This post took a surprising turn ... quite unexpected, really, but here you go ... a piece of my heart, of my "true self".
When we moved to this isolated village years ago, neither Tom nor I had ever lived anywhere but in large cities. We came here looking for a life in the country for our growing family. In the years to come, though, an unexpected thing happened. We found that the biggest lesson we were learning wasn't about nature but about people - not about life in harmony with nature, but about life in a small rural community.
The other night we gathered together for the neighborhood festa, a little street party celebrated here every year. We sit on simple wooden planks set on plastic crates along the walls of a quiet lane, and pass around food prepared that afternoon by some of the village women, together with wine from the local cellars. People chat and laugh, kids run around in the darkness of the surrounding fields, which flicker with fireflies this time of year.
Most of our neighbors were born here, or married into the village from a short distance away. They've lived their entire lives farming these isolated hillsides, and few have traveled. Many stopped formal education early in grade-school: they've learned the lessons of life and wisdom not from books, but from eking out a living from the land, barely enough to sustain a family.
It was they, our neighbors, who knocked at our door one cold day in February a few years ago to bring me pansies, and sat with me in the kitchen when all I could give them was my tears. They came with pansies at a time when nobody else had even called me. They sat with me, and I told them about our little stillborn baby.
And a year later, at a time when the phone remained silent, and people on street in the nearby coastal town would look away when they saw me coming, a woman holding hands with two little boys, a woman whose belly had been big a few days earlier and was now empty, though she had no little bundle in her arms. That time, too, my neighbors came knocking at our door, to bring us the new wine they'd just finished making.
And a year after that, when by now I knew not to expect any phone calls or any words, they came knocking at our door, and hugged me. Was there anything more precious to bring to a woman who'd just given birth to her third stillborn baby?
They never knew about the fourth little baby, whose heart had stopped beating at the beginning of the second trimester, and nobody learned about the tiny one that I miscarried alone in my house.
These are our neighbors, farmers for generations, with whom we sat together the other night on improvised benches, and shared a meal while the sun set behind the mountain.