Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead


This is the eighth in a series of articles about southern Sicily, chiefly the southern town of Agrigento that we visited in the 1990s


By Charles N. Stevens

Standing on a wide terrace overlooking the ethereal blue of the hotel pool, I scan the farms and coastal bluffs with my video camera. As I sweep slowly across the shrubs near the bluff, I spot a tall pine tree standing by itself. I zoom in with the video camera, bringing the tree closer to me until it fills my viewer. About halfway up, the reddish trunk branches into two sections that part, then roughly parallel each other until they are lost in the crown of the tree. The top of the tree is rounded like all Mediterranean pines, but it is sculpted by the sea winds into a dark green teardrop, its blunt part facing the sea, its tapered part streaming out almost to a point toward the land.

The tree intrigues me because of its great size and natural artistic form, and because it stands so alone on the bluff where there are no other pines. It is like a man standing on an empty windswept bluff, looking out at the sea for answers. Why is there only one pine there?

In the afternoon, our bus takes a group of us to visit the boyhood home of Luigi Pirandello, the famous playwright. Having read one of his plays in a drama class at the university, I know about him and his stature as a dramatist, but I neither remember the name of the play I had read nor recall what it was about. We are told that he had won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1934. He possesses the same mystique that I feel for all authors, so he has my unconditional respect.

We mill around in front of his house, peering at it through a gate arch coveredwith bougainvillea blossoms. It is a traditional two-story country house, tan with a pale soil-colored tile roof and brown shutters, a balcony facing the sea. Gutters made of roofing tiles slant down the side of the house, giving it a curious look. Since the house is full of tourists, we must wait our turn.

As we have time, we troop down a special stone-paved path leading along a small canyon and toward the bluffs. A cool wind blows up the canyon from the sea, ruffling the short green grasses that have sprung up after the first rains. On our left are olive groves, cabbage patches and freshly plowed fields. At last we arrive at the bluff at the end of the canyon where Pirandello’s grave stands, a rough irregularly shaped boulder of limestone, similar to those that decorate Chinese gardens. It contains his ashes in a Greek-like urn within a hollowed-out vault in the stone. And just beside the stone rises a great pine tree, all by itself on the bluff. I realize it is the very same wind-blasted pine tree that I had spotted from our hotel which is not far away!

We pause at the grave which is surrounded by variegated century plants. A

weathered bronze plaque is attached to the rock, a copper-green stain marking the limestone beneath it. Someone has inserted the bottom of a small bouquet of roses in a space behind the plaque so that the deep red blossoms tremble in the wind and contrast with the paleness of the rock. Pirandello had requested that he be buried here because so often he had come to this spot by the great pine during his life to think and refine his ideas. I feel very touched by this, that I stand on such a place where a great man once thought in his solitude, looked out at the sea, and felt the wind on his face. As we gaze out at the turquoise blue of the sea, birdsong twinkles out of the grassy canyon.

Back up at the house where Pirandello was born in 1867, we walk up outside stairs to the second floor. We stand on a ceramic tiled floor, looking up at timber roof beams that support rows of cane pressed up against each other. Many pictures of him at various stages in his life hang on the walls. In his later years he was totally bald, a moustache and goatee-like beard bringing out the features of his handsome face. He looks debonair in his dark suit and bow tie. There are photographs of Pirandello standing by the ruins of the temples in Agrigento, receiving the Nobel Prize in Sweden, and posing with his family.

From the room where he often wrote, I look out to see the pine and another tan house similar to his, and of course, the blue line of the sea. From the other window in the room he had had a good view of the canyon, a grove of lilting olive trees and the dazzle of the sun on the sea.

It is time to leave. We had only brushed by his life, touching it only lightly like the soft momentary flutter of a butterfly wing. I wonder about his life, and what made him want to write, what the roots of his writing were. I try to imagine myself writing in the same room, walking along the same path along the canyon, sitting on the same bluff by the pine tree. What might I think? What might I write?

Back at our hotel Dolores and I stand on the same terrace where I had discovered the tree on the bluff. We lean on the railing and follow the red eye of the sun as it sinks slowly toward a swath of grayish haze over the sea. We look over at the lonely pine tree, now becoming a silhouette of itself in the fading light. We call it Pirandello’s pine tree. In the days that follow we think of Pirandello each time we see the tree—Pirandello dreaming on the bluff, as alone as the pine itself.

MONTEREY PARK AUTHOR PUBLISHES 4th BOOK – Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s:

Charles “Norm” Stevens, a 43 year resident of Monterey Park has recently published his 4th book: Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Inglewood, California in the l930’s. This was a time during the depression when unemployment was affecting many and the banks were closed, while the clouds of war were gathering in Europe. But he was lucky enough to be raised in a loving family, the power of that love reflected throughout his stories.

Stevens is the author of three previous books about his experiences during WWII:

An Innocent at Polebrook: A Memoir of an 8th Air Force Bombardier (Story of his 34 bombing missions from his base at Polebrook, England over Germany and France)

The Innocent Cadet: Becoming A World War II Bombardier (A prequel to the first, telling of his training in the U.S. before going overseas into combat.)

Back from Combat: A WWII Bombardier Faces His Military Future from Combat: (This book details the time from when he returned from combat in England until the end of the war.)

He is known to the readers of The Citizen’s Voice as the author of Travel Log Articles including “Cruising the Rhine and Mosel”,” Best of the West”, “In Search of Snow” ,  “From Paris to Normandy on the Seine”, and “Exploring New York”.  He is retired, having taught for 32 years, primarily in the Montebello Unified School District.

Those interested in purchasing an autographed copy of any of his books, may contact the author at 323-721-8230 or  Normstevens24@gmail.com.

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