Ho’o pono pono
We have arrived at the early days of a brand-new year. In western cultures, the new year is a time to make resolutions, to make a list of things to do/change/work on in order to become a better person. Or to become slimmer. Or wealthier. Or more patient.
There is a long, long list of potential New Year’s resolutions, and cultures all over the globe have their own practices, as well as their own timing, for these celebrations.
In Judaism, the most holy and solemn time of the year is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. It occurs just after Rosh Hashana, the New Year, which generally occurs sometime from September to early October. Yom Kippur is a time to take a close and honest look at our intentions in order to discover the true source of our words and actions. The belief is that when we learn to act from a place of love and connectedness, those values grow exponentially in the world.
The first sign was when my hair went extra curly. The next sign was when I had some paper to cut and fold, and the paper felt more like pie dough than like paper.
This was humidity, in full force. For a few days, we had some sprinkles of rain and light showers, and then suddenly one evening, the winds blew high and mighty, and the rain came down hard, fast, and steady. It was said that several months’ worth of rain fell within the space of three or four hours during the wee small hours of the morning.
We awoke the next day to a continuation of the bluster and the pounding, and then there was an email telling people not to go out on the roads, for any reason. I had a house guest, and I had planned to take her sightseeing. With the announcement of road closures, though, our day took a different path.
We decided to walk into town, and we set out from my house. We arrived in the middle of the ancient village and stopped in our tracks at the sight of a lake of water where the road usually was.
In my last post, I talked about what it really means here in France when someone says “bonjour,” and the post was titled “Good day to you.” With a nod to symmetry, I now offer you “Fare thee well.”
I was moving into a different house, and it was my last visit to the old place. This was a trip of random-sized boxes, for emptying out the refrigerator, for garden gloves, for the bathroom items I’d used that morning. And it was a trip for closing up the house. As I was packing my car, the neighbor who shared a driveway with me was headed toward the river carrying a chair. She walked over to ask if this was it. I said yes, it is and it’s a little sad, but she said non. “You will still be here in town, and we will see each other.” We chatted a few minutes about random things, and then she mimed knocking on a door and told me to come over any time. “Tok tok, Michelle ! Je suis la !”
I’ve had two especially enjoyable walks lately, and I’d like to share them with you. These were walks that had not so much to do with the location, and everything to do with the people I met along the way. I do believe that a place informs its people, but today I’ll just talk about the folks I got to meet.
And I’ll pepper this post with photographs from various walks and hikes I’ve enjoyed this summer.
Let’s begin with the time I set out on a fresh morning, enjoying air that felt noticeably cooler than it had in many weeks. It was bliss. My usual walk takes me out of town past the cemetery, and on this day I passed two teenage boys walking with their grandfather. Perhaps they strolled to the cemetery? These boys are two of the nicest teenagers I’ve ever met, always stopping to say “bonjour” to me, even long before we officially met and learned each others’ names. (In this town, kids stop what they’re doing to say bonjour, which delights me to no end.) I had never before met their grandfather, but he was eager for a bonjour, too, and he commented on my “determined” gait.
I closed the last post by saying that the world of the Siena contradaioli (the members of the various contrade) is almost entirely focused on the two days a year on which there’s a horse race, which today is referred to as the Palio, or in Italian, “Il Palio.” Now it’s time to learn more about the Palio itself.
I grew up in Reno, Nevada, home to deep blue skies, over 300 mountain ranges, and legal gambling. My childhood was dotted with the special family dinners when my grandparents would take us out to eat in casinos. This was back in a time when casino owners were local businessmen, usually well-known in the community, and my grandparents knew a few of them.
We played Keno during dinner. (I don’t even know if this still goes on; maybe someone from Reno can tell me.) Every table had a centerpiece holding blank Keno tickets and thick black crayons. Each of us would take a ticket and mark our numbers, then we’d watch the electronic Keno boards that were mounted throughout the dining room, and compare the official numbers with those on our tickets.
I never saw anyone actually place a bet. We did it for entertainment, and probably to keep us kids busy; during the course of one dinner, there were several rounds of the game. And that was Keno, in Reno, in the olden days.