by David Borzo
Frances Mayestook over the Des Moines Civic Center with a calm and reflective presence, sharing her special brand of contentment made famous in her book, Under the Tuscan Sun, a hugely popular book that was on The New York Times bestseller list for over 36 months. The welcoming Smart Talk Connected Conversationscrowd was treated to a very literate evening as Frances spoke lovingly of her home and burgeoning gardens in Cortona, Italy, “the center of her universe.” We learned a little bit about the magic that has inspired her life for the last two-some decades, and shared in some of her extraordinary experiences. Through her poetic prose, Frances encouraged us all to seize time for ourselves and cultivate a more fulfilling life.
With an understated delivery, Frances conveyed some of the peaceful and deliberate ways of life in Tuscany, sharing a rich perspective that was truly sublime. She spoke of her famous house lovingly; a house that seems to live and breathe in its own right with an ageless beauty and character. Add to the mix her neighbors – welcoming people all – who upheld and shared a genius for celebrating life. Whether in the garden, in the town square and markets, or enjoying life at the dining table, the people around Cartona know how to live!
Frances’ talk largely picked up where Under the Tuscan Sun left us. She followed up that book with two other international best sellers, Bella Tuscany, and Every Day in Tuscany, providing a Tuscan trilogy that charts her simple, honest life. And now she has continued this story of her sweet life in Italy with her latest tome, a cookbook featuring some of her favorite recipes, the Tuscan Sun Cookbook. It came out just a week before her SmartTalk presentation, and there was a short promotional piece about the book before her talk, reflecting the life she has carved out for herself and her husband Ed.
Restful days, shopping for fresh vegetables (with apologies from the shop keeper that some of the veggies weren’t “local,” they were from a town five miles away) and cooking for hours to prepare for dinner parties. What a life….and what dinner experiences. Not just dinner, they were “…an intimate society of musical chairs …” that would last over eight hours as the guests, and “whoever they may bring along unannounced,” took the time to share and celebrate with them.
We’ve said it before and it’s true: the SmartTalk seriesis all about presenting us with people and experiences that are full of life, and in the course perhaps helping reveal to us something about our own dreams and desires. The message here was clear – look at life changing as opportunities that are presented to us, and do something unpredictable. Frances Mayes is living proof that when you want your daily ordinary to go beyond the ordinary, you need to cultivate your own life’s garden, and seize the day. Well done!