Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Tuscany

In the Diane Lane movie, “Under A Tuscan Sun,” Lane plays a middle-aged writer who comes home one day to find her husband in bed with a much younger woman. Her marriage in ruins and life in shambles, she sells the house, cashes in all her chips, packs a box of books and her laptop, and heads to Tuscany, Italy on a vacation. As the bus winds along a rural road in wine country, she spots an old, regal house for sale, stops to take a look, and in the end elects to buy it on a whim and never go home. It certainly was better than the “down and out” apartment she was renting where she went to sleep each night listening to her neighbor cry and wail because his wife had left him.

It was a bold leap of faith, and on her first night in her new house, the roof leaked, the windows broke open and blew in debris, and lightning struck the trees and icebox outside. Lane’s character spent the night hunkered in bed simply trying to stay dry. She was already regretting her decision. “What have I done?” she wondered, bewildered. She assumed she’d made a mistake.

But in the morning, the sun was up, the air was clear, and before long she had enlisted the help of some workers to not only repair the storm damage, but improve the interior and grounds to her liking. For all its faults and age and inconveniences, the home showed promise. It was beautiful, and would be even more so when the work was done.

Lane’s character had purchased the property in the hopes that it would be the change of pace that helped her bury deep wounds, start anew, and provide a refreshing, exotic environment where she could write in peace, muddle through learning Italian, and potentially meet many of the interesting locals. It was ambitious, but she was willing to take the risk. Her greatest dream, despite the infancy of the decision and the wounds from her recent collapsed marriage, was to have her wedding there, to raise a family there, and to feed a crowd there. It wouldn’t be a house by any means, but a home, a busy one, a living one, and the center of a poetic and love-filled life. She dreamed beautifully.

At the risk of spoiling the film (which will still be worth watching if one has the chance), Lane’s character meets with disaster in almost every aspect of her dreams. There is a man, but it doesn’t work out and she’s left just as devastated as she was when her marriage ended (she caught this man cheating, too). The great big family, thus, never comes, and nor is there anybody to cook for, either. It would seem the entire gamble was a mistake, and now she’s stuck with a large, leaky Tuscan house in varying states of disrepair. The house, really, represented her demeanor: hope was there, but buried deeply. Hidden beneath crumbling walls and unpredictable plumbing, and perhaps irrevocably buried.

But hope returned in a strange and unexpected way. Her friend came to live with her from America, bringing her newborn infant. She came to stay. The three workers renovating her home, accompanied by her friend, filled the table quickly for the crowd she hoped to one day feed. And in time, one of the workers fell in love and married a local girl, in Lane’s home. Despite that nothing went as planned, she was truly living her wish.

The lessons from this story are innumerable, but I derive two very quickly. First, dreams will be had, but few, if any, will come to fruition as anticipated. But they will be similarly good, and they will exceed expectations. We simply need to have the vision for it, and the flexibility that life requires of us. Dreams will come, but not as we planned. We just have to be watchful.

Second, Lane’s character learned that all her dreams, while certainly good ones, were about herself, for herself, and ultimately were to make HER happy. This doesn’t diminish them, per se, but does show their limitation. Dreams with and for other people are far deeper, naturally carry a heavy weight in difficulties, but also a deeper satisfaction in their manifestation. These are lessons I want to remember.

I, too, have dreams, and some not too dissimilar to Lane’s character’s dreams. But even now, I want them to include others. I also want that Tuscan house, but mine will be L-shaped, split level and overlook the southern Mediterranean. The roof will be terra cotta. And I hope it is one day filled with people and I will even learn to cook for them – dining in the patio in late September, windows still open, patio doors thrown wide and the sea breeze lifting the curtains constantly. We’ll have a blessing and we’ll eat, and we’ll all do dishes together, and watch the sun set towards Gibraltar and wander off to bed with the windows still open and the wind still rustling the drapes. It’s not really my dream, but our dream. I don’t know who these people are, whose plates I will be filling, or even when such a house will be built, so for now they’re only dreams. But, I’m inviting other people into them. Perhaps soon we’ll realize them together.

Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
All Rights Reserved


  1. I'll need to start saving for plane fare. I'll make dessert.

  2. "Under the Tuscan Sun" is one of my favorite movies. I liked how you described the movie. If being a war journaist doesn't fit for you, maybe you could write movie reviews!!!

  3. Hahaha. So, where's the place going to be??

  4. I always thought the rustling drapes and the friendly people were the breezes and inhabitants of heaven.

  5. Under the Tuscan Sun affected so many people in so many different ways.
    Her dream to escape from her personal life did not unfold like she aniticipated however it did exceed her expectations.
    My favorite characters were her repairmen and how their relationship strengthened through out the film.
    Sometimes it's those kind of relationships that help our dreams come true.