Tuesday, August 12, 2014

itineratis itinerandis

the wu wei on fire
For the sake of the wu wei principle, we poured down across the map to the shores of our good ol' mare nostrum, confident in our fate, acknowledging the sea indeed refused no river. As in the antique myth, the flood washed all sin from the face of the earth. And when God's anger calmed down, we woke up in Italy, only to remember like in a dream this rainstorm shower we took in the woods, somewhere back up in Germany. To all those who never tried, being baptised while dancing naked under the pouring rain, feet splashing in the mud puddles is of the most amazing experiences. It soon becomes one of the most frustrating at the same time, though: when you find out the paradox of being eternally soaked without getting rinsed or rid of the soap, ever. Surrounded by trees, by pitch black completely black. black-as-pitch-trees, feet on the ground, naked and connected.  The closer you get to real matter, rock air fire and wood, boy, the more spiritual the world is. Refreshed and renewed we drove in the van, and headed to our latin terra mater. While we wheeled, we watched in silence the blurry movie of the landscape and spent hours laughing and drinking and telling stories.

But the rain shouldn't get all the credit for taking us back to the very cradle of all this latin culture of ours. Part of the reason why we drove these exhausting 900+ kilometers of Dharma - sweat, asphalt, big cars and traffic jams - was the party GiGi had organized and invited us to be a part of: the "La festa del Porchetto" which takes place once every four years or so. A pilgrimage of GiGi's friends from around the world to the heart of Tuscany, for a solemn homage to Bacchus. After crossing the Alps, we ran down into narrow gorges through the Apennines, feeling thankful for what lay around us. It was the work of the quiet mountains, this torrent of purity at our feet, creeks scattered along the way. Nobody to be seen around, hardly an abandoned house every now and then. This is the beginning and the end of the world right here. Look at those patient Buddhas lookin' at us saying nothing, we uttered. There, in the depth of the starry nights, the silence was an intense roar. In the tiny flat-roofed-villages, we experienced the mercy of the goddess of water. We drank the fresh blessing of Her simplest, most essential gift at each of Her shrines. We realized in a brief instant of enlightenment how this life She gives through Her springs and fountains and the Roman aqueducts, this life She also takes back with the other edge of her lead sword. Oh the wheel of the True Meaning! Oh the greatness and decay of all civilizations! Oh the infinite cycle of life and death!

at our arrival at GiGi's: sunset, slackline and chill-out in the yard.
And finally, we got there. As we parked the van under that old apple tree, right on top of a juicy carpet of fruits that had already crossed their own Styx, GiGi was waiting for us in his nice little shack by the Serchio river. The first thing we did was to take a shower in the yard, while watching the sunset behind a corn field. The second was to find a convenient couple of trees to set up the slackline.

The party took place over the weekend and the preliminaries were already on their way: cutting the grass, spreading chairs and couches out in the yard, putting up a splendid table of wine, pickles and antipasti and lighting up the candles, a big bonfire to roast the porchetto and the pizza oven. And of course, the never-ending soundtrack, carefully mixed by an expert GiGi, who gained his skills through DJ-aying all night full moon party sets on the other side of the earth... The next day (Saturnday) as people arrived, the available hands multiplied exponentially. The thousand armed, Shiva-looking party, started its own lifecycle. It divided into several parts, some cooking in the kitchen, others taking care of the burning pig, others loading the freezer with ice cubes, others making sure the couches wouldn't fly away would  the wind unexpectedly start blowing: they practised do-nothing. Like all living creatures, the party sprouted, grew and blossomed, extending to the whole venue, until the point neighbours came in and melted.

After the times of frituur and other northern food, we felt with wordless pleasure the taste of actual meat. We sensed deeply how much the Whole (pig) was boundlessly more than the sum of its unsubstantial, processed, tasteless and fleshless (wurst) parts. Sipping red wine by the bonfire, we spent a while with Christ., who self-assignedly took care of the pig. Even though one might feel they are taking care of the Porchetto, humility and the sense of active passivity ultimately takes one back to the simplest truth: everything takes care of itself. The pig dealt with the gentle fire on its own and expected nobody to handle the torch. More or less as the party did... Christ. told us about this awkward attraction of his for nothing but the lowest parts of the pig: ears, nose, guts and feet.
chatting al fresco
At least, that's what he willingly confessed. But what at first appeared to be a genuine culinary taste soon enough proved to be a cathartic relationship to flesh and the responsibility of killing living beings for the fulfillment of a predator instinct. Chewing every piece to the bone without wasting a thing was his trail to redemption. In the Chinese Book of Changes, a year ago, we had tossed a couple of pennies to see what the prediction of our fortune was and it had come out, "you will feed others. In fact, that's where we spent most of our time during the last year: by others' hot stoves, baking cookies, brewing teas, boiling soups, stewing stuff, roasting lambs and such. And that's where we spent most of our time during the party, too. Cooking for others somehow gave us the feeling to be where we belonged. Or perhaps was it our own way to redeem? 

