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Olive Trees Above Rende

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The next night, David and I stand high on a road. We look down on the glittery lights of the Calabrian city of Cosenza and it suburb, Rende, where we're staying. Ernesto, a second (or third?) cousin on the Napoli (or Imbrogno?) side, points a finger into the valley. He has brought us here to show us something. That, he says, in Italian, is where somewhere il tesoro di Alerica the Barbarian-- the treasure of Aleric the Barbarian -- is buried, in the Crati River. Or maybe the Busento, which joins the Crati in Calabria, which flows to the Mediterranean Sea. For centuries, treasure seekers, scholars, dreamers, have come to Cosenza, seeking, but not finding the treasure of the invader who breathed his last here and was then buried in the diverted bed of a river. The river was returned to its course and his treasure passed out of history.

I imagine another history. I conjure in the night the exact hillside where my grandfather and grandmother -- il mio nonno, la mia nonna -- grew up, in stone houses hundreds of years old. I listen intently to the quiet hills that sheltered my family for centuries, until some took flight for the valleys and towns of America. Pursuing dreams and treasures there.

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