I grew up in a small town called Mosgiel, population something small, a place where people raised their families. Near a city (Dunedin) but not a city.
I grew up with aunts and uncles living 'away' but close enough to visit sometimes. I adored my Nana and Grandad (mum's parents) and often begged to go stay with them in their Invercargill house. 3 hours away in those days ... cars got faster, roads improved. It's not so far in these days.
My Grandma and Grandad were delightful too but that appreciation of them came later. When I was small, it was all about Nana.
My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer back in 1998, my Nana (her mother) slipped away before her, with undiagnosed cancer. Surprising us all.
These days, so many years later, I still imagine them alive and so I have these conversations with them going on in my head. Not 'voices'. I guess I simply talk to the memory of them. The memories of who they were, the memories of how they would react to things in my life now.
But I 'find' them via my senses too. There might be a sight Mum would love, or an experience I wish I could share with her, or questions I so want to ask her. And then I've wondered, in the years since losing her, if Nana ever wanted to travel ... but I never knew to ask. Who knew I was going to do what I did.
And, of course, I thought they were forever folk. We never considered that thing called Death while they were alive, there was no, 'this is last time I will see them'. And then it was complicated by the fact that Mum wasn't even 60 when she died and that she so very much wanted to live.
Fast-forward to Now and I was invited to visit Lake Como. I went, full of misgivings, knowing the Genova was the place that had captured my soul ... but curious to see what was there at this much-talked-about lake.
It turns out there was a whole lot of 'home' just waiting for me to discover it. The lake and the mountains there created a bizarre, and yet beautiful, split in my reality. It was so very like Queenstown, New Zealand ... and yet, not. The scent of lake rocks warmed by the sun, cleaned by a massive lake ... so very familiar. The early morning peace ... 6am lake-lapping, birds calling, and air so clean that it took me back home in the peace of it all.
But another 'experience' was the food. That first night Helen and I ate on the lakeside balcony of Ristorante Helvetia, in Lezzeno, and oh how we dined. We ate every course, unusual for us but we were celebrating the end of a first fantastic workshop back in Genova.
For me, the course of the evening was this incredible piece of pork, with cheese and ... other stuff. It took me back to those times, when I was safe in the kitchen of Nana, eating meals that comforted me at some deep soul level, even while she denied she could cook.
I wish I could share my journey with these women who formed me. I feel that they watch over me since dying, and I hope that they do because I miss them. My sister will come here one day and we'll travel for sure, toasting those women we loved as we wander. Those women who made us the creatures we are today.
But anyway, all of that just so I could post this photograph of a dinner that I hope to repeat sometime soon.