It’s a bleak time of year here in the mountain villages of the Nebrodi. The intermittent rain and hail is interrupted by tiny specks of sunshine quickly smudged out by the billowing charcoal clouds. The chill makes me want to shut myself up inside. My lips are chapped and my hands are rough and sandpapery as the winter seems to erode them evermore every year that passes.
During these ‘blackbird days’ as they call them here, they are the coldest of the year, I am usually wrought with melancholy, yearning for an antipodal summer, but I find myself savoring the winter.
I climb into the attic of my house in the ‘Centro storico’ of my little Sicilian pearl of a town, open the window and observe the winter landscape. In the summer the sun is too harsh and even my photo’s seem burnt by the sun. Yet today the sombre, seductive light gives everything a new perspective.
The rooftops in front of me are in their usual jumble and the odd poky chimney occasionally emits puffs of pontifical smoke. From my tippy toes I can make out the Castello’s time piece high in the tower, my son’s kindergarden is out of my view of sight and directly in front of me halfway up the mountain I see the rundown pizzeria housed in a decaying villa which closed down many years ago and wistfully remember eating my first calzone there.
This weather makes me want to curl up with a book. I’ve been curling up with my Kindle e-reader but it’s not quite the same. I’ve also made a mistake in my choice of reading, stupidly diving into a friends rather lengthy memoir, his is a heavy world filled with a nightmarish childhood and a litany of genocides which coincided with his story. Not the most uplifting read even if his voice is one of eloquent reason, love and intelligence. Yet somehow apt as in Europe the twenty seventh of January is dedicated to the remembrance of the holocaust.
Shaking off the collective memories of the horrors, I go for a walk and promise to get back to the memoir when I feel less morose.
I need a change of pace, a glossy magazine, a Disney cartoon for my son and a surprise offer of coffee by a new friend. There is nothing like a coffee break in a local bar to lift your spirits and some idle chit chat to remind you life isn’t all doom and gloom.
After these giornate dello merlo which are the final few days of January comes the Candelora which is a kind of Sicilian ground hog day. We shall watch on the second of February, if it rains the whole day through then spring is just around the corner and if the sun shines the snow will come and bring us another forty days of winter.
Every Sicilian has one of these in the winter.
Either neatly arranged, stored in front of their door or covered up in a secret nook. I’m loving the wood stove right now.
Brrrrrr!! Thank god for the wood pile!