Wounded woods


How many times we too have wounds that block our daily lives…

On the 29th of October 2018, a combination of several factors triggered a violent storm, later to be known as the “Vaja”, between Lombardy and Friuli. Photos taken at the time showed hundreds of trees bent and broken by the wind. Trees uprooted all over the mountains, a giant comb-over. Tree trunks clogged the streams and lakes.

In recent months many volunteers and businesses have done a lot to help with the recovery: mapping the damage, systematically cleaning up the detritus and making sure the mountains are safe.

Together with a few other Jesuits, I spent some days on holiday in the Belluno Dolomites. We were able to see the storm damage and walk through a section of woods still devastated by the winds (if holidaying in an area recently the site of a disaster sounds odd, we made the mistake of not asking those in the know or having a look at the website of the Italian Alpine Club: everything’s there online and easily accessible). Due to our experience in mountaineering and our (relatively) young age we didn’t have any major problems. We would have been amused by the unexpected adventure had the magnitude of the disaster not been so overwhelming. The roads barely appeared through strewn trunks of larch centuries old and fir trees a metre in diameter. Clambering over trees we only walked a couple of kilometres at most.

Reflecting on this experience, I thought about those people who have dedicated their time to taking care of these terrible wounds to the mountain: those who but downed trees, who restore signage to mountain pathways, who help coordinate the labour… Thousands of people faithfull providing a free service without asking for anything in return, giving the opportunity to hikers, families and locals to benefit from the walking trails and landscapes once again.

It is often us who have wounds that become stumbling blocks in our daily lives, metaphorical trees blocking our path and making us despair of the future! I’ve often had this experience. Just as often, the cure, or what helped in the process of healing, was a word freely given or a moment of encounter freely lived. A person who came out of nowhere, chainsaw in hand, who opened wide a path through my blocks in a matter of seconds, letting in a fresh breeze which, redirecting my gaze, pointed out paths previously unknown to me.

Daily gestures from people and small moments freely given which took care of my pain, that bound a wound that was only then able to begin to heal. A wound named Vaja, or loneliness, wrong choices, abandonment

So up rises a thank you to all those who help us tend our wounds, anonymous heroes who often leave us a single sign of your passage, a ray of sunshine which encourages and gives hope, and which teaches us in turn to reach out and tend to the wounded woods of others.


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