Seven good reasons (and adventures) to tell you about this long absence
Surely you were really missing this, more than a month from the last entry has passed and you may have fairly given me for dead. But beside these stories I’m about to tell, much of the unsung efforts go into lonesome strolls and sleepless mornings.
Quoting Lord Byron
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.
And here we go with seven, S-E-V-E-N, adventures and escapes.
We don’t need roads where we’re going
Or how to wander with friends
Take an overexpectably warm day of autumn, and place a bunch of friends tightly packed in a car heading to the feet of the vertical Cermenati trail, on the Southern Grigna. Nothing could possibly go wrong under normal conditions, but of course (it would never be fun otherwise, to always stick to the regular habits) this was not the case.
The real aim of the trek was to introduce a friend to the mountains, showing the beauty of a well deserved beer on top of the highest cliff, enjoying the sight of Northern Italy from one of its first high peaks and baptize him to this passion.
Instead of baptizing him to the passion, we did so in the passion.
His shoes wore off from the sole, tip to tip in the blink of an eye, we tried to push further but pain and discouragement were proving us at the point of considering to retreat.
Heading back has never been an option (reasonably), so I did the only thing we could do.
Switched our boots, fastened the soles with some ropes and trek-poles-band and started back to ascend (notice the three-point clamping).
The boot was often slipping on the sole, but as the trail is a non-riskful one, there was never really any concern of sorts both while climbing and descending.
We’ll have to wait until spiring to see if the sprouts of this hike will bloom into a new passion or if the dread of the gipsy climb scared the hell out of our friends, hopefully you’ll see an update on the topic with a more comfortable night in a hut with some hot soup and an intense sampling of alpine schnapps.
Sometimes gluttony can push stronger than hope.
Trip to the Middle Ages
Where cats are landlords
Had to plant my feet well on the ground after the last adventure, so we headed South to enjoy the last warm autumnal sun rays. More precisely we went to Castell’Arquato, a medieval village perched around Piacenza.
This castle on a cloud stands out on the horizon of the Piacenza hills as a memoradum from an era of past splendor, dominating the houses built at its feet, as subjects of a modern era that regrets medieval glories and stories. The historic center, which we unexpectedly found empty, becomes an important tourist destination in the month of September thanks to the medieval re-enactments that bring back the scent of plague, arrows and nobility in the village.
To date, residents are mostly converted to landlords of holiday homes for wealthy and nostalgic tourists, rather than managers of shops of dubious aesthetic taste or cooks (the latter very much appreciated by us). From its golden age, the city preserves only walls, frescoes and fountains, and the new lords are no longer men, but stray cats crawling alley by alley in search of food and cuddling by tourists. I would have liked to give you some pictures of these new four-legged princes, but every time a count or princess lof such appeared before me, I couldn’t stand the demands for cuddles and games, and coulddn’t refuse them.
Definitely regenerated from this dive into the past we came home with the certainty that if ever the city should rise again, it will be due to cats and not those who, willy-nilly, abandoned it to the memory of a vintage postcard.
A glimpse of wayfarers
Sneeky peeky from an ongoing journey
A correct training is vital for anyone who wants to overcome their physical limits and aim at heights and goals only dreamt before. Just as the body needs training before making a new leap exceeding all the previous ones, so the heart needs a workout to warm it and train it to reach new heights.
A path that can combine both these types of training is the Viandante trail (Wanderer’ trail), which runs along the eastern shore of Lake Como flanking it from Abbadia Lariana to Colico.
We are about halfway through this trail (which we follow in stages) and I do not want to reveal anything excessive before I have concluded it and laid out a well-deserved article dedicated exclusively to this adventure-in-stages.
Meanwhile, know that with the sun or rain we haven’t stopped yet, and even when the sky seemed to fall on us we kept walking towards that Ithaca , getting closer stage by stage.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Konstantinos Kavafis
Bietti camosci neve Chiara (Family love)
It has been, and still continues to be, an unusually warm autumn in Italy.
The drought that in recent years has thrown a bit ‘of concerns (finally) on those who continue to deny climate change (perhaps they finally started looking at the thermometer?) gifted warm days of sun and clear sky, punctuated by isolated snowfall that only in recent weeks have finally started whitening the highest peaks.
Just to taste some crisp air and change the colors of the crimson background, we decided to gift ourselves a rushy awakening to tread on the first snow. The spectacular day was such to entice anyone to take a walk in nature, and not just literally two steps, a glider (the same sighted this summer on the opposite side of the lake area) overflowed us lulling us with the rustle of the air around his thin wings.
Not only other people felt the landscape change from autumn to winter, a beautiful herd of chamois accompanied us on the way back, in a game of continuous pursuits and mutual glances. There is a dance played with these animals every time they appear along the valleys, its music begins with the first intrigued look and follows the rhythm of a slow and patient approach, culminating sometimes with a whistle followed by a quick escape and others with a jagged retreat made of brief pauses and last glances.
Maybe they remember those who they dance with, or every time it’s a new first dance starting from the first question: are we friends or foes? A naive question, whispered in the naturalness of an animal that strives every day to remain lord of his kingdom, which day by day is contaminated with cement, losing fiefs and subjects.
These sights recalled me of Family love, an inspiring work from the america photojournalist Darcy Padilla. Not only the work was awarded the 2015 Word Press, further recognitions come from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Getty Images Grants for Editorial Photography and the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography on top of many more.
