Saturday, May 07, 2016

Room at the Table

 ​Church at Castelletto   Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   18 x 24"   45 x 60cm  SOLD
 Fields in Spring   Laurie Fox ​Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas   18 x 24"   45 x 60cm 
 Flags, Assisi    Blair Pessemier    Acrylic/canvas  12 x 16"   30 x 40 cm 

 ​Drummer  Blair Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  19.5 x 12"  30 x 50 cm 
 ​Boy with Drum   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas  13 x 9  33 x 22 cm
​Magic Geraniums   Laurie Fox Pessemier   Acrylic/canvas    12 x 16"  30 x 40 cm  

Room at the Table

After stopping our morning Italian lessons, someone mentioned there was a free Monday night Italian class starting in Zocca, the next town up the hill after Rocca Malatina.   It started at 8:30 on Monday night...  

We arrived to find an array of black faces standing outside the library.  Beautiful young faces, mostly speaking French.  “Refugees,” I whispered to Blair.

The teacher arrived.  “Follow me”, she instructed, unlocking the doors, turning on lights.  Like the apostles, thirteen students sat in upholstered swivel chairs  around a huge wooden table.  

“I am Saiki from Ivory Coast”; “Baraka from Burkino-faso”; “Blessing from Nigeria”; “Aristide from Mali”; “Said from Morocco”; “Blair from Seattle”.   Wonderful faces, smiling, shy, humble men in their 20s mostly wanting to learn to read and write Italian so they can get a driver’s license.  All proudly announced their professions:  cheesemaker, tailor, car repairman, French teacher - the only other woman in the group is a Moroccan policewoman, already working in Zocca.

“Are you all muslims here?” the teacher asks.    Yes, excepting Blair and me and Blessing.   “Look at the historic Zocca pictures on the wall,” she continues, “those women are all wearing headscarves like you do.” 

The teacher is wonderful, the widow of an artist.   She lived in New York for many years.  We will have much to talk about.  But tonight we talked about where we come from and wrote the words for table and desk and curtain in our notebooks. I am surprised that we are almost the only people here who can write and spell.  But the others can speak so much better than us.  

On Thursday, for Blair’s birthday we drove to Assisi to visit Giotto’s murals, and the city where St. Francis preached to the birds. Harika was one of the surprisingly few dogs there.  We saw a man in actual sack cloth approaching the cathedral on his knees.  We ate tons of truffles, and I developed the gout. 

Of course, we were most interested to see the frescoes by Cimabue, Giotto and Simone Martini – they were more fabulous than I imagined.  We went into the church twice, and it was amazingly uncrowded, so I could spend more than an hour looking at “the life of St. Francis” and numerous other stories. 

Giotto painted people who looked like town folk.  In fact, there was a man in the breakfast room of our hotel who so resembled a character, that I stared at him.   Shockingly, he spoke to me in English.  He was born in Assisi, now living in England.  He explained people in Assisi were dressed in medieval costume for the celebration of Calendimaggio, in which the upper town (once faithful to the emperor) fought the lower town (who supported the pope).  Workrooms were set up to sew costumes; elaborate velvet and brocade flags flew from the windows.   This celebration has been taking place in May for hundreds of years.

We walked around the church, admiring the arcades and stone work.  In a corner of the upper courtyard, was a run down, painted wooden boat about 15 feet long. “This boat carried 12 refugees across the Mediterranean to Italy, where they found refuge,”  the sign read.

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