Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Salvatore and the gardener
Every morning, Salvatore crept up to the gateway of the Villa Fredo and peered inside, to see if the gardener was there.
In the mock elegance of the courtyard, its owner, M. Laroute, had created something akin to the famous Moorish palace of Alhambra in Southern Spain. M. Laroute had never visited Granada, but his gardener had.
His gardener liked to say that he had travelled to every continent of the globe, and that every single wonder that he had seen on his travels remained fresher in his mind than any shimmering painting or photograph, and far more fantastic and wonderful than any story you may care to tell about them.
On the mornings when Salvatore could find the gardener, he was greeted by a kindly smile, a funny joke and perhaps one of the oranges growing in the garden. Sometimes Salvatore would ask the gardener his name, but he would always reply the same: “You have no need of names when you grow as old as me.”
If pushed he might add: “When something is very old, Salvatore, it can’t remember its given name any longer and it just has to accept the new names it receives with grace and gratitude.”
And, if pushed further still, he might say: “Child, just ask the ground beneath you. It has so many names now, it has forgotten which came first, but it accepts each new title just as it accepts those who walk upon it without the merest consideration of its great and very ancient beauty.”
When Salvatore pushed and prodded the gardener this much, he knew a tale was not very far away. A tale of lands so distant, they might as well be the pinpoint lights of stars. And the people and the creatures that might inhabit these lost places… Oh, the wonder.
But this morning the gardener was busy tending the vines and trellises that adorned the arched walls and Salvatore knew there would be no time for a story today. “I’m sorry, boy,” said the gardener, “but I am doing the master’s work today. It’s not blasphemy to offer God a little helping hand making the flowers grow now, is it?”
So Salvatore ran along to school, and there he studied great books and was shown many images of the marvels of the Earth. But as the other children cooed and were amazed by what their teacher showed them, Salvatore couldn’t help but think that they paled in comparison with the wonders that lay inside his gardener’s mind. Lost, and impatient to explore, he spent most of the day imagining what amazing secrets still lay undiscovered there.