LESLIE MCBRIDE WILE
Here we live slowly, synched to daylight and the weather (and the recycling schedule, but that is a topic for another day). Our bedroom windows face east so we are up early. Coffee, then breakfast, maybe the NYT crossword. After that, whatever seems most enjoyable or urgent—a walk, mowing, planting, weeding, writing, editing, a little housework—until it’s time for lunch. At this season we’re either outdoors on the sunny terrace or fireside in the dining room, with rain beating the patio stones. It’s a leisurely meal, often an hour or more depending on the conversation. Then a bit more work, possibly an hour or two of reading, email, a Skype call to family in the States. Daylight stretches into evening; we clean up, start supper, linger outdoors with an aperitivo, hoping for a glimpse of cinghiali (wild boars) trotting along the edge of our woods. Our neighbor swears the animals tread a nightly path within sight of our house; he is a hunter and knows what he’s talking about, but we have yet to sight even one. We joke that all our activities are just something to fill the time between meals, but it’s truer than not.
Fase 2 begins today; as I prepared to go out to our bank, insurance broker, and the supermarket I felt more apprehensive than usual. You might think I’d be accustomed by now to moving about with my signed document stating my necessary destination, with mask, gloves, wipes, and hand sanitizer at the ready, but today felt somehow more momentous. Maybe because I had more than one destination—until today I’ve shopped for groceries and returned straight home. Today I crossed from Mondovì into Vicoforte, where we bank, made two stops back in Mondovì, and finally drove to the mall where IperCoop is located. Throughout the morning I saw more traffic and more pedestrians than I’d seen in the last two months, but I have yet to encounter a checkpoint or any official who wants to inspect my auto-dichiarazione.
Along the via delle Cappelle, a chapel-lined road between our home and the bank, so many people were walking, jogging, running, and bicycling that I lost count. In Mondovì the traffic seemed almost normal for a weekday, and IperCoop was full of shoppers. Everyone I saw, met, or spoke with was masked and most wore gloves as well. Our jovial insurance agent greeted me at a distance of two meters, extending his elbows in place of a handshake and beaming as usual despite his mask. The young bank teller was masked, seated behind plexiglass; she said the worst thing is not recognizing regular customers in their masks. We joked that most people are also in need of barbering or a hair stylist, so no one looks quite like themselves.
Yesterday I left the house with five errands to accomplish. Having succeeded at only three, I had to go out again this morning. They say one can adapt to just about anything; that even extreme or bizarre circumstances may come to seem normal in time, and I’d say this is that time. It’s amazing how quickly it has become normal to walk about masked and gloved among others similarly armored against contagion. Barriers are commonplace in offices and at service counters; today I made an appointment to have my car’s snow tires replaced with summer ones, and both the plexiglass between me and the nice lady at the counter, and the masks and gloves we wore, barely registered as odd.
On the way home I was delayed a few minutes by some men driving a small herd of cows through the street, from pasture to barn. This is something I never get tired of; it reminds me of where I am in the world and why we choose to live here.
Unlike some, we haven’t really experienced lockdown-fatigue. Although we sometimes have to remind ourselves which day of the week it is, Nature’s endless variety and ceaseless changes make each day different from any other. Of course we miss our friends, the easy social rituals of morning coffee or evening aperitivi, restaurant meals, long Sunday lunches. But now we are free to walk for exercise and can arrange to meet along a country lane or on the way to the farmacia or the giornalaio in Piazza. Our favorite pizzeria is now open for take-away orders, and I understand it’s possible now to take a coffee from certain bars in the center of town, although you have to drink it outdoors. With each incremental lifting of emergency measures we feel a bit lighter, more hopeful if still cautious. Spring contributes much to our spirits as we enjoy one of the loveliest seasons in memory; it unfolds at a stately, unhurried pace–fresh mornings, clear days of warm sun, cool nights.