LESLIE MCBRIDE WILE
On 1 March I invited four friends for a properly distanced coffee on the terrace, even though it was the first day of another red-zone lockdown, in response to a third wave of COVID-19. Squinting in bright, warm sunlight we shed jackets and scarves, and I wished my husband and I had thought to bring the ombrellone up from the cantina. But surely it was too soon for that; all agreed we’d see more snow before long.
On 16 March I placed my husband’s name on a list of people over 70 at the regional website for COVID-19 vaccinations. On 8 April I registered among those over 60. News reports about side-effects, pauses and halts, supply chain delays, are confusing and worrisome. We both intend to take whichever vaccine we’re offered and hope that will happen sooner than later.
We’re busy all day and tired every night, whether we’ve been gardening, walking, or just keeping ourselves clothed and fed, the fireplaces clean, the NYT crosswords from accumulating. I haven’t been reading or writing, haven’t taken many photos; I seem to be living very much in the moment these days. Maybe it’s the urgency of spring, something new cropping up, opening, or blooming every day, or maybe just lockdown fatigue–not much caring whether we’re in the red zone or the orange as it makes little difference to how we pass the days. I can’t take a coffee at the bar, but a friend and I can walk, masked and distanced, up and around Piazza and have tea afterward on my terrace. We can’t leave Mondovì, but we can buy plants at the garden center, plant potatoes and onions in the ortoor tend a new little garden my husband hacked out of bramble-covered wasteland. He’s an optimistic man of vision, and he saw potential where others—myself included—might have seen nothing but a patch of stony ground.
Spring came early. March was warm and dry, April chilly and wet. Early May shows promise, with onions and potatoes poking through the mud of the orto, asparagus coming on and baby artichokes on long stems above sharp, silvery leaves. Fuzzy, marble-sized peaches and tiny green cherries are swelling on the trees we planted last December; pears and apples in embryo hint at the possibility of fall abundance. Most everything outdoors that isn’t lavender, yellow, white or red is green, green, green.
Piemonte emerged from zona rossa to arancione on 17 April; on 3 May we were declared a yellow zone. Restaurants and bars re-opened and were promptly mobbed by regulars starved for the rituals of morning coffee, aperitivi, and dining outdoors. Elementary school classrooms filled with students and teachers. Every sort of shop and business returned to normal hours and activities. Life began to flow again, piazzas rang with voices, traffic moved in streets and on sidewalks. On 29 April I got my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine and an appointment for a second dose on 20 May. The next week it was my husband’s turn; he goes back the 28th.
Now days are warm and bright, cool nights keep irises from bolting. Cuckoos call from the wood, deer bed down in the tall grass below the cortile and wake early to nibble at our roses and lavender. Twenty days in, May is a promise fulfilled—birdsong mornings and evening thundershowers that end in a rainbow.