An Ecosystem Called Beauty

Afternoon shadows near Montalcino

The Tuscan landscape is a marvel.  Even the most mundane thing, like going to the grocery store, is an adventure for the senses here.  I’ve lived here for six months and I have a concern that at some point I will grow tired of this magnificence.  That as I drive to the gas station my mind will be on whether I should clean the bathroom before or after I prep dinner and I will not notice the breathtaking sight of the sun setting over the mountains.

I often think about this because the place I used to live was beautiful.  But rather than marvel at it everyday as I went about life, I rarely noticed it.  It was common and I took it for granted.  It was a very different kind of beauty and one that was best appreciated up close.  On my morning walks, for example, it was not unusual for me to stop and admire someone’s garden or smell the edgeworthia, daffodils, daphane, or tea olive.  I would appreciate a perfect hydrangea bloom bent over a fence, nodding onto the sidewalk.  Or the symphony for the eyes that the dogwoods and cherry trees provided.  Atlanta’s gardens and urban forests are unparalleled in their beauty.  But driving to and from work?  Going to the Kroger?  Those were times I was on autopilot and concentrating on traffic and my to-do list.  More often than not, the views were asphalt and strip malls.

This place is different.  There are plenty of commercial areas and asphalt and the Italian version of the strip mall.  But across from the Centro Commerciale (the mall) in Sanselpolcro are the ruins of the 16th century city walls.  At the grocery store, you walk to your car looking at the Apennines looming over the valley.  On my morning walks here, I take in the vistas and feel almost overwhelmed by the vastness of the landscape.  It’s big and commanding and while there are beautiful gardens here, it’s the big picture that dominates, not the details.  So different from my Atlanta walks.  We live in town, but our walks take us down country roads which are only minutes away from our house.  That we can be in the country so quickly is still a wonder to me.  And one of the things I love most about living here.

Any drive through Tuscany has you gawking at the scenery.  Even when we drive roads that we’ve been on dozens of times, we still remark about the beauty.  Everything looks so perfectly planned – the precise rows of the terra cotta plowed fields climbing up a hill, the deep evergreen forests bordering the fields, the silvery olive grove in the distance, a spiny vineyard spiking along another hill,  the crenellated hill towns crowning it all, and always a higher peak in the distance.  The roads wind around through all this giving you a different angle, a different view, at each turn.  The colors are the colors of the earth, of soil and air and sunlight.  A beautiful ecosystem.

Pictures just can’t capture this grandeur, even though I try mightily.  Here are some of my favorites collected over the six months we’ve been here.  I hope they transport you to a different place and make you smile.

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