This tale started abroad, Sicily to be exact. A young man, Baldassare Forestiere, was hiking over the hills for the last time. At dawn, his ship would sail for America. Baldassare was considering turning back, when he heard a song carried by the wind. Every uttered note drove him crazy with thoughts of love.
“I must meet the woman who owns this voice,” Baldassare thought, and he headed towards it. Eventually he came to a clearing where he spotted a beautiful young woman with lustrous golden hair. He crouched behind a bush, and watched as she twirled around in her toga–yes, a toga—it struck him as strange, too. It was the turn of the 20th Century, after all.
“Come out,” said the woman, “I can sense you.” Baldassare didn’t move. “I’m not mad. I know I can be quit entrancing when I want to be.” Baldassare felt compelled to listen to her this time. He stood up, and stepped out into the open. He was under her spell magic or otherwise. Together, they danced and talked for hours. Before long, day turned to night, and then the unexpected happened. The woman turned into a fern.
“She must be a nymth,” Baldassare thought, “but I won’t leave her.” He tried to wait, but he feared missing his boat. He heard a whistle blowing in the distance.
So, he dug up the fern, and took it with him on to the ship. When the sun entered their cabin window the next morning, the nymph was once more returned to her human form.
“My Love, where are we going?” she asked, feeling seasick.
“To America,” Baldassare answered. “Where we will live happily ever after.”
“But Sicily is my home,” said the nymph, “It’s where my culture is. Does America have overgrown ruins, and endless forests?”
“We’ll see,” said Baldassare.
When they arrived in Boston Harbor, the nymph didn’t like the idea of living in the city, but they didn’t have enough money for two train tickets out West. For two years, Baldassare worked as a Subway digger; first in Boston, then in New York. During this time, the nymph was forced to remain mute. For her voice would draw unnecessary attention.
But, eventually, that fateful day came, when they hoped the train out West. They passed by the endless forests, until they arrived at the Pacific Ocean. The nymph had never seen a landscape that was so beautiful, but part of her was still disappointed.
“There are no ruins,” said the nymph.
“Then I will build you some new ruins,” said Baldassare, “and there you will be able to dance and sing away from prying eyes.” So, merely using farming tools and tunneling skills, Baldassare set to work. The project would end up taking decades. He dug out an underground garden over 10 acres in size. Its maze of pathways led through grottos and alcoves overflowing with fruited plants. Baldassare would name the great structure “Forestiere,” and it still stands to this day as a monument to his love and his home country.
Written by Alex Schattner (9/22/12)