Learning from plants
Faremo foresta (“We’ll make a forest”) is a hymn to life. Released this year and awaiting to become a film and a book for children, Ilaria Bernardini’s novel narrates being dead, then coming back to life through a metaphorical parallel between botany and the inner space of feelings
The novel Faremo foresta discusses Anna and Maria. Anna is at the end of her marriage and everything for her seems like a total disaster. Maria is a girl she knows and who, at 29 years old, has a brain aneurism right in front of her. Both begin a hard summer as they rebuild their lives, and together they create a sort of urban forest which is their comeback to life, their understanding of how to be happy and how to survive the desert.
“This is a true story, as far as I remember it,” she states at the beginning of the book, but the book immediately becomes relatable to everyone, where it’s easy to identify.
The book starts with me, to then totally lose myself. Through writing I always try to start with myself and then elaborate on a topic I’m interested in. In this case, the theme is how long a love lasts, how long a relationship lasts, how long we can survive without being looked at, taken care of. From the small story of Anna and her son Nico we move to the bigger picture, we enter the homes of others and, in new projects, in other cities. We look at the entire world.
Your book opens in a desert: the end of a relationship and the barren terrace of a new home. The parallel between the world of plants and that of feelings recurs throughout the book and allows the readers to intuit that we can learn from nature.
The starting point is a very empty day that’s really hot, and nothing seems to make sense, with no roots and no water. Anna and her child Nico are like galaxies: they mark trajectories and map out with their feelings and their feet all of the Earth, which at the start is full of hardship, ugliness, drought, abysses, worksites. But gradually, even in the abysses, in the holes they can detect invasive plants [weeds], the half-dead plants of their neighbours who abandon them, grandma’s plants because she doesn’t have time to look after them, the new plants which are their present. All this is part of another metaphor, and practice, of universal irrigation: we realise the roots underground that, connected and powerful, pass below the whole planet and reach every person. And this universal irrigation, in which metaphorically one can resist separation, where separation actually almost doesn’t exist and where the feeling of loss and disaster can change. Just like the feeling of time and the search for happiness. Anna, Nico and Maria, together, through botany, through the Forest that invades the desert, discover how to feel better, how to make others feel better.
How do the protagonists resist the desert, pain, loss in order to feel alive again?
The lesson, which comes from nature but, all in all, even from children and ourselves, is the desire to be constantly mentioned, looked at, touched. To open with questions instead of closing with theories. Being seen in the winter, too, when things become more invisible. In fact, the novel is full of questions and phrases like “touch as many things as possible”, “say my name”, “make me exist”, “put your hand on my head”, “I’ll just die if you don’t kiss me” recur and are a way to define ourselves, to feel alive and feel like we exist, not to feel invisible or disappear. We’ll never disappear, thanks also to the attentive gaze of others that we ourselves, with great distraction, forget. I wrote the book when, at a certain point in my life, I told myself “I’ve completely forgotten how to take care and look. Now I try to see, and call by name!”
Right: Ilaria Bernadini photographed on her terrace in Milan. With a degree in Philosophy of Science, Bernadini is a writer and author of TV and reality shows. Her published works include Domenica (2012), Corpo libero (2011), I supereroi, (2009) and Non è niente (2005)