Paisatg-e / Paisaj-e / Landscap-e / Paysag-e





Greenness is landscape

Biel Mesquida
Writer and journalist, awarded with the Cross of Sant Jordi 2005 of the Government of Catalonia

My whole body had been assailed by curiosity for some days, but I had been smothered by the pressure of work, without a second for myself. What's more, domestic life, which I have always enjoyed, was stifling me. I had for days been wanting to touch the books, all those things that Aunt Diana had left me, which sat there silently, expectantly, in her library, that quadrangular room with Pompeian paintings of faded tree leaves on the walls, which opened up onto a terrace in the garden of my grandparents' family house. It was a tale by the writer Danilo Kis, open on a reading stand that stood on the cherry wood table where she used to write, which started me off on my research. Funeral Honours was its title, and it belonged to the book The Encyclopaedia of the Dead, a beautiful translation into Spanish by Nevenka Vasiljevic, published by El Acantilado in May 2008, two weeks before Aunt Diana died. Everything was the words of the dead bursting into life. Everything was a defence of that magnificent yet terrible singularity that every being is unique in the world: every being, from the most insignificant to that most bloated with significance. Like the sentences she had underlined, small, light annotations handwritten in pencil: everything was an epiphany, a meristematic growth tissue in its purest form, sap which sprung from deep roots located beneath the rock, in the damp, dark corners where stalactites grow. It was with these hints that I discovered what remained of the old herbarium that the young Diana had made when she began thinking about writing the Guide to trees in a garden, which she never completed. There, right in my hands, I had a treasure made up of the fervorous lava of an entire existence. Everything was fragments and notes from a patchwork in which letters were mixed with stems and dried leaves of the species and varieties which at that very time I had before my eyes in the dazzling brightness of that oppressive summer afternoon. Diana's writing was strict and enlivening: "I have all the trees inside of me as a kind of resurrection. This handful of dry letters, mixed up with (also dry) vegetable cells, is a living testament of a force as powerful as that which makes the sap rise through the vascular bundle from the roots to the branches. I am well aware that, if you look at something for a long time and with all your concentration focused on it, it will lose all meaning or open up a new, dazzling insight into the human condition. This experience, which goes to depths that I will not be able to discover, has happened to me by contemplating trees." The notes are short and complicated. Sometimes I find a word in block capitals: LANDSCAPE or UNIQUE or MY or TREES or GARDEN. I combine them with the texts and understand that solitary, consoling search for vegetable, earthly beauty, for the taste of the land and the sky and the sea. "The ailanthuses are the most faithful invaders and friends: compound leaves with the smell of dirt when they touch you when you go out and around and make the pathways to the house. The glossy privets with those whitish-yellow flowers seem to me like a high holiday. We must round off those defending the pathways to the fields of crops. The Judas trees, how loudly those flowers of deep, dazzling pink shout. I like their leaves, in the shape of a clam shell. And those pods, all full of seeds! Those Stone pines in the copse are older than grandma, who died when I was two. She planted them with her two sisters. And, especially, the gardeners!" And so on, she listed no less than thirty-seven species of tree purslane, my Aunt Diana, who literally believed all greenness is landscape. Telloc, June 2008

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