“Nothing lives for long
Only the land and the mountains.”
“I heard that you would put us on a reservation near the mountains. I do not want to go there. I like to roam the praries. There I feel free and happy, but when we stay in one place we become pale and die.”
(Satanta, Kiowa chief)
Do the seagulls of Belladanza seem happy to you? And you yourself, hassled and sad, do you really feel happy?
If you take the E45 towards Perugia, just after the Santa Lucia exit looking at the fields on your right, you will see a myriad of plots dotted with motionless white flecks, sometimes pacing around in the sun. At other times they point like arrows from the hills down to the Tiber, beaks aimed at the speeding cars.
Yes, seagulls. Fearless and legendary companions on ocean crossings, stars of mysterious ghost ships cranking up the drama of the body and the human soul. Totemic animals for the human condition in solitude and revolt, woven through the tobacco clumps in an outlying field. Drifting, extinguished, aliens in this inland place that looks out on no sea. Is all the pride and nobility of the wild creature forgotten? What are they now, a footloose colony bound over to the modernity and falsity of comfortable middle-class life? Is eating from a rubbish dump truly their evolutionary destiny?
It makes me think of my childhood in the countryside, windy days out hunting where I learned about the distant charm and rigid habits of many species of resident and migratory birds.
But is that how the world is (isn’t) today?
Once you waited for the blackbirds to arrive in a twisted knot at nightfall, while across the countryside the bells of the evening tolled. Or on early mornings, when one’s fingers were hardened by frost and one’s breath condensed freezing under impressive Oak cantepini. You had to stay still not to be seen or heard, the woodland creatures were so shy.
Today the blackbirds hang out in city parks, in the warmth of polluted fireplaces and chimneys, to be chased by a gang of bored kids, hopping between a rusty bench and the hedges of a pretty little garden.
The starlings and pigeons were autumn armies marching from the steppes. To see and trap them out, on their mythical southward journey, you would have to set foot in the mountains. You would have seen them wheel high up if the Tramontana blew or going along the ditches, in fast and sudden storms like ghosts in the still tepid days of the Sirocco. They too have abandoned themselves, in large part, to a sedentary life, taking advantage of the idleness and docile mechanics of human society.
Only the jay maintains a certain evasive loneliness.
Recommended listening. The Archer, William Patrick Corgan