Notes on the go. A truce between poems and green
Outside, the storms that cross the city, the world, life. Inside, the kind threads that weave a truce.
It is Saturday afternoon and I participate in one of the workshops that the writer usually gives Cristina Macjus. Known for her work in the field of children’s and youth literature, Cristina also knows how to create this type of backwater: a meeting of a few hours, an immersion in the world of herbaria and the poetic voices that visited them. About eight women participated in the workshop. There is tea on the table, a tin with cookies, poems by Roberta Iannamico, María Teresa Andruetto, Gloria Fuertes, Estela Figueroa circulate from hand to hand. I joke and think that we only need bustles and silk skirts to become nineteenth-century ladies. The influence of Emily Dickinson, of course, is felt.
The silence and sinuous times of the plant world surround us. Macjus chose to give the workshop in a corner of La Casa Vivero, a space with its own magic, a well-kept secret in the Villa Ortúzar neighborhood.
A while ago, before tea and poems, Daniel Ridolfi, one of the brothers who run this enterprise dedicated to tropical and exotic plants, gave us a little tour of the place.
Because there are the plants, but also the home. The nursery breathes in the heart of one of those typical houses of Buenos Aires at the beginning of the 20th century: generous patio next to galleries and walls that attended the games of the current Ridolfi, preserved the concerns of his father -photographer and naturalist, passionate by tropical plants–, and they were fertile matter in the hands of a shoemaker and pianist great-grandfather.
“More than an inheritance, we say that this is a legacy,” says Daniel as he passes by the enormous coffee tree planted by his father. It is accompanied by an intricate tapestry of plants accustomed to the heat that nevertheless are there, so plump, in the middle of Buenos Aires winter. They protect each other, he tells us. Nature is sustained more by bonds of solidarity than by competitive struggle, he explains. “Here we have the maternity,” he announces while pointing to a sector where several specimens exhibit small shoots. They feed them, Daniel specifies.
Cristina tells us about the herbarium tradition. It shows us images of very old versions, some medieval, beautiful both in the effort to perfectly reproduce a plant –or record their discovery– and in the freedom that those remote naturalists took to imagine them with eyes, mouths and some kind of not so plant life.
And so we return, back to the small glass-enclosed room that overlooks the miniature jungle we’ve just traversed, sitting at the table but still with some of the names Daniel slipped in vibrating like an echo: plumeria, desert rose, bromeliad , tillandsia.
Cristina tells us about the herbarium tradition. It shows us images of very old versions, some medieval, beautiful both in the effort to perfectly reproduce some plant –or to record its discovery– and in the freedom that those remote naturalists took to imagine them with eyes, mouths and some kind of not so plant life. She then invites us to go through variants more linked to the modern tradition: less fantasy, more positivism, stems, leaves and flowers pressed and preserved in neat notebook sheets. And of course, lo and behold, Emily Dickinson’s herbarium appears, a jewel that Harvard University digitized and made available to the public on the Internet.
Cristina encourages us to create some herbariums. She distributes to us some sachets from which come out, already pressed, leaves, branches, flowers. Multiple colors, so many shapes. “Where did you get them?” she asked in wonder. “Little horse”, she replies with a smile. Once again, the certainty: beauty is just there, you only need eyes to see it.
I was the most insignificant thing in the house/I took the smallest room/at night my little flashlight/a book/and a geraniumDickinson wrote. I arrange some dry petals on a leaf. Out there the world roars, life trembles, the Webb telescope shows unimaginable depths. And in every modest corner, someone lights their own flashlight, a book, a geranium.