I sit on a wooden bench, held by wrought iron curves in a hallway of sandstones. An antique building, lovingly refurbished in layers of creeping modernity, the mortar that probably once held these stones long since bolstered, replaced, or just newly imitated by concrete. And yet in the old style. A curvature of bricks overhead, forming an arch down the hallway. The terrace at my feet is well-worn criss-crossed stone.
It is cool in here, outside the reach of the piercing midday sun, but I can see the sky at the end of this tunnel of a hall—and through a rectangular stone opening. The blue of that distant sky beckons, beyond tall trees that seem designed to emphasize the sky’s elusive height. Wisps of cumulus clouds dart about, seeming to float higher than they belong, and yet with the occasional light cirrus streak well above that. The sky is big here, and even the tallest trees struggle to reach it. Crooked pine-like trees, unlike the pines at home, with only a few broad branches high up, not the triangles of New England pines, but more like large green dandelions or fuzzy umbrellas. Ivy works its way up part of their shafts, adding to the exotic look, but giving up the climb long before the top.
The valley stretches for miles, with row upon row of contented buildings, with their red tile roofs and distinctive walls of muted orange and sun-drunk beige. Nothing is in particularly neat lines, yet there is still a relaxed order to it all, a comfortableness perhaps borne of tradition, a peace with the pace of existence, a well-worn efficiency that I imagine to come of understanding what is necessary or beautiful to life, and what can be rightly ignored. Even where there is wear on things here, it seems less product of neglect and more just a well-earned badge of honor.
There is a timeless quality to it all, like a place that has existed in essentially this form since long before me, and that will go on this way long after. The residents are adapted to life here. They know its rhythms. They are in harmony with how things are.
I’ll miss all of that.
Not when I leave, I mean, because I could return.
But because the harmony is a property not only of the people with the earth, but the earth with the people.
And Climate Change will take all of that away, never to return.
I’m glad I saw this place before it became a desert, unable to grow olives and grapes. I’m glad I saw this place when its people were prosperous and proud.
Science is an odd thing, and hard for some to trust. But science sees things that others do not. Things in the distance, and yet not always that far distant, because we can be so very nearsighted when we wish to be.
The earth has a cancer, and cancer starts innocently, unpresumingly. If you wait until it’s obvious, it’s too late. There are those among us who would wait to fix the Climate until it’s obvious. And that will be too late.
So I’m glad I saw this place before the effect of that indifference takes hold. It was a great achievement, that easy civilization.
I will miss it. I think we all will.
Assuming any of us are even left to do so.
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Originally published June 11, 2014 at Open Salon, where I wrote under my own name, Kent Pitman.
Tags (from Open Salon): extinction, cancer, death, life, desert, drought, climate change, climate, memory, beauty, beautiful view, scene, view, le santucce, tuscany, italy
Background & Context: I wrote this last week while at a writing retreat hosted by Cary Tennis at Le Santucce in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy last week. It was a beautiful place to sit and think, but devastating Climate effects will not discriminate as to venue. They'll happen everywhere and to all of us.