Nature Study

Yesterday we biked out to a nice little meadow we spotted some distance away from the road. Charlotte Mason’s idea of nature study has begun to make an impression on me. At first, I only pretended to be interested in the insects and view them as sweet, delicate little creatures. But I have begun to develop a real appreciation and even affection for them. Which is good, since the long summer grass is full of them. We saw several varieties of grasshoppers, a big black beetle, a small white bug with five black stripes on its back, each apparently ending at an eye (maybe some were decoys?), some lovely iridescent aquamarine bugs, and a leopard-print slug.

Further inspection of the meadow revealed some mashed-down spots covered in soft dry grass, which we surmised were places for the fawns to hide while their mothers searched for food. A little creek ran all the way through the meadow. Standing quietly at the edge, we were able to see a little school of fish and a wiggly little tadpole. The surface of the water was dotted with water striders. We didn’t catch more than a glimpse of the many birds trilling in the undergrowth.

Growing on the banks of the creek were blackberry bushes, our favorite outdoor delicacy. We ate all the blackberries the deer hadn’t been able to reach. Near the blackberries were several huge garden spiders, each positioned in the center of a beautiful, perfect web. They were having a fine catch of every sort of little insect.

My favorite discovery of the day was a bright green frog, which I inadvertently startled reaching for a blackberry. He clung to a branch, looking at me, half-hidden by a leaf.

While walking the perimeter of the meadow in search of blackberries, Tony and I had an excellent XUBI strategy meeting. As the shadows began to lengthen, we biked another few kilometers into Boves, another little town close by that we’d been wanting to see. The reason we decided to see it yesterday in particular was that we had forgotten diapers.

It was after 7:00 when we left our little meadow, and there’s no chance of finding stores of any sort open after 7:30 in Italy. The clock ticked on as we entered the town and searched frantically for a grocery store. Grocery stores in Italy are considered an eyesore (and barely short of a public nuisance as well), so they’re usually tucked into an out-of-the-way corner.

Amazingly, though, we found one, with the employees standing in the door about to close it. Tony dashed in for diapers, and at the check-out he asked for the points we’re collecting to get the grocery store promotion tea set. The checker was floored. Tony smiled. “Oh, yes. We live nearby.” They smiled and waved as we left, feeling absurdly triumphant.

Boves was setting up for a little summer evening musical festival. Raji enjoyed some dancing to a live band. We had the perennially excellent Italian pizza (salsiccia and porcini for us, margherita for Axa, and a little of everything for Raj) from a little take-out shop with a brick oven. We ate in a piazza dominated by a church with a lovely 19th century facade, and let the children run around while we enjoyed the evening in our own little piece of Italy.

On the way out of town, we were unsure of the direction we should take (it was now 9:45 and quite dark), and asked a couple the way to Peveragno (between Boves and our town). She was shocked that the Americans with the two children would be riding bikes there at this hour.

He gave us the typical Italian directions: exceedingly complicated and repeated five times in five different ways. He informed us that it was six kilometers to Peveragno. He held up six fingers. “Six!” Little did he know that we were planning on riding twice that far. Really, though, it only took about a half an hour. Raji rode on Tony’s back in the snuggle backpack, and we rigged up a strap holding Axa’s helmet to the back of her seat so her head didn’t bob while she was sleeping.

Just another lovely Italian day.