So Mr. Signs and I are off to Italy day after tomorrow and this, basically, is the Italian that I have managed to learn so far. For those not proficient in the lingo it means, I am sorry but it is not possible this way, and it will have to serve me in all kinds of situations because we are going to southern Italy (Puglia) where English is not generally much spoken. The daughter, who in a few weeks learned Spanish well enough to get by on a recent trip to Cuba, was a brilliant role model but somehow we haven't been able to follow through. It will be ok as long as I am not in urgent need of a lavatory, although come to think of it, with a few appropriate gestures it might do nicely.
A couple of people have asked me if I have begun to pack and Prepare. This would be a very good idea, but I never do this until close to midnight of the day before, thus ensuring that I don't get much sleep before the inevitable early start next day. What I am doing is reading Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi which is set about a hundred kilometres from where we will be staying, and we plan to visit the caves at Mantera which is not far from there.
I have only been to Italy once, to a beach resort near Rimini with my sister and grandmother when I was eleven. This will be nothing like that. We are staying on an organic farm where the owner invites people to hear the sound of people's steps along the lanes, see the hands that placed the stones, feel the toil and sweat of those who shaped the land so as to be able to draw from it what they needed to live, but without depriving it of its life force. A life force which still exists in some places and those who know how can hear its very breath.
I wonder if I will be one of those who know how to become all ear so that I can hear the very breath. Spirit of place is a powerful thing, as I have sometimes experienced, and not for the faint-hearted. Of course, one can do this just as well at home as abroad - feel the breath and being of a place. But sometimes the shock of a new encounter can awaken the sleeping faculty. The forest was never so present to me as when I first came to live here, and then it was on a particular day in a particular spot, unannounced and unexpected. Something was revealed and laid bare, and the vision (if that is the word) I had is something I have never been able to properly put into words, and it only came once. But once is enough because it isn't something you lose.
In my late twenties, sitting alone somewhere in the Austrian Alps because even then I was not strong enough to keep walking up with the others, spirit of place came with such force that I was not fully able to meet it and literally hid my face. At the time, I thought it (the presence) might have been God. But I think it was the land and the mountains that asked, as all places do, for me to say who I was. And then the only position I could take was: mi dispiace ma non e possibile così - though obviously I did not say this in Italian or, in fact, any spoken language.
I think I need to prepare another phrase - just in case.