March 20, 2013

La Primavera! First Day of Spring!

We’re planning a bonfire this weekend, with a burning of Old Man Winter. This cold has gone on too long but, at last, there’s a bit of balm in the air. The garden is brightening every day and bunches of daffodils grace every room in my house. Tromboni they’re called in Italian, and so I listen to their loud yellow music. Right now my North Carolina vegetable garden looks bare but in a few weeks, we will be planting. Soon, I’m starting the tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse. Those are scuppernong grapes in the back, along with Percy Gourd, our scarecrow. The second photo is our vegetable garden in Tuscany last summer. Those are raspberries–both red and yellow–along the fence, and they’re the best thing we plant, other than tomatoes.

Yesterday I started giant sunflower seeds in those little plantable pots, and hacked off a lot of rosemary to root. With a garden this large, you have to plant seeds and propagate plants or face bankruptcy. My neighbor gave me a Duchesse de Brabant rose cutting, and a few of her wild cyclamen. Those gifts of plants I somehow cherish over others and try to baby them into flourishing.

During the chilly nights, we’ve served dinner on trays by the fire, then we read and research our summer travel plans. I have especially enjoyed The Life of Objects by Susanna Moore and plan to find her other books. I’ve read many WWII-era novels but never one from the perspective of cultured, non-Nazi Germans. First we’re in their pre-war world, and then witness their drastic experiences and the end of life as they knew it. The story is told by a young Irish woman who was employed to make lace in their household, and ended up living through the war and the hard Russian occupation with them. The writing is compelling.  Horse People: Stories by Cary Holladay is my other current favorite. She links the stories and they seem to fall through time, catching events and landing them elsewhere, catching characters and letting them fall into later stories. That’s vague, I know, but the stories are hard to describe. I found the loose sense of time and the reoccurances very moving. A fine writer!  If you liked Olive Kittridge by Elizabeth Strout, you’ll enjoy this. I read A Strong West Wind by Gail Caldwell, a memoir of Texas and leaving Texas, or trying to leave Texas. Her perspective is the long view, and many, many literary references are mentioned in order to explain emotion. Some might find this distancing but I was carried along by her energetic prose. The first two-thirds of the book bounces around–it’s neither chronological or thematic–but you just go with the flow. The last third focuses on her father and stays on point. Both Ed and I have been thrilled to read Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle, a collection of lectures on poetry and the world-at-large. They’re humorous, erudite, thoughtful. I’m still dipping into Alice Munro’s new stories, Dear Life. She’s marvelous. I love how she seems to write like one might draw, without lifting the pen, just letting it loop and join, and somehow the picture works.

If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear what you thought.

We’re loving our fireside trip research. This summer, en route to Italy, we are taking our eleven-year-old grandson to London and Paris. Then we’ll take a fast train to Zurich, rent a car and drive around in Alps, and over to home, Cortona. He is excited. We are excited. What a treat to introduce him to fabulous places. I can’t tell you how many apartment sites we’ve scoured. All the Paris ones I like are on the top floors of old buildings with no elevators. I think we’re about to reserve one of them. The coffee table is stacked with books and journals and maps, and our iPads are loaded with apps. I’m already anticipating 1000 things, not least among them the moment we pull into the driveway at Bramasole. Any city recommendations are so welcome!

La bella primavera! Wishing you long days in the light.