Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Things They Carried

Before I returned to New York to seek gainful freelance work, I went to say good-bye to Giovanni. I found him perched on his orange Fiat tractor, sowing grano, winter wheat, in a beautiful field between our farms and the village of Petroio. And of course he was smiling.

Giovanni is a master of attrezzature agricole, farm impliments. Before we began to build our Tuscan house, I made a treasure hunt of discovering every artifact and iron bone left around the stone shack, chicken coops, garden, fields, vineyard and olive grove by the contadini who once worked this land.

Here are the tools of a trade I dug up. All are antiques. But more importantly, each is patinated by someone's sweat and use. Each is a treasure to me because they defined and found definition in someone's work-toughened hands, and were worn or sharpened down and then lost or discarded by the industrious hard-scrabble people I’m trying to connect with and record before this way of life is evaporates.

Each of these hand-forged spades, pitchforks, hoes, brush hooks, scythe, sickle, rake, harrow, trowel, flywheel, and stone mortar (possibly a deconsecrated baptismal font) resonates with the past. With a little sharpening and a new handle, I will put a few of these tools back to work in the spring when Giovanni shows me how to use them. And I will hope to get a sense of what it felt like to hold them in his hands when Giovanni was a younger man.

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