Update from Italy: Hope

“Hope is the thing with feathers….” Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Our household, like every home with one or more Americans in it, and plenty of other homes besides, had been subdued and glum in the days before and after the November 3 election. Anticipation and uncertainty, followed by more anticipation and uncertainty. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Is this going to court? What are the margins? Every time I looked at my phone the NYT app indicated about 128 updates. What states are still up for grabs? Why can’t Nevada count? Looks like Arizona was called prematurely. And so on.

Yesterday we planned to go to a friend’s house in the countryside to help collect chestnuts. I happen to love chestnuts and rue the unfortunate demise of our chestnuts in America, lost a century ago to disease. Chestnuts seem to me to be well-packaged gifts from Nature of abundance and sustenance. Their miniature leathern purses; the light monk’s tonsure atop each one, where the forest urchin was affixed before it split and fell away, releasing the nut. Alas, it was not to be, as Eleanor pitched a rare fit, threw all the books everywhere, and cried herself into a top-bunk nap. Victor and I opted for a sunny two-mile stroll through town, getting some shopping done for Jason’s birthday at the end of this week. At first Victor was quiet, stricken by Eleanor’s dramatic scene, but eventually calmed down and turned chatty with me. For his pains he was rewarded with a €4,50 mega ice cream cone, in the very European Kinder Egg flavor, which he said made him feel like he was floating through time and space. He polished it off in Piazza Santissima Annunziata and threw the cone away, while I spied a glowing chapel at the corner which I’d never seen before, and so of course I went in to be nosy and take a couple of pictures.

At home Eleanor was still slumbering in the top bunk, bangs plastered to her face by stress and sweat. I refreshed my news again. No news. Jason and I talked about when late numbers might come in. An update on my scroll said a pile of votes had just come in from Pennsylvania, putting the election outside of their margin for a mandatory recount (<0.5%). I looked at my screen again. “What!” I exclaimed. “How can Biden be up to 270 electoral votes but the election not yet be called.”

“Maybe refresh your screen,” Jason calmly recommended.

I did so. The 50-point font immediately flipped, BIDEN BEATS TRUMP. I too now felt as though I were floating through time and space, stress released, my inner cortisol drip of the stress hormone extinguished. We had a celebratory dinner of steak frites and a glass of Bolgheri. A moment of hope. Phones went off as excited messages began to fly. Hope is the thing with feathers! Relieved Italians sent well wishes and thank you notes. The world thanks America for this result. I am not kidding. The world. Everyone was rooting for the American People in this one.

But, in many ways, this is just the start of the hard work. As a country we cannot just keep grabbing the ball more and more violently from one another every two years. Can we work on Electoral College reform?Are there two Americas, and can they live under the same roof? Can a privileged class see and understand the damage done in their name to an underclass? Can we right historic wrongs, while educating one another on what those were and how they impacted people and populations? Democrats lost seats in the US House; key state legislatures that were hoped, expected to flip didn’t flip at all. Texas and Florida more entrenched. Michigan and Wisconsin living up to their swing state monikers.

It’s a rowdy mix, and yet let’s not forget, it is not a game. People’s lives are impacted. Real harms are ongoing to POC, the poor, to the middle class. Healthcare access continues to be a huge problem. Americans can’t save money not because they’re lazy, but because the rent is too damn high in America. Everyone is always out to earn more, seeking a sense of security, chased by bills in a country where food, childcare, healthcare, and retirement are inestimable costs, impossible to predict and wildly vacillating. And no one loves to change jobs because all your private benefits change, but oh, it is worth it to be on track for a little more money each year … America, this is exhausting. It’s no way to live.

This election feels a lot like childbirth: a tenth-month marathon of pregnancy followed by the two-year toddler marathon. I think we’re all still in the hospital, giddy with a newborn, but reality will soon sink in. And hope. A baby presents much hope, along with much work. We’ve done it before. We’re strong. We’re each a parent of this Republic, so buy some coffee and figure out how you’re going to get through this.

Update from Italy: Thoughts on Race

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

I have been thinking a lot about race and structural racism this year. Burdened by old knee-jerk ideas that I was ready to discard, I wished to see my world and the greater world for what they were, not for how I assumed them to be. My discursive game was not strong when I found myself in conversations that assumed a shared pleasure in this aspect of our shared world.

