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Home is best

I’m heading home. Back to the Shire, for me and the Kitty Crew.

I got a call from my realtor in Norcia saying that the city engineers have cleared my house as safe for occupation. Or at least, the middle floor flat is, which is the one I live in. I think the upstairs flat will have to be repaired. In any case, I’m going back to Norcia on or around February 15th. I’ve been in Germany, flat and cat sitting for a friend for a week but will be back to Italy tomorrow by train. After that, I think we are going to try to rent a car or a small SUV to get me, the little bits of stuff we brought down and the kitties back home as soon as possible.

But the news isn’t unmixed. Things are going to be very difficult in Norcia for quite a while and of course, there’s a boatload of work to be done.. There really isn’t much in the way of shops or businesses. All but one of the hotels are closed (and some of them look so badly damaged that I think they might end up having to be demolished.)

The gas is off in the house, and isn’t likely to be back on any time soon. This means the heat will be generated by the fireplace and by movable propane heaters, hot water bottles and an electric, plug-in oil radiator. The electric and water are on, but there won’t be any hot water until the gas is reconnected, and that could be months. The weather has been very harsh in Umbria this winter, and there have been blackouts caused by the heavy snowfalls, so I will be buying a very large stock of candles, and will be hitting the outdoor/camping shop to stock up on camp lights, small portable heaters and maybe a couple of tents in case I have to “camp” indoors. Just before the October quake, I got a large supply of firewood in, so there will be all-day fires. The chimney was smoking pretty badly when we tried it in December, so we’ll probably have to get a technico to come take a look at it.

I think I’m going to need a new fridge, though. When we got up there in December to clean and pack things, I discovered everything in the freezer was thawed, though the fridge light was on. So I think the quake damaged the compressor somehow. In short, life at my place is going to be something on the rustic side for a while.

As for the town, it is, just barely, functional. Our two supermarkets have reopened in smaller, emergency structures in the Zona Industriale, so food is there. Basic things like the pharmacy, hardware shop, garden centre, banks, and even two restaurants and a couple of coffee bars, are all functioning. So it’s possible to live there.

But the town itself, the main part inside the walls, is still mostly closed, everything in red above, the “zona rosa”. The two main gates, the Porta Romana (at the top) and the Porta Ascolana have just been reopened, which means they have cleared the rubble from the main street that runs directly through town. But the rest of the city remains off limits and of course, very dangerous, since the small tremors have not stopped, and as we saw on January 18th, even larger shakes are still a possibility, and the damaged buildings are now unstable. There are only a couple of businesses on the main street inside the walls that have reopened, so there will be little need to go into the town for anything.

The monks have moved permanently up to their mountain property, which means to get there is an hour’s walk up the side of the mountain, which I can’t manage every day. This means that I will not likely be able to go to their daily Mass – at 8 am – very often. They have been given a little container that has been converted for use as a chapel, but it’s tiny, seating at a squeeze no more than ten people. And the Divine Office is not being celebrated publicly at all. I expect this situation is going to expand by the spring and summer, since they will be further along in their own construction and can replace the container the big tent they’re using now as their own chapel.

The transport problem can be partially solved for now by hitching rides with others who go every day, or at least on Sundays, but in the long term, Fr. Spiritual Director has suggested I should get a place up on the hill closer to the monastery. (I didn’t want to write a testy note back reminding him that about 80% of the “housing stock” in the entire region has been destroyed…)

But things there are not all bad. The people who have remained – or who have gone to camp in hotels and with family near by and who commute to Norcia – have drawn very close, and there is a great spirit of mutual assistance. The town’s population has been reduced from 4500 to about 1500, so it’s a pretty tight-knit community now.

I have spent a lot of time thinking and praying about the future, and have considered many possibilities, but when the call came that my house was ready I knew that my mind had long since been made up. Go home as soon as possible, and start building a new life, focus more on prayer and painting than shouting at people on the internet. The internet shouting career has been fun in a way, but it has a shelf-life which I think we are getting close to the end of.

So the plan continues, though life will be very different. There’s reason to hope it will be different in a good way. Back home, back to the garden, the valley and the snow and the mists, the trees and birds and animals and the quiet mornings. Back to the never-ending search for the Door.


7 thoughts on “Home is best”

  1. Ursula says:

    While I second what Mark says, you need to see to your own soul. That’s what God tells us to do. I hope to heaven you can find a way to do both. You help keep us grounded in what you call ‘the real’ and stay sane. Will be praying for you

  2. mark docherty says:

    We need you on the internet. Shouting is not necessary, but wit and mockery are appreciated.

  3. Linda says:

    And that would have been the very end of the story if it hadn’t been that they felt they really must explain to the Professor why four of the coats out of his wardrobe were missing. And the Professor, who was a very remarkable man, didn’t tell them not to be silly or not to tell lies, but believed the whole story.
    “No,” he said, “I don’t think it will be any good trying to go back through the wardrobe door to get the coats. You won’t get into Narnia again by that route. Nor would the coats be much use by now if you did! Eh? What’s that? Yes, of course you’ll get back to Narnia again someday. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don’t go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it. And don’t mention it to anyone else unless you find that they’ve had adventures of the same sort themselves. What’s that? How will you know? Oh, you’ll know all right. Odd things they say – even their looks – will let the secret out. Keep your eyes open. Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?”

  4. Fuquaysteve says:

    This is wonderful…I pray you embrace and overcome the challenges that await you. This is near the top of the list of good news…Now about Malta…Only kidding.

  5. Linda says:

    Roads go ever ever on,
    Over rock and under tree,
    By caves where never sun has shone,
    By streams that never find the sea;
    Over snow by winter sown,
    And through the merry flowers of June,
    Over grass and over stone,
    And under mountains in the moon.

    Roads go ever ever on
    Under cloud and under star,
    Yet feet that wandering have gone
    Turn at last to home afar.
    Eyes that fire and sword have seen
    And horror in the halls of stone
    Look at last on meadows green
    And trees and hills they long have known.

  6. grace says:

    Very happy for you Hilary!

  7. Evangeline says:

    I’m happy for you Ms. White, you should be able to go home.
    Your experience there in Norcia is such a unique one. You seem on a unique trajectory, an unusual one considering where most of your readers probably are. I have never been to Europe, and I’m sure never will. Never seen glimpses of the glory of Catholicism, what it once was, up close. Never been to a monastery, seen monks praying the Divine Office, pray it with them.
    And now this, all you’ve been through, and it’s been so much. But you’re a Catholic writer, so it doesn’t seem coincidental.
    Your voice is needed. You must do what is best for you, positively, and you’re tired of living away from home. But be assured your voice is an important one. You serve God by your writing, because even though your readers haven’t all experienced an earthquake, we are being scattered just as nicely by this rogue pope and his evil minions. There are relatively few voices we can hear, out here in our own wilderness. So God bless you and keep you, and may He put you in a safe place.

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