My Italian friends set great store by roots. They are talking about roots to family and community; they talk sadly about friends that have no roots, not understanding how they could be so careless.
We are heading back to Italy today, only for a short trip, but thinking ahead to June when we will go to Italy for several months, I’m painfully aware of my roots; always to be torn between friends and family in the US, and friends and community in Italy.
Italy has the advantage because the lifestyle is so seductive, the focus on family, friends, food, and community.
I just finished reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, and now I’m wondering if indulging my passion for Italy is the release of my inner Mr. Hyde. Edward Hyde represented all of Dr. Jekell’s base urges, and was the essence of evil. That’s not to say that living in Italy is a base urge, but it is a sort of escapism. The political and cultural situation in the States is so aggressive, so my way or the highway, so cynical, the consequences of our actions seem so dire, it will be a relief to walk away for a few days.
Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, wrote an article for last Sunday’s NY Times, “You are what you grow.” The gist of the story is that our country subsidizes farmers to grow the crops that are making our children obese. In one example, farmers are subsidized to grow corn, to make tons of corn fructose, to flavor food and drink. He explores why junk food is cheap. At the very heart of this story is a core cynicism that is heart breaking, fundamentally depressing. How did common sense and decency become so subverted to the power of the $$$? It’s a rhetorical question; the answers are all around us.
The NY Times lists it’s most e-mailed articles, and it was interesting to watch as this article faded from the list, while an article on the meaning of a dog’s tail wagging has stayed the no. 1 article. We all look for escapism in some form or another.
So, we head to Italy, where I’m hoping there will be fava beans and artichokes, fresh sardines, wine and good friends. We will set out our flowers for the season, and tend to our Italian roots. Ciao! See you on the other side!