A book, some places, change
April 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
Drum roll everyone. You won’t believe this, but I finished a book. You know my recent lament about forsaking literature, well I’ve turned over a new leaf where I don’t work and instead I read. Oh and that whole not working thing, don’t worry that was planned too. I’ve pretty much landed the ideal way to work in restaurants while still avoiding the desire to throw myself from a high speed train while crossing a ravine. It’s called seasonal work. This means I only work during the winter and summer seasons because the restaurant is only open when the tourists are in town. Odd that people don’t come to ski resorts when the slopes are closed, and even stranger, that visitors and locals alike avoid the special Big Sky season of mud. What about the mud wrestling and monster truck derbies? (Note: we do not have those sports in Big Sky, please don’t come here in search of them because you will be sorely disappointed.
Oh, but I was telling you about this book I actually finished: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. I saw the movie years ago and have owned the book since I was a freshman in college. It has served as an excellent dust collector. The risk taking love plot is what lured me in during the movie, and I was a little dumbfounded when I cracked the book open years ago and found no such plot. I was disappointed to find that Mayes was already content with her wonderful partner, now husband Ed. Hence, Under the Tuscan Sun’s exile to my bookshelf, until I was ripe to read it. I’ve now been to Italy myself, I have traveled around the world, I have lived in different countries, I have been welcomed into foreign communities, I have observed the intricacies of humanity, I have grown up a little. Now, Mayes book is the perfect read for me, no romance aside. In fact, I can really do with out the Hollywood romance at this point in my 20s.
I’ve slowly worked my way through Mayes memoir these past few months and I’ve fallen in love with Italy all over. This country with its food and people of fervor is what made me travel in the first place. My great uncle and world traveler always used to show slide shows of his excursions at family gatherings. I was very young and forced to sit on the floor Indian style, very still as we watched slide after slide of far off place including very detailed monologue and most of the time, I acted like most kids would. I was bored, I’d fidget and after about ten slides I was dying for the torture to come to an end. That was until I saw a slide show of a rolling green hills laden with all sorts of wild flowers and I fell in love. Of course it was Italy, of course it was the Tuscan countryside. It was magic. Right then, at age seven or so, I decided that I was going to Italy. 15 years later I made it. Reading Mayes book I am sick for Italy. I long to be in Cortona walking the streets with Mayes, picking olives from her trees to make oil with, having the lady at the market pick out the best produce for me, learning to make that delicious lemon cake with pine nuts from the trees that line Mayes Italian. I long to be transformed again by the marvelous Tuscan light.
Being a semi-nomadic person for the past four years I have been to and fallen in love with so many places. And Mayes having grown up in the American south, lived most of her adult life in metropolitan San Francisco, and then finally come home to Cortona, Italy understands places the way I do. She says, “We are changed by place.” How have my previous residences changed me? LA? Bristol? Western Australia? Brisbane? Bristol, again? San Luis Obispo? And not all felt like home. LA for instance, not even close. I always felt like I was at a zoo, looking at the world through glass, and I can’t even tell you which side of the glass I was on. But then there is San Luis Obispo, where I was fortunate enough to attend college. SLO (pronounced slow) as it is known, was the first place I really asserted my independence and began to know myself as an adult. It was the first place I fell in love and the first place I had my heart broken. My tears are there. As I further explored and made San Luis Obispo my own I further enjoyed and expressed my individuality. I have both left part of myself behind there and carried part of that place with me.
Places change you. You can love or hate a place but it will still change you. I love Big Sky. I am besotted. I drive up and down one street everyday, I either go straight or I make a right turn and that takes me almost everywhere I need to go. And yet it doesn’t bore me even in the slightest. The constant beauty regularly causes me to take pause, the sun and sky are somehow different, the world transforms with the season. The snow is melting around me and I’m seeing a new Big Sky because so much was hidden under that white blanket. How is this place changing me? Surely it must be for the good, when that is all that surrounds me. We are changed by place. I am calmer, less anxious. I’m coming to accept my semi-nomadic being and just enjoying the slow process of figuring out just what it is I am doing. I am inspired as a writer and a photographer here. I am drawn to the creative and have time for it. This is just the beginning. We are changed by place. I am changed, I am continuing to change.