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Portraits of Life - Agata

Not so long ago me and my wife made a trip back to her home village of Altino, Abruzzo in Italy, this is a small countryside town that has been around for hundreds of years, far, far older than any settlements  in my home of Sydney.

The wonderful thing about these hiatuses from the stresses of modern living is that they instil much more of a sense of your surrounds, as Pico Iyer once said "In many a piece of music it is the pause or the rest that gives the piece its beauty, its shape". It was wonderful to simply be able to wander amongst these abodes of old, happily snapping away and appreciating the antiquity and beauty that surrounded me.

To me a place, through being lived in, develops a personality in itself; it normally does not impose itself but it is there, a remnant of a perfume left lingering in the air after a passing, or a conversation half heard, no words but some sense of what is happening, or what has happened. In Altino this personality grows even today: despite being centuries old these white houses and round arches support lives, businesses and families. Again I was reminded of how quickly such antiquity is renovated or modernised where I live, and I  was held in awe of how a man might live in a room that had seen more lives alone than all the apartments in a Sydney city block tower.

I had made a few passes in my car earlier in the day and in doing so I noticed an elderly woman, who, much like her surrounds, exuded a sense of living, of history.  Her deep set , blue eyes radiating stories that I could only guess at. I made one guess however, that she was a widow, and I was right in that. The black head scarf and simple black garb a clear marker of that. She was open to conversation, but was puzzled as to why I was taking an interest in her. She felt herself of no great importance but shared several anecdotes with me. Her name was Agata. Speaking of past struggles and turmoils, her husband, the town and so on into the afternoon.  Finally I thanked her and moved on, still digesting all she had told me...