Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hand Language

Everyone knows Italians speak a lot with their hands. But what do they mean when they gesture? Some things are obvious. Grab the crotch to keep away the devil when you see something bad, flick your chin with your fingers at someone who is an insufferable bore in the north or to say "can't park here" in the south. There are some naughty ones that involve fists and fingers, and some very sweet ones like waving with a beckoning backwards clap of one hand (Italian zen for "Come back soon!").

Here is our dear friend Gianni Marriotti, captured by Sally. It may look like he's describing a really big truffle he found, but he and I were discussing the fine points of living well and the importance of remembering the past. He is talking about connecting to what is deep and fundamental and keeping story alive.

Here it looks like he's telling me how I could grow really big tomatoes if I traded a few to a farmer for some good manure, but he is really talking about the advantages of the non cash-based barter system that was in place in rural Tuscany until very recently, and how it kept dealings honest.

It may look like he's talking about what it takes to be president of the United States of America, but he's really talking about what it takes to enjoy life -- family and friends.

This is not what you think. He is talking about what makes Gianni Gianni.

And it is this, the talk, with hands or without hands, but definitely with friends, that makes living well, in Italy and anywhere else, living positively and optimistically, with one palm up in an attitude of grateful receiving, and one toward the heart in sincerity.