Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Danger of Exercise

On a sunny Sunday afternoon a year ago today, feeling stir crazy and bored, I decided to go for a walk down our lane. I attribute this madness to it being January, only three weeks after New Year's Resolutions about dieting took effect. I am known as a rather sedentary person, who would rather spend Sunday afternoon reading the New York Times online than actually lifting my derriere off the sofa. Piero? No one has ever mistaken him for an athlete, except the time he was goalie when the ambassadors played the parliamentarians in Namibia, so he was lolling around watching Roma work out on the soccer field.

I unraveled the wires of my i-pod from discarded summer necklaces in my top drawer, as I have heard that taking a walk while listening to music on an i-pod is the thing to do. I surely wanted to be hip as I strolled down Via Palombaro -- to impress the sheep, I guess. Gloves, hat, scarf, jacket, pocket camera, sunglasses and I was ready to walk the half kilometer. Layered up, I got choked on the i-pod earbud wires, took off my gloves, put the earbuds in the right way, found the Irma Thomas music, put my gloves back on and, already sweaty inside my coat, set off.

It was a glorious winter day, slanting bars of sunlight highlighting the sprouting wheat in the fields, olive trees glistening sage against the carpet of pea green. I could see the medieval silhouettes of Saragano, Gualdo Cattaneo, and Collezzone cresting the hilltops across the curving valleys. Irma was singing "Time on my Side" and I was unabashedly singing along with her, walking to the beat of the music, as I passed through groves of olive trees. I looked up to see my neighbor, working on Sunday like the farmer he is, standing in front of the big yellow house where his family had lived for several generations. A few years ago they renovated much of the house for the two women who had inherited it, but by the time the project was finished, the old ladies decided they preferred living with their daughters. So, it was standing empty and he used the storage sheds for fodder and fertilizer.

I turned off Irma when I saw him and walked over. "Buona sera!" He stopped what he was doing and we chatted about olive trees for a few minutes. I call him the Professor of Olives because he answers all my questions. We discussed the essentials of maintaining well- producing trees and, hence, having plenty of oil: sheep manure (he has a dozen scraggly sheep for that purpose), proper pruning, and something crystaline that he sprinkles under the trees in May. The subject (and my Italian) exhausted, I ended the conversation with what should have been a throwaway line, "So, what are you going to do about this house?"

His answer? "We've decided to sell it. The real estate agents are coming tomorrow."

Poor Piero, he never saw it coming. I walked back up Via Palombaro, where I found him basking in Roma's victory. 'Honey, you know the yellow house down the road? They've decided to sell it and I would really like for you to take a look."

A year later, I write from Yellow House, named for the place Van Gogh lived when he painted the sunflowers. I can't see flowers now through the winter mist, but they will be ablaze again this summer. Last spring we discovered seven fig trees, half a dozen apples, three plum trees, apricots and cherries, grape vines and blackberries. This fall we picked more than sixty big olive trees. My husband has been a very good sport about it all, though buying another property was the last thing on his list of things to do.

Irma was right, time was on my side. Piero is also right when he says it's dangerous for me to exercise.
Copyright Sharri Whiting Umbria Bella 2008

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