Sometimes it is just a glance into the eyes of a stranger that can transform your whole life. When we first got to know Marta Argüelles, we were philosophizing about life atop a roof terrace of a house in Fuerteventura. Our friends were in a hot tub enjoying homemade cocktails — we were celebrating two birthdays. Marta and I remained on the dry land, staring out at the streets. It was a pleasantly mild night, and we kept an eye out for interesting people wandering out this late. Marta had worked as a copywriter for most of her professional life and was tired of it. So she began writing her own book, chronicling real stories and turning them into abstract scenarios. I told Marta about the print magazine we publish, and that we were currently looking for writers with wild ideas. We agreed to work together for this episode. A few months passed, and we felt that the worlds Marta created required visualization, so we approached South African collage artist Nico Krijno, who was glad to play with some ideas. It is this very kind of cooperation that creates that specific feeling of Hometown we try to achieve in every issue, with all our collaborators. We hope this feeling will also reach you, and that it will be one of permanence.

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Clara was brilliant. Constantly lit up, her skin shone with the touch of nature, breathing and moving through her. Clara was entwined with the forest. Oh, she knew the language! As a kid she was taught to wait, watch, and listen. Then, she began to speak and dance. She learned how to find her own way, a story of manifestations and feelings. A sacred bond to the living greens. She was beautiful in her boundaries too. She used to hold her head up high. And the creatures of the forest, her community, acknowledged her presence with a smile and a warm spark in their hearts. They respected and admired her empathy, wisdom, and clarity of thought. They also loved her stories about the land and their common relationship to the world – a flash of her spirit.

Clara coexisted in a complex yet easygoing rhythm that allowed everyone to be authentic, stripped to their essence. They were interconnected, which meant their actions and states of mind affected every moment of their lives. That was important. Their actions and states of mind – any feeling of attachment or aversion – had an impact. She didn’t take herself too seriously, though. Clara was wild and eager to explore all things, especially those that were mysterious and overwhelming, like fast-moving water descending vertically from a narrow stream. She would take early-morning walks that usually diverted onto strange roads toward adventures. Oh, she loved that. She didn’t fear the unknown, she accepted it and surrendered to life. But she also fucked it hard! She embraced Yin and Yang. Yoni and Linga. Trust was her mantra. Her life-changing orgasms bathed in juice and tenderness; her sexual energy channeled into everything she did.

Damn, she was brilliant.

Still, trouble arrived sometimes. The judgment mind! When that happened – usually the minute she got near other realities – Clara practiced turning people into trees. Trees! Bent trees, straight trees, evergreen trees, deciduous trees. You can’t get mad at a tree! She looked at the people-trees and allowed them to be. She didn’t get emotional about their qualities. She looked and appreciated the trees. Just the way they were.


I sometimes found myself gazing at the body of knowledge that lay beneath her culture, at the myriad lights of Clara’s existence. It reminded me of the rich and nurturing colors of an extravagant and utopian party I wasn’t invited to – and it was probably my fault.

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I had a mania for possessing. I loved picking up flowers and bugs in the park, creating bouquets, and bringing them home, where I would name them and play with them until they died. My dead flowers. My dead bugs. When Aunt Cloe learned about my dreadful treasure hunt, she gave me a book illustrated by Andrea Conti, an artist who specialized in botanical expression.

She thought it would teach me the tonic of wildness, the habits of flowers and trees, respect, and love for nature.

I would spend hours looking at the fascinating drawings of delicate, mysterious, and beautiful blooms. The book was fantastic. I became enchanted by orchids. My favorite was the Bulbophyllum nocturnum, the only species that bloomed at night and retracted during the day, a lunar bloom.

At the age of eleven, I realized there were many thousands of orchid fanciers around the world and cheerfully understood they were willing to pay fortunes for the captivating flowers. Raised by workaholic parents – and despite Aunt Cloe’s best intentions – I saw the world through a monochromatic lens: building the greatest luxury orchid service was not a theft, but a gift of life. Orchyad was my future!

I officially opened my business after school graduation. Most breeders in the industry cultivated orchid hybrids, which were delightful (and sustainable), no doubt. Except my clients didn’t want delightful. They wanted the majestic grandeur of the wild species, the wonders of the originals; and so did I.

