Walls and Bridges

Walls and Bridges

While bicycling alone through Italy in the winter of 1981, I met an elderly bicycle mechanic in the outskirts of Naples. I explained to him, in my bizarre Italian/mime language, the trials and tribulations I had endured while looking for someone to help me. I had punctured my tire, and repaired it with some tire glue and a piece of old inner tube, as usual.

But the solicitations of the cobblestones under my heavy packs had opened the hole again, so I had to again unpack everything and fix it, fearing for my safety in the heavy traffic. The third time it happened, I realized the glue they had sold me was defective, and I would have to risk my life weaving through the Neapolitan traffic on an overloaded bike with a flat tire until I found a solution.

I was rather agitated as I told him this, and his response gave me an important insight into the mediterranean character. With his palms down in front of him at waist level, he slowly lowered his hands as if pushing twin floating volleyballs under the surface of the water, and said ‘Bello-bello.’ This literally means ‘Beautiful-beautiful,’ and intends ‘Slow down.’ (An American might say ‘Hold your horses.’)

I was struck that the synonym for ‘slow’ is ‘beautiful.’ Coming from the land of fast food and the quick buck, this concept was a bit of a stretch for me.

But that was almost 40 years ago, and in the meantime I’ve come to better appreciate ‘la dolce vita.’ Life takes time. Savor it.

And building la Luna, between dwellings, reforestation, amphitheater and labyrinth, has taken time, 20 years and counting.
We’ve recently begun a new phase of building here, gutting the workshop/storage space, to serve as a flexible office/bar/apartment (the new workshop will be located in a South Korean container), and in order to create a new verandah for Cabaret and sunset-gazing, we’ve dug beside the restaurant a hole the s
ize of an Olympic swimming pool. There are no Olympic swimming events which require a trapezoidal swimming pool, but we’ve considered inventing some, as this hole gradually fills with water from the unseasonable downpours which have held the work up for over a month (apart from the usual bureaucratic/logistical/scheduling maze).
I had thought (well, hoped, anyway) that the work would be done for our Intercultural Clown workshop at the end of April. Now I hope it will be ready for Natasha and Alessandro’s wedding at the end of June. Then I’ll hope it will be ready for our summer festival at the end of July. The work is proceeding, ‘bello-bello.’

But there’s another building project, without cement, which is blooming apace. Lamine’s Senegalese vegetable garden has been expanded, morphing into a labyrinthine meditative medicinal garden, where I’ve started doing my morning Chi Gong, surrounded by growth and beauty. And Alessandro is finishing a deconstructionist dog kennel worthy of Frank Gehry.

And yet another building project. As I’ve written elsewhere, this month we’re being visited by many of our differently-abled German friends, who have been very interested in the building projects, and even more interested in the builders themselves. Some of them drew up chairs to where the workmen were putting up new walls, applauding and cheering as the expert masons went about their work.

One of the workmen confided to me, “I don’t speak a word of German, but these people are really special. They make me feel important.”

And that’s the most important building of all, building relationships. ‘La dolce vita,’ indeed.