Boulders are everywhere on Nacka. Granite boulders left by retreating glaciers or shaped out of bedrock by wind and rain. Formed out of volcanic activity and millions of years of pressure turning stone into a metamorphic tale out of Ovid.
Walking the forest back in August, I come upon them and they come upon me. I have in mind Ramsey Dukes’ book How To See Fairies and the initial exercises emphasizing using all the senses out for a stroll between leaf and ground. His work focuses on connections between imagination and sense perception and the world around us that we are embedded in and share many traits with. I’m also thinking about the work of Suzanne Simard, a professor in the Department of Forest & Conservation at the University of British Columbia who studies symbiosis of fungi and root and amongst roots and trunks and branches of trees themselves. In an interview with Brandon Kiem entitled Never Underestimate the Intelligence of Trees she states,
Systems evolve toward those patterns because they’re efficient and resilient. If we think of my forest, and the networks I’ve described, that design is efficient for transmitting resources among trees and how they interact with each other. In our brains, scale-free networks are an efficient way for us to transmit neurotransmitters.
Intelligence all around and the boulders are in on it as seeds shape themselves into saplings and then tall birch and pine snuggle up against the old gray mass. Of course some boulders are on a long march to the sea which reminds me of the different perceptions of time going on in the forest.
Some boulders are solitary while others seem to group themselves for a dance in space cleared on a small peninsula in the Baltic. Walking with ferns, grass, birches, dark-brown soil, spruce, pine and rock brings to mind a book I’ve started entitled How Forests Think: Toward An Anthropology Beyond The Human by Eduardo Kohn, which explores the relationships between the Runa people in the Upper Amazon and jaguars, pigs, monkeys, palm trees and other flora and fauna, and of course, between the animals and plants themselves. Eventually, my tuning into moss-covered granite faces turns into an awareness of hunger and a coming date with pork-belly and heat.
Back in the kitchen, it’s time to take the sufficiently marinated and rubbed pork belly through the paces of cooking. I roast this Nacka pig for 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 180 C, or until the meat is very tender and falling apart. For the last twenty minutes I increase the heat to 218 C to crisp the skin more.
Like the outer world of the Nacka Reserve, the geology and landscape of a baking dish and the treasures it holds reveals to all the senses. I can follow the brown and black, orange and red lines and shapes into molten lava terrain where a dark char and sweet fat surrounds me as I press a crisp skin and taste a glistening white flesh seasoned with peppers. I see floating beside me the color fields of Mark Rothko such as Orange and Yellow
Taste forms through what’s seen and smelled and twirled on the palette, along with associations and connections through art and memory. A slice of a continent and the movement of different masses of air in the sky.
And then the physical world breaks all ribs into separate pie slices of crispy skin, juicy fat and sweet, savory and salty meat to complete the transformation from what is eaten on a forest floor to the life lived and shaped into death and offering in a baking dish of bine, marinade and heat, and finally to the furthering metamorphosing qualities of a digestive system. Magic.
All a dance really. Which brings me to Astor Piazzolla. First with tango, toss a Waltz in a baking dish with Polka, Mazurka, Schottische, Habanera, Candombe and Milonga. Then, set the heat high and in a few centuries you’re dancing in lines and angles and circles, back and forth, pivoting around hands in the middle of a circle like Gabriela and I are learning, starting from this past August. Learning the steps of a Salida Simple with ochos galore. Like immersing yourself in a gumbo and gavotting around the room.
Piazolla’s nuevo tango brings Baroque music and Jazz to the mix, extending the dance compositions into long contemplations on consonance and dissonance, point and counterpoint with notes of improvisation. Oh yes, and add some Jorge Luis Borges, especially Death and the Compass. Bon Appétit!