Oil is like the tide

“I was about ten or twelve years old when for the very first time that enormous blonde giant of my uncle – a Viking in my eyes, like those I had read about in my school books – led me down to the basement with his children, so that we could watch him make olive oil. The room was dim, a bulb dangling from the ceiling created a flickering cone of light around which we all crowded, hardly daring to breathe, watching him press the olives. We stood there in silence, like young Carbonari, or members of a secret society: the Giant had warned us that oil was extremely sensitive, and that this operation was more delicate than alchemy. Then the moment came when my uncle cautiously started to bottle that mysterious fluid that was so similar to liquid metal, and so thick that the light could not pass through it but reflecting on its surface created wondrous streaks of colour. I summoned up my courage and asked him, my voice only a whisper: “Why don’t you fill them to the brim?” “It is because of the moon” replied the giant. “Oil is like the tide, when the moon is full it rises, rises, rises, and then it overflows.”

Ever since, every time there is a full moon, I can imagine the oil gurgling in the dark cellars, like the sea in the ocean trenches and the blood in a woman’s womb. Way up there, in the middle of the sky, there is a source of silver force that draws us towards it with an intensity that it is difficult to ignore, urging us to break free from our chains and follow its trail…”

François Ernest (1923-1968)

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