“When my children were small, I played a game with them. I gave them a twig each and told them to break it. It was certainly not a difficult task. Then I gave them a bunch of twigs and said try to break that. Obviously they couldn’t. That bunch of twigs – I told them – that’s the family.”
(Alvin Straight , from the film A True Story by David Lynch)
The first time I travelled to the Val d’Orcia, on a journey that should simply have been a pleasure jaunt, I instinctively perceived, without any rational explanation, an unexpected and ancestral call. As if recondite voices directly vibrated my heart-strings bringing me a sense of great emotional fullness. For the third time in my life, after the Court of Chichen Itza in Yucatan and the mountains of the Great War, the Ortigara of the Asiago plateau, a deafening, supernatural and phantasmagorical chorus accompanied me on a path traced on my destiny.
So a few years later, a bit like Alvin Straight in the film A True Story – who crossed the boundless agricultural expanses of the American hinterland on his lawnmower to visit his sick brother – I felt an irresistible desire to leave to find that sense of union and communion that only a family can give. Even if I then travelled in a very comfortable 4x4!
As always happens, when there is the will there is also the way: in this case my profession as editor and journalist. “I would love to invest in a magazine in Tuscany”, Nick Ferrand told me (see the cover article on pages 8-13), looking me straight in the eyes with his by-the-book Anglo-Saxon pragmatism.
A purpose taken seriously enough that, some time later, I moved with my family to start work on this new edition of Valley Life for Siena, Amiata and the Val d’Orcia.
And this reflection of mine today says that every real ‘revolution’, collective or personal, is nothing more than a return to the beginning and to origins, which has little to do with ‘great and adventuresome fate’ but rather with a backward-facing symbolic and esoteric journey, within oneself, towards Atlantis and its Golden Age .
So, shortly after the birth of my first daughter, Angelica, I wanted this valley for her – with its deeply rural aspects and, conversely, its universal opening to the world. Because she can grow, if she wants, in this epiphany of chiaroscuro that is the Val d’Orcia, and her life will not be the less for it.
Try now (and if they have reaped it all, settle for a bundle of green grass!) to take a bunch of wheat. And try to break it with your hands.
Recommended listening : Something just like this, Coldplay