The Rockford Files

Giuseppe Sure Knows How To Live

The train winds its way slowly through the Tuscan countryside, stopping at every small station between Siena and Florence.  I don’t mind, because Tuscany in mid-March is like Rockford in mid-to late-May—an explosion of greenery, a profusion of brilliant yellow forsythia blossoms, a cavalcade of white and pink cherries in full bloom.  We pass small vineyards and larger orchards, the awakening vines and trees planted along rustic supports on both steep and gently sloping hillsides.  As we pass through each little town, I can’t help but notice the robust kitchen gardens, where chickens often wander among the mustard greens, some of which have already flowered.  In our week in Tuscany, temperatures have ranged from the low 40’s at night to the low 70’s during the day—perfect weather for spring greens and for planting.

The dulcet tones of Alice Drennan’s voice draw me out of my reverie: “What do you think will be growing in Rockford when we get back?”  “Nothing,” I reply, and I immediately regret the sharpness and shortness of my response.  Mrs. Drennan, a delightful 70-something widow from the south side of Chicago who is on her first Rockford Institute convivium, protests.  “When we left, my bulbs were just starting to come up.”  Mine, too, though only on the south side of the house, where the soil is warmed by the sun...

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