Matriterra

My son sometimes asks me why the sea is blue. For him that question is not so much a matter of acquiring information rather than a way to demonstrate his knowledge. However, as we know, the answer is not a straightforward one. In a white bucket that same water is white, no matter what the color of the sky is. Nevertheless, water – in big quantities – often seems to be the same color as the sky, also when the sky is pink or orange at sunset or sunrise. A friend of mine, who is an art teacher, told me that not everyone sees that. For some people, at least the youngest ones, water and sky are always blue, no matter what the others say.

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I have just come back from Sicily, where I saw some of the bluest waters there are. The blueness of Mother Earth cast a spell on me and made me fall in love with Matriterra all over again. The steep hills of Scopello and Zingaro Nature Reserve offer a spectacular bird’s view of the blue waters and the endless skies around the island. The swallows of Scopello entertained us with amazing dives off the rooftops down towards the sea breeze rising up from the pebbly shores, making me wish I could fly, too. My sons often ask me, which superpower I would rather have, if I could choose. I guess it would be flying. For them, it’s immortality.

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Sicily is so beautiful that it is beyond words and photographs. Not only the sea, but also the rolling hills and olive trees in the middle of the island take your breath away. For a Finn it certainly is different to what we’ve used to. When I was sitting in a bus from Siracusa to Palermo I heard a small girl from Sweden ask her mother where all the trees were. My sons asked me the same question once on Crete, to which I replied that “In Finland, but imagine how many amazing creatures they have underwater around here that we don’t”. And yes, I also told them how people have destroyed most of the forests in many places on the Earth and they will never grow back without our help.

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In the northwestern part of Sicily there is the amazing Zingaro Nature Reserve where – like in so many other nature reserves – priorities find their true order. While walking the winding dusty paths on the side of the rocky hills, small everyday worries disappear and it is easy to see the big picture, what is important and worth pursuing in life. Zingaro means ‘gipsy’ but the origins of the name of this nature reserve are unknown. In all the blueness of my hike I couldn’t stop humming the color of our planet from far, far away.

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In landscapes, hikes, photos or life there is always the choice of focusing either on the details or the big picture. There is also the choice of perspective. When in Sicily I was desperately trying to find the local one. I was told that the locals are friendly but reserved. Sabrina, our hostess in the B&B in Siracusa sent us flying kisses as a farewell, Antonino, a local in Catania did his best to paint us a picture of Sicilians and their way of life by walking us around the Piscaria (fish market) in Catania. I also noticed that Sicilians love their heritage and family. On a Sunday we were greeted with Buena Domenica! when we witnessed a family lunch that took for hours and involved dozens of family members. Whenever I ordered a local speciality, either a cannolo in a pasticceria or a pane cunzatu in a panetteria it was served with a heartfelt dash of pride about the Sicilian heritage.

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When I travel I always to try discover the local specialities, not just in food and landscapes, but also in the mentality of the people. This I asked Antonino. He said that Sicilians are a mixture of different cultures due to the location of the island. That is the answer I seem to get most of the time. And it always makes me happy. It’s one of those questions that I already have a favorite answer to in my mind. It is always absolutely delightful to come across a culture that evolves with people, no matter where they come from. A necessity in today’s world, I would say.

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I will miss the bluest sea in Scopello and the fun of trying to pronounce Italian words. I will also miss the straightforwardness of the Sicilians and the timelessness of the lazy afternoons. On my way to rainy Finland I was thinking about the curious neon-green lizards crossing paths in Zingaro and the ever-playful swallows circling above the rooftops in the little villages as well as the ancient cities. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about the cannoli and the arancini, too. But most of all I thought about my love for the blue planet, Matriterra.

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