So I started reading. A book that resonated deeply for me was White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me (I started reading this book about a year ago) is that the term racist is not an insult. It is a fact of life the way our world is organized.

How strange to watch the events this year in America unfold from Europe, an ocean away. To breathe cool air under the oaks whose acorns of racism were carried to the U.S. in ships and documents that designed a system by and for the profit of Europeans. Europeans are concerned about America, but seem less concerned about institutional racism at home. This a topic for a different post.

For thirty years in Oklahoma, I navigated that culture in a leaky blue lifeboat, adrift in a sea of red rage. Oklahoma, a cradle of white fragility. Surrounded by people who felt, on some significant level, culturally cheated they didn’t belong to the Deep South – and had accrued none of the residual elegance, none of the courtly manners, the plantations, the fine breeding exported from the United Kingdom. All they got was a Texas twang and the Dust Bowl.

Thinking back to my thirty years in Oklahoma, white people often repeated that they did not see race, they were not racist, “he don’t care if you’re black or white, or green or yellow or purple.” How childish to refuse to see. How persistently transparent this system is for the white majority. If you don’t see it, then you’ve always benefited from it. Always. Full stop. Black and brown people did not create this system. Women did not create this system. Don’t even get me started on “Lean In.” Just work harder, as hard as we do, and you can beat us at our own game. Um, actually, no we can’t, because this game was created and rigged centuries ago. We all know by whom.

As a white woman growing up in Oklahoma, there were plenty of assumptions that I agreed with the institutions all around me. I had experienced a healthy dose of violence as a woman: Oklahoma culture does not take kindly to an outspoken woman. Especially if she be small. Something about the inability to subvert her spirit enrages people. I can’t even count the number of times that a man laughed or profited at my expense. Some scars minor, a few very deep. I learned to keep my mouth shut lest they come back for more, the way playground bullies will gang up on a weakling who hasn’t yet learned to stop squawking or looking cowed. It was exhausting to battle it day after day, in elementary school, middle school, high school, especially through the many years that I spent at the state’s flagship campus, first as a student, then as a grad student, then as a TA and a GA, then as a staff professional. Yet I know there were many who had it far worse than I did, treated as tokens at best; as nuisances, less good; as less than human, worst-case.

White women – all women – have it tough in Oklahoma. The dominant male culture is suffocating. Sexual assault and gender-based violence are rampant, woven so deep into the fabric of society that no one even bats an eye. They had an event for BLM this summer at the state capital with a bunch of white guys. No women, no POC in sight.

Yet white women on campus who complained the loudest about their plight were also often the most shining examples of institutional racism. Women who grabbed the nearest POC for a photo op when they got airtime to air their grievances. Somehow the injustice of this did not occur to them: what it meant to grab a brown human shield from a seated audience, to make them stand up while the white woman aggressively embraced them, thus snuffing further debate. Now hugging a brown person; you cannot call me to account. POC caught in the middle between privileged white men and women, arguing about the gender divide when the issue of race was invisible to them. Because we don’t see race, they said. Because it doesn’t impact you, our brown and black brothers and sisters rejoined.

Some in my circle on this side of the ocean have approached an unbearable note of tsking, tsk tsk, America, acting so badly. There’s no recognition of the English seeds, the European seeds, that started much of this in the 14th-18th centuries. Europe is doing pretty well now, overall, because they had centuries of a bullish global market built on the decimation of native cultures, in Africa, in the Americas, in Australia. We can acknowledge that history, while also saying that we need to do better, we must do better, to change our course.

I’ll keep reading and examining my own received opinions and ideas. I like DiAngelo’s suggestions and examples in her book for rectifying systemic racism with our own individual actions. I know there have to be ways I can put my values into action from where I live, in this liminal expat space, neither here nor there. Are you working on this? What are your ideas for cultural progressive change?

Come back tomorrow for my post about hate. People do not love to hate. Why do we think they do? Let’s examine hatred and perceived polarity together.

Update from Italy: Quando lo saprete?

Soon, with a little luck, both the world and Melania will be getting in a little boat and speeding far, far away from Yamland. Pictured, Ljubljana, Slovenia, a city that captured my heart in 2016. I bet the Yam’s never even been. Photo by Bram van Geerenstein on Unsplash

When will you know? Quando lo saprete?

