“Sempre qualcosa” is a phrase I have come to use with greater and greater frequency. It means “always something”. And, because I have an old Umbrian home there is indeed “always something”…
Early last week, Simone and I were having a nice lunch at a favorite place here in Rome (in Trastevere), when I received a text message to contact Piero, a neighbor in Umbria. Simone called him, since Piero only speaks Italian, and because I’m not quite fluent (yet). I watched Simone’s eyes widen as he spoke rapidly with Piero, and I heard the word “muro”, which means “wall”. I knew this couldn’t be something good. After the call ended, Simone looked at me and asked “Do you want to know?”. I’m a big believer in steering right into addressing a difficulty. I was informed that the old (at least 200 years) stacked stone wall adjacent to the house and on the other side of the drive had partially collapsed, due to incessant rains just a few days before. I felt the familiar surge of adrenaline (and probably the stress hormone cortisol) I experience when faced a situation that ignites my mind to rush towards dark imaginings. That’s the flip side of being very creative. I think Simone saw the color vanish from my face, and he quickly added that Piero said it wasn’t terrible, and that there was no need to rush back to Umbria. Still, I knew I had to see for myself, either to allay my fears or accept the reality and deal with it.
After my Italian language class last Friday, I rushed back to our apartment, packed a bag for a two-night stay, and hit the road for Umbria. I’m happy I was able to put my imagination into the “timeout” zone during the drive home. The drive was quite pleasant and I arrived around 6 p.m. while there was just enough light to survey the magnitude of the situation. Prior to arriving, I had also spoken with our neighbors and very good friends, who also spend winter in Rome, but were already in Umbria to check on their house. Carlo told me “Non è grave.” – “It’s not serious”. When driving up the hill towards the house, I stopped to speak with other neighbors and they asked me if I had seen the wall yet, and I knew this wasn’t a minor thing. This clearly was already a hot topic in the neighborhood.
I took a big, long swallow when I drove into the driveway and saw the scene in front of me. About 1/3 of this old wall had given way, and large stones, and lots of dirt, had spilled into the driveway. I could see the stump of an old fig tree (the tree had been cut down almost three years ago – probably compromising the holding power of the earth), hanging over the edge and looking as though its roots were attempting to walk down the slope. Carlo came up from his house, and I could tell he was reading my face to see if he would have to perform mental and emotional CPR. I was okay, and told him as much. He and his wife had invited me over for dinner that night, and I knew we would be able to strategize a solution.
I had an hour to myself before dinner, and I had made a stop at the local grocery and stocked up on wine. I’m proud to say, despite the temptation to start drowning my troubles, I went inside and unpacked my bag and the groceries, and built a nice fire in the wood-burning stove.
Dinner was great (as always). We ate well, drank moderately, and talked and laughed. To make way for an evening focused primarily on camaraderie and frivolity, Carlo had called a very good friend who is also a local workman, to arrange for him to come and look at the fallen wall the next morning.
Saturday morning, the damage was surveyed. Fortunately the fellow didn’t turn to me with pity, shaking his head. Instead I could see him calculating the possibilities for restoring and reinforcing the wall. Having a better permanent solution was necessary because heavy winter and spring rains have been standard fare for the last 4 or 5 years. With this coming week promising 4-5 days of sun, I’m hoping that the project can be tackled and completed. We’ll see. Carlo, or “San Carlo” (a name I’ve assigned him to express my gratitude), will still be in Umbria next week, and he has promised to call me with updates. Of course, there will be the call when I am informed of the cost. I just want it done properly, and hopefully I won’t need to be resuscitated upon hearing the final tally.
Life in Italy can be a glorious adventure. It can be filled with artistic, romantic stories. Yet, a few challenges can be thrown in to keep you on your toes. I’m the type who likes everything to be perfect, so this is good learning for me to face and surmount hurdles when they present themselves. And, I must remember “sempre qualcosa”.