Autumn sunrise in Civita

Like many things, the hoarse honking of donkeys is the stuff of memories in Civita.

Everything here is comprised, in part, of recollections as much as molecules: the black silkiness of a cat slinking by, the subtle rustle of wisteria leaves against themselves in the wind, the needle-like prick of ruthless mosquitos on naked, white skin, the relentless swelter of August sun swept underneath the rhythmic flow of a breeze.

At cinque e mezzo the thick, smoky aroma of the bruschetterias builds, spewing columns of ashy smoke that twist in the wind as dogs yelp from the valley, rambunctious and unruly as their supper arrives.

While in play, each becomes a groove under the needles of our minds, impressions to be played back with thin sighs on countless days –rainy, frigid, hopeless– thousands of miles from here.

Like honeybees –one, then two, then twenty– a chain of scenes swarms into a sacred prayer of everyday experiences. Small moments grow more significant than could possibly be true.

There is felt an equal satisfaction seeing a playful flock of tiny sparrows tuck and roll in the afternoon skies, as much as the erratic darting hunt of bats chasing insects at midnight, only witnessed in floods of glowering sulphur lamplight. The curious and often breaking sounds of Rossini reverberating off of the same tufa that holds spiders and hairy centipedes, dried leaves and bits of earth, dark flecks of wood and dried-up bodies of things that once were alive and crawling. Together, all, a symphony.

And silence.

Never so much as at night –in silence– Civita is made of memories.

A piccolo paese formed from quiet footfalls, laden with intent. The lurking and spying that goes on, like prying spiders with compound eyes that attempt to see beyond gates and stone, wondering what happens on the other sides of walls, between slats, in gardens, under roofs, and in languages that they will never understand.

Within this memory-experience and without, there are bursts of laughter, the clinking of glasses, the scrape of silverware on fine china, the sounds of chairs pushing back, the pauses in between embraces, the tinkling of cowbells as doors are opened, the brisk squink of gates as they’re closed, and finally, the ultimate repose of a city that sleeps with every memory of every resident and every visitor feeding into a self-sustaining stream of subconsciousness over thousands of years.

In the morning, as Greek myths describe Dawn’s rosy fingertips tugging at the veil of night, there’s the temptation to continue dreaming. And even when we rise, we’re unsure where our sleep has left off and where the waking day begins.