I’m embarrassed to say the lack of electricity shocked me.
I was in Italy and had already been flabbergasted by the superstition that wifi had to be turned off when it rained. We were going to my host family’s house at the top of one of the mountains that cradled Storo, a small town in Trento. As we drove along a one-way, curvy road the children in the car pointed out trees of significance, the best places to play, where the road closes in the winter. Later, they told me the car rattling was us driving over pine cones. It made the ride back into town slightly less terrifying.
I watched as the children helped their grandparents and parents cut down a tree. I offered to help but was told guests should relax. As I took in them working, the dance they created, I realised my “relaxation” was simply a tactic to get me out of the way. He steps forward, she steps back, the trunk moves, they sway behind it, one moves left, one goes right… Eventually, I was deemed competent enough to try something and was handed a tool. After a quick lesson, I clumsily shaved pines off bigger branches.
The smell of cheese being cooked brought us indoors to eat. The outdoor oven’s smoke mingled with the fat from salami. The table was complete with beef simmered in tomatoes and porcini mushrooms cooked in cream. Polenta soaked up every bit of sauce. There was an almost overwhelming heaviness in the house. The feeling that you weren’t just a part of now, but part of everything that had happened there.
After dinner, I was assigned the job of putting mushroom stems under the tree. The stems would eventually root and grow, hopefully before the snowfall. Everything, it seemed, had been here and returned to here. I walked to the edge of the fence and peered out at the town below. How strange it must have been to watch the valley turn from green pastures to buildings and squares. The air was crisp, holding its breath in anticipation of the seasons turning. Dusk was rolling in, it was almost time to go back to town.
As we drove into town, I wondered if I could live there. Up on the mountain, just myself and whatever I could come up with to occupy my time. A part of me likes to believe I could. I would read books and write every day. I’d go on walks and become intimately acquainted with every blade of grass, every trill the wind made. My sigh of relief when I saw my phone come back into service reminded me of why seclusion was something to work towards. Maybe I’m not ready to leave what I know quite yet.