I managed to find a fantastic team of lawyers who successfully navigated the seas of illegal trades, and made enormous profits, year by year. Do you remember the time Orchyad was featured on TIME Magazine’s cover? I do, clearly. I even remember the taste of that day’s morning coffee. It was the best coffee I’d ever had. Also, Aunt Cloe passed away that morning. I heard she fainted when she saw my brand decorating the streets. She was so displeased.

A few months after the cover milestone, Orchyad was the leading player in all things related to gardening, floral arrangements, botanical art, and aphrodisiacs. I was defining everlasting growth on a finite planet and, to be honest, nobody cared. Violating the support systems of life wasn’t on the agenda. Profit was. And I was making lots of it. The most popular fashion designers, art collectors, and interior designers were obsessed with me and my flowers, and I became obsessed with their obsession.

Until the day my love for orchids destroyed the last and most beautiful flower on Earth.

Suddenly, there was nothing. I couldn't breathe. I ran home, took Aunt Cloe’s book, and hid in a closet. I held it close to my chest and passed the pages in my mind, one by one. I knew the illustrations by heart.

Two days later, I came out feeling dizzy, hungry, and a strange sense of nostalgia. I left the book on my bedside table and read its title out loud: This is Clara.

Then I called my lawyer.

Gabrielle, Sarah, John, and Tomas arrived right on time. Giulia had just set the table. There were five earthenware plates with uneven daisies, four wine glasses, and a glass tumbler with a raised honeycomb effect. The seating area consisted of two chairs and three folding stools that she had borrowed from her neighbor. She received her guests with a warm hug and invited them to come in. Each had brought different dishes that filled up a delicious homemade menu.

They talked for hours:

– Did you know there are people out there who can detect the location of an island group just by watching the reverberation of the waves? Each island group has its own unique refractive pattern! – explained Tomas with excitement.

– Wouldn’t it be easier, and more precise, to detect direction and proximity to land with a GPS device? – snapped Sarah with annoyance. – I see your point but I'm too exhausted for any hocus-pocus right now – she pronounced the Latin words with a mocking, witchy tone.

– Shouldn’t we just take advantage of technology?

– I guess it depends on your priorities – said Gabrielle with confidence.

– Oh, come on, don’t start again.

– But it’s true – continued Gabrielle. – Wave-piloting connects you directly to the sea, it’s an art. Checking your smartphone, though…

– Exactly! – contributed Tomas, who was happy to know Gabrielle was on his side. – I’ve read that navigation by smartphone is causing tremendous neurological effects. If we constantly follow a sequence of instructions like we do when using Google Maps, are we activating our hippocampus? – he paused dramatically. – Not at all!

– I think the problem is we see other societies (also animals and plants) as failed attempts to be us, as inferior and primitive. The definition of ‘technology advances’ is biased. It’s all about perspective... – said Gabrielle.

– Did you hear about Violet Moore? – interrupted Giulia.

– The orchid hunter? – asked John.

– Yes, that one – said Giulia. – She pushed nature to the edge of extinction. Orchids were just a source of money to her... with little regard to consequences.

– I’ve heard she is on parole – intervened Gabrielle.

– Really? She should be in jail shrinking like Sarah’s hippocampus! – jumped Tomas. – I can’t believe criminal networks keep plundering wildlife.

– She tweeted about her new project yesterday, something related to plant breeding innovation… She’s a smart woman, I’m sure she’ll be okay – replied Sarah.

– Fingers crossed that she doesn’t burn the planet this time!

– Maybe ancient societies’ sacred connection to the land was their technological solution to ensure we wouldn’t destroy each other – argued Tomas.

– I guess so, our reality could go insane and suicidal in an instant! – said John.

– It’s time to realize this world doesn’t exist in an absolute sense – added Gabrielle.

– What do you mean? – asked Sarah.

– The perspective of Violet Moore, her dystopian worldview, is just one of many. Is it possible we could develop a radical model of loving each other? – no one replied so she continued. – Could we bring back the languages and ancient skills of the Wayfinders2?

– We need to restore the poetry of diversity – stated Tomas.

– This could only interfere with Violet Moore’s ambitions! Afterward Giulia lay on her bed. The light was switched off. Inhabiting the dark she felt something magical was about to happen, something that could reveal and inform, rather than obliterate and wipe out the world. A flickering feeling she couldn’t quite put into words.

Power in her heart.

She wasn’t worried.

Knowing there were other ways of being filled her with hope.

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