I walked for two miles up and down the river this morning to clear my cobwebs. Mood is much better than yesterday morning as bits and pieces of hope floated in on the U.S. election news yesterday. I stopped in the caffè next to our office palazzo, lingered over a cappuccino, gave in and got the delicious fresh Italian cornetto. Why not? Perché no? Life is short; some days are harder than others. Italy ensures that everyone has access to a very affordable pick-me-up, no matter the city or day. Thus fortified, I headed upstairs and let myself in the heavy front door.

Pinuccia the office cleaner was hard at work this morning in our reception area. “Monica! BUONGIORNO!” She is a reliably cheery morning greeter. “Quando lo saprete?” When will you all know?

“Una bella domanda,” I yelled back even though she was about a foot from me.

These types of discussions in Italy require minor shouting. Sometimes, when the windows in our palazzo are open and seemingly shouting voices float up or down inside the courtyard from other apartments, I have to ask Eleanor, “Are they angry or just being Italian?” My little Italian culture expert will cock her head, listen for a second, and usually say, “Mommy, they are just being Italian. It is how they talk.” I have asked her this enough that sometimes now this ebullient Finn will now edge into Italian volume when culturally appropriate. I feel Pinuccia is a safe space in which to try out my discursive volume.

And it is a beautiful question. When will we know?

Pinuccia continued, “I saw everything that Tramp was saying! How he’d already won! Lying! And then I remembered what you told me, Monica! That he’s mentally ill! Malato di mente! So I paid a lot less attention. It makes sense what you said! He’s matto, pazzo.” She swirled an invisible corkscrew by her ear. I was glad that I had been able to give her useful information to refine her reception of Tramp’s rants now making international news.

“But you know, Monica,” she scrunched up the left side of her face in consideration, “I think the even BIGGER question right now is, when is Melania going to file for the divorzio?” Pinuccia cackled and made an internationally recognized non-verbal gesture for feck off. “Oddio, I hope she gets to file her divorzio papers soon!” She trotted off down the hallway to the architect’s studio to work on their end of the office. I am pretty sure she cleans that side too. Or maybe she was just headed down there to get their news.

I have plenty more on my mind, but must go refresh a few websites for return updates. But, America, this: I can’t stress enough how the eyes of the world are on you. This is an election of global importance. It really is. This election matters. Your votes matter. All of them.

Update from Italy: Civility the Day After

Take the belleza wherever you may find it. Photo by Max Nayman on Unsplash

Everyone in our house slept fine last night, except Jason, who claimed he got “half an hour” of sleep,” and his wife, who occupies the other half of the bed. Up and down, checking polls, ballot counts, Electoral College tallies. On the plus side, it wasn’t the route of 2016, when he roused me at 6 AM to tell me that He Who Shall Not Be Named had cakewalked off with the highest elected office in the land.

I sniffled and cried that week, on the circuit among home, the kids’ school, my office, home again. Watching the leaves turn on Via della Colonna, the blue sky sparkle, dreams crumble.

This year is different. No rousing, not news of a rout. But plenty of nail biting. The day was dark. I didn’t feel like smiling, which is unusual. I felt sick. My low expectations were being confirmed, and I didn’t like it. How? How can this be happening? People asked me. Hm, live 30 years in Oklahoma, and you might understand why. Once again I felt myself falling into the familiar role of cultural explainer. When cultures collided historically on the Italian peninsula, the Italian process of incivilimento (civilizing) was initiated by figures—temosfori—who acted as the cultural mediators between different human groups.

Florence was empty, rainy, wet. Disintegrating dog poo all over the sidewalks, of course. The ongoing pandemic underscores just how much the Florentine economy depends on mass tourism and global mobility. I’d read that 70% of the residences in the centro are tourist rentals, and these days, I believe it. The city is about 30% full. One in six jobs in Florence is gone for good. Stores permanently shuttering. I grumbled to myself as I locked up my bike and prepared to go into the very quiet office on the very quiet street. A new 28-page decree of restrictions, all aimed at preventing the spread of Covid, was released yesterday. There is no hustle and bustle in Florence these days. The baristas are bored.

Our of the corner of my eye I saw a woman falter on the sidewalk. She was too well dressed to be homeless or drunk, a bit older than I. “Signora,” she said softly, “can I walk with you?” I saw she was blind, or partially blind, and not walking well. I said of course.

“Where to?”

