1. Give your vocal cords a rest.
  2. Ponder the title of a BBC article: “How much of your body is your own?”
  3. Consider the shock-absorbency of tufa. The villages in these parts were built on tufa bedrock, including my village, a tiny collection of stone houses in the Central Apennines. Though the area is prone to severe earthquakes, these villages have for centuries escaped ruin.
  4. Ritualistically rub Chicca’s belly. Chicca is my dog.
  5. Take Chicca for long walks in the forests and bring along a pair of anvil loppers to clear the overgrown trails that lead up to the cliffs and onto the Rascino Highlands. In moments like these, chest thumping, I feel myself to be all body and all of my body feels like mine.
  6. Look for and remove ticks and burrs from Chicca. Chicca is very furry.
  7. Shoot the shit with the locals, particularly those over seventy. They talk about how lenient the winters are nowadays, how they used to go about courtship, the farthest they’ve ever traveled from their village, what frightens them about China.
  8. Fantasize with your neighbor about asking an aged local peasant to sit on the bench in the village piazza once a week for consultations about best gardening practices.
  9. Weed your vegetable patch, but don’t stop there. Weed your house, too, but don’t stop there. Weed your life.
  10. The weather will soon permit planting. Hoe.
  11. Re-read “The Proverbs of Hell” and wonder (again, but now with more practical experience) why the cut worm forgives the plow—and, presumably, the hoe.
  12. Scythe. I’d never scythed before moving to the countryside in Fall 2018, and it’s become my preferred method of “mowing” and one of my favorite exercises. Do not scythe when the neighbors might be watching from their own garden. They are much more expert, and having their eyes and grins on me would make it anything but relaxing.
  13. Re-watch A Hidden Life, with its several fine scenes of scything and blade-sharpening. I prefer my tutorials to be arty.
  14. Re-watch masterpieces of durational cinema. Sátántangó and Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles make my list but not The Long Day Closes, which is only 85 minutes long yet feels longer than both Sátántangó and Jeanne Dielman screened back to back.
  15. Bring music to the foreground, listening to melancholic songs in the dark, with headphones. At most, stroke Chicca while listening. A short roster of candidates: “Take It With Me” (Tom Waits), “Spiegel im Spiegel” (Arvo Pärt), Veedon Fleece (Van Morrison), “Concerto No. 2 for Cello and String Orchestra” (Vasks).
  16. Give free conversation lessons to the neighbor who would like to improve his English. Plant the seedlings that he gifts you from his greenhouse. Marvel at the relief that comes from dodging the capitalist system.
  17. Work through an elaborate thought experiment: What if the area around 42°16’42.0″N 13°04’50.5″E were to become a “provisional autonomous zone” (Graeber, Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire)? Reformulate the question: “How much of the political body is actually ours?”
  18. Read The Decameron, skipping the vivid opening descriptions of the havoc and death wrought by the plague in Florence in 1348 while feeling grateful that it doesn’t reflect your pandemic experience.
  19. Put books and notebooks down at dusk and, reclining on the grass, watch the sunset. As the light grows strained, the white asters spotting the yard glow like dull hovering stars, the white asters that have escaped the scythe.

March-April 2020, Colle della Sponga, Italy

Originally from the USA, Michael Aliprandini lives in Italy and works internationally as a curriculum developer and teacher-trainer. His writings have appeared or are forthcoming in Milk Magazine, Gravel Literary Journal, Angry Old Man Magazine, The Bacon Review, Litro Magazine, and Columbia Journal. He's a reader for Litro Magazine's Tuesday Tales.

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