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Wilden Tales: the wilderness within us

What does wilderness mean? What meaning can we give to the word wild? What's wild about our life? The words of Serena Tornusciolo inaugurate a new format of stories on the concept of the wild: WILDEN TALES.

Moving is never easy, you know. Especially if the choice falls on a half-abandoned hill, in a tiny hamlet of a small village in an Abruzzo valley. Yet, attracted by a healthier and wilder life, enriched by a sense of search for the unknown, we soon took possession of what would soon become our new home.

After a week, the lockdown. Like everyone, we were not prepared at all for this eventuality: the lack of knowledge of the community, mixed with the enchanting solitude of the hill, ended up generating a sense of profound disquiet.

The house of almond trees

The “house of almond trees” soon became the home of a surreality in which we were trapped. Privilege silently gave way to anguish; loneliness had ambushed us. The same questions came back to haunt me: “What does wild mean? And where do you find it?“. After these first moments of incredulity, we were aware that the powerful nature held out its hand to us. 

Serena in the Tirino Valley

“Zuzzurellare” in the nature

Zuzzurellare is an Italian word that some locals have suggested me and it means to go for a walk without a specific destination. So I began to zuzzurellare in the uncultivated lawn around the house, which has given to us a variety of vegetables. Then I continued along a steep rocky slope to collect the first wild asparagus, until we reached the banks of the river, where we found the water celery with its peculiar flavor of fennel, balsamic notes and hints of licorice. I observed nature and how in a few kilometers it changed appearance and vegetation. The days were enriched with small gestures, such as going out into the wild garden of the house and noticing how a plant evolved during its growth. This gave me strength to deal with distancing from human beings. I felt that an exchange of energies was taking place between the plants and me. I began to feel less lonely and tried to grasp the essence of living with nature.

The Tirino, one of the most beautiful and cleanest rivers in Italy, is densely populated by carpets of water celery, trout and crayfish

The collection of herbs

During the collection of herbs, with the gaze turned to the ground, there is a careful reading of nature. What could seem only grass, suddenly became a multitude of raw materials that mother nature took care of. You can distinguish the jagged outline of dandelion and poppy, the contours of the silene and plantain. The first flowers to appear during the hot days of the quarantine were those of mallow and chamomile, which I collected and dried for the cold winter evenings. Fresh elder and locust-tree flowers followed. We ate them during our meals and some were preserved in flavored vinegars and kombucha. We harvested mulberries, wild black cherries and then green walnuts for the traditional nocino of the night of June 24th.

The mulberry fruits

The awareness of the Wilderness

This period of approaching and recognizing spontaneous plants was something more than doing foraging, it was getting in touch with the land I walked on and finding a non-verbal language with which to communicate. Was this that sense of wilderness? As William Cronon says in his essay “The trouble with wilderness; or Going Back to the Wrong Nature” we must note that the true wilderness is inside us and not outside.

It is nothing more than a certain kindness that allows you to find a guiding spirit in the nature that surrounds us. We can no longer think of the wild as a border between us and the world or as a product to be consumed: wilderness is not distance, but it is an intimate sense that allows us to rediscover our role in everyday life and heal our own wounds.

Words by Serena Tornusciolo for Wilden