“Those plants.” The plants were about twenty feet away. She was very unsteady.

“Signora, would you like to take my elbow?”

“Yes, please, that’s so nice of you.” Her gnarled right hand clapped my left elbow. “Where are you from? Your Italian is very good. So clear.”

I guffawed. I never believe the compliment. “I’m American.”

“Oh, ugly day! These elections.”

“I know,” I said. I asked her where she was from. She said the Casentino, the mountainous part of Tuscany to the east which we know fairly well from numerous day trips and time spent out at Simone’s spread in Castelfranco di Sopra. I told her we loved her region, that we’d spent a delightful two weekends in Stia in the past year.

“Stia!” she crowed. “That’s my hometown.” I mentioned our friend Martha, who lives just outside of Stia in Porciano in a renovated tenth-century tower. The signora was amazed and delighted that we had a mutual acquaintance, and such a distinguished on.

We continued walking. “Where are you walking to?” she asked me.

“Oh, Piazza del Duomo,” I said. “Where do you need to go?”

“The Uffizi,” she replied. “I work there.” She may have said she worked in the archives or as an art historian. I was focused on the uneven sidewalk and my increasingly tingly left arm. My mind whirled. That was a true jaunt! I saw how tentatively she stepped on the sidewalk, faltering on the uneven pavers. “Signora, do you normally make this walk to work?”

“Every day,” she said, “but today is really bad.”

I could believe it. I patted her hand and walked slowly with the chatty Italian caboose latched onto me, walking down Via Cavour toward the river. We talked about my kids, the schools, language, her studies in Greek philosophy, my general fetish for Classics, the Roman empire, and all topics Romance of any era. We reached Piazza del Duomo and she stopped. “Well, you can leave me here,” she announced.

“Oh, no, Signora, if you need me to, I can walk to your office.”

“Oh no! I won’t let you!”

“I think I must!”

“That would be so helpful – thank you. I’m indebted. Also,” she added again, “because I can’t see, I use my ears more, and I love your clear voice. It’s very easy to understand! Oddio, I wish my English were as good as your Italian!” I blushed, but she couldn’t see that. She was walking very slowly, her feet in black flats, a mask on her face, extremely fogged thick glasses. I judged that she and I were about the same height. The signora and I continued down Via Calzaiuoli to Piazza della Signoria. By now we were talking about San Francesco and La Verna and Camaldoli monks and all the religious devotion to be found in the Casentino. Then the Conti Guidi and all their castles. No one gave us a second look. A younger person calmly and gently leading an older person in public is a frequent sight and a badge of honor in Italy.

We crossed the Piazza and turned left on Via Ninna. I led her to her office, and down the stairs (“Signora, forgive me – I am sure you know these gradini!” “Oh, your beautiful Italian!”) to the Uffizi security.

I continued on my walk with my headphones on, listening to a “Reply All” podcast about quantifying happiness. In that moment I felt very blessed that this opportunity had presented itself in the form of a small, blind Italian woman, unsteady on her feet, for whom I might do a small service in the name of civil society. On a day when my low expectations were being met abroad, it was a balm to be able to step into this circle of basic kindness.

So, if you are struggling today with everything in the world, that’s the best I have for you. If an opportunity presents itself for you to show basic kindness and civility, please take it, even if it brings you a half hour out of your way and slightly off course. It lifted me, a temosfora, borne up by kindness and acceptance, usefulness and assimilation.

U.S. Election Watch: Update from Italy

Popes of the past perch atop St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Photo by Simone Savoldi on Unsplash

“Morto un papa, se ne fa un altro.” Literally, one pope dies, eh, they’ll make another. An Italian idiom for “life goes on.” No? It marches along.

To the Italian sensibility, the seasons change, grapes and olives and chestnuts are harvested. Politics are but a background wallpaper to scenes throughout the year, throughout a life. And Italians know from some stressful politics. They still have Berlusconi kicking around, for heaven’s sake (his physician said he will live to be 140!), and now a new standard bearer of populist mania, Salvini. It’s no bed of roses in Italian politics. But the peninsula has been ruled more or less in an organized fashion (not to say in perfect hegemony) since Romulus knifed his twin brother Remus and founded Rome in 753 BCE.

