We asked a man at the barn if someone could take me riding into the Dolomites that surround this valley. He said maybe someone could, he knew one guy who might, but we’d have to call him. As he searched for his number a policeman walked in. “Here he is!” the guy said. “What timing!”
I knew it was God.
We arranged a big ride with him for Tuesday, apparently on a Haflinger who’s sure-footedness are prized on these rocky mountains. Then Stefania and I went to Trento. We visited the church where the Bishop was presiding over the confirmation of a huge group of local kids, we ate four kinds of gelato, and Stefania bought some new shoes. We went for drinks beside the river with her cousin and friends, then to dinner in their apartment.
It was beautiful. Everyone there was born in either 1977 or 1978. It was fascinating to compare lives with people my own age from halfway around the world and recognize the differences and similarities. They’re both equally shocking.
We left at 2am and drove home chattering away the whole time. I felt changed already, somehow. I remembered feeling different from the other kids in school because I’d spent so much time in France and they hadn’t. I felt like they didn’t know something, couldn’t see something, didn’t understand something that I did. Now I feel that way again. I’m not sure how to describe what it is, exactly, some kind of universal connection with different cultures, maybe, that makes the tedium of daily struggle seem a little shallow.
Like the Italians here, for example. They used to be Austrian. Only 100 years ago, the Italians won this region and told all the inhabitants to learn Italian or leave. Consequently a lot of the people you meet here who’ve been in this valley for more generations than they can count, look German. I mean they REALLY look German. Because they are, or are they? Before it was Austrian it was Italian, or Roman, or who knows what. The point is, who they are is only a political identity. Even the language and look and history are so confusing you can’t point to them as being clearly anything. Like us.
This place reminds me of some of my fantasies. It’s almost as if whatever I ask for exists. For example, it wasn’t long ago I told Robert I’d like to buy an old farmhouse and have horses and write books. Here there are farmhouses from the 1700s with land and meadows and horses for so cheap we could buy one today and retire.
Then there are castles. I told Robert I wanted to go see real castles. Well, there are all kinds of them here. This valley leads from Venice to Austria and it was well fortified by every conqueror who came through and conquered it anyway. Each one must’ve felt the other’s castle was obviously too weak because he built his own out of the dark stones that make these mountains. Now I can go see them. We’ll visit one today and maybe another one tomorrow…
Then there’s the quiet. You really only hear birds here, birds and church bells. There’s the wind rustling through the trees, and Italian, of course. But there aren’t a lot of cars or freeways or honking or mowers or blowers. It’s very quiet.
Then there’s the color. It is brighter than back home. The air is clean and crisp like Maine but the sky is bluer, the clouds whiter, the trees and very very green and the flowers purple and white. The mountains are black, the snow stark white and the lakes are silvery blue. It’s a colorful landscape far brighter than our desert earth tones that blend into one another under brown skies.
Then there’s the horseback riding I’ll be doing tomorrow. In Italy. Not only is it happening but it was easy.
I haven’t figured anything out yet but I like being here and I guess that is enough.