Mater Dolorosa


In my old school there was what I remember as a large, beautiful garden. My childhood friends and I used to spend long hours of freedom, hidden from the gaze of adults, lost in more or less innocent games amidst the strange, dirty, straggling plant life that often infests city gardens. The vegetation of that garden, along with the small animals that inhabited it, was a source of constant wonder for us: for week upon week we watched how the tender flowers of the sour cherry tree withered only to sprout fruits, which we ate religiously even though they were too tart and often already half-digested by insect larvae. From the neighbouring garden we used to steal the sticky and sweetish berries of the American vine, and dared each other to touch the nettles that grew among its dark foliage. Sometimes, in the midst of the uncultivated bushes and tall grass, someone would find the motionless body of a sparrow or a hedgehog; then, as if in a magical rite to avert its horror, or perhaps just to spend a little longer in the company of the corpse, we would improvise a funeral, adorning the lifeless creature with garlands of flowers and marking the burial place with crooked crosses made of sticks tied up with grass.…