I awoke this morning to the faint sound of some sort of aircraft over our roof, gently vibrating the window of our skylight. A Medivac? A helicopter? The skies have been so silent for days that it was a genuine surprise to hear anything besides the birds up there. It’s nature’s cruel taunt that the days have been so sunny, so crisp, clear, and cold, filled with sunshine, but also a drop in temperatures that dusted snow over many Tuscan hills. The youngest buds of spring droop their heads in our garden, dreaming their last dream of a summer they won’t know.
Today has been a better day. That was a tough stretch in there from Sunday to Tuesday. Something deep and inward rebelled, but there was nowhere, not even an open window, where I might let loose my barbaric yawp. Plus all the sitting around was making my lower back ache. To remedy this, I have been following along some yoga videos online, which has been very helpful, if only for the soothing voice of those professional yogini. Cassandra and Adriene are my favorites so far. I’ve got a couple of reeeeeaaalllly long playlists of chill music on Spotify that also help alleviate monotony and anxiety. I am also not spending time on social media sites, whose dissonant reality reliably induced a certain feeling of panic.
I’m in Italy in quarantine in our apartment with my husband and two children. Our apartment is generously sized, and for that I am grateful; it is well situated for privacy, laid out in a great O that is closed between The Bog and The Galley. One enters directly into our dining and living area, where we all spend a lot of time together, doing laundry, bathing, cooking, working, watching TV, writing. A large square rug is our gym and mini-piazza: morning yoga, dance class, and trampoline workouts abound here. One step down takes you into the kitchen; three steps up brings you to the master bedroom. Another step up and you’re in zone of the TV room and the kids’ bedrooms. Four steps down and you find yourself in the quiet wing where The Terrace and The Bog are situated.
One drawback is that all our vertical windows face into a courtyard, so the rooms receive very little direct sunlight. When we first moved in, about four years ago, I purchased many IKEA lamps with paper shades as soon as was possible. Last weekend I straightened up our guest room (previously, its sole occupant was Jason’s carbon road bike, very fancy so I gather) and named it The Terrace. Eleanor (age 5) quickly followed suit and relocated a number of books and toys in it too. Even Victor likes The Terrace, but the WiFi is not so great back there. It is, however, very private, and in that regard fulfills a key requirement as a secret garden. The light in this room, from nine to about eleven in the morning, is fantastic as the windows face east, and we are on an upper floor. Sitting on the bench (daybed) of The Terrace in the sun, I can easily imagine I am outside, and the sun’s warmth is calming.
Other rooms in the house have been renamed as we orbit around our tiny solar system: The Bog (back guest bathroom), The Beach. The Beach is the bed in the master bedroom which receives beautiful sunlight and warmth through the skylight, from approximately one to three in the afternoon, stronger sun than the morning sun which we receive while on The Terrace. The Beach is perfect for post-lunch yoga or a human catnap.
I have not named our cucina yet, but a strong contender for the brand is The Galley, because it is like cooking on a sloop: basically a narrow hall with an equally narrow counter, a gas hob, and electric oven, and a grey marble sink that looks like it’s seen a washboard or two since it was installed in 1870 (just guessing; I have no idea when they put in that tombstone). A tall cabinet contains all our cookware and dishes. We have a sexy red bollitore (electric kettle) that I bought from Bialetti last September. It holds court on the grey marble counter and earns its keep, boiling water at least a half dozen times a day for us. (Big tea drinkers here.) A funny green wooden cupboard holds our dry goods, standing alone on lathe-turned knobs made lacy by woodworms ages ago. Atop the green cupboard is an amusing Italian microwave that might be as powerful as a mosquito zapper. The Galley is one lane, one-way, can comfortably accommodate one person at a time. It is not possible to squeeze behind the cook without jostling and bumping them, or risking a scald.
Tomorrow I’ll detail for you how the rest of my little tribe is managing quarantine. (Preview quote from Jason: “Italy should expedite our citizenship eligibility after this.”) I can tell you, for those of you not yet in quarantine, or who have just entered quarantine, none of this is going to end anytime soon, no matter what the Yam-in-Chief yells. My heart goes out to all my friends in India and everyone there. Twenty-one days of strictly enforced lock down with 1.3 billion people and that population density takes my breath away. I thought it too when China locked down Wuhan. I read the news in January and caught my breath, oh my god. But I really did not think Italy would be next. I am still shocked at this world we’ve woken up in. And I cannot stop thinking about Spain, France, the UK, and the US. My global network feels the impact everywhere. My heart is with you all.