I’ve been reading A Poem for Every Night of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri, since the year began and doing just that: reading one poem, each night of the year, just before I shut the last illuminated lamp, before I say goodnight to all the people in the photographs on the bookcases and bureaus on my way to bed. My nightly ritual. It’s a big thick book, hardcover, lovely dust jacket, and as I sat there in my corner chair in the close and holy darkness late last night and read, it struck me that I am most definitely more than halfway through the book, and that the year is more than half done, and that even though summer here in this strange green land goes on and on, it will eventually be packing its bags, headed off to more southerly climes on the other side of the equator. We still have a lot more to get through, but the facts are plain: the Dog Days have passed (they ended on the 11th of August when Sirius, the Dog Star, ceased rising each morning with the sun), and in Italy, Ferragosto has begun. It is the height of the summer holidays, and most Italians will take off from work or close up shop and head someplace cool for a few days: to the sea, or to the mountains. It is annual pilgrimage that has its roots in Ancient Rome.
Most people in Catholic Europe will be off today, anyway: It is the Feast of the Assumption on this Fifteenth of August, so why not take a few extra summer days off, too? It’s the day my grandmother was born, in 1898, and so her parents called her Assunta. How lovely: to be named for a holiday, no? I think so, anyway. Most years, Grandma’s birthday meal would be the traditional Ferragosto supper of cuccuzza longa––an Italian edible gourd very much like zucchini––simmered with egg and parmesan and parsley with a hint of tomatoes. It can be made with zucchini, too. Perhaps you’d like to give it a try (especially at this annual time of zucchini abundance): Click here for the recipe. Have a nice summery wine on hand, like a crisp vinho verde from Portugal, and a crusty loaf, and you’ve got a summer meal that’s fit for a king (even if originated with the hearty peasantry).
I’m thinking of going to church at noon for Grandma’s birthday and for the Assumption. I’ve not been for a long while, and it’ll be time spent with Grandma and with everyone else who has come and gone in my life, and I’ll get to sing along with other folks in the congregation singing Schubert’s “Ave Maria“, and there are worse ways to pass an hour on an afternoon in late summer.
Images: Two photographs we took at the shore of Lake Maggiore in Arona, Italy, when we visited there in the summer of 2019 with my cousin Fabio, who lives in nearby Oleggio. Lake Maggiore would be an excellent Ferragosto destination!
COME SEE US!
We’ll be at the LIBRARY WAYZGOOSE FESTIVAL at Florida Atlantic University Libraries’ Jaffe Center for Book Arts on Sunday afternoon, August 27, from 12 to 6. Print activities, a paper moon photo booth, and live music all day. Free admission, free parking, and we’re supplying the doughnuts, which will also be free. I’ll tell you more about it soon, for the 24th of August (St. Bartholomew’s Day) is the traditional date for a Wayzgoose, but in the meantime, mark your calendars if you’re local and come have a good Wayzgoose time!