For months I had been struggling with the dark times following my divorce, a haze permanently wavering before my eyes. People would talk to me but words would simply transit through my skull, leaving no intelligible trace. The afternoon my area manager asked me to pick up our Vice President at the airport and I did not show up, I knew I needed a break.
My brother G., an avid golf player since the age of six and a quasi-celebrity in his Milan condo, had visited Borgo Egnazia the year before. Though I suspected the accounts on his 18-hole adventures tended towards shameless self-mythology, I had found myself literally gasping at his Apulian photographs and tales. After all, the headline on the brochure read “Nowhere else” and everything I had seen and heard conjured to it being the truth. So one week later I sailed off to Puglia on a dreich Milan morning, the sky above the airport drizzling like confetti in a bride’s hairdo.
The fact is I had expected beauty, but I had not been prepared to such an overwhelming amount of it. So many times had I pictured the stinging sun of Italy, and the blue sky and sea, and the rugged bark of olives, but here they were, as vivid and vibrant as only the real thing can be. And then there was the Borgo, of course, being a breathtaking otherworldly cradle for the senses, a reassuring and welcoming embrace of tufo limestone. The brochure was not lying: this was a place like nowhere else indeed.
I had been juggling with words for most of my spare time since high school, but had never really believed in my skills. Writing, according to the handbooks I had flipped through in libraries, was a profession, not a hobby: there are no weekend or late-night proper writers. You need commitment, time and a method and I had had none of them. I had always been a privy amateur.
Tables suddenly turned one morning, the outcome of a momentum building up since my first day in Borgo Egnazia. I was wandering through the pathways of the seafront golf course, nose up in the gradient sky, a hint of heat in the early air. Birds were chirping all around, humming the familiar tunes my father had taught me in our happy camping days. And amongst them, it suddenly came. Like in that old Cole Porter’s song, I could hear a lark somewhere.
Though I had not heard or seen skylarks for decades, I could immediately recognize one. Skylarks are inherently poetic birds: males rise vertically from marshes and moorland, hover and sing their 300-meter-high lovesong and then dive down to earth, silent and brave. A few meters from the ground they steer up and start all over again. Theirs is a beautiful, complicated, metaphorical ritual of perpetual rebound.
I recognized myself in that choreography. It was my time to steer up.
I rushed to my beautifully quiet Casetta, grasped a bunch of paper, a pencil and reached the Piazza. I immediately knew what my writing table would be and sat down. An intense five-day session began, only interrupted by regular doses of healthy Apulian medicine: food, pool or sea swimming, the occasional 3 holes at the course, a gentle plunging in the Spa waters, a nice chat with nice people. That was me finally taking care of myself and doing what I had wanted to do all along: writing, with method, commitment and time. A skylark finally singing from the top of the sky.
All of this happened over one year ago, and my Dark Ages are now buried in the past. And most of all, what started in that beautiful Piazza is now ready to become public. It’s 3 inches thick and 213 pages long, it has a shimmering coated cover, with a two-word title printed in black over white. It’s 400 grams heavy and bound twice along the long edge.
They call it a novel, but I call it: