Sunday, June 21, 2015

Radici del Sud ~ An Emotional Pilgrimage to One’s Origins

One soul's radical search for the ideal on an imbalanced planet 

Bucita, Calabria ~ 1977
Do you have a lifelong quest? What about life in this world lights up your spirit? Is there some thing, whether it be objective or subjective, that keeps your heart pumping blood through your veins? I hope so, for your sake. We’ve seen too much in this world, lately, of souls who have no greater purpose. And when those dark things happen, our world stumbles.

The world I inhabit mourns with the rest of the souls sensitive enough to know the dark path is the wrong path. When the unspeakable happens, it seems at first, all we can do is stare into the abyss and ask, why? It’s a fool’s errand, for the actions that we grieve over didn’t spring from the well of reason. For my European friends who look at America as a magical place, this kind of tragedy mystifies them even more than those of us in America. I just spent a week in Italy with friends, old and new, and we talked about things like this over the table. President Obama clearly elucidated how many of us on both sides of the ocean feel in the remarks he gave this week:
“But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”

Yes we all are going to have to dig deeper and come to grips with racism, in American and in Italy. While in Bari for a week, I saw a region embracing a wider cultural mix. In the little square where we had dinner in Putignano, Italian children played with African children. Clearly, Italy, from the south up, is doing the work of dealing with souls, not skins. I thought about the existential crisis in the north, with the refugees camped at the Italian-French border. I know that racism exists – I have been treated like a black man at times. Not to take away from the black man’s plight, who is treated like a black man all the time. Just to say, I have had a window into that world, and I cannot imagine how one can live life being treated like that 24/7.

I made friends in the 1970’s with a Hopi elder, from one of the old villages, Oraibi. We corresponded for a time. It was a brief interaction, but one that gave me insight into one of the great indigenous peoples on this world. The people of Hopituskwa see themselves as caretakers of the earth. That lesson has stayed with me all this time.

While in Italy, as a guest of Radici del Sud, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dig even deeper into my southern Italian roots was bestowed upon me and all who traveled there for the event. A week-long event, for which I took time off to go to. Why, do you ask, would one take vacation time to do what one does in the working time? I’m not sure I can answer adequately, but for me it was more like a retreat into my roots, with wine.

We immersed ourselves in Apulia, Campania, Basilicata and Calabria and their indigenous grapes. In reality it wasn’t emotionally much different from the times I’d go to Hopituskwa and crawl among the villages of Sipaulovi, Shungopavi, Oraibi, Hotevilla and Lower Moenkopi. That same sense of sacred permeates the southern Italian land.

In Basilicata, where the Catholic religion has integrated earlier spiritual traditions, it was most interesting. The Goddess energy is so strong. In Campania, as well, along with a strong dose of temporality, assisted by Vesuvio. Apulia, the long flat tongue of a place, with such amazing fecundity. And Calabria, one of the last wild places left in Italy, which the people and the peppers emote with rebellious fervor. I find these things inspiring, for my path is to find a deeper trail into the heart and soul of Italy, not a 5 star resort.

Most of all, the people. I cannot even begin to talk about the wonderful humans I met. From Italy, north and south, from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, Holland, Japan, Hong Kong, Norway, Poland, Sweden and on. People for whom Italy and Italian wine is their path. My global tribe. So wonderful to be with them, visiting wine regions, tasting wine, eating, swimming, laughing, falling asleep, and being with each other.

Back home, in my little greenhouse world of Italian wine, there aren’t a lot from my tribe here. There are some, but the deeper discussion, the exploration, the collaborative, those are endangered. Oh yes, if you want to post a picture of the five greatest Barolos on your Instagram page, I reckon that is a kind of 21st century communication. But it does nothing for me and it moves not this soul. It’s just another selfie. “Look how big mine is.” Yes, yours is bigger than mine. We’re talking about egos, yes?

Carlo Bevilacqua photographs solitary ones around the world. I've written about him in the past. Like the old vines and the livestock that inhabits the lands of Southern Italy, so too, there are humans who represent the ancient ‘radici’ that makes this place so profuse.

I might romanticize Italy much as the Italians romanticize the American West. I’ve seen the unromantic side of the American West, having lived in it most of my life. Nonetheless, we all have a need to make our little dreams ones that we don’t want to tear ourselves away from, in a sweat, with a start. We all want our sweet dreams. For me, Southern Italy is a window into such a dream. And for the wine lover, this is a profoundly rich immersion, if only for a few days. But I will be back with my trowel and my camera and my unquenchable thirst for my roots.

A huge thank you to Nicola Campanile, Maurizio Gily and Ole Udsen for spearheading the conspiracy and opening doors to finally get me to Radici del Sud. There are many others as well, and further posts will follow in acknowledgement. This is truly a wonderful regional event, and one I hope I can return to again some day.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Marius Fries said...

Alfonso, this is something I'm waiting for every sunday, highly personal and emotionally moving. Love it !

Maurizio said...

Very touching, Alfonso. Thank you for coming. You and other friends made Radici 2015 something very special. A great toast to the "greater italy" that inhabits the whole world!

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks, Marius...very kind of you.

Grazie, Maurizio - I really feel like I met a "brother" - hope we get to spend more time together in the future...Thank you for having me to this wonderful event.

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