Seasoning

I had a dinner with my friends and served a boiled fish. After a friend tried it, he told the innkeeper that this boiled fish had one less seasoning. The tavern owner asked what seasoning he had missed, and his friend said that he had less time seasoning. The tavern owner was a little puzzled, how could there be any time for condiments? My friend said that this fish took less time to cook, so the fish’s own aroma did not come out.

Slowly cooking with time and simmering slowly with time can trigger the aroma of a fish and the original flavor of a dish. A person who uses time to work slowly and slowly can also stimulate one’s inner potential and potential.

To cook a dish, do one thing, any “condiments” can be less, but time is indispensable.

The beauty of sailing

One of the greatest torments that can assail man is the need to remain immobile in one place. The sedentary man is like a tree or like a pillar driven into the ground. On the contrary, how beautiful it is to travel! The world is wide, it is beautiful, it is full of curiosities; the world, moreover, they undoubtedly made it for man to travel it. We will have time later, when the bitter hour arrives, to remain immobile, very immobile and resigned, under a stone slab!{8}

It is beautiful to travel; but sailing is still more desirable. Navigation still preserves the suggestive itch of the old wandering emotions, and although we do not go now, as in the times of Ulysses, not even as in those of Columbus, embarked on alien caravels through the remote unknown seas, however, when stepping On the deck of a steamboat, we feel a particular tingling in the soul. The sea always remains in its arrogant position. The sea is still a serious thing! That is why navigation still reserves a special charm for us: the charm of danger.

The greatness of the river

I have spoken of the sea with some precipitation. Because, in reality, the waters that this boat crosses are not brackish, nor green, nor blue. This is not the sea, surely; It is nothing more than the Río de la Plata, with its fresh, turbid, smooth and superficial waters. But with a little imaginative effort, the river of{9} Silver can supplant the Ocean: a canicular, equatorial Ocean of chicha calm.

On the other hand, those waters that, when looked at closely, are represented to us with such a dirty color, seen from afar, they remind us of the Atlantic distance quite well. The Río de la Plata must be viewed from a convenient distance, like the scenographic paintings: then there is a very acceptable effect of the high blue sea.

Nor do you have to look very carefully at the steam. It is already known that it is a limited ship, with wheels and a false keel; but by closing the eyes to certain details, the traveler can achieve the perfect illusion of a transatlantic ship. We are even supported by the appearance in the middle of the immense water, of a remote coast, an island, a beach. It is like when you sail on the open sea and suddenly the charm of the desired coast emerges.

Only here, in our case, the coast is overly complicated. It is not one coast that appears, but two. And these two coasts are narrowing, little by little, until they form two river banks. Yes: we are in a river. The{10} The illusion of the sea vanishes altogether and we resign ourselves to the idea that we are navigating a river.

This is the Uruguay River. The wheel steamer eagerly heads upstream, at full throttle. Wide, proud, generous river of calm waters! It is the twin of the Paraná: the two brothers come to pour their immense flows into the majesty of the Plata. Just yesterday, in its jungle margins the Indian extended his bow, threatening the cautious tiger; today, in his place, the shepherd gentleman harasses the peaceful cattle; Tomorrow there will be populous and innumerable cities. Because nothing is as conducive to civilization as a mighty river. The great civilizations were born in favor of river currents, such as the Babylonian, the Egyptian, the Brahmanic. And a great river is usually always the companion of a great city. No one would explain the magnificence of Memphis or Thebes without the opulent Nile, nor do we conceive of the existence of Babylon without the beneficent irrigation of the Euphrates. To such an extent that we almost found the famous Gideonian phrase: “Let us bless{eleven} the providence that made a great river pass by every great city. ”

The islands

In some moments of this enchanted navigation I would like to beg the captain of the ship: Sir, turn a little towards land; let me disembark and then move on.

This desire assails me when an island populated with brush appears before my eyes, in the center of the wide river. Excuse me: I feel a childish sentimentality when I see the leafy islands of the American rivers. At such a moment, an inevitable regression takes place in me, a leap back, a return to the credulous days of childhood. Seeing the islands of the Argentine rivers I shrink, I get smaller, I become a chimerical boy. And the state of my spirit then is the same as when I was ten years old.

I see myself sitting at a table, my legs dangling, my brow furrowed at the empire of concentrated attention. Have{12}I have a book in hand. It is any of the magical books that that kind man named Jules Verne wrote, the writer who has most spurred children’s imaginations. Yes; discovering the leafy islands, emerging from the silvery waters of the great river, I am not the current man, with a straight mustache and a scientific forehead; I am, on the contrary, a credulous boy who reads a Jules Verne novel.

