Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25

I've been thinking that it is extremely fortunate that I climbed the Comer summit our first full day here. It began the process of setting high goals for the remaining days. Perhaps not scaling summits, but solid hikes. Long hikes. No matter what the weather. Screw the weather, it just dictates how many layers to pile on before heading out. It doesn't stand in the way of hikes, of good, solid hours of exertion.

I cannot inflict my now feverish desire for pain (of the challenging activity kind) on Diane, especially not when the weather moves effortlessly between drizzle and fog and so we agree to hike separately today.  I plunge too quickly. Immediately after breakfast I want to go!

So, first the breakfast. Today's morning meal photo is of the Italian Easter bread. ("Colomba di Pasqua" -- because it has the shape of a dove. Sort of.)

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It's hard to remember otherwise that we are in the pre-Easter season. Like back home, the temperatures seem more appropriate to late February rather than late March. Last year when I was here (almost exactly on the same days), the irises were nearly done. This year, they haven't even thrown up their buds.

But once you accept the fact that it's cold and wet, you understand that it is that way for everyone here and the day moves forward anyway. Even though you have to add more layers.

Since the higher trails are wet and slippery and since it is, in fact rather nippy (maybe 41 degrees F, but it feels colder), I decide on the "Tuscan loop." It has a modest elevation and it doesn't really care about views onto the lake. I did it last year and it took me just under four hours.

And I have to say, at the beginning I am jubilant. The very slight mist, the occasional drizzle -- they add to the landscape. As if I am stuck in the overgrown forest of some Italian estate where everything is lush and exaggerated and faintly mysterious.

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Last year, I took one of my favorite photos from the trip  -- of olive groves and deep purple flowers under light blue skies. This year, I'm admiring the green moss, the ferns on walls and the sleek grayness of the olive against the clouds of the moody skies.

A bird will sing, a goat will bleat, the walk is beautiful and though not difficult at all, it's long enough and hilly enough to present a modest bit of exertion.

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But as I move in a southerly direction, the delicate mist is replaced by very indelicate fog. The kind that produces little and big drips of water. The kind that makes your pants wet  and your fingers cold. And there's plenty of mud so that within an hour, my shoes and socks are suffering, as if I had been clumsy again and hadn't noticed puddles.

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I'm thinking about visibility: were I on the road, I'd be unhappy. You can't see anything. But I'm on a dirt path and in many ways it does not matter. I see receding olive groves and faint contours of goats (if they be goats). I'm not threatened by seeing no farther than that.

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Though perhaps I should have taken heed. I'm so busy protecting my camera from the wetness and stepping daintily through wet terrain that I truly must have missed the turn, because suddenly I am somewhere off the sketched map that I carry with me.

In other words, time to ask the honored Nina (often with Ed) hiking question: where the hell am I and how do I get back home?

I seem to be in a town. That's good. There'll be people to ask.


I come across school children returning home for lunch. I blurt out -- what is the name of this place? An odd question from a kid's point of view, but there you have it.

I get help, I get pointing fingers and rapid fire instructions, do this, go there, turn there. Needless to say, eventually I find my way home.

I wrote this first part of today's story before I got the message telling me that just two hours ago, probably when I was stuck in the thickest fog, my father had died.

So be patient with me as I write here, at the same time that I process this new reality.

The odd thing is that the drama did not end there. Ten other sagas surrounding my far away family, my far away job, my far away everything erupted and each required my undivided attention. And so I could not really face my father until now, as I sit down to write this. So my immediate impulse is to say to him now -- wow, dad -- you really threw everyone for a loop (he was himself, to the core, until he was no more).

My guess is that I wont be traveling to Poland just this week. And one more thing: you probably wont hear much more on this topic on Ocean. Nothing that I can say here will adequately give nuance or credit to whom he was and what role he played in my life. So I wont say it until the day I can do so in a way that serves this chapter of our life together well -- father and daughter, complicated by the different paths we chose to follow in life, bound by blood but also by a family history that belongs, I suppose, to every daughter, every son.

My father loomed in the recesses of my soul until the day he died. All that I could have wished for is in the past. All that he would want to be conveyed has been conveyed. So there you have it, dad: I agree with half of everything you ever said to me. That has to be better than what most daughters would admit, but here's the subtle truth: the things you said well (and there were those), were over the top brilliant. So thank you...