Tales of a wandering lesbian

The end of the sidewalk

“Have you ever walked down to Fornaci from Barga?”  My request for a new adventure would be answered by the unexpected question from Ryo.  “It’s an ancient path just past the hospital.”

Ryo told me that he had tried to bike the path once, but found a large tree blocking the entrance, and had turned back.

I’ve been struggling a little in the last few days, my poor language skills leaving me with a deep feeling of inadequacy.  A walk in the woods was exactly what I needed.  Growing up, I had taken many hikes in the mountains with my family and with my good friend (and chemistry teacher) Mrs. Healy.  Being able to find paths and make my way through the hills always made me feel confident.  There’s nothing like seeing a distant ridge and knowing that you’ve just made your way from there to here with nothing but your legs and eyes.

And so I started the 90 minute trek from the top of the hill.  “Ryo, where’s the hospital?  And the path?”

“Oh just go out and up and then there’s a sign for the Ospedale.  Then you go on the road, and it forks.  Then, I think you bear right.  I think.  And you wind through some houses.”  He was making swervy motions with his hands, like a fish swimming upriver.  He looked up at me and chuckled.  “And then the road ends and you start going down.”  Deb looked uncertain that I would ever find my way down the hill, and I wasn’t feeling super-confident.  But really, if I went the wrong way, I’d just climb back up and find the studio.  Right?

“I’m off.  If I can’t find it, I’ll be back for a ride.”  “Okay, don’t get lost!”  An unsure smile, and I was off.

Finding the hospital was easy, if a bit unsafe.  The narrow, winding roads that define many of the hill towns present a challenge to those walking on them.  Walking on the right is not, generally, a safe thing to do, as the cars can’t see you well.  However, the many blind corners and fast drivers meant that I was crossing the road frequently to put myself on the outside of the curve, or in the cutout formed by a garden gate.

Curve Another curve And another curve

Once past the hospital, the countryside opened up, giving excellent views and picturesque farmhouses.



When I finally hit a fork in the road, I had been walking for about 30 minutes.  I was really wondering if I was on the right path.  But, I had the mountains to guide me, and I could see the great butte that shades Fornaci, standing sentinel on the other side of the valley.

As I walked I saw very few cars, and heard them in enough time to get out of the way.  There were more animals than people along the way.  Dogs barked from distant houses and cats darted across the ever-narrowing road.

After another 15 minutes of walking in silence, I was seriously wondering if the road would ever end, and where it would dump me out if it didn’t.  I was considering loading google earth on the laptop in my bag, and seeing where exactly I was, when the road came to an end.


To the left was a partially-paved lane marked with several signs.  One announced that it was a private drive.  To the right was an unpaved lane that seemed to lead through a gate and into someone’s yard.  The middle path was overgrown.  Leaves and chestnut pods covered it.  And it seemed to wind around the cluster of houses at the end of the private drive.  But it led down – down the valley wall that I had now reached.  And so I looked around, thought about all the friendly people that lived in the houses, and started down.

Ancient path

The ground was positively littered with chestnuts.  Their leaves made the path slippery, but the hairy pods provided a little traction.  The nuts themselves were everywhere, shiny, growing, friendly.

Chestnut pods Chestnut growing Chestnut path

The path led down and the chestnut trees gave way to elm.  I spent most of the time watching my footing, making sure I didn’t slide down to Fornaci.  Every so often, however, something would catch my eye, bringing my focus to the here and now.  It was like little friends waving as I made my way past.

Mushroom Berry

And, after many twists and turns, the path turned uphill, and suddenly I was out of the woods, walking through someone’s yard.  The light was beautiful, filtering dramatically through the clouds.  Everything was beautiful.  Doors, walls, trees.  Everything.




I still wondered if I was on the right path – whether I would emerge in Fornaci, and whether I could find the house, even if I did.  But I wasn’t worried.  There were friends all along the way.  Goats smiled, and gnomes began to appear, pointing the way.

Goats Gnome! Gnomes!

When I emerged from the country lane, I wasn’t sure where I was, precisely, but I knew I was close.  The mountains were in the right place, and the power lines that I use to guide myself to the house were overhead.  I was in Fornaci.  As I entered the main street, I looked back to see where I had come out, thinking that maybe sometime I might try the reverse trek up the hill.  When I snapped a picture to make sure I could find the place, I laughed.


It reminded me of a poem I’d memorized in 6th grade.  It was the Shel Silverstein poem, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”  I haven’t thought of it in ages, but it seemed appropriate running through my head as I stepped off of the “ancient path” and onto the streets of an Italian town.  Grateful for my adventure I looked around, all feelings of inadequacy gone.  I remembered that I could speak the language of the mountains and the trees.  And there was beauty everywhere.

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November 24, 2009   6 Comments

A walkabout

Today was another good day.  I started a little moody, probably because I haven’t really worked out in a couple of months.  So I decided to go for a bit of a walk.  Deb had pointed out a beautiful hike from back above old Barga into the town.  I started out at the studio and walked the opposite direction than I usually go, out through the downtown and into the more residential parts.

I honestly don’t know how to use words to describe how gorgeous it was.  Here are some pictures.

Grapes and parapetBarga GateBeautiful old Barga door

As I snaked my way further and further away from Barga, along the inside of the hills, so that I was directly opposite the backside of the Duomo, I was treated to more and more beautiful views.

View from BargashinglesDuomo backside

I picked a place on the side of the road to meditate a bit.  I thought the quiet stillness would be good.  As I cleared a space in the grass and went to sit down, I saw a strange movement in the grass.  I almost brushed it aside, when I realized it was a praying mantis!

Meditating mantis

How fantastic!  I have really early memories of seeing these.  We don’t have them in Idaho and Oregon, and I always heard they were good luck.  So, I sat down close enough that I could watch this little guy, but far enough that I wasn’t stressing him.

Together, we sat and looked at the world.  He watched the aunts walk around him and shuddered in the little breeze.  I stared at the amazing views of Barga and the mountains behind, and tried to concentrate on my breathing.  It wasn’t easy today.  I was very easily distracted by things like the olive tree next to me and the brilliance of evolution (I know, gasp!).

I’m quite sure I’ll have more walks around Barga.  There are so many beautiful little places that make me tear up with their sheer beauty and possibility.  But I might have to stick to meditating downtown.  The beauty of the countryside is too distracting.

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October 30, 2009   2 Comments