"What the heck does that mean?" I asked Nick.
"What?" Nick replied, being, of course, the passenger and not paying attention to road warning signs with such stunning countryside to watch instead.
"It was a warning sign with a windsock in the middle. What is that? Watch out for roving windsocks?" And off I went - images of roving windsocks - herds of them crossing the empty Sicilian landscape. 'I have to write a poem about this.' I thought. So, finally, this morning, months after I got the idea, I put fingers to keyboard and came up with this.
When we arrived in Sicily,
I must say,
I did not expect to see
Warnings of such a dire nature.
Such a beautiful and ancient land
Marred by roving herds of terrifying beasts.
Stopping in a village for a gulp of il caffe' and a bite of a brioche
We met a group of men, young, middle-aged, and pensioners
Playing cards at tables set out on the sidewalks.
"Where are you from?" they asked.
"Canada. We are driving to Cianciana." we replied.
"Through the mountains?" one man asked us in a shocked voice.
"Certo. Of course." we answered. "It's the fastest route."
Shaking their heads, they gave us this advice:
"Watch for the signs!" we heard.
"Don't be fooled by the bright colours. These creatures are dangerous."
"They travel at night - whatever you do, don't stop your car at night!"
"But what do they want?" I asked, voice querulous and hushed.
"The sea. They want to get to the sea." came the answer.
"They run down anything that gets in their way!" one voice told us.
Another voice shuttered. "It happened to my cousin. We couldn't even recognize him when they were gone."
"But what are they called?"
There was a silence. They were afraid to say the name.
Finally, a boy stepped forward, chest out, wanting to show that he was not afraid. "Manica a vento. "Windsocks. They are called windsocks."
The men winced at the boy's boldness.
Awkward silent filled the air between us.
Breaking the tension I asked, "Is it never safe?"
Relieved, they laughed, "Oh yes!" they chorused.
One ancient man turned to us and smiled.
"When they reach the sea at night, they curl themselves into a tight roll. In the morning they wake and open as ombrelloni, beach umbrellas."
They all sighed with palpable relief.
"Si', that is when they are content." one man added.
The ancient man looked me in the eye, with all his years of wisdom he told me,
"That is when you can walk in the sand amongst them. That is when you are safe."
And with that pronouncement, the men nodded, pick up their cards and resumed their play.