Updated on April 2nd, 2020

The world seems calm this mid-March evening, after a t-shirt-weather-day with temperatures we normally see in May. But the weather is changing, and the sky dulls down as the sun readies itself to set in pale orange and mauve tones behind a billowing cloud. On the school’s tartan track below, two lone joggers make their slow and steady rounds – two metres apart, for that’s the distance we keep these days. Inside, my mother is singing, her voice cracked, her words slurred, and yet her spirit unbroken.

Me, I’m sitting on the balcony, on the sixth floor – high in the sky, close to the incoming clouds. I like it here. Beyond the terracotta-coloured track, I can see the buildings of the secondary school – a facade of dark windows behind which students are normally taught. But not today. Maybe not for a long time.

Then there’s the road that leads into the industrial part of town, a higgledy-piggledy bunch of business premises in different shapes and colours. Further down looms the tree-covered hill behind which the big city lies. Very few cars trickle by on the road, one by one, as if they too were maintaining a mandatory security distance. Their twinkling headlights send glimmers of hope into the fading day.

On the balcony, I lean back in my chair, tapping my bare feet on the smooth tiles that still hold the warmth from the day’s unseasonal sunshine. My light-blue toenail varnish needs redoing, but I left in a hurry and didn’t bring the varnish with me. I feel I will leave my toenails as they are until the broken varnish disappears on its own.

I sigh, I breathe out – strangely, utterly content.

Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. No one to be.

Just sitting – and looking, listening, smelling and sensing the impending evening. Being fully here, now.

Wonderful. I can’t remember when I last was able to do that.

The birds are into their evening song, and there’s the aroma of a cigarette in the air – perhaps a neighbour is smoking on their balcony? Or maybe, as an Italian friend of my mother’s believes, the smoke indicates that Saint Pio is with us, in spirit. Yes please; we could use him now, I’m thinking. We can use all the help we can get.

A memory floats up from uncharted depths, of a time in my childhood, when we would sit like this in Adele’s courtyard, together, at the end of a sweaty summer’s day spent playing outside. We’d take the short, steep walk up the hill to her farm behind my grandmother’s house in Italy – along with our parents, cousins, aunt and uncle. Adele would drag all the chairs from her kitchen out into the mellow evening air that smelled of catmint, and we would sit in her courtyard together and idly chat into the fading light, while she’d keep her rough, red farmer’s hands busy with shelling peas or chopping tomatoes.

The joy of simple pleasures…

Ayurveda teaches that sunrise and sunset – the junctures between day and night – are powerful, strengthening times to be outside for, to witness and to consciously take in. I’d forgotten about that. But I can feel it now.

It’s getting cool; it is March, after all. The joggers have slowed into a walk, cooling down too, and chatting across the two meters of air between them. Inside, my frail and courageous mother has switched on the telly.

The world seems calm this mid-March evening, but the weather is changing. And the country’s health service – I can almost hear it breathing in – is bracing itself for the onslaught that might soon come.


Next post in the series: Expansion of a different kind

Photo: Monica Castenetto