18 July 2010

Toothbrush and a passport part II

photo by Alison

Before I left Wales I needed some reading material for the trip to Sicily. I picked up Hemingway's "Farewell To Arms," for no reason in particular, other than it was largely set in Italy. 

A week later, standing on a hill, next to a tractor and feral dogs, while drinking wine made from the same grapes in the grapevines before me, my feet cut, dirty and hardened from a day of hiking in flip flops, cliff diving and toasting my Oregon skin, I set myself the challenge of summarizing the novel in one sentence. I had a really good sentence in my mind, as I stood there watching the setting sun re-paint the rocky hillsides new colours by the minute. I said to myself, 'you have to remember that sentence, it was a good one.' It was an economic but complete description of one of the twentieth centuries first great novels, that I'd savoured between bottomless glasses of red wine and diving into the Mediterranean. 

But now, back in The Big Smoke, it alludes me. Most of the time, I'm not capable of getting anywhere near Hemingway's efficiently sparse craftsmanship, sentence by sentence, anyway. It does make me wonder whether the pace of Mediterranean life, in between being shelled to hell by the Austrians of course, influenced his writing by slowing down his American mind and allowing him to savour the details without reaching high for a more convoluted poetic.

Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of most travel writing. I have little interest in other people's blissed out experiences while, there are oil spills, war and on and on... But when I have no access to English speaking media and no one around us, speaks English and we don't speak Italian, perhaps I'm allowed to take a few days to indulge in the finer things in life? I certainly made an effort at letting the Sicillians show me how.

The above photo is of Nino whose family we stayed with. I'm guessing about 90 percent of what we ate was either grown by him or his neighbours. I had sweaty dreams, in between mosquito bites, of pre-economies.

Nino can sometimes be found, wearing nothing but his Speedo, shot gun in one hand, wine glass in the other, waiting for a stray rabbit to come hopping by.