Cristina Movalli - Italy
Born in 1966, graduated in Biology following classical studies. She has a passion for mountains, nature and particularly for the animal world. She researched the avifauna of Val Grande (in the Province of Verbano Cusio Ossola in Piemonte in northern Italy) and she wrote numerous articles about fauna and alpine environmental ecology.
She is active in the field of communication and environmental education, participating in conferences and lecturing, mainly about fauna and the conservation of nature.
Following several years of active collaboration, she is since 2002 responsible for the promotion, conservation, scientific research office of the Val Grande (Nature Reserve) Park.
Natural spaces, silences, listening
Very close to this city, were we live our busy daily lives, there is a natural landscape in which we can experience deep emotions that are connected to simple things: like walking in a mountain forest fully immerged in the silence and the sounds of nature and the gentle sound of our feet caressing the ground as we walk along.
Val Grande, the “Great Valley”, has been a national park since 1992. It is very close to Domodossola and Verbania, and it offers a wonderful scenery to those who wish to relax in a special and unique atmosphere.
Although it has been a place were men have walked through and lived since historical times, today, there is no permanent human settlement whatsoever in the Great Valley, no cement streets and no other modern infrastructures. The only traces of a human presence are the old paths that stretch for kilometers through the valley and on the mountains, inviting us to hike on them with curiosity and awareness.
The beams of the sunlight come through the branches of the trees and sparkle like gold and gems on the crystalline water that runs through the valley in numerous streams. This is a whole little world to explore alone or in the company of some local person who can explain things.
One of the purposes of a National Park is to “promote education, job training and scientific research, possibly interdisciplinary in nature, as well as recreational activities that respect the environment” (quote from the Italian Law on National Parks). The Val Grande National Park offers educational programs for school classes as well as for the general public. Thus, there are many adult people who come – on a national level, they mainly come from big cities such as Milan or Varese; and our very numerous international guests mainly come from Germany and Holland. All of them are coming for the deep sense of silence that you can find in Val Grande.
But how many types of silence are there?
There is a silence that we perceive physically, the kind of silence that we find in deserted places, this kind of silence that helps us to open up and to listen. Then there is the silence of memory, a condition in which the memories come back up and in which the thoughts can flow freely. There is the silence within us, the silence of the inner search, the silence of the attempt to explore the deepest or the highest nature of things in the different expressions of human spirituality.
We must rediscover silence as a value, as a precondition for learning to listen better; listening to ourselves, listening to the others, listening to the world that surrounds us. Thus, we can learn to listen to the song of the leaves when the wind moves them, or to how they are cracking under our feet when we walk, or how the fire cracks in the stove, or how the allocco bird sings in the night and how another kind of bird, the gracchi alpini whistle when they are chasing each other and flying over the rocks.
To experience silence, to touch it with all our senses and to feel the rush of the emotions that this contact can produce: the emotions of fear, peace, of loneliness or of friendship with the other people and with the things that surround us. What is the effect of this form of deep listening? Deep listening leads to a deep sense of respect towards oneself and towards the others; a sense of respect for the differences between us; a sense of appreciation and of care for everything; a new appreciation for the deep tie between man and nature, and between man and his fellow human beings. Nature is a great teacher: it is always moving dynamically, always evolving and changing towards new forms of balance and harmony.
Therefore, a wild and isolated place like the Val Grande National Park is not just a charming place high in the mountains, were the roaring streams carry their masses of pure water down to the lake amidst landscapes of breathtaking beauty. It is not just a remote place were we can go to find fresh energies, or to hide away, escape from it all, become one with nature. Rather, it is a place were we can learn the deep dynamic ways through which nature operates; and then, when we come back down to our everyday life, we will be a changed person, and we will be able to live life in a new, more natural, conscious and powerful way.