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Success, Failure...some of my greatest failures have been a springboard to my greatest successes...the terms are truly fluid.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

31 Corpus Domini

     I have had such a lovely time here. It is really hard to tell how all the time got used up so fast but now I am on my final week in Valle San Giovanni. Spencer and I have made some great friends here and we are hoping to return each year if we can for a week.

   For me this has been a very positive spiritual experience. To have the lovely bells of the church ringing out daily over our schedules smacks of a friendly way to remind people that there is more to life then the usual stuff. I felt like it was a cheery reminder that you are never truly alone as you go about your life.

     When I tell people here that it is rare to hear bells in daily California life, and certainly not all day long like here in this small town in Italy, they have a hard time picturing it. When I tell them that occasionally you hear bells in a city in California, it is even more clear that my world is very different from their world.

     For the entire time I have been in Italy, from my tourist stage back in the beginning to the Abruzzo life life I am living now, every day in Italy has always had the church bells ringing. Usually in all of our video footage Spencer and I have caught the bells starting or stopping at some point, they are so common all day long.

     After just the first two weeks of the Song of the Bells being the sound track to Italy I found my system startled by the lack of bells in the UK, where I can’t say I ever heard any at all. If they had been ringing in Porth where we were living for the month, the chilly weather and rain might have prevented me from ever hearing it anyway. When I think of Wales now I think “cozy” since Miss Kimberley’s well kept home really made daily life cozy, sort of snug in our homes and withdrawn from community....sort of like life in California, where I only attend community activities on occasional weekends.  

     Here life is conducted in the opposite way, with the entire community feeling like your large family. Everyone’s life interacts with their neighbors on a constant basis through large group activities like the Fava Bean Festival I missed in the beginning of my stay here. I see now that NOT going was American of me and not very Italian.

     So when Corpus Domini came up it was something I really wanted to be a part of, if possible.

     When I asked if we could help gather the flowers early in the morning, I was told that they drove out at 5 in the morning and cars would be involved. I pressed them about it really wanting to go but in the end I was afraid we would be a bit of a burden while they figured out whose car we would go in. I could have very easily though completely misunderstood. I have messed up nearly every set of plans while here. You have to remember that all my conversations are in Italian and even though some of time I understand 80% of what is being talked about, other times I miss the bulk of what is going on. (Come to think of it that is how I feel about everyday life back in English speaking America!) I had no idea how much I had missed though, until later.

     In the meantime some nice friends that we had met back in the beginning of our stay here called and invited us to lunch. I was excited about seeing them since this couple was both fun and very easy to comprehend since he was an amazing communicator. They spoke only in Italian but he acted out much of what he said in such clear and animated fashion that it was really easy to see why his daughters were excellent students and highly successful people in their own right. They probably share that excellent communicator trait.

    I was delighted to hear his voice and know I would see his wife’s sweet smile again before leaving next weekend.

     And to be honest, Spencer and I had been having a difficult time keeping up the supply of food in the house since each transaction has to be in cash and we have no car here and must resort to a bus ride into town for each ATM withdrawal. Try imagining how you keep up with all of those prohibitions on your daily round. It means here that I am always buying the next set of bus tickets first. Gathering up any supplies we could not get in our little town….. and then figuring out food arrangements.

     When we were invited to lunch I had been sure we could run out of food before Tuesday which was our next chance to get money. I was glad to jump at the chance to see our friends but also recognized that this was a gift to get us through another day of  food survival. I was just glad that I thought we were told to sleep in and not to help collect flowers in town, which meant that I was free to zip off and return in time for the afternoon festivities.

     Of course you have to remember that I was thinking I was understanding all the Italian that I was hearing. Apparently though, I had it all wrong.

     In the meantime Spencer and I had a fun car ride to Cherubino’s house and loved getting to meet his sisters and seeing his really kind sweet wife, Silvana again, who reminds me of an Italian version of one of my best friends back home, Ann.  

      Cherubino’s sisters were perfect examples of the quintessential Italian lady. One was dressed to the nines, perfect heels and tastefully matched jewelry and style. She was pristine and elegant looking and it was easy to picture her as being a product of her home city of Rome. Her walk alone screamed “sophisticate” and her friendliness made her a rather charming package, and easy to listen to or talk with. She was so opulently kind that she gave me a beautiful farfalle scarf when I pointed out the classiness of the Romanis and their cool walk that she represented. The other sister was calm, deeply intelligent and clearly more of a practical soul. She had that poise of one who spends a lot of time in spiritual pursuit. It would not surprise me if I were to learn she had a background at some time with a convent. She was not dressed like a nun but she had all the kind, calmness of one. Her nature made her sister seem even more like a butterfly in her brightness as they sat side by side. And to me, each fit exactly what every good Italian girl would strive to be when they grow up. And how fitting that one of them gave me a butterfly scarf!