And once again, as in ancient years, I am awakened by the ambition to set foot on land, take possession of one of these islands and lead a Robinsonian life. Formerly, when I slept on the pages of the esteemed book, I dreamed that I was a navigator, a discoverer … Is there an obsession with discoveries among American children? Maybe not; This must be a European mania, an atavism of the previous races, those that launched themselves at one point to discover islands and continents all over the world, when the seas seemed to open in a fantastic harvest of perfumed archipelagos.

Today also, as in the younger years, in front of an island I feel like a discoverer and{13}conqueror. I would like to disembark, and live there in a novel. Build a hut. Climb to the treetops to collect exotic fruits. Shelter me in the shade of a palm tree. Hunt birds with repainted feathers. Search for the tiger in the undergrowth and kill it with one accurate shot. Fish polychrome fish. Hear the musical voice of the birds. Attend the glorious assumption of the moon over the forests. And get excited about the dangers, surprises and epic works of unspoiled nature …

But the steam passes by, and the islands, one by one, are left behind. In them, a man could live a free, simple and intense life at the same time, far from the laws and pragmatics of society, alone before nature, master of his destiny, happy and rich in his apparent poverty, with an abundance of fish, birds, air, sun, clear landscapes. But the islands pass and I do not dare to disembark. Civilization has spoiled me.{14}

The schooners

Suddenly, at a bend in the river, a schooner without sails is discovered, docked ashore. What is that schooner doing there? The coast is deserted, and full of forest; the little boat approaches the grove, as if it wanted to take cover and hide.

What is that boat doing there? There is no dock, no port, no town, not even a bad shack. The place could not be more desolate. And again the fictional fantasy comes into play. Now it is Mayne Reid’s novels that come back to life. And I immediately resume the readings of the ten years, tremendous readings in which a filibuster ship approached the tropical coast, or went up the Mississippi current, the Orinoco, and the pirates, sheltered by the jungle, surprised a town, women were taken captive, re-embarked and fled through the unexplored byways of the archipelagos …{fifteen}

The torrid calm of noon

At the central hour of the day, the river turns into a sheet of silver. Not a fold of air moves. The atmosphere takes its nap.

If it weren’t for the ship’s engine, the silence would be total. The ship, however, does not stop: the two powerful wheels scratch the water, shake it, and the river ripples with oblique waves, long, like the symmetrical rods of a fan.

The forests on the shore sleep, the air sleeps, everything is still. Under the laziness of noon, the boat slips on the river. And there far away, at the top of the hills, the isolated palm trees, straight, still, appear the utmost expression of gentleness, with their palms curved towards the ground, indolently. Between two palm trees, how well a hammock would be stretched, and one would sleep there, to the cooing of the singing blowflies!

Everything is talking about distant things, different lives, primitivism.{16}A few hours have been enough to distance us enormously from civilization and Europeanism. What surrounds us has an American flavor, but of legendary Americanism. It seems that thousands of leagues separate us from the cities, and that Buenos Aires has withdrawn very far, but very far.

In such a way, that the mind is prepared for all fantastic phenomena. If we were told that a tiger had roared among the reeds on the shore, we would consider it very natural; nor would we be surprised to see a band of Indians advancing armed with sharp spears. We would find it perfectly logical for a pirate ship to strike us from the bow, and fire two detonating cannon shots at us.

Until the sun, leaning towards the horizon, moderates its strength, illuminates things on the side and makes the drowsiness and tension of fantasy disappear. Then the light turns golden, the shadows lengthen and accentuate. The river acquires varied nuances. The hour of sweetness and melancholy has arrived, the golden dawn. If the ship is approaching the margins, the details of{17} the groves, the impenetrable braiding of the lianas and the loving peace of some inlets.

Streams

Simple phenomena often have the virtue of awakening complicated thoughts in our minds. That a stream flows into a river is a perfectly natural act; there is nothing extraordinary, indeed. However, the conjunction of a stream in a wide river always suggests to me a grave curiosity.

If we see a stream fall into a river, from the land side, the thing does not deserve much attention; but seen the phenomenon from the river side, it takes on a very great symbolic value. I see the streams flowing into the river, and can you believe me? At that moment I imagine that I am on the other side of life, beyond the barrier of death. In short: confluent streams are represented to me as ending lives.{18}

The end of an existence, undoubtedly, is nothing more than that: an act of falling, of surrendering, of plunging into the nullifying expanse of the great waters. The stream is a life. Its history is repeated from the beginning of the world and will be repeated until the extinction of the world. Like a life, nothing more. To be born from a matrix source, to jump and play among the rocks, to bubble among the pebbles, to run through flowery margins, to widen in the valley, to go majestically through the plain: and at the end, to humbly fall into the great river of numerous, annulling waters . Annulled, die.

