AN ORGANIC CHRISTIAN

A letter of mine to Carlo Bo, dated 5th November 1977, ended with: “Now it’s autumn, and it is in

autumn that life begins. In winter, it sleeps, and the spring is simply a reawakening. Take a look now in
the woods—though, maybe you don’t walk in the woods.” At 30 years old, I had discovered that plant

life does not begin in the spring, but in the autumn, when the leaves fall, or rather, when the leaves fall
thanks to the new buds that push them out, whose pressure is stopped only by the arriving winter. The
extraordinary woman that was Hildegard of Bingen knew well the creative power of nature; listen to
what she wrote: “The green life force generates the buds, and from the buds, the fruit, while the clouds
trace their path. The moon and the stars shine with igneous power. Even out of dry wood the buds
sprout forth anew, thanks to the green force. All creatures comprise something visible and something
invisible. What we see is only a pale shadow; what we cannot see is far more powerful and vital”. I was
reminded of Carlo Bo recently because I have discovered he was among the intellectuals who wrote to
defend Ezra Pound against accusations of having supported Fascism, by stating that his judgements
were more of a religious nature than a political one. This discovery has made me like him; up till now,
I didn’t exactly think the world of him. Though, I must say that with him as the dean, they would never
have liquidated the University of Urbino, handing it over to the State, which, when it takes on the role of
entrepreneur, it’s best to keep one’s distance from, even in matters of culture.
In February, with the first sunny days, the primroses begin, followed by the pansies, and high overhead,
the hornbeams and ash trees shoot out their buds like bullets. And beneath the woods, alongside
the primroses and pansies, you’ll find plant children poking through: oaks, beech trees, maples, and
dogwoods. And I’m reminded of the Garden of Eden, when Adonai was in peace with all his creatures
and looked at our ancestors with the same amazement and admiration with which I now look at the
flowers and plants springing forth in the woods, thousands of years after the spell first broke. They
were all vegetarian, even the wild beasts, which, evidently, at that time were not so wild (Genesis,
1:30). In my career as a cattle farmer, seeing a calf born in the fields has always inspired wonder and
amazement. You can only watch from afar, because the mother withdraws. Within half an hour after her
water breaks, the calf enters the world. The mother stands up and licks it for ten minutes, both to show
her joy and to dry her child. Then after another fifteen minutes, this tiny quadruped rises up, attempts
to understand where it is, clambers to its feet, and soon, it walks. Then it looks for its mother’s udder,
finds it, and discovers the source of life. But don’t think all calves are born this way. Let’s consider what
it takes for this occur. The mothers need a life of liberty and a male available during the brief period
of time in which they’re in heat. They need fields with an infinite variety of grasses, because each one

offers something different to the body. And these fields must not be bombarded with chemical fertilizers
or doused in pesticides and weed killers. Seeing weed killers sprayed over fields provokes the same
repulsion within me as seeing a woman raped.
In 1966, when I was twenty, I rambled through my father’s fields to think; I roamed the woods and along
the Ripa del Falco farm, above the Fosso del Lupo. I was at peace with nature, considering what I
might do when I grew up. When suddenly, one day, a powerful unease began to take hold of me. I felt
the nature around me, which had been “joyful” up till then, cry out in fear: in the nearby countryside,
they had started spreading ammonium nitrate before sowing to reap more abundant harvests. Of
course, in the plains they had begun this practice fifty years earlier, and the Americans, as usual, were
already well advanced in their progresses at correcting nature’s defects as early as the end of the 19 th
century.
Remember Adam and Eve, expelled from the Earthly Paradise in the Brancacci chapel’s frescoes by
Masaccio? Etch that image into your minds, because it is we who are Adam and Eve! We are the ones
who should be expelled from the Garden of Eden. Whatever did our poor ancestors do that was so
wrong?