LE MARCHE

Passion & Places

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05/07/2011  RssIcon

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I was thinking about a couple of things this morning which I wanted to explain to you. Below is my attempt to put them “in black in white” as clearly as possible.

Primary hypothesis. There is always a close correlation between human activity and the kind of test entitled "draw me a tree and I'll tell you who you are." These tests display a grain of logical reasoning. You probably wouldn’t expect the person who fails to wave in thanks after you let them pass at at a junction to let their fellow occupants out of a lift before them. The person who finds your Iphone which you lost at a petrol station and gets it back to you most probably also pays their taxes. I realise that these are not mathematical rules, but the fact remains that details are important and we need to pay attention to them. They count if we want to understand people, take care of them or, as is unfortunately sometimes the case, protect ourselves from them.

Secondary hypothesis. A charming way to give meaning to existence and continually find points of similarity is by associating various human actions with something they resemble. Matching the practical with the symbolic, establishing links. It’s very useful if you think about it: if you learn to connect an event or person you meet along the road of life with a metaphorical image, you’ll remember them for ever, and God only knows how important memory is.

I have made these two statements because this morning I was thinking about the concept of care. Care in terms of intuitive attention, silent support, innate wisdom. I realise that I could have been clearer in the way I have expressed these ideas, but I hope to be able to shed light on my reasoning by and by. I should also mention that I was thinking about my grandmother, Nonna Iris, the consistent protagonist of a little space into which, like a good little Paradise Trotter, I want to invite you- freely- to take part in my peregrinations, whether real or simply imagined. A few days ago, on 15th June to be precise, it was her birthday and I began to reminisce about the summers we spent at her house in the countryside in Rastia, a tiny village in the municipality of Matelica. In the beginning, when we were young, the house was just one of four long and narrow divisions in a big, isolated building which had been separated into residences. The bathroom was outside in the yard. Then, when some of the other villagers moved to the city, Nonna bought another “section” of the building and, a few years later, redecorated the huge barn next to it which “incorporated” the yard with the bathroom, transforming it into an annexe. I can clearly remember going to buy the tiles for the longed-for indoor bathroom, and how Nonna let me choose the ones with vine leaves painted on them; and I remember how the staircase which led to the second floor felt like a Da Vinci contraption when I climbed it. I remember the emotion of seeing the finished annexe with the big skylight and the sky to witness our laughter.

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The care with which Iris tended to her countryside home during those torrid summers of the 1990s was, and continues to be, a source of inspiration for me. The idea behind improving the building was not, as you will probably be thinking, to transform it into a show home. It was a- successful- attempt to make it more amenable to the person who dwelt there, adapting it to host relations and friends, a loving setting for others. This was also revealed through the objects inside: every knick-knack, every piece of furniture in that house had a meaning, because it is the history of the object which counts more than its supposed beauty. There's the porcelain hen which belonged to my great-great-grandmother, the sea-green sideboard which used to be in my great-grandmother’s kitchen, the model cars which my uncle made out of old tins when he was little are on display... When I was a child, there was a clock with a pendulum from my mysterious Aunt Gorizia. Then there are the tiles which I chose. A kind of showroom in which every object is linked to a type of love which, obviously, it does not need but which is capable of transferring itself to the object and transforming the object into a good luck charm.

For me, this is the principle of an antiques store. Being surrounded by objects whose beauty comes not necessarily from their elegant appearance, but primarily from the meaning bestowed on them by time, every hand which has touched, stroked, and polished them. An 18th century toelette is a beautiful object, but it is especially beautiful because someone is reflected in it; it has witnessed an awakening, a kiss, or, perhaps, an argument. Who knows how many love letters were penned at a 1930s desk, how many books or drawings. The same goes, in my opinion, for the sea green sideboard, which housed the plates which my ancestors used or where they stored their bread to stop it drying out. And when I go into an antique store in Ostra, Senigallia or Ancona, for example, this is the exact kind of deeply human resonance I feel.

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There is a significant difference between considering an object old and considering it an antique. This difference is called respect. And it's possible that if someone has the gift of imagining meaning, the energy hidden behind something which appears to be just an object, then they will have the same attitude towards people and will respect the aging process, attributing high value to it. My Nonna, for example, gave that to me. I will never forget the time when, on the way to see my cousin, we saw an elderly man some distance away who was losing his balance on a battered bicycle: I had barely spotted him before Iris flew to his rescue, several metres away. Therefore, I like to think that an interest in antiques, or simply for old objects as keepers of history is, more than a passion, a positive metaphor for the care which surrounds us, that intuitive attention, silent support, innate wisdom.

 

The Paradise Trotter

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