Early spring evening

by Laura A

I am on my kitchen balcony this afternoon watering my new herbs in bare feet.  It’s 75 degrees and the concrete feels warm on my feet.  As I walk back inside the kitchen a bird sings with variety and enthusiasm.  Later, sitting at the desk, a blackbird lands on the railing outside the open door.  That’s a first.  Is it the same bird?  I don’t know.  I go about my tasks with a sense of well-being.

At six o’-clock, as the sun sets and Sarie starts her online class in the US (one hour earlier this week), she calls, “Come look at the clouds!”  So I go out on the living room balcony and see bright orange pink strips of clouds streaming across the sky to the west, between the buildings.  The back balconies face into a sort of open courtyard, because one building was partly torn down. (Wartime bombs, maybe?) I can imagine how this sunset must look in the mountains just west the city.  And I can see Sarie on the next balcony, with her laptop, watching the sky turn pinker as about six bats dance around. (The class is discussing Boethius, who was Roman.)  I can still hear varied and complex bird songs.

Down below, a man comes home on his motorcycle, which he has on low gear to quiet it, and parks it in a garage, then walks into the building with his helmet under his hand.  There is a faint smell of cigarette smoke, but this is to be expected in Italy.  I can also see people packing up to go home in the office opposite and below. One person has a glass desk with a modern chair, but two rooms away is a large desk made of dark wood.  In the office between, I can see black feet and hose as someone stands to chat before they leave.  Heads pop out and shut balcony doors here and there as the sunset fades. People gather up laundry from clotheslines.  Now and then I hear the sweet sing-song voice of a child.

A few minutes later, I am in the kitchen again, cooking kale, cabbage, and beans for dinner.  My doors are all still open.  I can hear pots and pans rattling in other kitchens, and a few people talking.  A block or two away I hear the European siren sound, which is very prone to the Doppler effect, so different from its NYC equivalent (Bonk!  BOOONK!) and reminds me of old movies.  I stop to consider that I know two worlds intimately.  No, three!  And suddenly the bells start to peal.  First one set, a few blocks away, starts its special Lenten seven-o’clock song, a tune made from only three tones, but jaunty.  Then the set one block away starts, very slightly off key in relation to the other set, but repeating only one note.  We’ve noticed that they always peal the longest at seven p.m., perhaps for mass.

As the bells fade, I notice it’s completely dark.  There aren’t any lights on the other balconies, just one in the courtyard that leads to our back stair, and one in the driveway of the building across the way, and some in various kitchens and stairwells.  Soon the stars will be out.  I hear a plane descend.  The scene is like a piece of music that is resolving and fading as it should.  For the first time since this morning, the breeze coming in the open door seems a little cool.  I am happy with things as they are.