Allora. It has been over three weeks since my return home from Italy. There is so much I want to share with you all: ideas, thoughts, recipes, photos, feelings, experiences. Yet I find myself unable to because of this tremendous unfolding of a deep personal transformation that occurred to me while in Italy. As you all know I went to Italy with food on my mind; however, within a couple of days my trip quickly turned into much more than that.
Each day I was gained deeper and deeper insights into myself, my relationship with energy, food, the earth, the Universe, and a deeper understanding of sustenance, nurturing, producing, and so on. At times it became bigger than life and I just had to let it go and trust the process. And other times it was so close and intimate and tangible, and my heart and mind and body were expanding with joy, happiness, and contentedness. After a while I let go of all of my well laid plans and allowed my ‘self’ and the Universe to guide my daily experiences, and guide me they did!
So in my settling in back home I am trying to make sense of it all, integrating it, and moving into the next step- which as it always is- is unclear! But I love adventures and transformation so bring it on. And so The Nurturing Hearth is on its way to becoming a physical entity!
The Nurturing Hearth is calling me and my family to start up a small farmstead, and making our own ‘Rustic Return’ to a much simpler way of life. My primary goal is to become self-sufficient and lead a life that is in alignment with my true being, the earth, its resources, and the Universe. What it will turn into, no one knows, but for now it is shaping up quite nicely.
One of the driving reasons behind this move towards a simpler life on a family farm, is what I learned personally while in Italy- I saw the Italians living a ‘way of life’ that was pleasurable and not too complicated (and I am not seeking to make a generalization that all of Italy is like this). But at the core of Italy lies a life that was born out of the Old World and many are still living it, and or enjoying, its fruits. This first occurred to me on my third day in Italy, in the most unlikely city of Roma (unlikely because of its size). I saw in the relationship between the shopkeeper and the consumer something that is near extinct in America…the shopkeeper’s simple pride in his or her goods, be it a cappuccino or a gelato or a house red wine, and the consumer’s simple delight and pleasure in purchasing and enjoying his or her purchase.
Let me clarify this a bit for you. As of 2015 the average cost of an espresso/specialty coffee in America is $3.45. In Italy the average price of an espresso based drink is anywhere from $.75 – $1.30. Or take gelato, in America the prices are all over…at a gelateria in NYC a small (1 scoop) will set you back about $5.25…in LA a gelateria is selling 2 scoops for $10…and in my town a local gelateria is selling 2 scoops for $4. While in Italy almost every 2 scoop gelato runs $2 (one place in Roma, one of the best I had there, was $2.50, and it was all-natural). Or take wine for instance, almost each restaurant will offer a ¼ liter (in the States 1 glass) for about $2.50; and these house wines are always wonderful. And bottles of wine in restaurants were not marked up like they are in American restaurants (on average you can expect wines in American marked up $20-30). Actually, one day I saw a bottle of wine we had in a restaurant for sale at an enoteca, and it was $1 more in the store!
I am not here to bash America and say Italy is much better…that is far from the truth. I found that each place has its pros and cons. But after quickly seeing the lower costs of these goods I asked a Roman friend of mine why this is so. She simply responded, It is our way of life, why charge us more for it. Knowing this I found it easier to sit back and enjoy my cappuccino or plate of pasta. And I saw others enjoying themselves more than I see in the States. I never felt like shopkeepers or proprietors out to get me (except for areas around large tourist sites).
I am not sure why there is such a discrepancy in pricing between the States and Italy. I know it is not supply and demand. Is it higher rents? The middle man? What do you think? Is it as simple as ‘It is our way of life’? I would love to hear from you on this, as I am curious.
Nonetheless, that is what set me off on this deep personal transformation, with so many questions and wonderings…why are things so expensive, why do we focus more on the dollar and less on ourselves and our families, why have we fast and complicated over relaxed and simple?
And like always, the Universe put in front of me what I needed, and that was the book The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry. And guess what, in his first chapter he starts right into the division of people in America, labelling them ‘exploiters’ and ‘nurturers’. Here is a little excerpt from his book that clearly lays it all out:
‘I conceive a strip-miner to be a model exploiter, and as a model nurturer I take the old-fashioned idea or ideal of a farmer. The exploiter is a specialist, an expert; the nurturer is not. The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care. The exploiter’s goal is money, profit; the nurturer’s goal is health- his (hers) land’s health, own, family, community, country…The exploiter wishes to earn as much as possible by as little work as possible; the nurturer expects, certainly, to have a decent living from his/her work, but his/her characteristic wish is to work as well as possible…The exploiter typically serves an institution or organization; the nurturer serves land, household, community, place. The exploiter thinks in terms of numbers, quantities, “hard facts”; the nurturer in terms of character, condition, quality, kind.’
I really do not like black and white, division, or separation. But I did love seeing Mr. Berry describe a life that I love and am striving for- a nurturing life. I HAVE lived a life as a nurturer, with hints of exploiter, and I have lived a life as an exploiter, with hints of nurturing. When I left commercial banking, and the corporate life, I vowed to move towards my truer self, and that for me is a nurturer. I love it, and I had no idea that last year when I decided on The Nurturing Hearth as my blog name that I would run across Berry’s book today and see the term ‘nurturer’ used in such a powerful way! So be it!
And that my friends, is how I, and my family, plan to become The Nurturing Hearth. I see a self-sufficient farmstead…crops, orchard, chickens, livestock…producing our goods. I see classes and tours, farm dinners. And I hope to see you there!