We've been busy cutting down the damaged trees from the November 28th snowstorm, and starting the spring clean up. It makes us feel good to do this, because we can gauge our progress. We can see results. I want the property to be clear of the damage that befell us this winter. It breaks may heart to see elm trees destroyed, they are such things of beauty. I want to purge winter from my system and run away from it. It needs to go, once and for all. The branches pile up -- one pile for future fire wood, the other to be burned in the open. Our backs ache by the time we go in for lunch.
Later in the day, we visited new friends who have a stunningly beautiful property and find out that their snow damage, while more contained geographically, was unfortunately more serious than ours. They lost a terrace and the connecting water and sewerage pipes which ran under it. The terrace didn't just move in a mudslide; it disappeared altogether, leaving all of us wondering: where did it go? Was there a sinkhole underneath the area? The winter wrecked so much havoc and destruction in this region and has left indelible marks on each of us in one way or another. The pipes and the terrace will get fixed and they will move on and their guests, like ours, will never know.
I could see the beauty instantly in their place, but need force myself to see the beauty in my own. When I am especially stressed, I read our guest book, to once again view things through my guests' eyes. To feel the magic and the warmth and the sanctuary that they felt when they trusted their holidays to us. To look beyond the damage and to move forward. The guest book saves me at moments like this.
I am lucky, very very lucky to have such a beautiful place to call my own. I know this in the deepest part of my being.
Every lifestyle, no matter what one chooses, has good points and drawbacks. While with our friends last night, we agreed that many people think we are living a dream here in Italy. What we are living is, I think, a choice, and with that choice comes so many different aspects: magical and nerve wracking, funny and scary, precious and tragic. We build, we trust in the future, we keep going. To learn that building on porous tufa is different than building on solid stone, that old structures collapse when supporting hills are dug into, and to take our lessons on the chin when things don't go the way we planned. To accept time delays which feel like they are happening just to break our wills. We have stories to tell, many of them, they bubble out of us when we get together, like a freshly shaken bottle of acqua frizzante. We can finish each other's sentences and in a very real way we can feel each other's pain. We try to offer solutions, although, we know that in the same situation, we don't know how we would react.
We are all still a bit in awe of what we ourselves are doing. We have changed our lives, turned a normal, safe existence upside down, and in a way, it's hard to face that every day. There is nothing charmed about what we do. Of course we want to pull the covers over our heads sometimes! We have the same fears that anyone would have -- we are all getting older, we are all hoping we don't get seriously sick in a foreign country, we are all committed to seeing this through, what ever "this" is. But somehow, we managed to plug ahead despite the very real doubts.
And for that, we have to give ourselves the occasional pat on the back.
So for all of the expats reading this that are trying to build a life and make a living, I tip my hat to you today. We are strong in a very different way and are doing something quite special. Whether we are making wine, teaching English, working for a company, writing scripts or books or articles, running hotels or bed and breakfasts or travel planning businesses, cooking professionally or sewing or still looking for the thing which can keep us moving forward, we are trying to live a self determined life.
At that is a commendable goal.