News/ 13 June 2019
The Week of the Festival: Parole Spalancate, Genoa, Italy
The Forest Living Within Us
THE LAST FOREST
this silence of mine.
And there is the silence that inhabits
the big trees. And there are the huge forests, which
are great silences divided and sorted. And then there is
the depth of existence, of pulsing, of being born and
of dying. And eventually, or at the beginning,
there is thought, that does not lie a moment,
even when I meditate gallops and invades
and slots in. A good meditation
approaches this silence of mine
to the silence of the wood, it makes them vibrate
together, an assonance that recalls the starting point and
the point of arrival.
You can assert that Italian vernacular must have been born on the edge of a forest, in the open countryside or at the very least with one foot immersed in the greenery. You need only think of the incipit of Dante Alighieri’s Commedia, later dubbed Divine by Boccaccio: “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, / mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, / che la diritta via era smarrita, Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura, / esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte, / che nel pensier rinova la paura!.”
Take otherwise the example of the poor man from Assisi’s Cantico delle creature, “Laudato si’, mi’ Signore, per sora nostra matre terra, la quale ne sustenta et governa, et produce diversi fructi con coloriti flori et herba.”
Or even one of the three known sonnets by the first Italian female poet, Compiuta Donzella of Florence (1200-1300, circa), titled A la stagion che ‘l mondo foglia e fiora: “A la stagion che ‘l mondo foglia e fiora / acresce gioia a tut[t]i fin’ amanti: / vanno insieme a li giardini alora / che gli auscelletti fanno dolzi canti.”
WARNING TO THE NATURALISTS
book he risks great:
from his feet roots could
sprout, from his hands fronds
of hornbeam or strawberry tree.
He could meet himself, in a dream,
or wake up with the duty to discern between
opportunity and truth, at his disadvantage.
Nature has nothing good, it operates
and passes out, it renews in the
blood of defeated. We are
nerves and feelings that
a light breath can
confuse, or the shadow of
a cloud hide. Human nature is
not the rock, it’s the rustle of
a Goldfinch’s flight
Nature, trees, meadows, any part of what we nowadays call landscape, have been a source of bountiful inspiration since the birth of Italian vernacular language. Humans turn back to nature when they need to forget, to escape, to make up their own, personal earthly paradise, capable of consuming us to the point of forgetting anything else. We turn to nature as we would to a mother’s womb. And the more recent pain, failure, detachment and loss are, the more a desire reopens in us to inhabit a silence born of the same matrix as which was once prayer. Let it be well understood: this is not silence per se, not simply being quiet, without uttering a word, waiting for something to come. It is turning into silence, a quieting, to open up the possibility of an encounter between the silence and God, be it a codified God, like our Lord of the Bible, or a constant mutation of energy and strength, such as the Tao might be, the Way, or that vast pulsation of movements, planets, constellations that is the universe described today by physics and astronomy. Adriana Zarri wrote that prayer is nothing like the repetition of a formula, but rather a mad enchantment or nothing at all (inOur Lord of the Desert). And enchantment it is, because one falls in love, one gets lost, in this search for the word of a God, of an eternal, of an immense one.
SELF-PORTRAIT OF LANDSCAPE WITH MULBERRY
to breath in
the hollow trunk
of a mulberry, I crossed
the threshold of adulthood
to live in a continent between
paper and bark, and to once
again plumb the landscape
with the eyes of a child,
the vibrant fire
of a wizened
Z e n
One proceeds therefore according to a “knowledge” or “poetic reason,” as the philosopher Maria Zambrano would have said in her last essay, Los bienadventurados, but also along an “Orphic-Pythagorean Path” (in the essay De la aurora). Feeling and understanding both, vision and reason together. Her descriptions of philosophers, mystics, of the blessed, still touch me deeply. I feel they are alive, they vibrate in these hours I cross meditating and writing, like sparkling truths, like whiplashes that give me life and vigor, while also consuming all available moments. The woods, nature is all I have said so far. Since that April day several years ago when I touched the “singing silence” of a redwood forest in California and wrote a poem that became the very definition of Homo Radix (“Root man”), the root man I became: Homo Radix – [lat. hŏmo radix] (pl. root men). – 1. Man or woman daily living in close connection with the Earth and the natural and plant elements, with a particular focus in their own local roots, enhancing the values and resources of the land they live and work in. – 2. A root man or woman is that individual who knows how to travel around the world creating new connections with the landscape they are passing through. A vital element to this connection is the tree, especially a centuries-old or monumental tree.
if you don’t welcome him
he kills you
This is where my awareness or poetic reason blossomed, a first glimpse baptized the path I have walked since, without knowing where, if ever, it may land. Such an amazing path, full of emotions, wonder and discoveries, and also, sometimes, no less than solitude and silence, full of terror, dismay and exhaustion, almost turning into total blindness and sadness without bounds. And then, a few steps later, a new voice, a new touch, a new place to live. Meditation has strengthened my perception and clarity, has fueled new ideas, new attempts, has broken up knots and, obviously, opened up new branches So it is: any hypothesis of happiness opens the gates of something that will bring pain, lack, impotence, and so on, according to the well-sealed movement of the rotating circle of yin and yang.
THE SEED OF GOD
into the earth,
it moves while it is
still nothing, generates life
that is not there. God has invented
it because he could not make
a tree, too busy to root
inform of stone. The
seed is God
Dendrosophy – [gr. δένδρον (déndron), “tree” and σοφία (sophìa), “wisdom, knowledge, love”]. – 1. Dendrosophy unites all types of knowledge concerning history, biology, botany, forest studies, anthropology, literature, etc. related to trees and the woods. – 2. A meditation practice involving immersion in a natural environment, such as reserves, mountain landscapes or ancient forests, deserts – to cultivate inner peace. – 3. The one who practices d. is called dendrosopher, from σοφός (sophòs), “sage.” Arborgrammaticus– (pl. unchanged, from lat.). Arborgrammaticus is the great tree that regulates life and time, it is the king of the forest, it is God for men, memory and ultimate witness of the history of that piece of the world. There are tree seekers and root men who study them, admire them and try to hear their song. From here, I start every day meditating in the woods, to the murmur of a stream that pierces through me, that dilates me, that annihilates me. And to this point I return, with the load of messages that life itself generates and bundles up.
The text en prose has been published in the volume Natural Capital in Italy(2019, Edizioni Ambiente in Milan supported by Connect 4 Climate / World Bank). Poems have been translated by Eleonora Matarrese, except The Seed of God, by Pasquale Verdicchio.
Written by Tiziano Fratus: Crossing the coniferous forests of California Tiziano Fratus has fine-tuned the concepts of Homo Radix and Dendrosophy, practicing daily meditation in nature. His silvan books have been published by leading publishing houses in Italy, while his verses have been translated into 10 languages and published in 17 countries. He directs the radio program Nova Silva Philosophica. He lives where the plain dissipates and the mountains begin to take root. Website: Studiohomoradix.com