I HAD A WOUND IN MY HEART. Or: SANTU LUXURGIU PROTECT US!
Once upon a time in Montiferru, right in the centre of the island, there was a lush forest of holm oaks, oaks, chestnut trees, downy oaks and centuries-old cork trees populated by deer and mouflon over which hawks and griffon vultures flew.
But one strange summer, wraught with blinding sunlight and oppressive heat, a treacherous and deceptive spark creeps in. It makes its way through Mediterranean shrub, woods, pastures, olive groves, passes through sheds, barns with fodder stocks and farm vehicles and, having by then become a live and relentless fire, descends upon the defenceless and unsuspecting animals. And as if in an evil and useless design, prompted by the extreme heat and the uncontrollable sirocco winds, the flames engage in unruly destructive battles. Hectares and hectares of land were incinerated by these determined, tenacious fires. Poor partridges, poor woodpeckers, buzzards, hawks and owls and sheep, cows and horses. And poor reptiles, hares, hedgehogs and wild boars. What torture! What sadness! A wound in the heart! Santu Lussurgiu protect us! The blazing fires disregarded no path, no bush, no stone, no disjointed, winding, steep path up the mountain to Badde Urbara. What a calamity! What pain!
Yet, we know, civilisation only began when St Anthony went underground to wrest some fire from the Devil. So many traditions and legends link fire to mythology. Fire unites, fire enchants, fire warms, fire hypnotises, fire inspires. It inspires tales, stories and more. Fire is magical. How many blood pacts have been made by jumping over the fire two by two on the summer solstice? Such a pair would become connected for life! Everything relentlessly went up in smoke.
Disoriented boys and girls disbelievingly wander through the wounded forest to pay their respects. The young people meet and together walk through satin embers, between accounts from memory, visions of popular traditions and surreal landscapes. It’s a strange summer, a burning summer, of scorched earth and dazzling light. They walk in uneven, unusual and complicated territories, enveloped in the reflections, glares and shimmers of the blazing sun. The sun is evanescent and invisible but very present. You can feel but not see it, shrouded in grey, red-hot skies. The figures meander through a hostile but fantastic, dark but enchanting, unknown but inviting land. It is a moonscape, it is the post-industrial Middle Age.
The woods are now branches of black coral. The trees have become shakily placed charcoal strokes on a sheet made of ash. The rocks are fossils from the pre-Nuragic period, fit as homes only for giants, the ground is an immaculate cobblestone of soot and still red-hot stones.
The women are blurred figures like apparitions in tea-dyed ecru or pitch black or rose prints They wear shirts made of lace, cut-outs, sangallo lancework, embroidery. They wear tulle, cotton, three-dimensional lace and voile. Flowered and embroidered suits. Over-decorated jackets, exposed lingerie, wide skirts and cowboy boots. The men are puzzles of inlays, checks, tartans, stripes and flowers. They are interrupted and disjointed boys.
All of them wander through another universe, in another time. A suspended time. A total time that weaves together roots and stories and fables and predictions of the future and men and women who seek each other out, lose each other, wait for each other. The sea is far away. Away from the senses and away from the heart.
The characters of the wasteland slowly rise to the surface, rediscovering the image of a thought that comes from afar, from the Janas, from the nuragic areas, from migrations, from transhumance. Movement is contraction and extension, indefinite, no longer following the ordinary structure of now, but existing in a temporal scan where each instant is infinitely divided into the past and the future, both occurring at the same time. History intertwined with the thread of legend. The characters position themselves in a neutral zone from which they distribute themselves, nomadicly and irregularly, bewildered, to repopulate and revive the most beautiful place in the world.
“I had a wound in the bottom of my heart, I could feel it, I could feel it burning, but I didn’t want to suffer”, says Nada’s voice, as warm as those flames. “Step by step, the wound was always there. I could still feel it. So I started running through mountains, rivers, lakes, but the wound was always there. I have dug, opened, torn, bled: the heart swells, becomes a ball, becomes a force that smashes millions of shadows in the clear air that hides evil. So I picked up, touched, looked at the wound and over time sewed it up. Now it is an embroidery at the bottom of the heart”.
Santu Lussurgiu, protect us!
Everything will be reborn more luxuriant than before, the greenery will return and the roses will bloom again.
That wound in the bottom of the heart will heal, it has to.
All images Courtesy of Antonio Marras