Suffocating under the blanket of noise in the centre of Florence. I flee to the hills of Tuscany indulging in the restorative-air that fills my cosy apartment known as La Limonaia. The rural location provides the casual elegance of nature lacking in my apartment in the heart of Michelangelo’s hometown
I trade the enthusiasm of non-stop traffic and teenagers chatting outside my window until dawn, for the downtempo of natures hushed alarm clock. I wake to birds chirping and the distant call of a red-headed rooster intent on taking full credit for a recently laid egg in his henhouse.
Garden-fresh air and unfiltered sun replenish my appetite for the uncomplicated taste and texture of Tuscany. Each day Mother Earth seduces me from sleep by gently tickling my senses. This morning heavy footsteps and a breathy snort rouse me from the pleasing arms of my comfortable bed. A voyeuristic horse noses outside my window seeking a nibble of the flowers brimming from a vase on my dresser.
The delicate blossoms are protected by steel bars securely anchored to the window-sash. The resident horse named ARAYA is unfazed by my sudden appearance. He greets me with perceptive nostrils and curious brown eyes rimmed by thick unruly lashes. This sizeable peeping-tom is accustomed to the revolving guests inhabiting the apartments on the spacious grounds of Residenza del Palmerino. To him I’m just another foreigner on his morning exploration.
Beatrice, my animal loving landlady, permits Araya to roam the property unaccompanied for an hour on sunny mornings. The difficulty with this compassionate gesture toward her 1000 pound child is that Araya has an insatiable appetite infused with unbridled curiosity. His quest for mischief and sustenance is satisfied by devouring figs gathered by Beatrice for her homemade jam, sampling leafy vegetables awaiting trimming, tipping over abandoned coffee cups or glasses of wine left by forgetful tenants like myself, or on occation poking his sizeable snout inquisitively through half-open doors and windows.
Unable to nip the buds from the flowers near my window Araya turns to leave and in the process he knocks over several rakes and a small table. Beatrice who is within earshot races toward the clamour, she admonishes and shoos him from his latest fiasco then begins to tidy and reorganize.
Apologizing to me for the disturbance and expressing frustration at the interruption to her daily chores, it would seem her irritation over his antics are infused with love and tolerance.
In my first few weeks getting to know Beatrice I failed to recognize why she permitted this plodding animal to roam free as his misadventures caused her more work and aggravation. What I failed to understand was that her patience with this animal is similar to that of a parent. Caring for a small child or an animal (some would question if there is a difference) begins with allowing. Allowing them to discover the world on their own terms. Allowing him or her to make mistakes or get into trouble. Allowing a few treasured items to break in the name of freedom, no matter if the child is 20 lbs or 1000.
The distilled harmony between protector and progeny is subtle, impossible to gage and unreasonable to judge. My guess is my affectionate landlady loves the interruptions of her bumbling four-legged child as much as I enjoy the unpredictable experiences her gracious personality and engaging home provides.