dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden

Mt. Tamalpais, July 27, 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed from Niven Park in Greenbrae on a windy afternoon

It looks warm enough in the park in this picture, doesn’t it? Sunny and expansive and green and bright and even hot … almost parched, given the yellow patches in the grass. But the fact is that the wind, invisible as it may be in the stillness of the frame, is relentless. Like a puppy that won’t drop the stick, it rushes through any open space it is given and then takes hold of whatever isn’t weighed down and shakes it from side to side without letting go of it.

I gave up on my planned walk, since I could barely see in front of me with my hair flying in my eyes, whipped by the wind as it was.  I trudged over the shopping center, where I bought an ice cream cone form Ben & Jerry’s and sat down outside at one of the tables. At the table behind me, three elderly people were talking in Italian. A rapid exchange of words, from which I could only cull anch’io [means: me too].

I spent many years learning Italian. Even went to Italy a couple of times. And all I have left, as I am sitting here, is “anch’io.” The winds of many years have snatched those words from me, taking with them what was my own private Italy.

I used to think that being fluent in another language was akin to having a passport into another world. Or rather, a way to travel and discover new worlds, without having to leave home. For me, the words (and especially the idioms) of another language were like wings that could give flight to the fancy of the imagination through which the familiar could be made new again. The world made, if not bigger, at least that much deeper through the filtering lens of another language.

Looks like I lost the feathers from those wings… and the winds of late are not helping much in the way of the imagination taking flight again. It’s a pity, because even here in the all-too familiar shadow of the mountain, there are hidden places, just waiting to be discovered in the light of words, be they Italian or English.



  1. July 28, 2012

    Love this. You also captured how I felt learning Spanish and visiting Mexico and practicing with some local Argentines. So much of that language forgotten and its entryway to other cultures like keys lost somewhere in the bottom of old boxes in the basement.

  2. July 28, 2012

    I love your analogy of the “keys lost.” It’s only the keys that are lost 🙂 Once we find them, we can unlock those doors again, even if it takes some effort and if the lock is rusty….

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