I recently returned from a trip to Sardegna, Italy. This trip had a lot of firsts for me. I had never been to Sardegna, I had never spent five days and nights on a sail boat, I had never sailed from one country to another (we sailed to Corsica, France), and I had never met a hermit.
I love seeing new places for the first time. New experiences are exhilarating. And meeting someone who has chosen to live alone, on a deserted island for 29 years (and counting), was a profound experience as well. New experiences, first times, travel... all of it feeds my soul, inspires my art, reminds me of how big the world really is.
I came to meet the hermit, Mauro Morandi, by way of our captain, Capitano Davide. He has been sailing the archipelago islands between Sardegna and Corsica for years and has struck up a friendship with Maura, bringing him cigarettes and food when he passes by the Spiaggia Rosa (Pink Beach) of Budelli Island, where Mauro has lived for almost three decades.
Capitano Davide mentioned the pink beach and Mauro to me and my fellow travelers. He asked if we would like to meet him. How could I resist?
We dropped anchor and some of our group took a dingy to shore while a few of us swam. I found the water irresistible and joined the swimmers, therefore I didn't have my camera. Thank you to Nathalie Nioi and Monty Stokes for sharing their photos of our adventure with me. The sketches included in this post are mine.
The island is full of typical Sardegna vegetation, the water is turquoise, and uniquely, the sand of the beach is pink. We walked along a path with Capitano Davide pointing out the plants, the clouds, the waters, until we found ourselves in front of a small building, an old WWII bunker, with an attached makeshift patio. Furniture made out of drift wood, and two older gentlemen sitting inside. One was the now famous Mauro, the other, a friend of his who stops by to check on him for months at a time. Mauro welcomed all nine of us in and we sat where we could in a very intimate setting.
Mauro told us about how he came to chose to live the life of a hermit. His story is captured beautifully in this article I found later on National Geographic's website.
These paragraphs in particular caught my attention:
Morandi passes the time with creative pursuits. He fashions juniper wood into sculptures, finding faces hidden in their nebulous forms. He reads zealously and meditates on the wisdom of Greek philosophers and literary prodigies. He takes pictures of the island, marveling at how it changes from hour to hour, season to season.
This is not unusual for people who spend extensive periods of time alone. Scientists have long posited that solitude generates creativity, as evidenced by scores of artists, poets, and philosophers throughout the ages who produced their greatest works in seclusion from society.
“Love is an absolute consequence of beauty and vice versa,” Morandi says. “When you love a person deeply you see him or her as beautiful, but not because you see them as physically beautiful … you empathize with them, you’ve become a part of her and she’s become a part of you. It’s the same thing with nature.”
He welcomed our questions, taking his time to think about his answers before responding. There was a stack of books on a small table, copies of a book published of his photographs of "his" island. We were mesmerized with Maura, the beauty of the island, and his connection to it.
His life is very simple and he gets what he needs by taking his dingy to a nearby island and from sailors who have embraced Mauro as a friend. He did have a few solar panels that powered his cell phone and his iPad. He connects to the world through his Instagram account, sharing photos that celebrate the beauty of Budelli Island. I encourage you to follow Mauro on Instagram for a daily dose of beauty, nature and love.
As we left his humble home, we were met with the a few rain drops. We made our way back to our catamaran. As we pulled away, we all stood on deck waving at Mauro's silhouette, which waved back to us. I had half expected to meet a crazy man but he was absolutely lucid, well read, brilliant. I felt honored to have spent an afternoon with him. And I felt inspired.