It’s hot and the woods are golden in the summer light. Every evening we make our way up the mountain on the old vespa delighting in the verdant cool archway of trees over the narrow road. Pieve dei Monti di Villa is a haven, its deep mountain quiet, a complete rest after full on days in the studio or foundry in Pietrasanta.
Mike’s dear dad died a couple of weeks ago. We went back to Australia to attend the funeral and to be with family. We shared stories and cried and laughed. He felt like a big man in life. He had big bushy eyebrows, bright blue eyes and was handsomely craggy and always elegant and charming in company. Never afraid of an argument, his household was never quiet around him except when he was painting. He had huge hands that were capable of the most meticulous work, painting beautiful small canvases of the sea, and at the same time building houses and restoring furniture. He was tireless. He had so much energy to do and create, still perching himself intently on a stool for hours on end painting the bay he loved up until a few days before he died. He had always suffered ill health, but never let it get to him, patiently subjecting himself to endless examinations and operations and medications, succumbing in the end to his original nemesis, the polio he contracted at 17.
He shared memories before he died, of that year as a young man spreadeagled in bed on a rhomboid wooden structure that his father lovingly made, that kept his legs apart and feet up, arms and legs strapped down while he slept. His recovery saw him in the sea at Blackrock, brought down the steep sandy banks on the back of a young bushie from Wodonga who placed him gently into the waves where his weightless body could perambulate and slowly regain the strength he had lost. But the exhausted nerves of his body stole his strength again at the end and one night he peacefully left it alone on the hospital bed. On his way, he came to France again where Michael and I were visiting the quaint medieval villages he loved to paint; and he visited Tom, his grandson, surfing at sea and came in the form of a whale that played nearby; and he went on to the Canadian lakes where Sollai, another grandson, was taking a nature retreat and he came there in the form of a black bear before his being floated away. Those thoughts at the end are what we like to believe as some of our family felt his energy passing by and felt it symbolized in the things they saw at the time….
Now we are home again in Pieve, with all our memories. I am sitting here in the late morning, hearing nothing but the song of birds and the persistent chirping of their babies up under the eaves of the roof. The light is bright and hard on the stone walls all about us and the shadows are deep and welcome under the ivies and trees in the gathering heat. Our little house is monastic, we come here with nothing to remind ourselves of busyness, just a few books and old videos played and replayed forever on the old television when talking seems irrelevant. And this little nest with its lack of material possession, its lack of needs, its very wholesomeness, somehow halts our own eternal lusting for outcomes, for things, for achievements, and we find ourselves with a feeling of plenty and we let go and remember how connected we are to all of life, to the birds, our sleeping kitten, the old cotto floors, the ancient walls, the breath of air cooling as it enters the shadows and touches your skin.
What a moving tribute to your father and father-in-law!
My own (bigger than life) Dad passed away 4 years ago, and my Mum only two months ago. They were married 62 years…….An “energy passing by” is something I also experienced, and understand.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories with us.
Thank you Catherine. Our deepest condolences to you losing both of your parents – such a big space left when they go. 62 years together is such a long time – Pete and Marg were together for 61. All the best, Shona and Mike
A beautifully written story of Peter. Only a man this special could have created Michael ….. I understand a little more now.
Oh, lovely! Thank you Kim! I agree, only Pete could have been Mike’s father… It’s amazing when you look at the special gifts your parents have given you in life and I would say that enormous energy and positivity have been Pete’s gifts to Michael. XXX
That is such a beautiful piece of writing so full of feeling for life and nature. How lucky you are to have made such a lovely place to retreat to. Hope the work is going well too. Roz and Pipx
Thank you dear Roz and Pip. We are lucky indeed to have Pieve and lucky to have people in our lives who have enriched our own story and made the cycle of life such a beautiful one.
What a lovely tribute to your Dad. You will all miss him, but he will always be with you wherever you are.
Thanks Deb. yes he will always be around us. We are surrounded by his paintings……
I have one of your dad’s paintings. It’s of the Oven’s river and it’s numbered 54. I bought it in 1989 for my parents 25th wedding anniversary from a shop in Camberwell and as well as the painting that drew me in, it had a bit of silver on the frame. I am now in possession of it and I wondered if you were interested in knowing where it was. Janine
Hello Janine. Sorry for the very late reply. The site has been inactive for a long time so I have only just seen your request. Please email me a photo of the work to