The last few weeks have been gentle and quiet, with Fabrizia in the United States on a publicity tour. We still have had quite a few visitors, with Costanza running the show, but the pace has been more relaxed. It has given me the chance to get office work for the film done, but (more importantly) to take long nature walks in the name of creating a hiking guide for the cooking school. The hills that surround the school have become my stomping ground and nothing makes me happier than exploring routes in the vineyards that I haven't been on before, or simply taking a sunset walk with Fiona.
The sculptural beauty of the autumnal flowers and grasses are a delight to photograph, though I only bring along my camera occasionally. Most days, I like some machine-free freedom, and only take my trusty boots (now muddy with Sicilian clay) or sometimes a Bible as well. I find the tops of these hills to be quite spiritual places, with the incredible vistas and the solitude. I feel like it's just me and the ladybugs (see the one above, munching on aphids...). After living in places where walking alone in nature was not a wise idea, (because of either dangerous people or dangerous creatures like mountain lions or snakes), it feels like such a blessing to walk the hills without fear. There are none of either type of peril here, and I feel safe. Though it is nice to go with Fiona as well, who has become such a close buddy.
One day, after dropping two American visitors off at Casa Grande, the center of the winery, I took a two hour walk along the stream bed that winds between the hills. Because almost every square inch of Sicily is cultivated, these sometimes-watery ditches are some of the last repositories of wild ecosystems (along with the shrubby hilltops). As I walked, I peaked into the small glades to check out the different types of trees and grasses that grow there. There is everything from poplars to wild quince trees to blackberry brambles (and quite a few beautiful grasses that I'm not familiar with). Additionally, as I was walking by the "lake" (more of a reservoir) which the winery uses for irrigation, I saw a blue heron soar by me. It was such a gift, as it seems like such an unlikely place for her to live. It made me miss home (Florida) and all the cranes and herons. Sicily has so much natural beauty, but it nevertheless reminds me to appreciate how much uncultivated land we have in the United States.
One thing I do very much appreciate about the cultivation is that the vineyards provide me with endless walking trails and also snacks for the hike. I pick so many sweet white grapes (somehow left over from the harvest), that I come home with sticky hands--and very content. The vines are also beautiful this time of year, as they turn an autumnal red. I'll sit on a hill top, spitting seeds and watching the graceful flocks of starlings that dance along the hills, also excited about the left over grapes. Occasionally, I'll see a hawk as well. In these moments especially, I feel overwhelming grateful to God for bringing me to this place.
Hello all! I'm sorry it's been almost two weeks since I posted. I knew that filming would be busy, but underestimated the extent of that busyness. When Giacomo, the cinematographer for the project, arrived from Milano last Friday, we hit the ground running. He is 27, originally from Palermo, and oodles of fun to work with. We communicate in a humorous mix of English and Italian, and he is patient with my slow verb conjugations and blatant linguistic errors. (He guffawed when I told him that "I own a jacket that rains" instead of "I own a rain jacket"). I know not to ask him too many questions (in either English or Italian) when he is filming, as he switches into full-concentration right brain mode, and I can tell he needs the mental space to think about all the details of the shoot: the lighting, the audio, the focus, the camera settings, which equipment to use, etc. It's incredible to me that he does it all by himself (though I occasionally help him out with audio). But through observation and questions after filming, I hope to pick up a lot from him by the end of the year. And we bond when driving through the Sicilian hills between filming locations, blaring Italian and English music and laughing over attempted translations of lyrics.
Umberto is the fourth member of our team, and is a professional photographer from Sicily whom Fabrizia has recruited to take photos for a book she wants to write on the project. He is a sweet man, very kind to me, and is the most helpful with my Italian. We had a two hour conversation in the car, on the way to Favara to shoot the cemetary festival for the La Festa di Morti, about theology and church politics that left me excited (that I could communicate effectively about it all in Italian) but also rather tired. It's amazing how much linguistic effort drains your energy. Speaking and reading English with Fiona, my Scottish friend here, or with guests, has become a delicious luxury. But the small victories I make in Italian give me great pleasure. And the motivation to speak and understand better is strong, as the more capable I get, the more confident I will become about my involvement in the film, the interviews, the editing, etc.
We spent Saturday through the following Sunday filming every day, in several different locations on the island. We did an interview and recipe shoot with Maria Grammatico, a famous pastry chef in Erice; an interview with the American author, Mary Simeti, in the countryside outside of Palermo; one with a well-known anthropologist in his flat in Palermo; an interview and recipe shoot with a woman in Favara; festival shooting in the cemetery of Favara (near Agrigento); landscape filming in Trapani, Palermo, and here in Regaleali, (and a few other locations). It's wonderfully engaging work, seeing the island as we film and meeting the various characters who will shape this documentary. It's also mentally taxing and sometimes frustrating, as doing a film in English for the first time would be hard enough. Trying to do it Italian is downright exhausting. Occasionally I feel like vexed child, as I have so much to input, but lack the language skills to express my opinions. But that will come with time.
For lots more information and pictures about the first filming session, check out my professional blog, here: www.sacredflavorsofsicilyfilm.weebly.com. I am spacing out my posts about the filming weekly. With the first festival complete, we will now transition to Santa Lucia, Natale, and Carnvale (in December and February) and my job for the next month will be to plan and promote. Giacomo will be editing the first film, which we will use as a teaser film for another fundraising campaign (and to promote the film to film festivals). Fabrizia will be in the USA for two weeks, so I'll have two weeks to spend at Case Vecchie working, hiking, painting, and sleeping, in preparation for the next flurry of filming next month. (Trying to emulate the cat pictured below).
I'm a graduate student at Duke Divinity School, and a recent graduate of Pomona College, who is setting off to find my calling in the world. This blog is to keep in touch with those I love and to share my journey with others.