Updated: Dec 18, 2021
"Il pane nutre il corpo, certo, ma il fiori nutrono l'anima"
"Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers also nourish the soul."
I'm prone to throwing myself into the unknown, usually through traveling, with the goal of experiencing new ways of life. So i've adopted many hobbies, habits and traditions that are very different from my own upbringing.
This goal of bringing new perspectives into my life has enhanced my ability to celebrate the worlds differences. Sometimes you have to get uncomfortable before you grow, and this way of thinking has helped me breeze through life's changes and challenges. An experience that really shifted my reality, was a couple months spent on the little island of Sardinia, just off the coast of Italy.
I'd been travelling through Europe in the winter with a good friend, and decided to switch things up and go volunteer on an organic permaculture farm. From Rome I flew over to Cagliari, and took the train up into a small village which seemed to be in the middle of no where. Sardinia is a seasonal location, so many of the little villages I visited were ghost towns at that time of year (they literally had rogue sheep running through the streets, bells and all).
I remember sitting at the curb-side with my backpack, waiting for "Antonio in the red van" as the message specified, who ended up being 2 hours late. To be honest, as I sat there I did have a moment of thinking "this could very well be how I will die" because I had only communicated with the family over a few short emails. There was no cell service, no other people, and I swear I saw a tumbleweed roll across the road at one point.
Luckily, when Antonio in the red van pulled up, I saw a carseat in the back of his volts wagon and knew I was safe. He proceeded to try and speak to me in very broken English, and was able to deliver the message that we were going to a seed saving event, where I would meet his wife Francesca who spoke fluently. This was my introduction to a whole new world and way of being that I'd never come across. I had just completed a Horticulture diploma, so my plant I.D. skills were up to par, but what I did not know is that I was in for a rude awakening from my very comfortable lifestyle.
After an incredible afternoon of meeting new faces, dancing in the streets under an olive tree, and eating a delicious vegetarian meal (of I still have no clue what), we drove home in the dark and I felt like I'd landed in heaven. Francesca and Antonio had a 2 year old son, and the family of three lived in an environmentally conscious home which they had just finished building a few months earlier. This meant that I had the "old house" as my own accommodation, until another volunteer arrived. I was thrilled and it was beautiful.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of cattle bells ringing in the distance, (absolutely freezing because I'd let the fire go out) to find a beautiful property with pomegranate, orange, lemon, olive, cashew trees and more. Cats, chickens, and a giant vegetable garden. Everything was grown, wild and free, as things weren't planted in straight lines, or sprayed with pesticides. The fields under the fruit trees were full of flowering arugula & garlic scapes, and the forest surrounding their property was barbed with delicious black berries. In amongst the maze of thorns we'd find wild asparagus (which I really enjoyed searching for). Other than a few locally bought items (cheese, flour, oils) everything Francesca and Antonio ate was from their home. They took care of the land, and in return the land took care of them.
I'd lived in both Europe and a third world country previously, and knew the ins and outs of getting to know a different culture, language, food, etc. But this was a very different experience for me because unlike the crowded temples of Angkor Wat, and the line ups at the Louvre, there were no people around. It was quiet and my pace of life had suddenly slowed to a creeping halt compared to the hostel hopping I'd been doing before hand. They did not have internet, electric heat, or television. Aside from the my daily battle with the black berries, I found myself really uncomfortable with all the free time I had. There was no town nearby, no stores, and no beach in walking distance.
So I began taking photos of plants around the property, I took up painting to pass the time, I spent hours laying in the fields of arugula and even read Francescas holistic nutrition textbook (fast forward a few years to me studying holistic nutrition haha)
Once the second volunteer arrived, we'd sit by the fire in the evenings scheming about how we could keep the house warm through the night, and exchanging both poetry and life chats in English and Italian. He was born and raised in Milan, and wanted to spend sometime living in the stillness of the country.
To be continued...........
"People often ask me what one thing I would recommend to restore relationship between land and people. My answer is almost always "Plant a garden." It's good for the health of the earth and it's good for the health of people. A garden is a nursery for nurturing connection, the soil for cultivation of practical reverence. And it's power goes far beyond the garden gate - once you develop a relationship with a little patch of earth, it becomes a seed itself. Something essential happens in a vegetable garden. It's a place where if you can't say "I love you" out loud, you can say it in seeds. And the land will reciprocate, in beans."
-Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweet Grass.