Spring Sense

I am doing some walking and looking here, and most of what I encounter I cannot put an accurate name to. My working companion, Irene, pointed out that the pretty yellow wildflowers growing in the olive orchards and vineyards are jonquil, and the white ones anemone. She seemed to recall the names the same way I would recall a character actor from the Eighties – dusty knowledge, but ingrained. Indeed, she did grow up in this place of rolling hills. The land is verdant now with shoots and sprouts. It is a much more sensual landform than the flat one I found in Piemonte. With its ample slopes somewhere between gently rolling and formidably steep, and its rich patchwork of pasture, orchard, and woodland, I feel like I am traversing a huge, well-groomed body.

The farm (fattoria) is called Corzano e Paterno, and each of those names represents a different hilltop where old stone buildings endure like sentinels. You can look from Corzano to Paterno (or vice versa), your gaze crossing over a valley in between. It takes me roughly half an hour on foot to get from one to the other, on a road of hard clay and stones that meanders past some Etruscan ruins (I have not found them). But Corzano, where I am staying and where the dairy and winery are located, is less than a mile as the crow flies from Paterno, where Machiavelli once lodged during hunting season and where, today, the six hundred or so sheep are housed and milked.

Today after work in the dairy I went to Paterno to pick up a bicycle called Pamela Anderson. A guide that used the bikes for local touring groups gave each one a popular American name (Bugs Bunny, Brad Pitt) before Paterno got a hold of them. I road Pamela back to Corzano the long way – that is, around the valley rather than through it. Lulu, a golden Labrador who is in love with another dog at Paterno, accompanied me home through the intermittent wind and rain and sunshine. She found a hunk of molding bread on the road, carried it with her at a trot for more than a mile, then suddenly dropped it and never looked back.

In my walking and looking I have been struck by both the force and the subtlety of the spring, and humbled by my ignorance of so many wonderful things in it. It is a tantalizing experience to be ensconced by this onrush of unknown sensual things. Some I know better than others. Grass, Flower, Sky, Yes. Pamela Anderson?

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