The project, which spanned from 1993 ‘til 2014, followed the life of Julie, a youg girl of 18 y/o with a past of abuses, drugs, and on top of that, AIDS. The relationship between Julie and her changing partners revolved around the relationship with her daughters and mostly with her last one, Elyssa.
A crude story bespoken by the eyes of unarmed childs and wasted adults, always struggling to survive and emerge from their own sickness. Apart from the relationship with drugs, abuses and all these “human-related” things, there is a parallel recalling this untamed love with the one of female animals toward their offspring. There is no danger capable of separating the mother from the child, and there is no condition for which she can not bring her cub with her.
Going back to the beaten path we met a flock of sparrows and other tiny birds (the last still unidentified, please help). The size of these slightly exceeded that of the leaves of birches and carpinus, which were lifted during the rapid takeoffs from one branch to another. Here the feeling is always that of being in a kingdom that is only partly ours, and therefore requires a delicate and respectful presence to accomodate the other tenants.
In medio lanum
Naivety in the machine
There is an historical song celebrating Milan, and in the most famous and well-known verse it goes like
Lassa pur ch’el mond el disa, ma Milan l’è on gran Milan
Let the world speak, but Milan is always a great Milan
A slight play of words resides in what can be translated in “great”, which may address both the size and the beauty/glory of the city. Nonetheless Milan has always been the “economical capital” of at least Northern Italy, attracting a huge amount of people in its suburbs developing congested towns on its surroundings thus increasing its apparent size, while retaining on its historical ground the beauties of the Cathedral, the castle, and so on.
But the city is made of people more than buildings, and even if the growing economy is turning the old concrete in steel and glass, a spark of humanity is lighted up by those who can still see the city as a playground (or as a novel)
Does this photograph recall anything familiar to you? Of course.
It is funny to think that one of the first symbols of such a megalopolis was nothing but a half-woolen boar. A species of boar with some tufts of sporadic hair, now evolving and engulfs soil and progress.
Quack & run
A quiet walk turns into a daring escape
We went for a walk on the lake Segrino, which last year proven as test for the compact X100T thanks to the spectacle of its complete glaciation. We came back hoping to see the same phenomenon again but only a small bay was really frozen, so we dedicated ourselves to meet the indigenous populations, ducks and geese.
Despite the bitter cold, these birds have decided not to migrate anymore, and have settled for 365 days a year on the shores of this lake and the others in the surroundings thanks to the continuous supply of food and warmth that the locals and tourists give to these animals in exchange for an interest easily confused with affection.
Given the very early morning, we were one of the few to challenge the cold around the lake, most were runners or people walking the dog, so the herds of ducks and geese confided to find some food and interest from us. We succumbed to the flattery of the white geese who looked at us with dreamy eyes while they saw us drinking from the hot thermos and having breakfast on the banks, little did we know that a single crumb could unleash everything that followed
The interest soon turned into mania, and we found ourselves fleeing from a bunch of hungry and squawking birds. In the race to life I managed to take a single photo to capture the escape. The goose in the foreground, a Canadian, drove the hunt.
Never I would have ever imagined of having fear of the quack
Moonshine for a dream
Where cold hurts the face
Story by story we have reached the most recent adventure, which took place already two weeks ago and which has as its actors the undersigned and a friend, convinced (almost) with deception to participate in the expedition.
We left at about 3 pm from home, and after an hour and a half of driving (only interrupted by a stop at a supermarket to get supplies), we came started the trail. The real theoretical departure would have been about a mile further, but the icy road forced us to anticipate the start and take a snow-covered shortcut.
Walking in the snow is a wonderful experience in its simplicity, and this beauty is even greater if the walk takes place in an undergrowth jagged by rock ridges rising from the valley to the top of the mountain.
The sun set while we were still on the first stretch of the path, but the full moon was enough to illuminate the first hour of walking. In the aridity and darkness of a forest are the little things like seeing a moonrise behind the distant mountains, or the sound of the trees bending and creaking to accompany the fatigue and the cold that helps pushing over the cold and pain.
Passed the first ridge and changed the slope, without having the moon to illuminate our steps we resorted to a more modern frontal torch to light our way. After about two hours from the beginning of the walk we arrived at the winter bivouac of the Bietti Hut, a room always accessible with 4 mattresses, a table and three benches, home for that night.
It is incredible how the little things that we usually take for granted, like electric light, turn out to be an essential desire in the poverty of a mountain bivouac. We had dinner with cold sandwiches made by the frozen bread and meat carried on our shoulders to the place of our shelter, and not having a light in the room we dined by torchlight.
We returned to the open area around midnight, knowing that in that time the moon would have been exactly over the mountainside, illuminating it with a sparkling silver light in the night.
Although the moon was so intense that it illuminated the valley, the dry air was such as to allow an incomparable view of the celestial vault, below you can see a part of the constellation Orion, with the three stars that make up the belt and the Horsehead nebula that stands out in the darkness with its red color.
Nothing could obscure the distant mountains, and just keeping the lens open for about 3 seconds could let us see even the Monte Rosa illuminated by the moon as if it was day.
In the sweetness of this brutal essentiality the candid beauty of nature remains still, with its charm it attracts wanderers in search of an essential and pure beauty.
Would it have been better if these stories were published as individual articles?
But the day is still made of 24 hours, unfortunately.
There are so many more adventures coming in the next days.