Twenty years ago, I spent a few twilit days in a mountain village in central Italy – I will only mention its noble name to myself. It is a narrow village with dark alleys and a lot of wine bars, on whose ceilings sausages and horse cheeses hang, all mixed up. In front of the village gate there is a spring to which the girls came in the evening to get water.
Every evening, I sat there and watched the girls come up through the gate with their water vessels on their heads. They filled them from the flowing water, without much fuss, picked up their heavy load, and made their way, upright and noble, back to the gate. What impressed me were the water vessels of the girls, wrought out of bronze in pure, ancient shapes, like the Greek hydria. And the heavy vessel containing it’s clear element stood superbly on Latium’s dark, proud head.
And years later, I still thought about these vessels and these women. When disgust for daily life broke my heart, when life seemed too grey and faded, I thought about the spring in Latium, and said to myself, “It is still there. Things aren’t really so bad.”
I went down there again recently. I journeyed via the metropolis Rome, to the quiet mountain village, and sat down next to my spring in the evening, to wait for the girls. And they came. But on their heads they no longer carried the dark, bronze vessels of before, they had reused canned fruit tins, which are much cheaper and more practical, instead. A company in Livorno uses these tins to transport processed plums, and they sell the used tins cheaply to all the mountain villages with a bubbling spring to which young water carriers come in the evening to collect water.
When I saw that, I understood that there really is progress in the world, and a selection of the best and most appropriate. On the other hand, I now want to finally know where my grave will be. My grave, good people, I yearn for my grave.
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