San Daniele di Friuli

The mist came down this morning, light at first, then obscuring everything, rendering the world into vague shapes and bulk and hints of motion. My brother says it’s like this a lot in the winter here. The fog rolls in and sometimes stays for days, or a week or more. It’s cold, but not freezing.

San Daniele in the mist

San Daniele in the mist

It’s as much metaphorical for me at the moment as physical. Without language, the world around me is obscured, with occasional moments taking familiar shapes, or becoming a suggestion of recognizable movement. As a writer, that obscurity is challenging. I’m used to understanding what’s going on around me, and being able to participate in conversations; right now my ability to do that is almost nil.  Asking for a glass for my water is a triumph. Recognizing the name of the fruit in a jar of jam is a trickle of warmth in the cold of my great ignorance.

I’m not afraid of the mist. There’s a great beauty in it and, so far at least, I am able to float in this and sense a spark of something when I hear a word I recognize. It isn’t enough to get by, but I am feeling my way through the obscurity.

I spent the early part of this morning wrangling with Comcast over the partial refund of this month’s bill. It’ll be several weeks before I see the check, but they now have an address to send it, and it won’t be postage due when it arrives. I may well be living in my own place by then, but my brother will be sure to get it to me.

Face at San Daniele

Face at San Daniele

Once we were up and about, we drove to San Daniele di Friuli. San Daniele is famous for its prosciutto and the road into the town is flanked by a number of curing factories. We went to lunch at a restaurant associated with a consortium of prosciutto producers as the fog thickened outside.

It has been a long time since I’ve eaten beef or pork outside of special occasions, but I have started doing so again upon moving here, in part because I don’t want to miss out on some of the wonderful food, but also because a life change as drastic as moving to a different continent seems to call for a shaking loose of some of my prior strictures.

I’d never had prosciutto before. The plate I ordered was their “summer” plate, with cantaloupe, slightly prepared fresh tomato on crostini, and fresh mozzarella. The prosciutto was cool and paper-thin on the plate, beautifully arranged, and the flavors of the melon’s sweetness and the meat’s slight saltiness were a perfect complement. I had been fighting off an incipient headache, so I skipped the wine with lunch and had some pear juice and mineral water instead.

The waitress brought me a glass and a little bottle of pear juice, but didn’t bring one for the water, so I used my tentative, halting Italian to ask for one. Later, I ordered tea with milk. It isn’t much, but I am using the little bit I know, and I have to keep stretching that every chance I get.

After lunch, we walked through the shop attached to the restaurant and I did my best to read labels – sunflower oil, apricot jam, rhodededron honey, capers in vinegar. It’s not stringing sentences together, but it’s a survival skill nonetheless.

On the hill above the restaurant was the town of San Daniele, dim and white. We parked at the edge of the piazza and walked up toward the castle. On the top of the hill there, on the castle grounds, was a church whose foundations were laid in the 8th century; a renovation or rebuilding took place in the 16th century.  On the back of the church was what must have been a piece of the original building: three wise men bringing gifts to Mary and the infant Christ.

Three wise men

Three wise men

We walked along the edge of the hill. On a clear day, it must be an incredible view, but when I looked down, all I could see were layers of landscape falling away into the mist. Looking at it, my dizziness intensified, so I had to back away. Without a point of reference, my brain isn’t processing it quite properly and I lose my internal orientation. This is why I’m walking with hiking poles. I might well have stumbled and fallen if I didn’t have one in hand, even though I wasn’t moving.

I saw a few familiar friends on the drive today. A great blue heron, with the tight bend of its neck, and its legs trailing behind it in flight, and a still, white egret standing in a field were welcome sights. I’m also seeing less familiar creatures: chestnut brown pheasants, the black and white flash of a magpie, and black and grey hoodie crows. I want to know the non-human inhabitants of the land here as much as the people.

Like language, all these things come in time.

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