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Breathing the right air

Nothing brings more comfort than a bag of good things to cook, swinging under your arm as you make your way home. Somehow it blots out the rest of the world. In these moments, the entire universe consists of a late afternoon sun, a stray dog and a clump of flowers growing strange and wild in a yard. A hit of basil jumps from my elbows with each swing of the bag, a gift from one of the ladies I buy from the most. I visit markets without intention, just eyes open ready to discover fresh peas, or the first corn. Knowing that these products will disappear as quickly as they present themselves creates a certain form of excitement. Each season offers up this rhythm and without it I might become completely lost.

I think of when we were in Tuscany a month ago, feeling like such a tourist until I wandered out along the highway and found the local vegetable stand. I shoved squash blossoms and tiny tomatoes into a bag, rushing back to our room like I had robbed a bank. I made pasta with them th…

underfoot (rare air)



I took a long walk on our last day in Vada. The baby was sleeping next to N, curled up on top of the sheets as a breeze moved the light around the room. E was passed out on the couch, her cheeks just pink from the sun. Cameras in my bag, I headed for the pine forest that ran along the beach. The smell of sap and smoke and salty air came up to me. People in bathing suits were passed out on blankets, face down in the afternoon as children played quietly. A boy stared at me.

The water was as blue and clear as a postcard. I waded in, my shoes slung around my neck and felt the sand dancing around my toes. It was a moment to drink in, to take all of that rare air and hold it inside for as long as possible. I did not know when I would stand in the ocean again, and it was three years ago the last time I did this.

The vacation had not been an easy one. Viruses, allergies and bad directions had snagged us at every turn. We still sipped cold Vermentino late at night, on a tiny balcony. We still laughed and got sunburned, as the baby painted her face in olive oil somehow getting spaghetti into her mouth. We still got out of Moscow, past its cold wet summer, past the headlines, past the gates, past the traffic.

I headed back into the forest, and then along the main road. Here, an empty amusement park with rides frozen in time, here a sign by the road promising wine and olive oil, fruit and preserves. I take it of course, as cars spit gravel as they pass, as a sky crammed with black birds opens up on my right, as a pair of horses nuzzle a fence on my left. I walk for some time, thinking of them still sleeping in the room, still breathing so lightly as the tiny spots of light dance around them.

And then I understood it was time to head back.




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