Earth between my fingers, as I coax it to grow my precious seeds. Earth in my wheel wells as spring rains softens the road in front of me. Earth going round and round on a pottery wheel as I gaze into it, hoping for something magical, something practical, something beautiful and meaningful.
Water in my dreams, hoping that the season won’t bring another break in the ancient main up the road, as I check to make sure the pressure is full every morning during the sweltering days. Water on my hill, threatening the back of my old stone house and washing away my new grass seed. Water in the rain collector, feeding the pool and the garden, the old pump dropped in and shooting the precious liquid in every direction. Water sprinkling from my fingers onto the earth on the pottery wheel, softening it, making it pliable and elastic and supple so that it can be a cup, or a bowl, or simply a vase for flowers.
Air through the window, signaling the oncoming storm, causing me to hope the agricoli won’t have any hail this time around that can hurt the baby grapes. Air as the scirocco, blowing my papers all over the room, slamming the shutters and scaring the dog. Air in my lungs, as I expand to take in the extraordinary beauty of the place I find myself. Air expanding the bread that sits in the warm window, preparing to take its place at the daily breakfast ritual. Air swooping in and sucking the water out of the earth, turning the pot from soft to hard as it sits and waits for its alchemy.
Fire on the hillside, as the excess vine branches turn to smoke in later winter. Fire in my throat from a peperoncino too spicy to actually eat. Fire in my voice as I curse yet another mosquito bite on my leg, enviously looking over to my husband, who the mosquitos hate. Fire in the kiln, hissing and melting and bending the earth into an object to serve and desire.
I sit and listen to what the elements have to teach me today. I feel desperate from the rain; I need to work in the garden – but maybe I don’t. Maybe I should be sitting here writing instead, as the water streams down my window pane and my tea cools unexpectedly on this unseasonably chilly day. One day soon, the fire of the mid-day sun will tell me to stop hanging sheets and go find a chair in the shade and close my eyes. I’ll sit on my favorite wall – the little one, next to my barn, the one that gets the full impact of the sunset – and I’ll breathe deeply, taking the air right down to my belly, telling myself that it’s OK to just sit and do nothing even if it’s just for a couple of minutes as my hand scrapes the Earth next to me, looking for flowers and ladybugs and a hint of cool moisture.
I carry the elements with me – more consciously today than ever before. They dictate my routine and my life in the unrelentingly harsh, magnificent Piemontese countryside. They tell me to accept when I want to resist, to realize that change is coming even when today just feels like a muddy mess, to revel in the magic of the alchemy that is this moment.