How I created The Writer's Mountain Hut
From a job in fashion to a mountain hut: city-girl turns cowgirl, literally
I could say that it was a mountain hut that brought me together again.
When I handed the termination letter, I felt relief, but I was also aware that I was soon to be unemployed. I was a passenger on a wobbly plane. I alternated moments of dizzy thoughts and ringing in the ears. My stomach was in a perpetual convulsed state and my heart was stationed up my throat.
What you will read in this post:
The need to breathe
I was scared and I needed to clear my mind. I needed to breathe pure air. Well, if there’s a place that guarantees pure air, is a mountain hut at 1600 meters of altitude.
A friend of mine knew the owner of “Malga Pozof”, Michele. Malga Pozof is a wonderful mountain hut on Monte Zoncolan, Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Michele’s family owns 50 cows that every summer spend their days on the tip of the mountain that the vast majority knows as a skiing wonderland and the Giro d’Italia hardest climb.
Michele and his family produce milk, cheese, ricotta, yogurt, and every other dairy delicatessen you can think of.
The need to make my hands dirty
I longed to “get my hands dirty”. To do something practical to take my thoughts off the problems.
There are only so many companies that offer good marketing here in Friuli, I was prepared not to find something that compared to the job I had lost. I also needed to prove to myself that I was strong enough to face whatever life would have put in front of me. I wanted to test myself. The Malga’s life couldn’t be more distant from what I had experienced until that day. If I could survive that, I could face anything.
So, I begged Michele to employ me for my only week of holiday. I offered him my goodwill and non-existing skills in exchange for a place to stay and meals. On August 12th, 2018, I drove my Fiat 500 up the steep slopes of Mount Zoncolan to start my new adventure.
The city girl
I was immediately baptized as the city girl and was seen with a little mistrust by the women who worked there. I was an office worker with a job in fashion, they probably thought I would have run away at the first problem. But I didn’t. My experience there was actually my escape from the problems I had back home. Exception made for the spartan bathroom; I was surprised by myself. I was there to cross my comfort zone, but I soon adapted to Malga life. I felt more comfortable there than I ever felt at any fancy event in Milan.
I was immediately put to work. I waited and cleaned the tables. I helped prepare food for the next day. When my first day ended, as I laid in my sleeping bag, I happily found myself tired and with an empty mind, at last.
It wasn’t always easy, but I will always carry with me the lessons I’ve learned there. Bruce Springsteen said, “We learned more from a three-minute record, baby than we ever learned in school”. That is true for me and the mountain hut.
Living mountains, for real
I soon won the trust of my fellow workers but oftentimes I felt like “the city-girl” I was inside. Since my university years, I had always been used to commute for at least half an hour. In the mountain hut, my workplace corresponded with my home. Ten steps separated my sleeping bag to the kitchen. The bathroom was at the other end of the courtyard. Feeling the need to pee at night meant running in your pj with 10° outside.
In the mountains, especially if you run a business, you need to plan ahead grocery shopping. The closest shops are 40 minutes away, yet mountains are like an open-air fridge. There are wild berries, herbs, and mushrooms. Cows grant milk, cheese, and meat. Hens produce eggs every day. There is not really much else a person needs. It made me rethink all the times I entered a mall just to buy one useless item. I must admit that I felt a little ashamed.
Not as ashamed as when, on one of my last days, I heard a cow scream for the loss of her baby veal who was sold to other farmers. Ulderica cried all evening. While I heard her whine, I couldn’t stop thinking about the 500€ Dolce&Gabbana Miss Sicily bag, in veal leather, I had bought a few days before my adventure.
Maybe it would have been easier to hear Ulderica if I hadn’t experienced my first delivery a couple of days earlier. I silently witnessed the delivery of a veal and although the citizen inside of me puked in disgust, I couldn’t look away. I welcomed Billy with tears in my eyes and a full heart.
After the delivery, I returned to the kitchen where the women were preparing food for the next day. As I sat with them, narrating what I just saw, I experience something that I always heard of in history books. A community of women (and men) rounded up around the spolert (the typical Friulan Stove), talking about work and life. Michele’s mom, None Melie (grandma Melie, as a Friulan diminutive of her name, Amelia) instructed me on the correct way to mix polenta and with motherly sweetness said. “Learn this and you’ll make your husband happy.“
The feminist inside of me would have criticized the neat work division between men and women. I may also have argued that in a couple it’s not a women’s job to please the man. But the truth is that I felt she was passing down her knowledge to me. She was passing to a stranger her love for her work. And the importance of taking care of the ones you love. It was the type of advice that my grandma on my mom’s side could have given me if she hadn’t been taken away from us too soon.
This sort of community of women should still be pivotal in our society.
The know-how we’re losing
Even if the vast majority of girls are now well educated, we are losing this ancient knowledge about the female world. The know-how that was once passed down from mother to daughter for centuries. In modern society, no one is teaching us how to take care of newborns, for example. Most of us experience babies for the first time after delivering them ourselves.
That women community that came together around the spolert has not yet found a substitute in the modern world.
I personally think it’s a great pity and I wonder what else are we losing.
The story continues
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