Here I Learnt How to Come Out of Stupor and Change My Life!

At Selvapiana, winter has hardly made an appearance this year. It snowed – very little -, only once at the beginning of December and that’s it! Last year, however, it had given us a splendid welcome gift, whitening these beautiful hills twice when we had just moved from the city. Today, a year later, thermometers mark over 15 degrees, plants are blooming, and trees are already sprouting.

I have always loved winter. I love snowy days that can transform everything, giving a magical touch to any setting. It saddens me to see such a poor, dry, and warm winter season. Yet, that’s how it is, better to come to terms with it quickly.

A few weeks ago, taking advantage of these spring-like days, I decided it was time to tidy up the garden. When we arrived, in June ’22, it had long been left to itself (like other parts of the house): the tall grass, the wild bushes and trees looked like they hadn’t received any attention for quite a while. When I arrived here, I understood I would completely change my lifestyle. I went from an apartment in a block of flats requiring regular maintenance, to dealing with a huge country house, surrounded by land.

I grew up in a similar environment, in Liguria, in a countryside bursting with olive trees and traditional houses. Until today, however, I had always had the role of an assistant, first to my mother, then to a local lad who often came to help her. I had never had to deal with a situation where you could only choose between two options: call someone to do the work for you, or take up the tools of the trade and get the job done.

My mother is an extremely active person, sometimes too much so. Driven by the urge to do things, she often cares more about doing it than doing it the proper way. She perfected her technique once she retired, having more time available. Until then, hers was always a race to do as much as possible, “tree needs to be pruned”, “lawn needs to be mowed”, “windows need to be sanded”, and so on for everything concerning the house. I believe I have taken after her, undoubtedly. My father never even dared to replace a blown light bulb on his own. As soon as I arrived here, I decided to cut some grass that was almost as tall as me, and this is the proof that my character is more like my mother’s than my father’s.

The Garden “Before”

Therefore, I decided right-away to make do, in the garden and elsewhere. Partly out of necessity, also to save money, partly as a challenge to “the lethargic city creature” I had become. I found myself in this state of torpor despite the various skills honed in the mountains, despite the years spent travelling the world between stadiums and airports, despite my old job as an “event organiser”, declined in various roles: promoter, warehouseman, driver, office worker, responsible for accounting. The good thing is that I never held back and always showed the desire to learn, to put myself out there. Because of this I have survived a life of stupor marked by repetitive events that were never useful and fulfilling for me.

Here, no two days are the same. Above all, here there is always something to do because the house and its surroundings need care. Despite the influence of the nearby city, luckily, we still live in a context that is intact and uncontaminated, caressed and shaped by nature, rooted more in past than in modern traditions. Thus, at the age of 35, tired of organising my calendar around rush-hour traffic times or supermarket opening hours, I came here and I decided it was time to learn. I learnt overcoming the initial mistakes, as elementary as predictable (in hindsight); the frustration they caused; the sensation of having acted according to my own weak logic, instead of the basic fundamentals of mowing, pruning, plastering, shaving, painting, sanding.

If you pass by, you might notice some differences in the colour of the wooden frames of some windows of the old barn. You will find the remains of some trunks straddling the garden fence. Perhaps you will also realise the lack of linearity in the wall of the old barn, that was almost certainly shaved using twice as much energy and mortar as necessary, under the curious (and perhaps amused) gaze of the neighbours. Other things will also turn out to be “distant” from what should be their standard and this at least until I have learnt the right techniques from who is more experienced than me, but above all continuing to do, instead of waiting.

The Garden “After”

Yesterday, while unloading a (few) logs I made myself inside the barn, I was looking back over this past year and a half spent with every different tool in hand, never having used one before: not a chainsaw, not an axe, not a trowel, not a grinder, perhaps just some brushes. I’m honest: a feeling of pride and fulfilment pervaded me. It may not be the best firewood, not the best garden in the village, not the straightest wall around. But they are the result of my desire to do and learn. They are essentially the outcome of my work, which has an inestimable value, beyond just the economic.

Work manages, indeed, to awaken and emancipate every soul that feels dormant and that, at the same time, does not accept this condition of stasis. We work to live better and perhaps also longer. We do not live to work. A garden to fix and a wall to scrape were enough for me to realise this.