     Along with Silvana’s witty older father it was a marvelous afternoon full of conversation and tranquil moments of friendship and insight. Cherubino has a wisdom about him that is startling. He is like me in that he does not mind trying to get pretty big concepts across a language barrier, even if it risks the possibility or probability of being misunderstood.

     He perceptively pointed out that now that he had met Spencer and I, Santa Cruz and California had leapt from an abstract concept into a real world reality.  He pointed out that now if he were to hear of something bad happening there, like our ever present earthquakes, he will worry about us and our friends and family. He deftly pointed out that having friends around the world makes the world smaller and more caring. I knew he was telling the truth because my feelings about watching the Euro situation with fascination have been slipping since now I know many people who can be directly effected by any changes in the economy here in Europe. The collapse of the Euro isn’t so fascinating now it makes me feel unsure and sick to my stomach.

     I felt that the lunch was the equivalent of eating in San Francisco’s best restaurants. All home made and cooked by our hostess, who was one handed at the present time and had 2 fingers in a sling! Italians don’t ever seem to let anything interfere with food times being perfect are highly spiritual endeavors. Not even injuries can interfere! It was a simply amazing pomeriggio.

     Cherubino got us back to Valle San Giovanni just in time for the street decorations. We started in right away on helping those who lived near us on our via. It was so nice to just dive in and put greens down as an outline for the flower spreading part to come. We frittered away lots of time in videotaping and interacting as much as possible with our friends and neighbors as they switched from outlining a path to spreading a yellow layer of Scotch Broom, Genesta flowers, with buckets and buckets of other colors mixed in. there were the bright red poppies that grow all over the green hillsides here and white and red roses also mixed in as well.

     I was completely enthralled at watching the locals all gather around and carefully tend to the task of making their own section of the street ready for the procession that was coming up later.

     Some were straightening the leafy green outlines, while others worked on the flower layers. Everyone had a particular and exact way to go about the process and it was obvious that this was a time worn, lovingly expressed ritual. I felt like the community was giving the church the equivalent of a hug.

     It was strange though since Spencer and I seemed like part of the process. We kind of just knew what we were supposed to be doing and jumped in and did it. If I was bungling everything as I went along it wasn’t obvious to me who was cleaning up my mistakes. It felt so nice to be a part things. Spencer seemed to just know who needed help spreading flowers and he always seemed to be in the right spot to help too. It gave me a sense of belonging that I rather enjoyed.

      I had felt so confident that I couldn’t help but laugh at the ample length of video we shot when I watched it later before bed. I totally misunderstood one of Francesca’s daughters as she carefully asked me in Italian, “Where were you when we were working this morning?”

     I stupidly answered that I did have a nice run this morning.

     She politely repeated herself patiently, and I told her, “Uhhh, I am no longer angry.”

     She asked me again why I hadn’t come to help this morning and I proceeded to answer with another nonsense phrase, that frankly everyone here has gotten used to getting from me.

     She acted as if she were used to dealing with silly people who didn’t always care or have a clue. I think she is a school teacher by prfession.

     When Francesca’s other daughter came up I asked where Francesca was and when she would be appearing. I was horrified to find that Francesca was apparently waiting for Spencer and I to help spread the flowers in front of the Bar. Apparently she had held the task for us since I was so excited about it.

     The video camera pans wildly as I flat out ran to find Francesca who was understandably a bit hurried with me. Everyone else’s section of the road was done and here her section was completely bare except for the green outline!!

    I did not turn off the camera but ran to get Spencer, calling out his name loudly and in that annoying tone that only mothers can do, “SPENCHERE!”

     He dropped his handful of flowers and ran over asking, “What happened?”

     I breathlessly told him, “I don’t know, we were supposed to be here. We have to spread the flowers for the bar and Francesca!”

     It was a whirlwind of excitement and responsibility as we carefully laid out the yellow layer as we had been shown already by our neighbors on our street. Then we filtered in the bits of color that the roses and other layers created. In minutes our section now matched the other sections that had been completed long before. I realized that we had become sort of knowledgeable about how to decorate the pathway for Corpus Domini  since we had done it twice now in an afternoon.

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