Kathy: May 21, 2005

I have been thinking about this moment for almost a year. The day I would again add to the personal reflections page and get our webpage going again. I imagined many times what I would say to kick it off, but never carried through. I have asked myself many times why I didn't keep it up and seemed to have come up with many reasons - our losses this past year that cast a shadow on our thoughts, or maybe just not being in a setting where everyday offered new awareness and insights, maybe writers' block, or just too much work to do in the states. Well, in any case, now we are back in Sicily and I am finally writing and updating the site. It feels like we owe it to the many people who have been writing to us about how much they have enjoyed the site. In some ways I think I feel I also owe it to myself. I deserve to have a place to put the things I think about here and what I am learning before they are lost. Thank you to those of you who find these thoughts interesting and forcing me to keep it going.

Suffice it to say that we have been here almost 2 weeks, and I continue to be amazed at how much we are still learning.. We have settled into life in the community, which is somewhat different this year since we are living with our cousin, Pina Vederame Saia. She is the widow of my mother's cousin, Giuseppe Saia. Living at street level with a relative is giving us a different flavor of the community as a parade of women stop by to have coffee and chat with Pina in Sicilian. They all talk simultaneously about their aches and pains, news in the village and the comings and goings of the visiting Americani (us). Our days are filled with reacquainting with the people in the town and the beautiful land of Sicily. At night we usually get together with our friends from Serradifalco for pizza, beer and good conversation. Peter's son (my step son), Remy is here and tonight we are going to pick up Carly in Palermo. It is a great way for us to reenter into our community - with our two children. Tomorrow our friends are giving all of us a party at Allessandro's campagna. The love and caring that surround us is only to be felt and almost can't be described here. This intensity of love is also felt for each other in what is to us a true community of caring.

Peter: May 22, 2005

One of my greatest delights in Sicily is to take a slow jog out of Montedoro through the country. My jog begins by the house on a narrow, lava stone-paved street worn smooth by feet and tires. Houses are crowed together and stacked upon each other up the hillside like so many building blocks, with no grass or trees except in the main piazza. After a few twists and turns the houses end abruptly and I am in the country. A vast panorama sweeps breathtakingly before me – deep green valleys broken by great vertical slabs of mountains fading row upon row into the distance.

It is inspiring! My first reaction is always wonder - so much of the land is cultivated. Green fields of wheat cover the valleys and curve up steep slopes with only jagged bare rocks and a few wooded slopes left uncarpeted. In places, the land is brown but spotted with tic tac rows of light green grape vines or gray green olive trees. Each turn of the road opens a new vista, marvelous to behold. In March and April, adding to the feast for the eyes, is a profusion of wildflowers, more than anything I have seen in all my travels. In some places poppy fields grow brilliant red in the green patchwork. As a naturalist and botanist, I ponder the human transformation of this land, and thrill to the panoramas that surround me. This is a magical place with problems of development and intensive love of the land, a place of warmth, sunshine and great human vitality. I am amazed at Sicily's complex history and enjoy learning about growing efforts to preserve and protect her natural heritage.


Kathy: May 31, 2005

On Saturday I took "the long walk" as we call it here – it is an hour's journey on the Torreta Rd. that surrounds Montedoro and starts out by descending a hill into a valley and then coming out on another hill on the other side of town by the Calvario Road and then finishing up back in the village. On Saturday the valley was filled with fog and because there had been a rain the day before the grass and leaves of the flowers were dressed in water droplets that sparkled like diamonds in the rising sun. Then of course there were the poppy fields and the yellow thistle flowers and I was listening to the music of the Mancuso Brothers, singers from the neighboring village of Sutera, with their long sorrowful voices harmonizing songs written about life in Sicily.

I stopped and looked at the scene, heard the words of the songs and in that moment I felt that I was called here. I had opened up myself to voices of my ancestors and they have led me here each time. I wasn't sad the way I sometimes feel – but instead joyful. I began to wonder what all this means? How mysterious is the idea of listening to our ancestors? Is it an ancestral memory deep in our cells? Or maybe an unknown invisible force that guides our lives? I thought maybe it is something much more tangible –a value, a belief or an observed practice that is deep in the culture and that gets passed on so naturally from one generation to another without words, kept invisible and yet forceful. Then one day we find ourselves someplace and wonder about what made us want to go there.

At that moment on the long walk I began to understand the pull and knew that the stories I was learning here about my grandparents' lives of exploitation and hardship may have shaped them in a way that determined my life choices – including my choice to come here. I thought particularly about the many stories about my grandfather - Pietro Attardo, who I never knew, and who was born in Montedoro. My mother's love for her father was only surpassed by her love for her children. She adored him because of the ways he treated not only her and her 12 siblings but also because of the way he took care of others in the community. She talked about how little they had and yet he would often lend money to people who were even more needy. Her values reflected by choice those of her fathers - kindness, sharing, concern for others.

I know that life is more complex than this and that there are many things that drive our choices, but the choice for me to be here was in many ways predictable. I adored my mother the way she did her father and I welcomed her teachings in the way that she welcomed them as well. These values combined with opportunities to act on them have taken me on this path. A Native American friend of mine recently shared that she thought we were put on a path in our lives for some purpose and that it isn't always clear to us what it is we are suppose to do. I guess it is our job to find out what that purpose is once we are on the path. For me, I have had the privilege of working with people from many cultures who are excluded in the U.S. I have benefited from their teaching me how the world looks through their eyes and then I turned these understandings into actions that will benefit not only them but all of us. I don't think it is a coincidence that I worked for many years with immigrant farmworkers - knowing that my grandparents were immigrants and finding out later that for a period they were also farmworkers. Could even this decision have been guided by their reaching across the generations to complete the unfinished work?

When I think of each of the relatives I wonder how each of us are being called? Is it a coincidence that my niece Gina was drawn to men who were Arabic and immersed herself for a time in Arabic cultures and only later learned when coming to Sicily how much Arab cultural influence is also here. Her route back to her own culture has been through another. I think about each of us and wonder how the pull is manifesting itself - gardening, political action, family closeness.....