Italians really rolled out their moral support for Americans in 2016 after the election debacle. Don’t worry, they told us. We lived through Berlusconi. You will survive this too. We weren’t so sure, but then, we come from an earnest culture that really wants to be good, that wants to right wrongs. The Italian response is more often a shrug, hands outstretched, palms up, saying whatcha gonna do? Change human nature? Pick another fool’s errand; there’s quality espresso, and a fresh pastry, at the nearby marble-topped bar. Seek the micro-addressing of microaggressions. Be a good person in your day to day. As far as what happens in the clicking halls of Rome, well, not much we can do about that from here, but also, the minestra’s done, and it’s almost the ora di cena. Italy’s reliable rituals comfort and sustain a culture and its people.

Jason and I voted weeks ago, in Spokane County. We vote every election we can from here, and Spokane County’s management of absentee and overseas ballots is superb. We’ve both been following the news this election very closely. It’s amusing when stateside friends update us as though we lived on the moon without internet. But, it is sweet, and nice to be remembered by people who wish us to stay updated.

Today I went to work in a quiet office. Ah, peace. I switched on the lights and took out the file I’d been working on yesterday to finish the task in total serenity. The attorneys in the office come and go, are often in court, and frequently absent, which means my corner spot with the natural light is the perfect place to research and draft.

“MONICA! Buongiorno!” The voice of Pinuccia, the woman who cleans the office, echoed down the hall. A certain type of Italian woman finds me in these situations and talks my head off. This was also the case four years ago with the office manager Silvia in my rented space at the Sprachcaffè.

“The elections are today!” she told me brightly.

“Yes! They are,” I smiled, and put down a sheaf of vital records.

“My God! Trump! Let’s hope he leaves!”

“You’re telling me,” I replied. “I don’t even want to hear his name. There are many Troomps behind this Troomp. His presidency has been a failure of our system. It shouldn’t have happened.” I wasn’t really in the mood to go into checks and balances, the three branches of government, and the treachery in our co-opted legislative and judicial branches in Italian.

She regarded me closely. “How did you say his name? How are you supposed to say his name,” she asked. “What’s the proper pronunciation.”

“Oh, I just say Troomp. But Italians seem to call him Tramp. His name in English is pronounced Truhmp, with that beautiful English ‘uh’ that is so hard to say.”

Pinuccia laughed. “You know, I really like Melania! She’s so pretty and European.”

“She is,” I agreed. “She also looks like she could be Carla Bruni’s sister.”

“You are so right! She does!” She looked at me with newfound respect and opened a window to let in the fresh air. A pause. “Why did she marry him?”

“A pact with the Devil. She was meant to to divorce him. He expected to lose in 2016.”

“Ah, poor Melania, to be insulted by her own marriage! day after day! Can you imagine going to bed with Trump?”

Now, this image so early in the morning was far too much for me. I smiled weakly. “No, I can’t.”

“And his two ex-wives! How much was Melania paid to marry him! Well, it’s not her fault really, a beauty like her, from a small European country where almost no one lives.”

“I like Slovenia,” I offered. We went for a week at the holidays in 2016, enjoyed a farm trampoline, and sampled their emergency medical care with a wheezing toddler and a medical staff who spoke perfect English.

“Of course! But it would be hard to be from there!” Pinuccia’s wisdom and insights are always very earthy. She often relates long tales of her family’s struggles in an accent I honestly find difficult to parse. Her drive-by monologues, like those of Silvia four years ago on Piazza della Repubblica, are best received as local color and language immersion.

“I’ll have a glass of wine tonight,” I said lamely. “Get through this day.”

“Oh, do you think we’ll know something tonight?” She looked surprised.

“No, I don’t think we’ll know anything before December, most likely.”

“Caspita!” Wow! She moved off down the hall on her cleaning circuit.

I thought about how the hardest part of the past four years for Americans – and American – culture is our essential earnestness. Like, why would someone be bad on purpose? Why wouldn’t someone try to do a good job? This makes Italians shake their heads in pity. Of course people are base. Why would you torture yourself hoping or expecting otherwise?

And finally, after living four years out of the U.S. and looking at it with distance, and perhaps kinder eyes that see more and understand better, the astonishing ongoing experiment that is America continues to impress. That a country could be attempted (with all due respect to indigenous tribes, and what they lost in this attempt wasn’t right then and isn’t right now) where people might migrate and somehow become a new kind of person, an American, who, after just one generation, might speak English without an accent. Maybe attained a level of education unknown to their parents. Maybe, until recently, found a level of safety and security they hadn’t known before, where they came from (with all due respect to Black and Brown people and POC, and GLBTQI who suffered then and suffer now). Maybe had opportunities impossible for those who came before them in their families. I’m living proof of that, and if you’re reading this, you probably are too.

