“I’m interested in the idea and fact of home.
I’m going to places where I have dreamed of living
and will try to settle down in each, read the literature,
look at the gardens, shop for what’s in season,
try to feel at home.”
Thus Frances Mayes introduces the idea behind her book, A Year in the World. She and her husband Ed traveled from their home base in Tuscany over five years and put the notes together into this charming book. Their trips took them to mostly Mediterranean places: southern Spain, Portugal, Sicily, Morocco, France, Britain, Greece, Crete, Scotland, Turkey and several locations in Italy.
Mayes weaves her passions for reading, eating, colors, friendship, architecture, gardening, and people-watching into her narratives. She doesn’t drench the reader in wretched enthusiasm: if an experience is bad, she says so. I reveled in her descriptions, particularly her choice of words to describe colors.
The void I noticed in this book was the absence of passionate worship. As a “doubter with strong spiritual interests” she is certainly interested in the role of many religions. Had I spent time in each of those locations I would have cherished times of worship with like-minded believers.
Mayes lush narrative invites lingering silences, pondering thoughts. I’m going to string a necklace of her sparkling short sentences.
Breakfast is such a key to the culture.
We’ve gone quiet with disappointment.
The language uses many sounds that previously
I have heard only from the washing machine.
There’s choreography to traffic flow.
Often the thoughts tumble like coins in a dryer,
circling, banging, going nowhere.
The art of departure I may never master.
I have lived in places where art and beauty buoy everyday life.
The people fold themselves into their houses
the way they fold themselves away in their clothing.
Cheese would be reason enough for a trip to France.
How to translate sunlight into words?
We are drowsy as bees in the heat.
We brake for bakeries.