I, Ferry Woman / Io, Donna di Traghetto

Earlier today, I riffed on the theme of bridges in my “Letter from Civita” for the NIAUSI fall newsletter. As I began to count it up, I realized that people are reading my blog from many states, including Washington, California, Oregon, Montana, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida, and Arizona. Without previously considering the effects of real-time readership, much in the manner of Dickens’ serial novels, I realized how important this blog component has become to my work — and to the way that I’ll shape the final version of the book.

Knowing that my writing affects people, and allowing my readers to have an effect on me through their comments (and readership stats) does indeed form a unique bridge of its own, one that I had assumed would be established long after my book was published. Instead, allowing readers to experience Civita while I’m here –in real time– has had a deepening effect on their personal investment in Civita — and that knowledge certainly affects my writing and how I experience this place.

As I soaked up the last minutes of late afternoon sun, Antonio stopped to speak with me on his return from fare una passagiata. With my ever-improving Italian, I was able to speak about my book, and about bringing my mother-outlaw and sister-outlaw to his bruschetteria when they visit next week. Not until those words came out in Italian did I feel the wonderful gravity of what their visit means: Carolyn and Kirstin are the first readers who will experience Civita with me as things continue to unfold!

Minutes later, I met a group of Canadian tourists who delighted me by passing by to venture towards Mary of the Incarcerated. As we talked together on the way back up to Il Nuovo, I encouraged them to stop in Maria’s giardino and recommended that they eat at Trattoria dell’Orso in Orvieto. After we parted company, I realized what a resource of connectivity that I am becoming. I’m no longer a complete neophyte; io sono la scritricce americana, perched on her rock.

During yesterday’s jaunt to Bagnoregio, I was finally able to explore the sweet librashop, Novarea, whose tagline translates to “books and curiosities.” During my purchase of an Italian/English version of “Romeo and Juliet,” the owner asked me to send her my book when it’s finished, something I hadn’t considered — or dreamed of asking. As Helen and I enjoyed campari and soda at Massimo’s Bar, I envisioned my book, CivitaVeritas, smiling out from Carla Vittoria’s shelf, and her sweet dog, Vita, napping in a pool of sunshine behind it.

All at once, it feels like there is momentum behind my life in Civita. Tenuous bridges of serendipity are becoming more stable connections. For a split second, I can picture my friends Tom and Julie coming here next summer, hopefully at the same time as me so that we can share figs and prosciutto with Gaia, Bernardo, Ilaria and Marco.

As I remarked in my last entry, time and timing are everything. Places like Civita, which is rich in both, use that collective magic to draw people together, if they are open to seeking such things. You can look at Civita and see a dying castle in the sky, or you can look deeper to find ancient caves and thousands of insects, tufa stone houses and gardens that feed families, and –of course– generations of people, food, stories, and tradition that can alter one’s perception and experience of la vita bella.

For me, a woman who came here to build new bridges between Civita and the world, those initial foundations and pathways are beginning to take shape through my friends, family, and colleagues. Over the coming weeks, months, and years, it will be a pleasure –and my hope– to watch my two-month adventure continue to ferry new explorers across.

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