MONTAGNA DELLE SOGNE
MOUNT RAINIER, Washington "This flower is beautiful," Memmo announces. "But not as beautiful as you two. I can barely hike, I'm so overwhelmed by gorgeous women." He moon-calfs at me and Candace, then pounds his chest. "I am BREATHLESS WITH YOUR BEAUTY," he exclaims in Italian.
Oh, it's just like I dreamt it. Except Memmo was a foot taller and three decades younger... And he was not grasping at every damn weed and half-breed paesana for una pausa. I've read about this delaying-technique in Pat McManus. I'm no fool.
(I may even, on occasion, have taken an unnatural interest in devil's club and other NW flora myself... but I digress. Today, I'm rarin' to hike, thanks to some vile energy drink. Blue Sky has me seeing Smurfs, but ever-so-rowdy, despite a mere three hours of shuteye.)
But I match his stride, smile and nod; the Mountaineers are hosting the Club Alpino and we've tagged along to practice Italian. Trudge, trudge. Up the glorious mountain. We're skiddering on the glacier's crusty snout, but ole Memmo's talking about animals in his Umbrian hedge. I kick steps in slush and discuss the fine-point distinctions between a hedgehog (riccio) and a porcupine (porcospino): no easy task, this.
Less than two miles in, the group founders. It's overlarge (30-odd) and left late (1pm). My eyes cut to Candace. And she best of women mouths "let's go, girl."
And so we walk in beauty, like the afternoon.