I started this blog because I was, at the time, under-employed. Being observant, writing, pondering, and photographing seemed like the best ways to fill my economically-challenged time. These were skills I’d built a career on, but they are my loves in any case—a vocation unto themselves—and they gave me the means to build a bridge between the people I love “over there” and the experiences I’m having “over here.” But when a project came knocking with actual euros attached, I had to park the blog and say “Yes.”
So the culprit of my absence was, of course, work. Or, as it likes to think of itself, “Work! Work! Work!”—all brashness, explanation points and self-importance. “Work” seemed to know no limits and leeched into every minute of every day. Instead of being occupied with barn swallows and jerusalem artichokes, antique linens and il dolce far niente, I was consumed with that most Italian of consumables, pasta. My client was a pasta maker from Benevento, Italy. Rummo Lenta Lavorazione. In a nutshell: A family-run business espousing a “slow” food philosophy and an appreciation of the (truly) finer things in life. Everything, in short, I’d been trying to blog about all along.
Ma, ironia del destino… But, as fate would have it, there was nothing slow about the work in question. It was fast and furious, marked by macaronic meetings, bursts of Latin temper, thousands upon thousands of emails and phone calls all with the same urgent, though simple, goal: perfezione e subito!—two concepts I’d previously found mutually exclusive, but hey, one can always revisit old assumptions.
In perhaps the most exhilarating cultural immersion I’ve experienced since moving to Italy, I was invited—sometimes pulled—into an industrial family’s world, where father and son work side by side, with all the cinematic complexity which that relationship entails, and where pasta is the metaphor by which any mystery of life can be understood. Creativity, energy, what-if?—all spewed forth with volcanic force. (I suppose proximity to Vesuvius is bound to affect one’s character. How could it not?)
It was terrifically fulfilling, in a manic-depressive, perfect-storm kind of way (I do like drama). But it was also taxing beyond my wildest imaginings. And the taxes I paid cut deep and wide. There was less time for family. Scant time for reflection. And, alas, no time for the blog. And these compromises were a bit more than I’d bargained for. And ironically, as I was suffering them, I was creating a mid-nineteenth century world of hot air balloons, horse-drawn harvests, mystical pocket watches and lazy clouds floating over lovingly cultivated hills.
The rush is behind us. The first phase is underway. And though some projects remain in the finishing phases, I’m enjoying the chance to breathe and to prepare pasta dishes instead of just write about them. The fast has been replaced by slow, in a heartbeat. I suppose balance is the elusive, hard-earned prize, though I wonder in my heart of hearts if it isn’t over-rated. The ups and downs, the fasts and slows, are so much more…interesting.
NOTE: Graphic design by Irving & Co./London. These people can do wonders with ink, paper and cardboard, no?