Donnafugata

Margaret and I are planning a trip to Sicily. It is an itch that just would not go away. It is not out of curiosity about the Mafia or Sicilian cuisine. Nor is it from reading Homer or Cicero, arcane though that may sound. As archeologists (retired), you can understand the source of the itch.

I read something that brings this itch into clearer focus. That Summer in Sicily, by Marlena De Blasi (2009) provides a rare glimpse into the psyche of Sicily. She captures something of the feeling that I have for Mendocino County. Marlena is having a drink with the Signora who has opened her home (Donnafugata, more a Palazzo than a house) to the occasional visitor. The place reeks of myth and ritual. After all Enna, the general setting, is the birthplace of the Demeter cult, mother of agriculture and childbirth. Here, Pluto grabbed Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, and dragged her down to Hades to be his wife. The inhabitants trace their ancestry to the Bronze Age and some, especially the women, still practice remnant rituals of that era. We’ll be there on Good Friday for the medieval Holy Week processions marking the crucifixion of Christ.

On the last night staying at Donnafugata, Marlena is shown a copy of The New York Times Magazine, which is over 25 years old. As expected, Marlena laughs and is reproved by Tosca, the Signora.

“What do you think has changed in twenty-five years or so? I found the journal to be well written back then when someone or other left it behind. I thought it set things out rather nicely, addressing the events of the day, which are, of course, the same events of this day. …. Even if its theater and its motives are being played out in a different geography, there’s still war, isn’t there? Still avidity and hate and violence and fear. Poverty and righteousness are still thriving. As are revolution and arrogance and lies.”

Well, there it is. If I want to get a grasp on what is going on in Mendocino County, I can just as well get the sense of it whether reading this week’s AVA or one from 25 years ago. The same politics continue to poison the so-called “American Dream.” The same “Perps” crowd the weekly court docket. The same “wing nuts” crowd the local so-called radio station. Rituals? We’ve got them in spades, somewhere out there in the remote recesses of the county. We’ve even had our share of mini-Plutos hauling off innocents for their perverted ends. And, of course, there is a resident “mother earth” or two who will chant and dance, divine and whine. Still, it is good to know how same we are to such atavistic urges as Sicily provides.

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