Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Tree Hugger

For the past few weeks I’ve been on a lot of planes. In a lot of places, New York, Verona, Alba, Frankfurt, Houston and San Antonio. Some great wine and food, wonderful encounters with interesting people. My global village. But tonight I will put my head on my pillow in my bed. Local sleep, slow sleep, sustainable sleep, yes.

In an airport waiting for a plane to catch up with me, I was scanning a piece by Thomas Friedman titled, “The Power of Green.” It got me to thinking about my little patch of green back home.

Which is where the Sardegnan tree hugger comes in. His nickname is Cecio. I call him Cucureddu, he calls me Capo Bastone. We’ve connected on a tribal level in the urban jungle. He runs an Italian kitchen in my town, very successful (though the wine list is overdo for a makeover). But he’s even much better in the garden outside than in the restaurant inside.

Tomatoes and artichokes, olive trees and herbs grow in a slice of earth here, a patch there. In one spot he has myrtle (mirto) plants growing so he can make his own infusions. Once he took me up to the attic where he was curing his own prosciutto.

In his 40’s now, usually with a Marlboro hanging from his lips, Cecio is in the old age of his youth. A ladies man, and one who raced onto the urban scene from his sleepy little seaside village in Sardegna, a town called Orosei.

I came to know Orosei through the writings of Salvatore Satta and Grazia Deledda, two very famous writers. And through Cecio, for the practical and primordial matter of being Sardegnan. The Sardegnans fascinate me. An island, but in many ways the anti-Sicily. Fiercely independent, they make the stubborn Calabrese culture look yielding, like butter that has been set on a sun drenched window sill. Opinionated, and innocently guarded of any civilization that might threaten their way or their progress. Tough folks, but thanks to time spent with my Persian friends, I think I can navigate my way through their world.

And what a world it is, so beautiful, the water, the light, the stars. Basic, elemental, simple, uncluttered. The island has become a haven for the famous and the wealthy looking to loosen their burden for a few weeks.
Funny, how those who “have it all” look to a place of simplicity to return to a way that they can never have. How ironic.

I asked Cecio if he would help me trim a few trees, especially the fig. The fig is a fabulous producer, but it had grown too high and needed to be brought back into the yard. My friend had been trained by his father, so I was sure he learned the right way. In fact all the fig (and fruit) trees I saw recently in Italy had been trimmed exactly like Cecio trimmed the one back home. We should rename him, maybe Capo Fico.

He climbed up and took it on like a sculptor would take on a piece of Carrara marble. With his chainsaw, he went about the tree, trimming here, carving there. It was truly great to watch him in an instinctive labor. I see him in the restaurant, flirting with the ladies, acting all sophisticated and urbane. But up in that tree I saw a man in his element, approaching his mature persona with diligence and discipline. And he is so good in that world. I tell him he has the green thumb. He grows lemons in January, tomatoes in March, it's like he brought the California (or Mexico or Sardegna) weather onto his little patch of earth. He has his own weather patterns.

What is so wonderful to see is, though he has access to money and famous people, it seemed I saw a happy man up in my trees, doing what came naturally to him. Cecio dancing in the sky with his true self.

My yard is a better place for it. Green is good.

Next, we’re going to save the world for the bees and make safe havens for these gentle creatures that seem to be losing the battle against the march of progress.

On the wine trail: Canonnau grapes in North Texas. That's all the wine talk for this posting.


Tracie B. said...

so he found his italy in texas, did he? che bello! i hope i find mine too :)

Giuliana said...

Zio you are THE BEST...

Anonymous said...

capo Bastoni mi stupisce sempre piu;molto sensibile ,umano e di una gran classe che porta la sua opera a livelli unici...Bravo Alfonso..
Capo Fico ;-)

TG said...

this whole entry is so damn cool!

maarruda2002 said...

I loved what I saw and learn.
You're a very interesting person,smart too.
big beijo

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