It’s Saturday morning and I’m walking through a magical forest, surrounded by birds chirping and the smell of wet bark. Leaves rustle in the light spring breeze and, when I look up, rays of sunlight are finally peeking through the gray clouds.
The wet trail I’m on takes me through a variety of green giants. When I walk by an olive tree, I stop to give it a hug. It’s so rough, so old.
It takes me a split second to remember that I’m at the Festival del Verde e del Paesaggio (green expo) in the center of Rome. I’m not in a rain forest. And I also remember I’m not alone. So I totally hold my cool and smile at the older couple walking past me and looking at me sideways (although my arms remained glued to the tree).
I look around, though, and see I’m not the only one showing love to this vast display of green. The guy in front of me is hugging a banana tree. It looks like he has no care whatsoever in this world. Right next to me, a couple of kids are patting a strangler fig. Another two behind me are talking sweetly to an orchid (and singing Adele to it). Further down, a bunch of little kids are staring at a water lily, totally mesmerized by how the snowy white flower seems to be floating. They then ask their parents if they can “please-oh-please” take one home as a pet.
I laugh quietly and follow my feet to the end of the trail – since my eyes are too busy looking up at the wise branches. As I bump into a few girls doing the same on the way out, I’m suddenly washed over by a beautiful feeling. It’s as if I’ve known all these people for years; as if we’re all here for a family reunion.
Have I hit my head on a branch?
Have I had too little coffee to wake me?
Definitely not. Check.
Have I tree-hugged too much?
Is there a too much?? No. Check.
Then why is life so instantly full of pink clouds and unicorns?
I realize the common denominator to this feeling is what I have been witnessing all morning. Everyone here is, in some way, communicating with this forest as they would with another human being. They hug it, sing to it, give it a name. They love it. These people have come from all over Italy to see it. They have made it their priority over shopping, hanging out at the hippest bar in the center, sleeping in on a Saturday morning.
I cannot help but feel part of a beautiful moment. And these are the moments that remind us that – even in this world of uncertainty – we need to stop and take a breath. And when we look around us, we’ll see how much we have in common with each other. How we all just want to stand in the shade of a forest and be happy together.
Hi there! My name is Michelle. I’m an American living in Italy, mom of two girls, a lover of travel, music and good food shared with loved ones. I am a freelance grant writer and a former agricultural development practitioner, having worked mostly in rural Africa for 18 years. I look forward to creating a space here – with your help – where we can exchange dreams, ideas and kindness to start shaping a better tomorrow.