the eldest child – which tends to include certain reservations about sharing?

As I continue to try to focus, develop and print this "picture" that is autobiography, what I see is the need to stand back from it, to gain perspective. The apparent dilemma between living and writing about life may be an illusion. A chimera. An ill-focused shot. It's a question of knowing where to put the focal point.

These recollections remind me of the day we all knew would come: one of the private duty nurses calls from the hospital to say that dad is gone. She's upset that this happened on her watch, and has taken great care to arrange things, including him, for our final visit. We hear the further dismay in her voice as we say, "No, we won't be coming today." "But don't you want to see him?" she says, incredulously, not realizing that he's not there.

I do, however, want to see the autopsy report, even though I know he's not there, either. I write a poem about it. That's where I think he is.

In wondering why I am writing about this now, it occurs to me that our mom has made it to 91 with her sense of humor, independence and marbles intact. I am hoping that if there are hard decisions ahead, they will be far in the future, and that we will all be in agreement.


First I'm going to flush my toilet, and then I will explain.  And keep in mind that all of this is after many things went bump in the night.

The weather gurus predicted a middle-of-the-night thunderstorm, but little did we know what would accompany it. Our pump—the very one that brings water to the house to be used for functions such as toilet flushing—was in need of an electrician. When you live in the middle of the countryside where electrical problems occur with regularity, you need a man in your life like our Mirko. And of course his work partner of the moment. But no visit from Mirko would be complete without an update on his pretty partner in life.
Portrait of the Electrician as a Young Man
So here come some highlights from what was at the time the latest chapter in the amorous adventures of Mirko and Nicoletta. (Full disclosure: this piece has been gathering dust in my iPhone Notes for the past three years--kind of like the marriage plans of Mirko and his intended.)

Although it’s none of my business, I like to tease him about their 
l-o-n-g (at this point, 14-year) courtship:
“Aren't you a little young to be thinking of getting married?” (He was 37 when I asked)
Didn't I tell you he was cute?

Like Penelope in the “Odyssey,” Mirko had been stalling about getting their apartment ready for the move away from his and Nicoletta's cozy homes with their respective moms. But then came this shocking news: FLASH! The apartment is fine, and they're supposed to move in next week. Could it be?
Mirko is pretty good with a ladder.  Except for the time he fell off and busted his arm. Maybe he looks so happy here because he knows how to escape from that conjugal apartment?

Contrary to what I presumed, Mirko's mom is MORE than eager for him to leave! She's had it! Does Nicoletta know anything more about cooking than the last time I asked? Nope. He says that her specialty is Facebook. But he added that she does have a good nursing job now taking care of old folks. That will be good practice for the future, assures Mirko. Here's the story.

Nobody is rushing into anything. They had been together for 14 years--since he was 23 and she 17. But Mirko says that 37 is far too young to think about having kids. When will be the right time? When he's 50. That will make the timing just about right for those kids to grow old enough to be able to take care of HIM. Until then, there's always Mom and a pretty wife who is a trained professional nurse.

I just hope I live long enough to be invited to the wedding.



I used to think that handwritten stuff on yellow pads was safe from oblivion/extirpation, but now I see that that was my naive, techno-dunce Luddite self, speaking. That self-description hasn't really changed, but having had a lot of those yellow pads go missing over the years, I am starting to see the error of my ways. Even if they do resurface, then what? 

Rather than continue to be haunted by these poor, unanchored bits, I've decided to give them their moment and see what happens. 

In the storied writing course where I am both teacher and student, the course chair tells us that to write is a discipline. No lolling around waiting for the Muse. You're the one who's got to show up!

But to have a limitless-seeming space like a NOTES section on my phone is an irresistible invitation to hoarding and procrastination. In this type of temporary shelter of half-baked ideas, no building permits are needed. Posts can languish indefinitely in a state of potential.  

(Now here comes a loose association that not even I’m sure I can follow. Maybe because it’s from 5 months ago?)
When your right-handed dentist approaches you looking like this, wouldn't you worry? When asked how it happened, he looked a bit sheepish and said he was planning to go on the tv program that features the funniest and stupidest accidents. After hearing his story, I thought he just might win. 

Because I spend so much of my time here in Italy in the hands of a skilled dentist (never mind that he just busted the middle finger of his right hand in a bizarre accident), my mouth often contains a finely wrought provisorio /temporary crown or two--a step before I am permanently "crowned" for the long haul. Maybe there's a metaphor here that relates to all of these unfinished snippets that have been weighing down my iPhone ?

Let's see what I can do to lighten that load.


We are lucky. Our son writes books, goes on trips to publicize them, and we get to tag along. 

Here's a scene from last month’s book tour. I like taking photos of pretty dresses, and admired all the workmanship in this one, which only comes in 1, 2, 3, and 4-year sizes. Unfortunately, no size for 68-year-olds. J, on the other hand, says no one should inflict a garment like that on any poor child! 


the ones I thought had been eaten by the same little gray visitors that during our absence took GIANT bites out of so many things one wouldn't have imagined to have ranked high on their Favorite Foods list. These include: a hand-woven wool-and-mohair throw we had recklessly left on the couch (I guess it was a cold winter here for them, too.)


“The Chianina cows soon to be beef know how to be in the moment. Look and learn!”

4. WRITTEN IN THE WAKE OF AN EARLIER POST, where I said that "reaching down INTO a ditch is better than getting stuck in one”:

“I’ve been busy being a celebrity mom, dog sitter, and having to be extricated from a ditch by my kindly tractor-wielding neighbors.” 

You may have read about the aforementioned mishap in ON DRIVING INTO DITCHES AND MARKETING PLUMS (EXCER...
By the way, what I said in the first line of this snippet #4 is still true.