Once upon a time there was a witch in the village …
Or so the children thought as they walked past her house and hid their crossed fingers in their pockets or in their sleeves … I will tell your mothers she would scream at them, knowing what they hid.
Tonight, when we leave our hosts and step outside there will be a cold moon alone in the sky … a cold so cold it will have scared the stars away …
Inside though the lounge is warm and cosy.
Their kids are trying to get their gaming computer going, whilst we chat.
The stove fires itself on its pellets, once such material would have been discarded as unusable waste, now it is compressed and pelletised at a few euro a bag and its flames are lowered or raised via a remote hand held.
Installation ensures the warranty, Michele explains.
They install the conduits that blow the air through the house and we only use the methane for an hour or so in the morning whilst we clean out the ash and restart the recycling of pelletised saw dust and off cuts, he explained …
I am not sure what the Italian word is for Sustainability so I say it in English.
Ah, eco-sostenibile! they explain.
So I ask about the old places that were …
Once upon a time there were all these roggie and sorgenti … streams and springs.
That was not such a long ago once upon a time though because Michele would either walk or cycle with his fishing rod and tackle on his back, and immerse himself in the magic of the running waters that seemed to boil up and run off from everywhere.
By the schools the water ran, past the old age home and the old church of the monks … from the one campo a hundred paces away and behind their home too.
The spring close by in the campo was the one pole of the old lover’s lane … joined to the other pole, an old church; the spring and the church then an axis of hot summer trees that would shade the innocent dreams of hands walking in hand.
Maria Teresa says she used to float paper boats in the stream, before the bridge, then rush around to catch them on the other side.
How did all this disappear I asked?
They do not know, just more and more would fade away slowly day by day until looking back the empty dry earth only stared back at itself …
It is a ‘combobulation’ actually, of a myriad dishonesties, hidden in suave professional voices and the political elites with their hollow promises, interfering with the Tao of the market … artificial incentives, policies and regulations that skewed and distorted the invisible hands of the small artisans and businesses that once prevailed in these lands.
It is the hands of the one in a thousand, the 1% of the 1%, as they manipulate and sheepdog the proverbial lemmings over the abyss …
Actually, akin to the sacrilege of waters disappearing is the disappearance of the vines, nurtured by generations of families as they ‘permacultured’ their existence (excepting of course they did not call it permaculture, they just did what they had to do in the obvious eco-sostenibile formula of Green … ).
Vines of a thousand score variances, tastes that will be forever secret as the grafts through the ages lie asleep with the skeletons and their bones surrounded by cipressi and cemetery walls.
Now, only the tractor ploughed clods stare up blindly at the sky …
Sure, there will be crops, the sugar beet and the maize but these are not vines listening to the symphony of the waters swirling by …
There is a Green activist here, they tell me – you should meet with him.
He can be extreme – but as convinced as he is that is only to be expected.
With the Magic dissipated by engineering solutions of straight pipes replacing curvy wandering waterways one can only be predisposed to being extreme.
Mechanical and hierarchical, obedience to authority, put on your conscript uniform, leave your home and be forced to go off to fight for the military-industrial rich and their financial/banking cohorts, into some steamy jungle war halfway across the world … then the names of the fallen, the sons of the migrants from everywhere inscribe themselves in a V shaped black wall of death that realises itself, that emerges out of the damp earth as tears fall upon hands that come to feel the dead of their names …
That is what Woodstock was all about, the bombers turning into butterflies, but the rot was deep in the grids and squares, rectangles and short term gains of the political elites and university professors believing only in the dull ding ding of their sparse formulae rather than the Poetry of the Universe, the Music of the Heavens.
The Seer had just told me about the Beautiful Question, Frank Wilczek’s love of the Cosmos, the art that is in every photon of this mysterious Being.
How the professors and their short-term formulae, sparse and primitive, for the villas and trophies of the Alpha DNA that still amoebas (used as a verb) the Earth, sought to emulate the grandeur of the Universe, cold pipes and concrete instead of the fractals that swirl, flow and fly!
Academic serfs who sold their souls for less than an atom of their corporeal bodies.
I turned away disenchanted from my academics of engineering and town planning and the sterile waste lands that the world of the Seventies and the Eighties and almost the mid Nineties was caged in.
Now here I have wandered onto private once communal land, looking for a hint of the Magic that my ears had absorbed from the old tales around the kitchen table, as my mother baked her bread and cooked her home-made pasta.
We agreed that Michele would introduce me to the Green activist, and also take me to the spots he used to fish, even if dry earth or steel pipes are the last of their remains.
Perhaps I can write an article and give this death a decent burial?
It is indeed a cold night tonight …
Yet Maria Teresa tells me that it is early for the cold, the real cold is still to come, le giornate del merlo, the ‘days of the crow’ are still to come.
The days of the crow, I ask?
Si! when the crow was white!
She explains that once upon a time, a long time ago, it was so cold that a crow trying to warm its young went and sheltered her family in a chimney.
There they remained warm and survived.
But of course, when they left the chimney they had turned black!
Such an obvious logic, why crows are now black!
Stay warm, stay warm, they said, as they bade us farewell.
Up in the sky the moon was alone without a blanket … the stars had indeed disappeared it was so cold.
As we drove past the old witch’s house I crossed my fingers … I hope she did not see and that she will not tell my mother …
Copyright Gabri Rigotti 2017