I draw whatever is needed to get to IT
A string of beads and a regal parasol
Well-built bridges and ritual knots
Emerald green blades and thunderclouds
Its root I have not lost
Of pleasure and emptiness
Il Romito, the place where I live, is scattered with many magnificent trees among which some strong, enduring oaks whose independent canopies overhead freely fulfil all their duties: they shelter birds and offer summery shade and golden fruit for deer and wild boars. They make the night darker and call for unblinking quiet. They are my favourite trees. One particular oak, Axismundi, is unmistakable for its majesty, its upright trunk towering above the field and everything else around it, including the multi-storey house with its stone buttresses.
Trees convey the feeling of connection with the universe and evoke a contemplative/ pensive state.
In Oachira (District of Kollam, Southern India), I was particularly struck by a tree, surrounded by golden-red earth, levelled like flawlessly stretched velvet. Above the ground, the emerald green canopy shields from the dazzling light, like an overturned cup. About ten metres away from its centre, there is a fenced area, poor wire mesh enclosing a layered pile of dry leaves and other natural remains, about a metre and half tall; amid all this material you can catch sight of countless coloured globes, whose nature one has to guess: small sculptures in plaster, plastic and clay; or small pictures, faded papers, holy cards: Lakshmi or Shiva.
Under frayed raphia mats emerges an image of Ganesha and, a little further, Vishnu, temporary vehicles that have been thrown away, once used, beyond the sacred place, waiting to be destroyed by the guts of the leaves.
It is the wire mesh itself that contains this heap of artificial stuff mixed with natural debris, and the pile, little by little, disperses in the adjoining forest.
The creator of such neatness, a small broom made of leafy branches, peeps out by the entrance, on one side of the fenced area.
On the ground, aligned with the centre of the trunk, lies the caretaker’s single-stringed instrument with its rounded, oval chamber of worn-out snake skin with plastic patches; its short, stout wooden arm is carved in the shape of a hand impression; a poor yet precious instrument, with its dark colours and its lying bow, awaiting silently for the next ceremony.
Unlike other ‘temple trees’ of the place, this one does not have images or other ritual objects hanging from its branches. Everything is simply essential: the trunk, dark like waxed, solid mahogany, and the ground around it, perfectly levelled and swept. The deep shade of the tree creates the same pensive mood you can experience when you leave behind the dazzling summer sunlight to enter one of our Romanesque parish churches in the countryside. The calmness is absolute, all you need is a tree and a precious earthy ground.
In the shadowy THOLOS your heart becomes a nest.
Here the rainbow of holy images ‘speaks’, it is alive, it is inherent in man’s action. Then, everything will return to ashes, or at least will be, unambiguously, simply plaster, plastic, coloured paper once again.
Conversely, we build eternal fetishes, including ourselves, with which we fill museums as we are obsessed by the fear of the end of everything. While we anxiously labour to preserve all sorts of things, we lose sight of the deep and philosophical meaning of life. This way, our rainbow of simulacra does not speak any longer and we are deprived of that wondrous thrust towards the sacred that could guide our daily life.