Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chapter Two: Workshop Ends, Thinking Begins

We are lounging around a hotel outside of Barcelona today.  We sent the last of the participants home on Monday morning , spent the afternoon in Veglio cleaning the house, washing sheets and taking the leftover food to Trontano.

After months of planning, the Spring scramble of construction and a week  of 20+ plus people around the table, it is hard to believe it is over.

Best Classroom Ever..Mark in his Element
Our days together were a blur of lectures in the old kitchen, 10 mile hikes, cutting in the fields, dunks in the creek, cooking, cleaning, snoring, laughing and singing.

The first night, hardly anyone slept.  90 degrees, all these strangers tucked in every nook and cranny in the house.  Strange noises, dust falling from the unfinished ceilings in the summer bedrooms, people crawling down two sets of ladders at three in the morning.  Like your first day of school, everything so foreign and dark in the middle of the night.

Tom Belting Out Spanish Songs
But how quickly the uncomfortable newness gave way to the bonding of friendship.  We were concerned about meal preparation and cleaning for such a big crowd.  That fear quickly vanished when we started to make our first lunch together.  People started filtering into the big kitchen while we were prepping to offer their help. 

Like a jazz band, everyone just seemed to pick up the beat and soon enough plates were set, salads were made, cheese was grated, wine poured and before you knew it everyone was laughing around the big table.

The same thing happened with clean-up.  We had to actually encourage people to relax a bit and not race to wash dishes.  Our “master plan” of spending each night making a detailed chore chart quickly went by the way side. 

In the end, our job was to simply make sure our food arrived up the mountain each day to stock the old cantina(cellars) and then to adapt the menu to the fresh veggies that we could pick from the gardens.

Lukas and Beatrice...Homemade Bread
There are so many incredible things that happened, it is really hard to pick out just a few. 

An empassioned candlelight talk from Giolle about his call back to the land, Daniele Testori explaining the dramatic forces of the Alpine geologic forces on our lives, a “surprise” visit from Dick and Kathy from California. 

At first,  both Linda and I kept saying how lucky we were to have such a perfect combination of participants for our first workshop.   But we now replace the word “lucky” with telling people how “blessed”  we have been. 

There are clearly some other powers in motion that are guiding our collective work together.   And not just in Veglio, for each participant came to this place and time to share their dream of something different.  New farms in Tuscany and Spain and the US, new seed research, training sites, clothes designs…to name a few.
Saying Goodbye

It ultimately was this collective hope of something better that caused this special group to make such beautiful music together. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Chapter One: Summer in Veglio

Two of our volunteers from the music and acting troupe
With so many activities this year, I thought I would write more short updates on our experiences.

We arrived in Italia on Wednesday afternoon.  Smooth flights from LAX, through New York and onto Milan.  I had the bright idea of a new train right to Domodossola that turned a few hour trip into, let’s just say much more.

We finally settled into the house, which for the first time, we have our bedroom ready, two bathrooms and the beautiful new(600 year old) kitchen.

What we use to turn one piece of beef into two!
Our workshop starts next Tuesday so we have been crazy getting the house and property ready.  We have volunteers from a local art and theater group who are helping out which is great. 

Today was a strange day.  While Linda and I were catching up on sleep, one of the young bull cattle that grazes the hillsides tripped on an old stone terrace and proceeded to roll down the hill…a quarter mile down the hill. 

So, a frantic race to quarter the animal and haul the meat up the mountain ensued.  We now have the head and four parts hanging in the cellar awaiting a visit from the butcher to finalize the preparation. 

Some of you may remember the new painting that hangs in the old church by Fredy Buchwalder. The painting depicts the Madonna, baby Jesus, Saint Mark and another Italian saint.  There is a “sister” painting that was deemed too controversial to be placed in the church so we are putting that painting in the house.

Andrea called to say that we should walk down and pick up the painting.  Good idea, but a few details that added complexity. “Down the hill” to Fredy’s is about one mile.  Secondly, the painting is about 4 feet by 6 feet.  Lorenzo, the leader of the theater group, and I ran down the hill to meet Fredy at his studio.
Temporary Resting Place for Madonna

We then proceeded to carry the Madonna di Veglio up the gravel road…one mile up a pretty steep slope.  We tried many different techniques to handle her with care. Finally, we took off our shirts and piled them on our heads. From there, Madonna went on top of our heads, balanced rather precariously.

The “Pilgrims” arrived safe and sound.  With the warm weather, we have been eating under the stars.  A wonderful meal followed this crazy day with songs in French, Italian, English and local dialect being sung until midnight.

In the morning, we pick up Alexandra at the airport.  Just a few more days til our guests arrive.  Hopefully, the bull parts will make their way to the locker soon!