Escape from Winter


Filed under Stories


By Diane Hirsch

Looking out my window at all the snow and ice, I can’t help but wonder if winter will ever end.
The northeastern part of the U.S. has been particularly cold and snowy this winter, giving me a serious case of the winter blues.

It’s colder here than in Sochi, Russia where the winter Olympics are taking place.
I used to like winter, but I’ve had enough.
I would trade in my snow shovel even for the things I dislike about summer like insects, sunburn, perspiration-soaked clothes and the feeling of never having enough water to drink.
Knowing that we have weeks to go before even the faintest signs of spring appear, I go into survival mode and turn my thoughts to warmer climes. Some people may dream of escaping to a tropical island, but I dream of sunny southern Italy.
I start planning my escape and whether or not I get to go back any time soon, just planning it saves me from the icy thoughts of the next snowstorm.
snow
sunny2 So why Italy?
While southern Italy’s warmer climate is reason enough to start planning my escape from winter, it is the warmth and kindness of the people that really makes me want to return.
Many Italians have a way of making you feel like family and I am reminded of the saying “Treat your family like company and your company like family.”

Take my friend, Michele, for example.
We had never met but we share a passion for Matera and had been corresponding by email for months.
We met for the first time last summer and his whole family welcomed mine, each of them taking the time over the course of several days to show us their town.
I thought I knew a lot about Matera, but Michele and his son took us on a walk throughout the town teaching us so much more about its history and its secrets.
In the evenings our teenage daughters got together and Michele’s daughter introduced ours to her friends.
For our daughter, it was the best part of our whole trip and although we are not in the habit of letting her go off on her own in a strange place, we knew she was safe and in good company.

sunny1 Michele and his wife took us outside the city to a place where they like to hike with caves and a breathtaking view.
They pointed out the many kinds of wildflowers, capers and even wild asparagus all filling the evening air with a delicate sweetness. They gave us tips on where to go and what to see.
They took us shopping for local foods to take home.

A spicy Lucana salsiccia. black olives from nearby Ferrandina, hot pepper paste and things I never heard of.
All of their recommendations were delicious, as if they already knew our tastes and in the days and weeks after our return home, we continued to enjoy the delicacies of the Basilicata region.

Before we left, Michele gave me a special gift. It is an out-of-print book of proverbs in the dialect of my grandfather.
It was a gift from the heart, something that meant a lot to him. I suspect he knew that it would mean a lot to me, too. Maybe he knew that each time I read it, I would recall my grandfather’s voice and imagine the Matera our ancestors knew, the place we both love.

Thoughts of the cold begin to melt away and winter becomes a little bit easier to bear when I call to mind the warmth of Italy and its people. And now, as the first snowflakes of yet another storm start to fall, these are the thoughts that will pull me through.

Diane

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