Jelsa's artificial Christmas tree finally exited the Pjaca on January 18th. The tree is a token symbol of Christmas on its regulat annual outing, often in need of patching up if a really fierce wind manages to tear its plastic casing. At least it doesn't cause the loss of a real tree from Hvar's woodlands.
The empty stony space it leaves behind is a rather stark reminder that the Pjaca, attractive and functional as it undoubtedly is, is sorely lacking in trees, when once it was a leafy, well-shaded haven. OK, it was also blighted by cars parking right in the middle of it, but that was more easily remedied than cutting down all the trees. On January 28th, another artificial tree popped up in the middle of the Pjaca. This time it carried an important environmental message, as its aim was to draw attention to the forthcoming events linked to the tree re-planting programme organized by the charity Održivi otok /Sustainable Island.
The campaign to re-plant a hectare of woodland with Dalmatian black pines moved on to phase two at the end of January. The indefatigable Irene Dorić has organized a mobile exhibition, which took pride of place in Jelsa during the national Museum Night (Noć muzeja) celebrations on January 30th. The Museum Night is one of the most successful cultural events in the history of the modern Croatian state, spanning as it does the whole country, with diverse imaginative exhibitions and activities to attract all age groups. In Jelsa, the focus of the evening was a talk given by Hvar school-teacher Antonio Morić-Španić, who spoke of the loss of Hvar's pines since 1975, a loss which leads to soil erosion among other environmental impacts. The talk was perfect for the occasion, well planned and illustrated, full of interesting information, and - equally importantly - just the right length.
When he finished his talk, Antonio introduced the youngest and most energetic activist to be involved in the tree-planting programme, seven-year-old Taliah Bradbury. She gave an enchanting talk explaining her interest in trees, with special focus on the Amazon. She delivered her talk with poise and confidence, and charmed the audience, who gave her a resounding and heartfelt round of applause at the end.
The two speakers complemented each other perfectly, and were happy to pose for photographs together afterwards.
Before and after the talks, there was time for refreshments and chat, two favourite Dalmatian pastimes. Sveral artists had donated their works for the exhibition, notably Vuk Jevremović, Stanislav Huljić, Maja Jelušić, Željka Kozulić and Dominik Duboković. Materials were provided for Jelsa's budding young talents to contribute their own works of art.
Željka Kozulić's mixed-technique sculpture of a figure 'Waiting' ('Čekanje') formed the centrepiece of the exhibition. It carried two apposite sayings, Chinese and Greek, about planting trees at the right time to benefit from their shade.
Vuk Jevremović contributed a powerful varnish-on-canvas abstract painting entitled 'The Peak' ('Vorh').
All the works on show provided visions related to the black pines, 1500 of which are being planted under the programme organized by Održivi Otok. The exhibition was set to move on to Dol on Friday February 5th, and Velo Grablje on February 12th, staying in each place for two days.
The day after Museum Night saw the second part of the planting programme on the slopes below St. Nicholas's Peak.
Taliah and her older sister Hannah prepared the posters inviting volunteers to join the planting team. This time they were able to take part themselves, having been otherwise engaged in their Judo belt assessments last time. About three hundred trees were planted - the girls obviously punched above their weight to help achieve that number! The next planting action is scheduled for February 13th, a pre-Valentine's Day celebration, and it is hoped that many more volunteers will join in following the presentation of the road show about the project.
In Nerežišća on the Island of Brač there is a much-photographed black pine sprouting out of the roof of a little chapel in the centre of the town. It has remained a modest size over many years, so evidently its roots are contained in bonsai fashion. It is a reminder of the versatility of trees, and their value and beauty in a world where nature is too often undermined by human activity. Trees should be part of every town building plan, and they should be cherished. Maybe one day Jelsa's Pjaca will see the return of a tree or two?
© Vivian Grisogono 2016