The party went on all night. And the next day, with the sun already high in the sky, people woke up who had fallen asleep here and there: on the couches, in the backyard, by the fire, along the corn field. We lit up the embers in the pizza oven to warm the focaccia up for a late breakfast. As the day passed, people gathered their belongings, clothes and blankets, packed and said goodbye. The four of us - we and GiGi - tidied, cleaned and closed the barn. Everything comes to an end.

Now came the time for our big mountain climb […]  under an immense spread of natural park trees, firs and ponderosas a hundred feet high some of them, a great quiet starlit grove with frost on the ground and dead silence except for occasional little ticks of sound in the thickets where maybe a rabbit stood petrified hearing us. GiGi offered to take us to the Pannia della Crocce, their holly mountain among all, here in the Apuan Alps. We woke up with the sun, got to the end of a valley, then up a long sharp ridge to the summit. The trail had a kind of immortal look to it, […] the way the side of the grassy hill seemed to be clouded with ancient gold dust and the bugs flipped over rocks and the wind sighed shimmering dances over the hot rocks.

summit of the Pannia della Crocce, and the long way down to the valley.

This pleasant half-day trek was our farewell to GiGi, who had plans elsewhere. But we stayed in Apuan Alps and started to hike on our own. The next morning, we left the van at Val Serenaia, put the sleeping bags, food and climbing gear in the rucksacks and heading up, straight towards Monte Pisanino. At Foce di Cardeto, we hid the rucksacks to climb up light. Another sharp, impressive ridge to climb. The secret of this kind of climbing, is like Zen. Don't think. Just dance along. It's the easiest thing in the world, actually easier than walking on flat ground which is monotonous. The cute little problems present themselves at each step and yet you never hesitate and you find yourself on some other boulder you picked out for no special reason at all, just like Zen. Which it was.

Go off somewhere and find perfect solitude and look into the perfect emptiness of our minds
and be completely neutral from any and all ideas.
We reached the summit by noon and had lunch up there. We sat down and say, and run all our friends and relatives and enemies one by one in this, without entertaining any angers or gratitudes or anything, and we say, like 'GiGi, equally empty, equally to be loved, equally a coming Buddha', we don't use any name, just people we know because when we say the words 'equally a coming Buddha' we want to be thinking of their eyes, like you take Futuna, his big green eyes behind those glasses, when you think 'equally a coming Buddha' you think of those eyes and you really do suddenly see the true secret serenity and the truth of his coming Buddhahood. Then you think of your enemy's eyes. We enjoyed the silence,  only disturbed by the fury of restless machines chewing with their steel jaws the very flesh of the mountains. Marbelous land'art, absurd temples settled there for no god, if not that of industrial ages. These very quarries - said the old men from the valley - the Romans were so fond of, provided the white marble Michelangelo's David is made of… What is a Renaissance masterpiece worth? A million years old one?

in the marble temples; down from Pisanino; Uccello across Val Serenaia ; Un(t)ravelers on the ridge.
Down we hiked and back to where the rucksacks were. We walked towards Orto di Donna's guarded shelter, but decided to spend the night at a little tin shack called K2, some distance from there, instead. We lit the stove with leaves and branches we gathered around, cooked a simple soup and  called it a day. We slept like logs until the next morning.

Our goal for this second day was a mult-pitch climb to Monte Cavallo, a route called Gli smemorati, whose first ascent was credited to a mountaineer and a priest… We were told that, while the pitches bolted by the mountaineer showed a certain distance between anchorages, the ones opened by the priest had been excessively bolted: we found a piece of anchorage every meter or so. Wasn't the priest the one who should have been less afraid of death? An intense fog rose as we climbed up the beautiful gneiss wall, which didn't let us take the trail back down. We had to abseil down the wall crossing on the way, not only one but two parties (one of two and another of three!) going up in spite of the bad weather and the late hour. If you wonder why there are tragic accidents in the mountain, here you have part of the answer. As the guide of Orto di Donna shelter reminded: "the one goal of mountaineering is to come back alive ; summiting is only an option".

climbing Monte Cavallo: misty ascent, misty descent... and moisty rope coiling!
Later on that day, as we hiked back down to Val Serenaia to get the van back and drive to Gramolazzo lake, the air began to get warmer and nicer and in fact we thought we could begin to smell people again. We could smell the nice raunchy tide-smell of the lakewater, and flowers, and softer dust of down below.  […] Here there was the smell of sun-heated wood, sunny dust resting in the moonlight, lake mud, flowers, straw, all those good things of the earth. We sat down the peer, our feet in the water, and rested a while under the evening sun, our bodies tired and sore. 

Let the mind beware that, though the flesh be bugged,
the circumstances of existence are still pretty glorious.

* All fragments in colour are from Jack Kerouac's novel Dharma Bums we were reading during those days in Toscany and Apuan Alps. His words and thoughts walked along with us and inspired us.

1 comment :

  1. I really enjoy your posts and i even had a little taste of this porchetto un muy mouth! Beautiful pictures and descriptions as always! Plus i really feel ashamed of muy english when i reed you guys! Love!