The ten-day Festival of St. Vito, which honors the patron saint of the village, continues. Clouds of confetti descend from balconies. Echoing explosions of fireworks begin shortly after dawn, and again at noon, and then at midnight.
The municipal band and an entourage of clerics, village officials, soldiers and the faithful saunter through the streets. The music is melancholy, and ancient. The soldier’s great-great-grandfather likely wore a similar uniform, and marched over these cobblestones.
That house over there on the right, with the strange painting on its facade. Harold said the other day he thought W. H. Auden’s typist, James Marcus Schuyler, might have lived there 40 or 50 years ago, but he wasn’t sure. Harold said Schulyer went on to become an art critic. Also dabbled in poetry, thus:
He waves his hands and through the vocalese-shaped spaces
of naked elms he draws a copper beech
ignited with a few late leaves. He bluely glazes
a rhododendron "a sea of leaves" against gold grass.
After the parade I arrive home, covered with sweat from the long hike up the mountain. I cool off by splashing water on my face and arms and upper body.
A nap will be a delight, but the phone rings. Elena announces she will be at the bottom of the mountain, at the main road, in twenty minutes.
“We will go to the orchard,” she says. “I will show you how to water the trees.”
I say OK, why not?
Squeezed in the tiny cabin of her Ape, we descend a hill and rumble along a dusty road. Green tuffa walls on both sides, a cool narrow canyon. We stop at a gray stucco facade. Elena approaches an iron gate painted green, with reed matting attached to keep people from seeing inside. She slides a key into a huge brass padlock. The massive gate is on wheels, and Elena pushes it hard.
We enter a small jungle, an overgrowth of wildfowers and weeds. Here and there are the remnants of grapevines and their broken trellises. At the far end, near a clearing bounded by an ancient stone wall, are a dozen lemon trees. Some olives and more lemons on the other side of the enclosed property. Here and there banana plants, roses, gardenias. Terra cotta pots full of new plants line a patio near an apartment under construction. These, too, must be watered.
The water valve protrudes from the side of a small stone pump house. The hose is wound on a rusted wheel and crank arrangement, and is long enough to reach the trees at the far end.
Elena slides the gate shut, secures the brass padlock.
“Seems simple enough,” I say.
“Yes, there’s nothing to it,” she replies. “And after a while these trees will speak to you.”
“Of course. So listen carefully.”