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A reconciling walk

Platano secolare

Text e photographs by Cristina Archinto

She went out and the door slammed, more due to the draught from the stairs than to any specific will of her own, but that act certainly reflected her state of mind. Suddenly she found herself outside the house with no clear plan or purpose; she was furious. She looked around, upset and undecided as to what to do; she was certainly not in the mood for a museum and lacked the ability to concentrate on learning something.

She crossed the street almost without realizing it, avoiding being run over by mopeds, scooters and bicycles, unbearable in that city. She had already entered through that gate a few days earlier only to stop almost immediately and lighten up in front of works such as Bernini's Rape of Proserpine or Caravaggio's Cut of Lights at the Villa Borghese Museum, but this time she went straight ahead and entered the park.

She walked along a boundary wall where low boxwood hedges and autumn flowers could be seen between steps. As she reached the end, she was attracted to the left by strong autumnal tones of majestic trees. As she approached, she immediately realised that she had arrived in the Platani Valley, a wonderful valley of ancient trees.

Once rural, it was tamed into a garden in 1603 by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the favourite nephew of Pope Paul V. At that time it was a forest of more than forty oriental plane trees with a central basin and two small islands intended for the resting place of ducks and fine birds, including swans that the Cardinal had specially brought in from Brussels. Now there were only nine beautiful specimens left, which had survived for more than four hundred years and seemed to look sternly and wisely at you through their twisted branches and trunks.  

He continued along the valley with his gaze upwards, admiring these wonders but also keeping an eye out for the dogs that were running wild in this part of the garden. She approached a particularly curved specimen with a large slit in its trunk and looking at its gnarled branches reminded her of that 'Sensei' who a few years earlier had given a special Aikido lesson at his dojo. Two hours immersed in silence with only the rustle of the hakama, his words light, breathing wisdom.  
Of course now she was a little sorry that Jan was not there that day, they would have reminisced together. The anger was already fading as always, but this time she was more determined to hold on, she would not give in so easily that day.