Water is like fire: it’s a resource and a threat. A spectacle that contains a promise of tragedy, despite the daily happy ending.”
A Stromboli, Lidia Ravera
Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, sprouting red fountains for the last 5.000 years. Ancient sailors used to call it “the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean”, as it helped them find orientation at sea during the night. Today people live in two villages, caught between the craters and the sea. Few were born there and fewer stayed. Others chose the place as refuge from their own mistakes, from other people’s laws, from cars and high-rises. People come from various walks of life, but what equates them is living in a landscape whose often idyllic quiet hides a frightening power. Years spent on city streets can numb the capability to see mortality as a part of life and Stromboli helps regain perspective, scale down one’s own existence to negotiate a healthier relationship with it. Despite being always active, Stromboli endangered its residents in 2019 for the first time in almost a century. Daily explosions release only a minimal part of the energy running under the surface. The volcano might or might not renew its threats tomorrow or in 100 years, but its continuous rumbles are impossible to ignore as they shake the windows at night. Stromboli feels like a moonlit dream too charming not to be sinister. Its underlying tension, the “fire” that runs just under the surface, makes the fragility of human life somehow so tangible that it becomes acceptable. On the island people stand on stones sometimes younger than them, shaped like the crest of sea waves by magma’s encounters with the wind.
I believe volcanoes stimulate something that human sensibility is not fully able to process, something that syncs in slowly. A feeling of peace blends with a shock that lingers in time, without a climax. They force us to stand in front of a past much more remote than the one we can mentally visualize, and a future we surely won’t be able to see. Thus, they bring us back to the only time we can really own.