'They Might Save My Life' ...

The nest of fish was crisp under a coarse snow of salt and smelled so simple and good I thought they might save my life.  Just a little.  Just for that moment.

Extract, 'The Paris Wife', by Paula McLain.

Dear Ren,

I have been writing to you for weeks, then discarding all efforts as unworthy ... unable to finish them.  I even bought a notebook for the thoughts I had while moving from task to task but I change bags, depending on my destination.  The notebook ended up living on my desk, always out of reach whenever I needed it.

Nothing has worked, complicated by my ideal  ... which is to wait for that golden moment, when I'm in the flow - writing straight from the heart.  But those moments are so rare these days, they need time.  There has been no time, no space, for that state of mind.

But here I am today, at one of my 'haunts' .... I have favourite places, scattered all over this ancient Italian city.  For hot chocolate, for espresso, for crema brioche.  For ravioli, for pizza, and for my new love, calzone.  For music, for wine, for aperitivo.

I spend sparingly.  Aperitivo must count as a dinner and of good quality.  The hot chocolate must be in a space that allows the creation of, at least, one good lesson plan.  The ravioli must satisfy at every level.  The calzone ... there are just no words.  I'm still completely in love with that cheese, ham, mushroom and tomato creation.  I leave so full and so comforted.  I will enjoy that for now.  It won't last forever.  

Today I opted to go wandering without my laptop because I had to replenish my coffee supply, which means walking a distance, and my laptop is heavy.  It was raining.  I bailed and left it at home.  However I didn't pack a pen, nor 'your' notebook.  

And it has to be noted that asking for a 'pen' with my New Zealand English, takes quite some courage in countries not my own.  They tell me that my pen still sounds like 'pin', and so I have learned to distract them from the vowel sound by pretending to write ... at the same time.  

I see their bewilderment as they listen, then comprehension dawn as they see my hand move, as if writing.  

I survive.  I'm working on moving my vowels back into general European usage but it's a big job.  Actually, in a side note, I begin studying Italian on Monday.  2 hours per week.  Let's see if Massimo can work magic.  Paula and I will study together.

Meanwhile I'm recovering from my first 2017 cold.  It hit mid-week.  It hit everyone I was out with the previous Friday.  I was one of the last to go down with it.  I'm going to view this as my immune system putting up a brave fight however, I did have anemia again and so, I may be a little run-down.  

Self-care is the hardest lesson for me to learn, it seems.

My future, as ever, remains unknown to me but maybe that is the stuff of real life. I am unable to protect myself with a routine, a career, a place I belong ... or any kind of known future, actually.  It's all still an adventure. 

On the bright side, I am surrounded by really good people, and simply adore my current landlords.  I am so glad I came to this city I love so well..  And I am living in an ancient palazzo on the most beautiful street here in Genova. I feel quite blessed as I run down the marble staircase each morning.  I have a room, a kitchenette and a bathroom - did I tell you already? 

My social life is picking up again.  Last Friday I was invited out to a small bar on the edge of the city.  Canadian friend, Leah, and UK friend, Bianca, came with me, to hear Marcello play.  All I knew was Marcello's music was good ... I could promise those trusting friends of mine nothing else.

We had the most superb evening at Ostaia Da U Neo!!  There was live music, a band but a band without boundaries.  It seemed like everyone there at the bar was either a talented musician or singer ... or both.  Even the bar owner.  It was a massive jam session, we were there at the front table ...  it finished late.  I floated home, quite happy for all kinds of reasons, and the red wine had been delicious too.

Marcello Scotto playing at Ostaia Da U Neo, Genova

Marcello Scotto playing at Ostaia Da U Neo, Genova


Saturday morning finds me sitting here at Mentelocale, in Palazzo Ducale, drinking hot chocolate, sweating a little, writing in the back of the book I bought with me to read.  It's 14 celsius, raining ... kind of balmy.  I hear memories in my head ... Mum and Nana both saying 'it's good for the garden, this weather'. 

So I borrowed a pen from the guy at the bar, to write in the book I had brought here to read, sparked by the quote at the start because yes, sometimes these small and beautiful things, like a nest of fish ... crisp under a coarse snow of salt ... smelling so simple and good ... might save my life.'

It made me want to write to you.  It made me stop the perfectionist, I can be, from tearing this up and never finishing it.   It made me sit down and copy it out to you once I returned to my computer.  I'm stunned that I've made it this far.  There are so many discarded letters to Ren, sitting here on my desktop.

I walk alone a lot here.  I love it.  It's a return to the essential me.  I have no problems with wandering alone ... there's a beautiful freedom in choosing the prettiest way home, stopping for a slice of farinata, then hot chocolate.  You would love it, I'm sure.  Possibly I'm basing that on a photograph I took of you here, looking so lost in the place ... in the moment.

I finally understand that I love being surrounded by so many people without being a part of anyone or anything.  There's a beautiful silence somehow.

  I came home to write to you ... finally

Lots love, Di  

This is one of a series of public letters to Ren – a friend, a writer, a poet, and an extraordinary woman who writes to me via her own blog.

Please click through to her website: Ren Powell: Poetics & The Good Life