On freedom and the courage to be amazed

by Cristina Mirandola

photo by Cristina Mirandola

photo by Cristina Mirandola

photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola photo by Cristina Mirandola

Libereso was waiting for me drawing, filling sheets of paper with quick and thin marks full of stories, like blades of grass that can reveal us an incredibly rich world if we look at them carefully.
Libereso is really beautiful, he is like his garden: enthusiastic, ruffled, radiant and surprising.
“My life is beautiful, an adventure. Rubino, the painter, was a friend of mine. He lived close to my house and I used to visit him. I was a little boy at that time and I was learning to draw. I’ve had good teachers. Especially Calvino… My father was a Tolstoyan anarchist, an important person, he was not interested in half measures. In winter we used to play bare-chested in the snow. We lived a good life, we enjoyed freedom. What is lacking in today’s youth. We have to be free. I have been a vegetarian ever since I was born: my curiosity for plants and nature was born like that, since I was a little child. My father used to care about our education. My brother, my sister and I have grown up like that, wearing shorts, vegetarian-style, anarchist-style, we have lived a good life. During the Fascist period my family was persecuted because my father was a well-known anarchist. We didn’t leave, we stayed, we were tailed and my father was imprisoned many times but he was also subsequently released. We used to spend a lot of time outdoor, so that we couldn’t be found, but I didn’t care, I used to be in the wood. My father was the teacher of every child in town, he was an educated man, a personality, I am happy he was my father. A vagabond, a longhair… my life was an adventure, I felt free, free to express myself, to be myself. When I was young I obtained a scholarship and studied under Mario Calvino in the experimental fields, where we looked for new varieties of flowers and then we launched them. The idea of “the new” is a beautiful idea: it doesn’t exist, so I make it. We all should be makers of something, try and do it even if we do it wrong. Gardens are part of the human thought. Wherever you go, you think about how you could make a garden and your mind doesn’t travel to places where other minds go, it goes to your own garden. It’s creating something that doesn’t exist, that could be a garden. Or you sow plants that you don’t know yet and you see them spring up – this is what I have always done. I used to go around and find plants, I was happy when I saw something that I didn’t know, when I saw it grow, little by little. In life we must have the courage to be amazed, to sow unknown seeds and wait for them to sprout. We must be able to wait, because a seed may spring up after one or six months, or even one year. To see the flowering of a seed that you didn’t know: these are life’s little satisfactions. I would never look for something big in my life. I always look for small things: a small seed turns into a big plant, a big seed may turn into nothing at all. This is why every one of us has to be a bit of a philosopher. You have to get down to small things and then you realize that three quarters of the things you have been taught are useless. And you realize that you are your own teacher: if you can’t teach anything to yourself, you can’t learn anything. Because the world is like that, there are many things, it is up to you to take and choose, they are pieces that you put together to create your own system of life, don’t wait for somebody else to create it. Life is beautiful if you manage to find your own way, if you follow somebody else’s way it is no longer beautiful. There are many ways, people look for somebody else’s way because it seems to be easier, but it isn’t. It is your own personality that you have to make the most of, this is the secret of life. I have never done what other people do. Even when you make a mistake, when you are wrong. In life a mistake is a sign of research, all researchers have made mistakes, until they find what they want. But if you don’t make mistakes you don’t find anything. I have learnt to draw on my own, by watching and trying. I enjoy caricaturing, I create my characters by myself, I like to find new subjects every time. I am used to scribbling. You need to be quick when you draw, you mustn’t be afraid to get a line wrong. All lines have to be good, and this frightens you, but it is actually the easiest thing to do. It is up to you to do something with that line. I am good at drawing, and quick. Look: here is an orchid. I have been growing orchids for many years, I am specialized in orchids. I know them by heart. In England I have managed a botanic garden for many years, drawing is part of gardening and a gardener that can also draw is more appreciated. Nature is vast, it is big, you need to know how to explore it. Every blade of grass can be a tale. My recipes are hints, suggestions, an invitation to experiment, to desire to see even what we don’t know yet. Because nature is so big that you can find anything in it. It’s us that close our wings when we only think about what we want and not what we may want.”
He watches and loves small things, he lets himself be amazed as he follows the paths of curiosity and new ideas, he is simply and freely himself: this is how Libereso cultivates his joy for life.
He was born in 1925, as a little boy he got into drawing, following in Antonio Robino’s footsteps; he studied botany for several years with professor Mario Calvino, with whom he established an important companionship, so that we find Libereso in the pages written by Italo Calvino, the son of Mario, who was almost as old as Libereso.
He managed cultivation companies in Southern Italy, worked as head gardener at the Myddelton House Gardens of the University of London and as a researcher at the faculty of pharmacology of the same university. He travelled through Asian countries, such as India and Indonesia. However, this is just a brief outline, because Libereso is really much more than this, a kind Master of awareness and freedom.
Libereso is the future, and therefore he really cares about children, who need to grow happy, developing an enthusiasm for discovery and finding their own path.
Being an expert in the world of plants, he reminds us – or maybe he amazes us as he says – that “The lawn we trample on hides enough food for one week.” This makes me think of the current debate about food and sustainability. Ha has always been a vegetarian, he feeds on the sun and he knows it.
Maybe our gaze on the future should be turned towards small things, starting from the blade of grass to reach the whole.
On the threshold of his home, he winked me goodbye: “Now you know where you can find me.” So, with my pockets full of all the presents from his garden, I left smiling, happy and… secretly euphoric for having met Cosimo in flesh and blood.
Libereso Guglielmi was born in Bordighera, in 1925. He lives in Sanremo where he continues to cultivate his magic garden.