Olive Trees and Sticky Roads
I landed in Sardinia on Sunday. As soon as I touched the shore I sensed something familiar. I have been here once before, but I was only 1 and the only memory I have has travelled a lot of mouths and hearts and I don’t trust it a lot.
The warmth of the floor that radiates in between the strokes of wind. The perfumes of the sea, some more pleasant than others and the audacity of the birds that try to keep up with the wind in search of a good piece of fish, stolen or hunted.
The familiar feeling that I suddenly had was not related to any Sardinian memory. What I have in mind is Sicily. The two biggest Italian islands intermingled in my mind, one known and ancestral to me, the other new and, paradoxically, already seen.
Sardinia has this strange super-power to bring me back to Sicily and to my memories without being noisy and pushy. It surprises me at the corner of the streets that meet in the centre of Sant’Antioco (the island west to the southern coast of Sardinia, and where I’m going to spend my holidays), with old men drinking coffee in the morning, among which I search for known faces. It surprises me when the smell of olive trees wood is burnt, and the acre smell of the smoke arrives in the kitchen in the evening, waking up my inner child. I used to “smoke” burnt olive tree leaves during our grilling session in Sicily, and as soon as I smell something similar, a naughty smile is stamped on my face, remembering the old times when I tried to look older and to be fancy with my leafy cigarette.
As the days start to become more routine-anchored, I am noticing more and more details. Today, the fishmonger showed me the head of the swordfish of which I bought a piece for dinner. He said, also, that there are little fish sold whole with eggs in them, to eat on the grill. The bars dispersed in the town are different, there is the one with the hipster vibes, the one with only hand-written signs that sells good coffee, the bar with the TV that becomes the centre of the universe every time the national football team is playing. What is striking to me, a stranger in a new land, is that this is home for someone. These are known streets, known markets, known coasts and known beaches. This is at the same time saddening and relieving. Saddening because I already know that these places will never be fully home for me, a feeling that is strong especially when I miss home (very often, even if when I am home I can’t believe it would be possible to miss that place). Relieving because I know that I can long for this feeling and I can bath in the awe that the observation of the normal life can spark in me. It is special to be able to share this island with people that call it home, to learn new recipes, to learn new routines, to adapt and to suffer a bit for what is not completely for me. My grandpa would be happy to know that I think of him while walking and sensing the world and I am happy to have a companion for my long walks. The sobs and the hidden smiles are all for the joy that the memory of him is able to give me.
While I write this, I am in the kitchen of the home that will be mine for three weeks. I can smell the ripe smell of tomatoes that I bought this morning at the farmers’ market and I think I’ll eat them for lunch. Alone in Sardinia, thinking about my grandpa in Sicily.