At Shoreline, as I start around the lake from where I've parked just at the edge of the marshes, the smell of fennel on leggy dry stalks spices the air. When I write it, the fragrance brings the memory of Pantelleria with its capers and little wild purple snapdragons and the walk down to the sea—the suntanned woman I was fiercely jealous of, as tanned as an old hide, and her friends who'd all worked on the film of The Leopard with the famous Italian director.
And that memory leads, just now, to another of eating one night years and years later on the upper west side in New York at Il Gattopardo before walking to the opera. We will have eaten fish, I think, sea bass over fennel if the connection holds, and been among the first inside that fall evening, embarrassingly early.
Which leads in turn to a quote from the 1958 book by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, which I have on my shelves (unread?) still from the time just after that September visit to the strange volcanic island between Italy and Africa, "Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga com'è bisogna che tutto cambi." That is, "If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change."
Another voyage, miniscule in actuality and vast in ripples out and back, launched by the smell of that dried herb warmed by the California morning sun. Such are my travels—the baggage I lug around needing a caravan of camels with brass bells to carry.
image: Wild Fennel