Italy, Time and Cycas: a Stroll
Almost as old as the Earth. A relique of longevity, a living fossil. A testimony of a Time Out of Mind when Life was young and vibrant, fresh and thunderous, eerie and intoxicating.
During my last visit to Liguria, I happened to be walking through the Golfo dei Poeti (Poet’s Gulf). Located to the North of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the bay stretches through the towns of Porto Venere, La Spezia, the renowned Cinque Terre and the Islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto.
I always thought it was no wonder that this place was so charged up with a Historic and Poetic crave for Infinity. The sunshine, the cricket’s mandalaic songs at noon, and the warm caresses of the Italian early afternoon seem to stretch out into Everlastingness, providing to the greatest visionary of our Time, a glimpse into something greater and indivisible. In these places Petrarch and Dante found solace and rest from their troubled souls; and here the Romantic Poets Byron, Shelley and Keats (transfixed by such an eternal white noise) wrote some of their most inspired hymns to the beauty of Nature and the Glory of God.
“When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know’”
How true those lines were, I thought, while leaving to my left the Santuario della Madonna Bianca (Sanctuary of the White Madonna) and proceeding longitudinally toward the pebbled sea-shore. And how fitting to such wide-aspiring musings were my eyes when they laid themselves to admire a Cycas Plant growing to my right, in the shadow of the church.
Since time immemorial she had been - spreading in more than three hundred varieties. It is hard to explain what a miracle and a blessing a Cycas is. In spite of its palm-like appearance, the plant is actually a Cyclades variety of the Gimnosperamae family and, from a genetic point of view, it has more in common with coniferous plants such as Pines, Taxus and Cypress.
The first appearance of Cycas was probably in the later Trias while in the cretaceous period they witnessed a major spread and development. A predecessor to dinosaurs and almost as old as Life itself, this plant rightfully earns the denomination of “Living Fossile”, having witnessed, proudly and quietly, the whole of human existence.
As I was mesmerized by these contemplations, I could not help but feel how the whole of Life is but a flighty tremble, a reverberation that briefly shakes Time as it flows in a soft yet steady march. And I could not help but being reminded of the Bard’s words:
“Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.”
In front of the humble, staunch imperturbability of these plants all the vain human Sanctuaries and works of Art grow pale as frantic, desperate laughs. From a Cycas point of view the altars of humanities are only fleeting moments: misplaced awkward struggles to withhold destiny.
Discover more about Cycas Palm clicking here: Cycas Palm Green