After the magic of arriving in Tuscany Saturday night, the days have unfolded into a pattern of writing, walking, eating, drinking, talking, laughing, sleeping – and repeat!
On my second day I woke at 6:30 and headed up the road to watch the sun rise. I climbed high in the olive grove and watched a red orb rise out of the mist in the hills. There should have been music – a Puccini opera aria. But the soundtrack was a chorus of song birds in the olive trees.
I’ve found my writing place in the house – the long table on the terrace outside our kitchen. It is covered by a reed roof that shelters me from the sun but filters through just enough light to warm me in the early morning.
At 7:30 my thermos of coffee is delivered to my door and I take my manuscript, computer, coffee and a plate of fruit and cheese out to the terrace to begin my day.
The house is big, with enough room for all of us to work, undisturbed, in our own spaces. Ann, a writer from New Hampshire is working on a book about her experience with a life-threatening open-brain surgery 9 years ago. Elaine, the baby of the house, is an actress and poet currently living in Los Angeles, and as I write this she is yelling for help to deal with a centipede that is crawling across her bed. Jane is sitting on the lawn across from me. She is a painter and art instructor from the U.S. who has a studio on the top floor of our house and is doing plein air watercolour work, capturing the glorious hills of Tuscany. Jennifer, who is busily typing away in her room, is a writer from New Glasgow who is working on a memoir.
Late in the afternoon we head up the hill, a one kilometer hike, for craft talks, drinks and dinner at the Courthouse.
Our first craft talk was from Cheryl Tan, https://cheryllulientan.com author of Tiger in the Kitchen, a memoir of returning home to Singapore to reconnect with the food of her childhood. Cheryl also read from her novel Sarong Party Girls which is written in English and Singlish (a combination of English, Chinese and Malay) it was wonderful to hear it read in Cheryl’s voice. Last night was the Canadian artist Sarah Cale https://sarahcale.com/home.html Sarah did her MFA at NSCAD and is now living and working in Belgium. Sarah talked about the evolution of her work which is a combination of painting and collage. In some of her work paint strokes are applied to a plastic surface and when dry are transferred and collaged onto wood, canvas or linen. Tonight’s craft talk will be with Michael Salu http://www.michaelsalu.com/art/ Michael was born in Britain of Nigerian heritage and now lives in Berlin. He was creative director of Granta magazine, is an artist, critic and writer. His talk tonight will look at the intersection of art and writing.
The food, oh my god the food. I understand now what people mean when they talk about the food of Italy. It touches all the senses. The cheese, mushrooms, olive oil, wine are all local and fresh – the cooking is simple but each ingredient is perfect - gorgonzola with whipped mascarpone served on thin crackers with slices of pear, fresh mozzarella with lemon zest and roast chicken cooked with rosemary from the garden. Ahhhhh. I have decided that before I start my new life as a cheesemaker I need to come back to Tuscany and learn from the masters.
We start our evenings with a cocktail du jour served by writer and bartender Rosa Rankin-Gee https://rosarankingee.wordpress.com We have sampled the Campari Spritz – Campari and Prosecco with a splash of soda and a twist of orange, a Lemon Tree cocktail of gin, lime soda, cucumber and lavender, and last night was pineapple, rum and mint.
The walk up the hill for dinner is refreshing, the walk down in the dark of night, after a glass (or two) of wine, with just small flashlights to light our way, is challenging. Back at the house at night I like to lie out by the pool and gaze up at the night sky. The second night I saw three shooting stars! Last night there was a new moon. Sophie from Holland tells me a new moon is a good omen for new beginnings. This new moon marks a special new beginning for me – a crossing over. A commitment to myself to step away from work for pay that does not feed my soul. Time to leave the daily grind and grab more of the good things in life.
Cheers! Bella Sera!