If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

08 January 2006

Startled awake

I woke to the sound of shotgun blasts.

I despise the feeling of being startled awake. That moment where you sit up straight in the dark, heart racing, unable to breathe and (in my case) unable to see because my glasses are still on the bedside table. (Like sleeping through the alarm and waking when the hotel room door next to you slams, only to realize that you've overslept and are going to miss a flight). It is on my top ten list of worst feelings; setting me on edge all day.

The second-worst kind of startled awake is, I can now say without a doubt, being roused by shotgun blasts. (The first would be realizing that there is an intruder in your room, one which - thankfully - I have not experienced.)

My house is eerily quiet most nights (mornings), making any sound other than the soft purr of my vibrating BlackBerry alarm a rare waking occurance.

It's a breath before 8am. I remember, groggily, that today is the last day of the 'caccia' (hunt) and the hunters are making the most of it (sunrise only reaches my side of the ridge just after 7:30 in this season).

My city/suburban life has never afforded me the opportunity to live in a hunting culture; it is not a pastime or sport here, it is indeed a way of life. Camouflage is veritable high fashion. The season typically ends on 1 January, apparently, but with the snow preventing hunting for a few days, there was an extension this year. As I was out pruning back some of the dead rosemary branches this morning, the cacophony of dogs yelping, men hollering in code to each other, and shotguns played in the background; a weekend-hunt-season soundtrack to which I have grown accustomed.

I'm personally torn, really, on the question of hunting. In a different life, I probably regarded it as barbaric and devolved pastime. "Hunting Trips" have always seemed to me a recipe flirting with disaster: take a lot of testosterone, sexual frustration, add alcohol and weapons and ... it is a small wonder that we don't see bloody hunting incidents on the front page of major newspapers between October and January annually. Living here, I can see how it is required for animal population control. And it is also a legitimate source of food. For these people, it is both sport and sustenance, camraderie and tradition as well as a practical use of time.

It's Sunday morning. In the town square, the women are gathering to attend mass. The men are worshiping in a different way.

My house sits in the center of one of the more desireable hunting zones in the area, and the 'law of the land' here is that all land is considered public for hunting (unless it's fenced off and posted, which mine is not).

The Cacciatore, my local restaurant and bar, is - appropriately named - a hangout for the hunters. When I went in a few weeks ago (UBlend & The Rugrat's last night in town), Paolo nodded to the ice cream freezer, which had a large package wrapped in plastic sitting inside. The conversation went like this (I offer the translation here; my translations always sound, as does my Italian, a bit stilted.):

Paolo, gesturing at the plastic package: "This is for you. A present."

(confused, not expecting anything) "But ... what is it?"

"Cinghiale. (Wild Boar.) The local hunting squad makes it a gift to you in appreciation for hunting on your land. The President did not know where to find you so he left it here."

(genuinely touched.) "Really?? That's very kind. I have never ... received anything like this. Please tell them thank you."

"Certainly. It is a custom here; though because you are a straniera (stranger), it is even nicer that they did it."

(having NO IDEA what waited for me inside the plastic) "But ... am I able to leave it here with you and Patrizia can show me how to cook it??"

"Of course. When you want to have friends over for dinner, just call in advance and we will prepare it for you."

(It goes without saying that this is on the long list of services that distinguish restaurants here from those in the US.)

There is no other option, but it is almost tenderly and with a new appreciation that I am developing a 'live and let live' mentality with regard to the hunters. The peace offering of a hunk of wild boar is one that I find quite touching. It is a sign that am being accepted, in all my straniera-ness.

But I'll be quite happy to sleep in tomorrow morning without fear of shotgun-blast-as-alarm-clock.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no screen on your bathroom window??!?! (Wait, are there screens on ANY of your windows?) I remember vaguely a post regarding a midnight bombardment of strange winged creatures while you slept....but I have to say the view is quite nice! (Much better than mine...our bathroom window looks towards our neighbor's house and THEIR bathroom window. Rumor has it, according to the wife, that her husband likes to roam naked with the blinds open. Thankfully I haven't been keeping an eye out). N.Winkust

6:51 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

"You can take the girl out of the City, but can you take the City out of the girl?" That's the age old question, but I never liked it because it implies you need to take perspectives, emotions, ideas, thoughts out in order to fit new ones in. I would like to pose a different question. "If you take the girl out of the City, long enough, can you put some country in?" The last two entries in particular suggest you can.

Cheers to the idea that you don't have to own bright orange and camouflage to appreciate the reasons others do.

From my own "Little House on the Prairie"

4:25 PM  
Blogger Diva di Giardina said...

I know Bob is not going to like this but you are WASTING YOUR TIME working for an association!! Take it from a former book store owner and a voracious reader, you need to write. Believe me this is not an empty compliment but a serious recommendation, you are a fabulous writer and put many that I know of to shame. You can bring an incident to life, make a person feel as though they were there and involve them in every aspect of what is happening. Your blog is the beginning Kellee, but it shouldn't end there, Frances Mayes pales in comparison, I'd rather be under YOUR Tuscan sun.
Is that really you jumping off a cliff into the sea, what came over you? It looks like a blast but I don't know if I would have the courage.
Life in the city is the same, I did carry on the White Elephant Party on December 30th with 50 of our favorite people. It was a lot of fun but your presence was surely missed. Glad to know your holidays were warm and happy despite the Christmas toffee disaster, who wants to be Martha Stewart anyway, look where she spent the last year:-)
Happy New Year to you and keep up the blog, you amuse, inspire and transport us all to Italy with your words. Lots of love, xoxoxo

9:07 PM  

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