Rogue Carver on the Loose in Italy
Part 30, Italian Memories at the Local Grocery Store
A week and a day have now passed since I returned home from my 3 month Tuscan Adventure and while I might be back in body my mind is still apt wander back to Italy quite of its own accord whenever it sees fit.
See the little flat patch of green in the center left of the photo above? Woody Creek lies just about slap bang in the middle of it, 6 or so miles from the Airport, maybe 8 into Aspen. Between the ridge line in the foreground and the snow peaked mountains on the horizon (July 2nd, 2014) lies the area commonly known as the Upper Roaring Fork. It is within this alpine bowl that I live my life as a sculptor and from which I sought sanctuary in Tuscany for the months of April, May and June of this year. For whatever Aspen and this valley may conjure in your mind’s eye I am sure much of it is true. It is at times, and in places, excessive beyond belief. It’s often way over the top and so moneyed as to be vulgar, but whatever it is – it is, and doesn’t really much care what the rest of the world thinks about it, in fact the fast-cat uber-rich persona is much prized and vaunted by many from the Mayor on down to the chamber of commerce and beyond. Luckily however, for those who live here, it also happens to be one of the loveliest and most magnificently pastoral places on earth. But one thing we who live here all know; whichever way the pilot approaches Aspen airport it is one hell of a steep, dramatic and scary/scenic decline, which is why I was somewhat taken aback when the plane reeled into a steep to left-hand turn to present a map-like ‘tourist’s eye’ view of Aspen, its airport and ski town credentials… a rather unusual view of the town from my experience.
With a tip of the wing Aspen re-emerges as my new old reality. Woody Creek is actually just off this picture to the top right corner, but wherever you live at this end of the valley Aspen is at the center of everything… with the proud exception of Woody Creek that is – home for the past ten years.
It really has taken me a week to re-acclimatize to life almost 8,000 feet up in the Rocky Mountains. Odd things appear to me almost as if I am experiencing them for the first time. The familiar landscape assumes a novel aspect. I actively reacquaint myself to American driving laws and etiquette after three months off the leash on Italian roads. My phone still shows Italian time. Lucca, with its massive 500 year old walls – so thick its possible to cycle around them 3 or 4 abreast, with its narrow alleyways and winding commercial streets, still entertains and enthralls my ever willing mind.
In an earlier post I mentioned a long held philosophy of mine: I don’t travel in order to see new things but to see things anew. Case in Point, a trip to my familiar ol’ supermarket. I’m not sure that anything separates, divides and solidifies such opposing principles and values as the philosophy, practice and habits of the two country’s driving cultures. In Italy it is speed first. Speed, second. And speed third – please, speed up why don’t you ? Here in the ‘Roaring Fork’ it’s speed at your peril. And I’m OK with that, I quite like it in fact. I am not a fast driver, outside of Italy… but over there everyone is driving fast and so it doesn’t count.
This is prime ‘Italian Moment’ territory. As I walk towards the entrance the world seems to slow down…. I recognize the signs.
In an instant I am transported back to the markets I have left behind.
Don’t get me wrong, I love wholefood, good food, tasty food, healthy food…. and the variety and quality of the food here in the Roaring Fork Valley is simply incredible. It’s just that I miss the beautiful ramshackle heart and soul of the Italian version. The photos above were taken in La Spezia but they could well have been taken anywhere… well, given the unbelievable fish market, anywhere along the coast.
All these thoughts of market stalls piled high and crowded with customers inevitably puts me in mind of marketplaces of a very different kind, where questions along the line of ‘meat or dairy’ take on a crucial aspect of their own.
Camaiore, positioned between Lucca and Pisa, can boast the finest market-town-market that it has ever been my privilege to attend. Pistoia presented an amazing show of cheaper-than-cheap chic, but for sheer diversity by my book Camaiore is the hand’s down Tuscan town market winner. From what I could gather the market takes place every Saturday, but whether its normal for them to line their streets with garden plots I cannot say. All I can say is that the people of Camaiore absolutely know how to put on a market fair.
These ‘Italian Moments’ don’t happen with alarming frequency, in fact, when they do come along they are rather nice! I know they will fade with time and take their place along with all my other cherished memories, but right now, at this particular time the Three Month Tuscan Adventure is still very much real presence in my life, if a fading one.
Today marked the day I reacquainted myself with my tools and set about carving Colorado Yule marble once again. It felt really good to be back in the studio working stone, and with a purpose too, as the upcoming Studio Show and Garden Party, tentatively scheduled for the final weekend of July, will soon be upon us. And so, much work lies ahead over the coming weeks, and I doubt there will be too much room for daydreams of Italy or anywhere else as I set about the growing and lengthy list of tasks.
But however wonderful it is to get away there is no place like home and I’ll readily admit… I have been walking on air since my return from Tuscany. Yes, there was jet lag, but that contributed little to explain a pattern of behavior that I can only liken to the frame of mind often accompanying the instant when a damn fine meal has been consumed and yet it would seem hasty, a waste of a sublime moment, to leave the table.
But however exquisite a pleasure the savoring of moments can only last so long, and when the various tools rang out their familiar tune, and another piece of marble plied itself to my design (more or less) I found myself happy to be jolted into the present and to matters currently at hand: namely, the carving of stone.
Till next time, thanks for stopping by.