Stefano arrived right on time.
Our favorite vivaio, gardener came walking up the steps toward the front door. But rather than watching where he was going, he was looking around at the plants that had grown up since he was last here. As Em walked out the door, Stefano looked up with a surprised grin. “Em-air-sone!” he enthusiastically called out, his Italian voice drawing out the sounds. This is Stefano’s characteristic greeting. I was only a few steps behind and he quickly rushed in for kisses on both cheeks, once again daring to say the hardest word for any Italian, my name. “Sheh-reel, sempre piu giovane! Cheryl, always younger!” (I like this man.)
Since September has just begun, it is time for a few giardino, garden improvements and fall is the ideal time for planting. Stefano says that you get twice the growth if you plant in the fall, as opposed to planting in the spring. We believe him because he knows everything about plants and gardens. His company is called Magi Natura in Forma, Magic forms in nature, and he is definitely the magician of the plant world—after all his last name is Magi, and he delivers magic to our garden every time he visits.
Il giardino, the garden is extremely important to Italians because they love nature and frequently have only small areas in which to plant. Generally, the garden translates into “yard” in English, with lush bushes, trees and flowers of all kinds. A vegetable garden is referred to in Italian as an orto. Another Stefano, a neighbor who lives down the hill, has over 200 different types of really beautiful plants and flowers in his garden. As we pass his house during our evening walk, he’s often puttering with the plants and we stop long enough to say complimenti, compliments, nice job.
Toward the end of our walking tour around the garden with Stefano, we pointed out a sprinkler head that needed to be replaced. We can’t just jump into the car and run down to the closest Home Depot to pick up a replacement part. No! The only person who has the parts for this particular system is Stefano. In the first couple of years that we were here, it was baffling as to why each shop or trade has its own supplies. Since then, we’ve grown accustomed to this habit and it seems normal to us now. But, that’s another story. . .back to the replacement part:
Em crouched down to look for the sprinkler head which had mysteriously disappeared into the grass. He said that he had seen it only a few days earlier and now it was completely obscured. Soon he was on all fours, crawling around the yard but to no avail. How could a 2 inch diameter sprinkler head be missing? Then adding a professional eye to the search, Stefano also got down on all fours and began crawling around the yard scratching at the grass. I laughed at the sight of two grown men, like cinghiali, wild boars in stylish casual wear scrounging for grubs. But no matter how closely they looked, the illusive sprinkler could not be found.
Finally, Stefano had a flash of brilliance. He logically concluded that the hidden part could easily be located simply by turning on the water. Within seconds, the invisible sprinkler head began to gurgle and bubble. It was right under their noses. Stefano removed the entire sprinkler head and casing from the ground and began fiddling with it to see where it was broken. Em hunkered down nearby to offer a helpful, amatuer eye. Stefano pushed the spring down to unscrew the sprinkler head and to everyone’s surprise, the spring let loose and shot the little sprinkler head—a mini-rocket—directly into Emerson’s face. Fortunately, the plastic part only grazed his cheek and then bounced to the ground. Emerson toppled over and feigned a serious wound, his face contorted into a grimace of horror and pain. Then as Em lay in a lifeless heap on the stone terrace, Stefano and I exchanged glances. He smiled and relaxed when he saw that my facial expression was not one of concern. Just the opposite. I shook my head, laughing to myself, since I knew that Em was just pretending to be hurt for the drama and comedy of the moment.
Emerson then started to chuckle and peeked at us with one open eye. We shared a hearty laugh together, all relieved about the close range, near miss. At that moment, laughter bridged any language gap, smoothed any concern. In fact, humor once again became the universal language, spoken and perfectly understood immediately. Wow. Humor—spoken and understood by everyone, wherever they are in the world. Pretty amazing . . . but we already told you that Stefano brings magic with him every time he visits.