Embrace the Essence of Italian Bliss

A Journey to Serenity and Simplicity

A Crooked Tree

A Crooked Tree

On that Friday, my dad checked the weather at least a dozen times. The experts had predicted that the next day would be a beautiful late March day, with not a cloud in the sky across the entire country. So the family decided to go to the mountains on Saturday.

I woke up very early, before the sun rose, with the smell of toasting bread permeating every corner of the house. I rushed down the spiral staircase, nearly tripping over the blanket I had wrapped around me.

In the kitchen, in front of the stove, my mother’s laughter blended with the sound of coffee bubbling in the moka pot. I kissed her warm cheek and sat at the table next to my sister, who devoured a loaf of bread covered in strawberry jam.

Dad was agitated, as he always was when we all went out together, moving back and forth, packing the backpacks as if we were going on a week-long ski trip, even though we would only spend one night in a hotel!

We left the house, and it was almost seven, a bit late according to my father, considering the several hours of travel that awaited us. But for me, the journey was not a problem; in fact, I appreciated long car rides, especially when we went to the mountains. Through the car window, I watched the landscape change. The slow but inexorable fading of our gentle hills, and the sudden appearance of those snow-covered heights that loomed in the distance like menacing giants. Up there, on the rocky peaks, the morning sun shone, and in the valleys not yet touched by the light, tiny enchanted villages appeared.

Those narrow, winding roads, all uphill, where the sounds of nature became even more intense, and the song of birds I had never heard before echoed. If I opened the window, I could smell the pungent and wild scent of the forest, the earth’s humidity, and the aroma of humus.

We parked on a dirt road in front of a small, likely deconsecrated church, which looked even smaller amid the vastness of the peaks. We had some food outdoors, lying on the vast meadows that seemed to stretch endlessly, and set out in search of beauty, accompanied by the jingling of cowbells and the bleating of sheep grazing nearby.

Suddenly, just a few minutes into our family adventure, something in the air began to change. The sounds of nature abruptly ceased, and enormous dark clouds raced toward us. It seemed as though the sky was preparing for battle! The wind brought down snow from the peaks, thunder and lightning erupted on the scene of what had seemed like a perfect day just moments before.

We ran like desperate souls back to the car, where we waited for almost an hour until the storm allowed us to drive safely to the hotel.

From the wet car window, I observed those dark clouds moving across the sky, mesmerized by the thunder and the rain’s tapping on the car roof. Then, suddenly, I noticed Him.

Next to the old church, perched on a rocky slope, there was a crooked tree clinging to the cliff with its last remaining strength. Feeble but resolute, with half of its trunk charred by lightning, it raised its withered branches into the sky with an unheard-of pride. The furious wind and biting cold whipped the two remaining leaves on Him, the remnants of what had once been a lush canopy teeming with life.

Beneath Him, near those exposed roots that desperation had transformed into claws, the earth slid away, pushed by the water. With tears in my eyes and trembling legs, I watched what, to me, was the bravest being in the world.

I wanted to help Him, to bring back its sap with my vitality, to give it a few more days of life, or at least to lighten its burden. I don’t know if the others had noticed Him , but I kept looking at it, wondering how He could withstand the elements and if He ever grew weary of the struggle.

That magnificent bridge between the earth and the sky, which nourished and sheltered other living beings, was now standing there, on the brink of death, and I could do nothing.

I closed my eyes for a moment; the sight of that struggling tree pained me. It was then that I remembered the words of Aunt Gilda when she spoke of her husband’s premature passing a few years ago. She told me a phrase that had struck me at the time and that I knew would come in handy one day: “Death does not exist“. I repeated that phrase within me until it became my own, until I believed with all my being that what Aunt Gilda had said was true.

My eyes opened slowly, effortlessly, to observe the tree once more and imagine a different, more beautiful, and happier future for Him than the one I had previously projected. That wonderful being I had given up for lost was not finished yet because nothing has an end just as nothing has a beginning. He would soon become a home for various birds that would otherwise have nowhere to go, a pantry for squirrels, a refuge for dormice that would spend their winters in hibernation curled up in their round nests, waiting for the arrival of spring.

I imagined badger dens, dug into His roots, woodpecker nests, and hornet queens’ nests finding shelter in His trunk for the winter. A safe haven for owls and barn owls, a quiet place to raise their young.

Now my heart was at peace because I was certain that the crooked tree was not dying but changing form, standing tall with all the dignity a living being can muster.

The rain stopped, and a timid ray of light broke through the thick clouds still covering the sky, illuminating the time-bent branches that would soon become something else.

I sighed lightly because at that precise moment, I had the absolute certainty that all the crooked trees, in every corner of the world, had been reached by the same sliver of sunlight to whisper to the leaves, “Death does not exist”.

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