I was lent a pair of black rubber boots with sparkles and thick grey socks for the vendemmia – the fall grape harvest, that is. My aunt worried that I might be too cold, but for a Canadian girl, the weather was balmy.
It took about five hours, the threat of rain clouds moving us quickly from row to row, snipping clusters of grapes from the vines, hands getting sticky from the juice. There were dusky purple grapes (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo), as well as white Grecos that glowed like clusters of tiny moons, iridescent orbs of yellow, green, lilac and powder blue. We also picked prosecco and verdicchio grapes for the white wine, regularly emptying our buckets into bins that were driven up the hill to a noisy press in the bowels of the house.
My small hands were very adept at extracting closely clustered grappe that hugged the vine or had grown into the openings of the concrete posts. At one point, there was three different clusters that had grown into one, so I had to creep my fingers deep into the mass, finding each of the three stems and snipping them, before easing the giant cluster into my two hands like a yellow-green heart. It’s the nearest thing I’ll ever experience to being a surgeon.
One cluster of prosecco grapes was so overripe that when I cupped it with my palm, the grapes burst on contact, becoming a wave of juice that cascaded through my fingers. It was like trying to catch water with one hand.
As we tramped up the slope for lunch, I remembered why it’s so hard to let go of these experiences and slip back into the familiar stream of life once a trip is done. Travel is more than tourist attractions, more than admiring monuments and visiting museums. Travel is living in a new place and saying ‘yes’ to things you wouldn’t otherwise do at home. It’s discovering other aspects of who you are and what you are capable of.
A reminder of your vast capacity for wonder.
When you get home, it feels as if you’ve left a part of you behind and you yearn to go back. To feel it all again. To heal your broken heart that must somehow find a way to start doing laundry and paying bills again.
But, in truth, travel is worse than a broken heart because time doesn’t heal the loss. Time only sharpens your desire to travel. That longing never goes away.
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To read all the blog posts from my Fall 2015 sabbatical, follow the 63days category.