CHAPTER III – PROGRESS

…and then there was light

External spotlights, internal baseboard lights, ceiling fixtures of every shape and size. Strip lighting, sunk lighting, directional lighting, mood lighting and floor lighting gets unpacked and installed. Granted a good bit of moaning and kicking empty boxes accompanies this daunting task, based on the sheer square metres, but every day another chunk of space sees the light.

People will often tell you what a supreme sense of accomplishment and gratification comes from doing things yourself, and generally speaking I agree, but one cannot deny the meltdowns when something doesn’t work out and you need to start all over again. Sometimes this could mean a whole day just to reverse the mistake made as well as a phenomenal sense of frustration and isolation amidst it all.

Suffice to say, that now that rooms are morphing less into construction sites and more into actual living space (albeit semi bare living space for the moment), a thrill is in the air.

We wonder, at times, about all the twists and turns, the decisions taken and not taken as well as the pure chance that has led us here, to this location and to this project. All the years leading up to this very grown up venture, that delights and bewilders us. We are two adults now, but it obviously wasn’t always like this and at times I need to remind myself that those two kids have been quietly overtaken by their two older versions.

One of my first jobs, when I arrived in Italy, was as a teacher at a Business Language Center. One day while driving to work, I got a panic attack as I couldn’t remember if I had turned off the oven in the apartment. I raced back home (it was turned off) and on my second attempt to get to work, the muffler became unhinged from my (already worse for wear when purchased) Mini Innocenti and started dragging on the road making an awful noise.

I pulled over and ended up securing the muffler using an old windbreaker, I kept in the trunk, so as to make it the last few kilometers to work. Just like in the movies, I actually made it to my lesson on time, albeit red faced and sweaty and with a slightly charred smell in the air where the nylon from the jacket had burned through.

There were (and will be) countless summers spent zooming through the heat on Andrea’s Tenere, winding our way through long traffic jams to the beach, getting all scraped up when we slid in a quarry, exploring the hills and mountains with wind whipped shorts and t-shirts and not a care in the world.

One of the most memorable events occurred during our first official dinner to celebrate moving into our apartment in Udine. We had invited both sets of parents, siblings and grandmas over. I was using a pressure cooker for the first time. It did not go well. I ended up having to drive myself to the emergency ward whereupon arrival I puked and hospital staff treated me for second degree burns to my wrist and forearm. Dinner ended up being take out pizza.

Relationships, desires, memories, fights and indecision have landed us here as we sometimes raced and other times traipsed along the topsy-turvy, swervey, surprising boardwalk of life.

We are getting ready to go to the VIVAIO today to look for some topiaries for the front garden. With all the greenery engulfing us from all sides we have decided to create an airy and light space of wonderfully shaped boxwoods amid white pebbles and pristine lawns. Hopefully this will balance out the “so muchness” that surrounds us.

Originally the property had been a cacophany of tangled overgrown plants and bushes. A half dead magnolia tree and a dried up pine kept a good portion of the original house completely in dank, depressing shadow. Wet undergrowth and detritus contributed to the funky smell in the air and to my anxiousness at meeting a snake or scorpion.

To get onto the property you had to take your chances passing through metres of thick vegetation that had taken over the entry gate and that was teeming with wasps. The remaining area, that led down into the valley below, was just a mess of entwined overgrowth left unattended for years and years. We had to hire three woodsmen for this portion, who frighteningly but expertly tied themselves to the side of the hill and with scythes cut through the first layer of foliage and in the days to come worked there way down towards actual terrain.

So while the woodsmen did their thing at the back of the house, we tackled the front and the sides. We dug out the shrubbery and various florals that were in good health and laid them out on the driveway with a sign inviting whoever so desired to come and pick up the plants for their own garden. We chopped firewood where possible and redirected metres and metres of ivy. And of course we met every type of bug and worm known to man.

By the end of the day we were covered in debris and dirt and sweat. In that state we transported all our greenery to the recycling station three towns over. Upon our return I swept and hosed down all I could and Andrea proceeded to temporarily level out the terrain so it would be ready for the next phase (recreating the base, laying a stone walkway, planting the new arrivals, covering the area with sheeting (where needed) to prevent future weed growth and then filling up the area with white stones and laying the lawn).

The house immediately started to respond to the light and warm drying effects of the sunshine that was now able to pour in during the day. Rooms that had been dismally grey and damp started to breath again. Today they have the new clean smell of fresh coats of paint and breezes carrying the scent of our perfume and after shave, freshly cut grass, lavender and earth after the rains.

I am distracted by a loud series of honks. Andrea does what generations of men in our families have done and will continue to do…While I have been walking about waiting for him to get ready to head out to the garden centre, he hopped in the truck (once ready) and is honking the horn for me to get a move on.

Off we go!

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