The Orchard of a Timewaster

A few years ago, when I was reading anything and everything I could get my hands on, I came across a book called “L’Orto di un Perdigiorno” (The Vegetable Garden of a Timewaster) by one Pia Pera. There was nothing about it that particularly struck me, so I tucked it away on my bookcase, which was arranged in strictly alphabetical order.

Today brought a typical autumn afternoon, after a typical Sunday lunch with the family - a spit roast and a velvety Chianti Classico. It had stopped raining, I’d said goodbye to my mum and the in-laws, and in the late afternoon I found myself rummaging about in the garden, barnyard and the vegetable garden.

The plip-plop of water droplets falling from leaves swollen by the rain, the smell of moss on the terracotta, the topsoil in my hands as I stooped to pick up fallen walnuts; the sharp, sweet taste of the jujubes at peak ripeness; the cat that followed my every move, even as I threw away the sodden leaves...there, in that dreamy environment, so rare and intimate in its beauty, Pia Pera came back to mind. Her pages, maybe just a chapter, the one about a moment in a garden on an autumn day, after rain. Her descriptions came back to me with almost physical force: the plants, the trees, smells and sounds of a vegetable garden. They were words that I assumed had been removed; instead, they had come back to me while I was communing, utterly at peace, with nature.

I went back into the house at “bruzzico”, the moment when dusk starts to settle in. I’d shut the chickens up in the coop, pulled up a couple of weeds (they come away so easily when the soil’s wet) and pressed the olives on my five trees to see how they were ripening. They weren’t quite ready for harvesting. It was fairly chilly: my nose was running, like it did when I was a child and I’d been outside for hours. A hot, hot shower, the urge to put these words down on paper, and the itch that I will soon scratch: to dig that book out and read it again.

Often it’s very hard to be happy. Sometimes, it’s almost effortless.