Streams, like lives, offer characteristic features in their terminal moment. There are tragic streams, as there are lives of tragedy. Those that fall into the sea or into the mighty river from a height, in the form of a cascade, are dramatic, restless and violent streams, corresponding to the tragic lives of a Caesar, a Borgia or a Cromwell. Other streams pour their final waters with serene resignation; his death is philosophical and austere like that of a Socrates, or also like the{19} of a good person who has honestly fulfilled his mission in the world and enters death with grave simplicity.

Of this last class are the streams that flow into the Uruguay River, calm and tame streams that come out of the thicket, open a hole in the undergrowth and enter the river without protests, without resisting or foaming: like true philosophical beings.

O symbolic and representative streams! May you be the high example that inspires me in the way of passing, noble and decorously, the threshold of that final final hour.

Men on horseback

As the steam advances, the coastline becomes steeper. In some places, imposing cliffs are discovered, cut with a sharp cut over the water. The terrain is higher, more undulating. You enter the region of the small hills, rather of the hills, or using the territorial word: blades.{twenty}

At the top of these blades, a house rises from time to time, some miserable hut: it is not uncommon to also make out the comfortable whiteness of a room. Other times, the summit of these blades is taken by a herd of steers, who meekly eat their providential grass without deigning to turn their gaze towards the passing ship.

But sometimes it is usually a man who occupies the eminence of those hills. A man riding his horse. A man who stops in his tracks, upright on his saddle, turning his eyes towards the boat that goes upriver. And that man standing there, I don’t know why, I think he casts a look of dislike towards the roaring ship.

His destiny is one, and that of the ship is another. That man represents the past, while the steamboat represents the evolutionary, the revolutionary and the transformative. This man synthesizes the easy, free and romantic life of the pastoral tradition. Riding from the beginning of the day, roaming the meadows populated by copious herds, eating the meat over the bonfire that served as a hearth and{twenty-one}coat, sleep under the constellated cloak; not worrying about the future, but hoping that destiny itself provides for our needs; love, sing melancholy; fight and fight if necessary, and finish with a straight stab to the heart, on a night of contrary luck.

Steam means the opposite. Steam rises upstream, parallel to the railroad, carrying plows, bricks, fencing wires. It represents sedentary life, agriculture, the economy, municipal organization, the foundation of banks, the large population, the limited land, the suppression of that free life, deliciously anarchic, generously sober, of the confused pastoral times.

The man that stops on the saddle of his horse, at the top of the blade, feels that each steam that goes up the river is a new assault on tradition. And he watches it pass seriously, fills his soul with sadness and hatred.

Man and steam are enemies of necessity, opposed to each other, mutually in{22}understandable. The man on horseback does not understand the haste, nor the greedy enthusiasm that steam carries, because he appreciates the bloody steak eaten on the flat plain much more than the succulent delicacies eaten in closed rooms. He does not conceive of a man building his house with well-assembled and overlapping bricks, when boards or adobes covered with dry grass are enough to shelter him. And understand that everything else serves only as a knot and chain. Certainly: each new comfort, each new security that civilization gives us, is a new mortgage that we make to personal freedom.

But of the two adversaries, steam is the most powerful. He will be victorious. And the banks of the river will be covered with villages, houses, farmhouses. The wild and lonely beauty of now will be exchanged for a different beauty. The still waters of the river will reflect civilized, trimmed, obedient trees, instead of the unruly weeds of now. The squalid ranches will have to be turned into painted, flirtatious little houses. To{2. 3}majestic solitude of the plains, the cultivated fields will follow, surrounded by flowering hedges. Children who go to school in droves; hammer blows; whistle of locomotives; the carts full of seasoned fruits; songs and joy of the harvests.

If one poetry decreases, another will be reborn. Nature never renounces its aesthetic domain, and always knows how to be noble, both in the greatness of virgin forests, in the works of cultivated valleys, in busy cities …

The sun has set. Shyly, one by one, the stars appear. The river turns black: on the shadow of its waters, a star makes its ideal white point. The night is silent, like a stunned silence. In the midst of this silence, the ship, a bit pedantic, persists in its rough rhythm: boom, burrum, boom.