Homecoming


First day back at work after a weeks vacation, so I’m running a little behind. Please have a seat and help yourself to a cup of coffee while you wait. There’s a stack of old National Geographic and Field & Stream magazines for you reading enjoyment. There’s also this… 2 years old, but somewhat along the themes of coming home again. Or leaving home. Or something about home. I just know it’s a warm one, which we all desperately need right now. So come with me to 19th century Pietravairano, Italy and stand with my great, great, grandfather Francesco DeBottis as he ponders his fate.

The Flight of Icarus

for Francesco

The buildings rise like wooden blocks stacked one upon the other, clinging to this impossible slope. The afternoon sun warms the stones, and peeling stucco. You run your hand across their rough face, and feel the heat burning like blood within. In this shimmering summer heat, people take refuge in the oasis of shadows under doorways, and passages. The streets so narrow, even a donkey would struggle to pass.

As you climb, your foot slips on the dusty cobbles, rounded smooth from the passage of feet, and time. The slap of the fountain echoes down the alleyways, as the women gather around to collect cool water from deep within the mountain. At the end of this crooked lane lies the steps to the Castello, overgrown with weeds. No one goes there now but children, and dreamers.

You climb the last few steps past the walls of the town, and turn, looking out over the cracked red tile roofs. The patchwork green of the valley is ringed by a crown of hills, set against the faded blue of the cloudless sky.

Rolling up from below, the peel of the church bells tolling the Angelus. This is the noon hour, the axis of the day. Women bless themselves above the wash tubs, and pause to pray. Even the barefoot children stop their clamor, aware of something watching from above.

You look beyond the crown of hills, to the bald mountains rising in the summer haze. No snows are left to feed the rocky streams, just the seeping of springs, like blood from within the stones.

High above a hawk is turning in the sky, rising on the warm breath of the village as it exhales.

You close your eyes against the brilliance of the sun, and dream of flight.

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