European Union

The rising morning sun was sneaking between the gaps of the medieval houses as I walked the narrow pathways of the Tuscan hill town. I had wandered from the busy the Plaizza Della Cisterna. I came upon a small courtyard, it felt private, silent, peaceful. I felt intrusive. The high buildings surrounding protected it .Even the sun was limited to shards piercing between the houses settling only on the stone monument at the centre. Planned like that or nature’s decision?

The monument was squared by double tiered wide shallow steps, grey, hard, but warming by the mid morning. I rested comfortably on them. My back was against the wall of the flower bed that rose from them. Ferocity did not engage so early even in summer. The heat was still just soothing. Large shrubs filled the flower bed, ivy bordering and stretching   over the base of the fountain that sat at the centre of the monument. Its gentle flow whispered into the old stone basin. I was drawn to be at one with nature and reached to touch. My fingers, surprised, enjoyed the clean coldness, my sleeve held the relaxing fragrance of lavender as my hand returning had caused my arm to brush against the shrubs. Contentment, being at peace with the world.

The sense of quiet was suddenly broken, sparrows chatter addressed the courtyard, dashing, shaking, flecking sunned sparkles of water as they bathed in the coolness. Their voices joined by the sound of innocence. The pleading call of an unseen child, high and pure, full of urgency shrilled.


“ Nonna!”

The large shrubs allowed privacy despite the proximity of the voice. I peered between them. Standing, a bent desert spoon in one hand and a worm in the other, a small girl kicking her sandaled foot against the wall awaiting acknowledgement. There was Nonna, or grandad sitting passively, lost momentarily sucking on the last of his cigarette, gently exhaling, the smoke playing around his nostrils.

He turned to respond to the her, she gazed upwards attentive understanding his response in a language which I did not. Together they moved along the wall to the corner where I had first seen her. Nonna was holding the worm now, she was busy digging unsuccessfully into the soil. They swapped and after a few spoonfuls and a nod of readiness she placed the worm into the soil and taking the spoon back from her Nonna carefully covered it.

Nonna bent forward, his rough cotton shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows its whiteness exaggerating the deep tan of his sinewed lower arms as he lifted her to him. He dusted her fringe to the side and gently kissed her fore head and she snuggled into his loose neck.

Turning he was surprised, briefly, by my presence.

“Nonna, “I ventured placing a hand on my chest.

He looked down at his gift, his reply a knowing smile.

Don Russell


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