We hosted breakfast inside this morning, a sure sign that fall has arrived in Piemonte. Another sign are the foods we are starting to see, such as gorgeous porcini mushrooms. If you drive from Acqui Terme to Savona in Liguria on the old route through the hills, you will find trucks on the side of the road, laden with these wild mushrooms, the hunters eager to sell their ware. Peperoncini are ripening and waiting to be dried, to make my friend Letizia's peperoncino infused oil .
The skies fill up with purple clouds, some passing quickly, some releasing their fury. The farmers are outside, trying to determine the exactly correct moment da vendemmiare. I walked Max a while ago, making mental notes of all the things I would like to do. So many things.
The entire region is one big Sagra, or celebration, of food and wine and harvest and life itself. Acqui Terme celebrated the area's produtti locali all weekend with a street festival, each booth highlighting a gastronomic delicacy from the area, from porcini fritti to polenta con gorgonzola. With wine, of course. What street festival is complete without wine? Next weekend is the oldest Palio in Italy, the Asti Palio, where the horses run through the town square. CHEESE, the Slow Food biannual extravaganza is also next weekend. And in between, small towns throughout Piemonte celebrate in small, sweet ways. It is a wonderful time to be here.
But soon all the festivals will be finished, the guests will have left, and we will go into our quiet time, where we can sleep in and work at our own pace, preparing for winter's arrival, making foods that satisfy.
So, anyway. These are the things I meditated on during my walk with Max today:
Develop a very personal style. I am reminded, through our guests I suppose, that our live is indeed a fulfilling but simple one. We truly live by the rules of nature and have little space in our lives for fanciful things. I think I have, at an unconscious level, fought this in some ways, but I am coming to accept that this is how it is now. There are moments when I look back on this life and I can pick moments where there were big cars or complicated jobs and huge wardrobes. As I was walking with Max today, I was thinking about my own personal style -- I don't know that any piece in my old huge wardrobe ever really reflected how I wanted to look or who I truly was. So I am on a bit of a mission now, to sense and feel fabric and fashion which suits the woman I have become, the person I see myself as. I would love to learn how to sew well, and maybe have come to an age where I have the patience to learn how. I see women in my age group with great personal style and wish to get there myself, in my own way, at my own pace. I see a place for my new buttons in my own fashion.
Simplicity enhances creativity. It is a country life, this one, yet it is a modern country life, connected to the world with satellite and DSL, a life where we know what is happening but one where we do not do as much partaking as we maybe once did. Despite the relative simplicity of our lives, we find ourselves tremendously busy -- with plans, work, creative initiatives and ideas. Simple does not mean being bored, it means not being complicated. Life is more straightforward for us now than it has ever been. We host guests, we cook, we clean, we chop and gather firewood, we garden, we walk the dog. We seem to like it that way.
Remember that stuff is nothing. Things have lost priority. Stuff no longer counts. Shopping does not give me a lift, in fact, it does the opposite. I like nice things, but am happy to wait for them or strike them from the list of possibilities completely if necessary, and to make do with what we have. In Italy, people will reuse a grape twice -- once to produce wine, a second time to distill grappa. This is a basic Italian life philosophy, and I am thankful that I have gotten to live it in real time.
Use your things and enjoy them. I am no longer waiting to use my silver -- my guests eat breakfast with silver very day. Same thing with all of my fine linens. What on earth would I wait for, until I am dead and can give everything to my niece and nephew who would in turn save it all for their kids? They can still have it all when I have transitioned out of this life, but my silver will be a bit used, as it should be when things are handed from generation to generation.
Give thanks. Remember that loving is an active sport, not a passive one. It takes work. Being thankful is an act of love.
So much for today's walk. This is the reason I love the fall so much. It brings such thoughts out.