Early morning somewhere in the Tuscan hills. The air is crisp, while the sun slowly makes its way through the haze caused by yesterday’s heavy thunderstorms. The house got hit by lightning and with an ear-splitting bang telephone, internet and other means connecting us to the rest of the world had gone. Now, at daylight I am trying to assess the damage to the garden, but besides lots of figues on the ground no major loss.
Tala, the 2-year-old Labrador Retriever comes jumping up, overjoyed, as if she feared she would never see me again, and I think to myself: why did I forget to put on the long-sleeved shirt. By now I have scratches all over my arms. Scratches from loving paws.
Beautiful Belgian Shepherd Malí suffers from arthritis and needs a moment to get her aching joints moving. She comes trotting over after a good stretch, rests her head on my knee and enjoys being petted. Tilly, the senior cat, is already lying on the doorsteps of the main house while Ziga, fluffy and everybody’s darling, is all rolled up on the iron chair, reminiscing about her nightly adventures.
Where is Tika, I wonder? Not long and she appears, elegantly gliding down from the balcony along the grapevine like a fireman on alert. Last but not least arrives Biaggio. He is not really part of the gang, as he is the neighbor’s cat. But apparently, he decided that food is better over here. And definitely, food tastes better in company of 3 adorable lady cats.
I go to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for Tala and Malí. The kitchen window is open and on the window sill, behind the indispensable mosquito net, carefully fitted to the Tuscan stone walls, first one, then two, then three – and no: Biaggio is too heavy to jump up that high – cats are curiously looking at me preparing first Malí’s food and then Tala’s.
The dogs are eagerly waiting for their meals. Malí, to my right hand, gets her bowl first as she is a slow eater. To my left Tala cannot wait to stick her nose into the bowl. Although her diet doesn’t vary, she is ever so excited to smell what the bowl might hold for her. She gobbles her food up as if she hadn’t eaten in days.
By now the cats are meowing in a chorus. Biaggio, although not really entitled to food here, is the loudest of all and cracks me up. The cats get some biscuits in the morning, because they had enough time to hunt for fresh meat during the night. Tilly, Ziga and Tika eat from the same plate. Biaggio has his own little bowl apart, because otherwise he wouldn’t leave anything for the 3 girls.
The cats nibble up their alphabet shaped biscuits and I can’t help thinking of eating alphabet soup as a child and trying to make words from the wobbly noodle letters. I wonder whether the cats make up words like fish, mouse, bird, lizard and whatever else might be important to them.
I go and pick some fresh greens for the chicken. Zoe, with her 8 years pretty ancient, and Cicaletta, the youngster, are already waiting for me at the door to the den, greeting me with their cackle as if they recognized me. I decide not to eat chicken anymore. Period.
While they devour their salad leaves, I check on the corn feeder and bring fresh water. Under the water bowl there are always woodlice, and Cicaletta quickly comes over to pick them. It doesn’t take long and one of the hens starts squawking and clucking, announcing her relief to the world and I know it is time for my breakfast.
I deeply thank the hens for their precious gift while picking up the egg. It still is warm from the hen’s tummy. On my way back to the kitchen I pass the vegetable garden and don’t know which tomato to pick first. They are all dark red and screaming “eat me, eat me”. I decide for the egg-shaped cocktail tomatoes which taste sweet like fruit.
I sit down on that little table overlooking the Tuscan hills, a fresh Italian coffee and the abundance of gifts this garden has to offer. Green oak woods, as far as the eye can see. Away, far away from the hustle and bustle of city life. And I think to myself: I probably needed this lightning bolt to cut me off from civilization so that I re-learn to appreciate what nature has to offer.