Milan, 9 March 2020
A virus stalks the land, it goes by the name of Covid-19.
For weeks it has been spreading quietly, behind our backs, skipping from hand to hand, riding on droplets we cough out. Now it is out in the open. The patients are pouring into the hospitals. The hospitals are struggling. The frailest – the old, the weak – are dying. The government has enacted drastic measures. Here in Milan, we are in lock-down. No-one can enter or leave the region without a good and serious reason, no-one can even move around within the region. The government exhorts us to stay home. In fact, if we have even a small temperature it orders us to stay home. If we are infected, we are to go to the hospital only if we can no longer breathe. These are anxious times for us all.
True to the philosophy behind this blog, I have been looking around me for beauty and the peace it can bring the anxious soul. I have found it, in a magnolia tree behind Milan’s cathedral.
As a previous post of mine attests, I love magnolias – who does not? I discovered this particular magnolia tree a few years ago. It grows on a small lawn tucked away between the cathedral’s gothic apse and its southern transept. Last year, I happened to pass by when it was in full bloom. Here, I took the photo with the apse behind.
Here, I took it with the transept behind.
On impulse, I decided to watch the tree cycle through the seasons, finding excuses to walk this way from time to time. The next time I came by it was summer. The flowers had given way to thick foliage.
As a previous post attests, I have a weakness for this shade of green, but I found the contrast between the green of the leaves and the white of the cathedral’s stone particularly stunning. So entranced was I that I snapped several photos of this symphony of green and white.
Shortly after taking this photo, we moved up to Vienna for the rest of the summer, and the autumn took us to Japan once more. So it was only in the dead of winter that I saw the tree again. I saw it at night, its skeleton of branches barely lit by the lights illuminating the cathedral.
The delicate tracery of the cathedral’s gothic windows took pride of place.
And now, in these dark times, I have gone back to see the tree in flower once more, to draw solace from it.