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The Villa

- Written during our last visit to Villa Sognare, Ed & Gary’s villa in Barga, Italy, the place where Kristin and I had our wedding reception. Villa Sognare will be sold in a no-reserve auction on June 20. The videos below are from Williams & Williams, the company who will be running the auction.
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Today was our last day at Ed & Gary’s villa – it is sad when you’re in a beautiful place that you know will only last so long, so you try to take in as much as possible before it disappears, or rather changes.

We met Gary first, a year and a half ago. Kristin and I were looking for places to have our wedding reception, and had heard about the villa from one of our friends in Barga. We knocked on the large, wooden front door, not knowing if anyone was home. Gary answered, and despite not knowing us, welcomed us in. We entered as strangers, and we left, as friends.

We returned dozens of times, and every time Ed, whom we met soon after, and Gary welcomed us in warmly. Ed, who has a brilliant smile belying a deep intensity, Gary who speaks with his entire body, passionate and calm all at once, they created the villa as it exists today.

Villa Sognare is that secret bit of solitude that happens to exist in the same universe as you. The feeling that you get the first time you walk in the entrance, with its long red carpet corridor, its imperial red walls, its terraced gardens, is one of awe for its sheer beauty, and admiration for what Ed & Gary have done, restoring it over a period of over 10 years.

Villa Sognare Auction Ed & Gary talk about the villa

When we walked in on our wedding day, I remember the band playing to our left by the limonaia, and raising a triumphant fist to them. It was strange, at that moment, I felt more comfortable acknowledging the band than our family and friends, maybe because the band resembled my Italian reality, while right next to them were our friends and family from back home, who had all entered our Italian life all at once.

People clapping, us walking, not really knowing what to do so walking some more, floating really, to the food, hugging, back-slapping, picking up a couple of oysters and slurping them down, using the moment of doing something to really look around and gaze at the party around us. And from looking down that oyster shell, we saw our lives, reflected.

I remember the sign that Marcial had made, displaying a cross-roads of every major city we had visited, standing triumphantly above the dinner tables on the terrace. I remember all the Indian fabrics that Kristin had had made in Jaipur, perfectly placed at each table by Ed & Gary after being expertly ironed by Jim.

I remember Bjorn playing the piano beautifully, conjuring up memories of ad-hoc recitals in the village. I remember Kevin standing firm throughout, steady as a rock. I remember seeing NYC, California, Boston, Italy, France, Waterloo, Stratford, Toronto, standing all together.

I remember Kristin, how beautiful she looked in her gown and earrings, with her hair up, then down. How calm she was when she walked down the aisle, hamming it up for the video-stream. I remember all my nervousness disappearing when she winked at me, and I realized then how nervous I was, and how much she wasn’t. I remember walking with her through town, at last as a true couple, and her hair, and her smile. She just seemed to float and I followed her and she followed me.

I remember Guido and Gabrielle from the band standing on the villa balcony introducing us from a crumpled piece of scrap paper we had put together, and the cyclone of fabrics waved spontaneously as we were introduced, clapping, yelling, so much noise, propelling us forward into a vortex of joy. And all the while Ed and Gary smiling broadly in the corner, proud and happy.

reception-hand-in-hand waving-the-flags

The wedding wasn’t conceived in a day, week or month. It was the perfect result of all the minutes and seconds we have lived, Kristin and I. And the villa on that day was a way-station, inevitable, set in motion long ago when Ed & Gary bought it, and Bill & Cynthia bought Casa Rosa, and I moved to NYC from Canada, and Kristin moved to NYC from California, and Lehman went bankrupt, and so on, and so on, and sometimes it makes sense to just close your eyes and jump.

Jumping was walking into the villa on that day, it was leaving NYC, it was meeting Bill & Cynthia at the Taj and following the trail of their lives to Barga, it was asking Kristin to marry me. It is a feeling of free-fall - your life is in the hands of others for a moment, and it is scary, it is new, and you co-exist, until gradually you stabilize and come to rest, or you just get used to free-falling.

When I look out at Barga now from the villa, each individual tree is a perfect painting, while miles away they blend into a single green. The villa will always be that single tree in our memory. It will remain, treasured and raw, for us to bring into our minds now and then, to replay our walks, our procession, our special day. It will always be that way for us, and for the people who attended. The villa will be sold, but the memories will remain, scattered throughout the globe like ashes, in our minds.

- May, 2012

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