In many ways America continues to be a global experiment. The whole world has skin in this game. Even though the past four years have been a moral mudslide, we can reverse course and shore up and build again. We can! Despite what Americans might believe in the more insulated pockets of the country, the events and politics in the U.S. impact the globe. Despite what Americans believe on the more urbane coasts, the U.S. is still a global leader for whom every other country in the world is rooting. Our experiment is their experiment is a global experiment.

I hope you voted today. I’ll be sure to report back with Pinuccia’s post-election analysis. You know she’ll find me and have plenty to say about it.

All Saints (Ognissanti): Update from Italy

Going to the frantoio (press) on Tuesday!

The November chill wraps gently around us, as though to say, remember me? Cold weather? I am back.

Our summer months gave us something close to normal for weeks on end. The majority of Florentines kept their masks on. We took careful vacations. Jason and I worked in offices. The kids started attending school on September 7. We’ve been very impressed with in-school safety measures.

Now that we are headed into a winter season of uncertain circumstances thanks to the pandemic, I decided to start posting here again. (Plus I renewed all my WordPess fees and domain name, so…) I find myself unmotivated to blog when life feels normal, but as soon as time fractures and splits, freedoms are limited, and hopes run high, I find myself back here wanting to tell you the story.

Italy is now taking measures to close down for the second time this year. The authorities have said that they will keep it a priority to maintain the normal activity of schools, at least for the youngest children. I really hope this is possible, but circumstances may dictate otherwise. Victor has a fine new laptop that he has been using for robust nonstop gaming, and very little homework. He has been repeatedly warned not to break it as he will need it for didattica a distanza (DAD) if his class goes remote again. Something already happened to his charger which we seemed to have fixed for now. Plus the in-house IT support team (me) fixed his internet issue.

Many times people have told me that they look forward to the vaccine. I hardly know how to respond to this, so usually say something anodyne like, me too.

Eleanor turned six yesterday. By a happy twist of fate our friend Antonella who lives on an estate in the countryside harvested her olives this weekend, and who should also be helping gather olives but a classmate Matteo from school. We all gathered our courage and raked, picked, and beat the olives from the silvery trees. “Can’t hurt the trees,” the lone blue jumpsuited professional on the team told us, with a knowing smile. A few of the dads climbed ladders to rake and pick, and from time to time a branch heavy with fruit flew down from the sky to be stripped clean by flying fingers on the grass. Twigs and branches were cast over a small bluff to join a growing pile that will be burnt when dry, perfuming the air with that particular and acrid olive wood smoke that characterizes the Tuscan autumn. Eleanor and Matteo followed Antonella’s two German shepherds, killing them with clumsy kindness and endless juvenile embraces. Victor pouted for the middle innings but then rallied and helped.

After some hours of labor, Antonella called it a day and we all repaired to a side garden for a casual lunch. The dogs called in their chips of patience with the kids and ate their fair share of prosciutto and schiaciatta. Antonella brought out two dolci, and we all sang happy birthday. Eleanor opened some present we’d brought. We had hoped that the fresh air and sunshine would speed their respective recoveries from a tenacious cold that has kept them both down for most of the past two weeks. Their pink cheeks and smiles told the true story.

Mamma: Gimme dat pumpkin, we don’t need a trip to the ER because the birthday girl slices off her pinkie at her own party.

Eleanor fell asleep in the backseat on the way home, and we had to rouse her for her twilight garden birthday party. All the kids associated with the extended family in our palazzo came to carve pumpkins with us, rewarded by a sugary, buttercream American cupcake from the localest of ovens. I roasted the seeds from six pumpkins after the party and before dinner, which quickly felt like an unrecorded test of Hercules. But they were delicious. I love pumpkin seeds. I sent some small bags of them upstairs to the family dinner. I didn’t get feedback so I hope they liked them! Either that, or I only confirmed the strange customs and habits of Americans, tucked into the New World for three centuries and emerging with glibness and treats.

Spooky jack o’lanterns in the garden at night. Carved by Italians and Americans.