In Spannocchia the fruit trees are blooming, small pink blossoms with petals that fade to white, crisscrossing the sky as though making miniature blue panes of stained glass.
One morning after walking I took a hot bath in the big tub in my room, the fragrant soap frothing up into iridescent bubbles.
The morning walk, the talk I had had with Myra, the pause in our walking as we saw the sun rise over the forest and castle, all felt contained within a fragrant bubble of soap, suspended for a languorous moment as I was suspended in that delicious hot bath, between this and that.
The castle was built in the 12th century, updated in the fifteenth, and again in the 21st. The rooms are decorated by the owners, long gone, and their descendants continue to visit, making their more modern presence felt with satellite tv and updated photos on the mantel.
But the sense of place is timeless. A family, a community of farmers, a piece of land that contains meadows and orchards and a garden and acres and acres of forest, pigs and chickens, a relationship with time that says now is the time to plant, and now to harvest, and now by the light of the full moon to hunt the wild boar that roam the woods.
In the ancient kitchen “il cuoco” makes the pasta as it was made five hundred years ago.
In the morning Daniela gathers flowers and persimmons from the garden and makes bouquets for every table, odd corners of the house where we guests might catch a glimpse, a little niche in the wall in the hallway across from her office door.
The toilets have pulls for flushing, and bidets.
In our studio, separate from the house, a farm house once used as a museum of archaeological artifacts, the windows open onto cypress trees and distant hillsides dotted with villas and “poderes”. At night the sun sets over those hills and the whole valley turns a kind of violet and then blue.
In the evening after painting and sketching and writing and walking we drink wine with the interns and staff, a welcome pause before the dinner is served.
It seems the cook is never given a pause, here. We are served breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
There is one night, though, when Tom makes dinner for all of us giving the cook a night off.
If we are lucky, porcini mushrooms gathered from the forest, “finnochio” sliced into crunchy salad with oil and salt and pepper, pecorino from Magdalena at the front desk’s home dairy, prosciutto from one of our guest interns, good wine from our visit to Montepulciano or Montalcino.
This is a special night, the night Tom cooks. By now we’ve all gotten to know each other, and the fears we brought with us have dissolved away.
Too soon, our time here ends, like the bubbles in the hot bath, like the flowering of the cherry trees, like the golden glow of the setting sun.
In words, on sketchbook pages, through the practice of our arts, we contain those moments just a little while longer, to savor, to relive, to return to.
We return every year. It is an annual ritual, a vital pause before the holidays.
Our next visit to Spannocchia is with our Awaken The Artist a Within Tour and is in October 2019, begins in Florence and continues on for several days in Orvieto, and still has space for a few more fellow travelers.
Details at www.bigsurarts.com.